Friday, September 17, 2004

The Life Class As Theatre

Over the past thirty years, contemporary theory has become increasingly preoccupied with the body, both as a subject for representation, and as a field of experiences and desires. In much contemporary philosophy “the body” has become a generic term denoting the deconstructed subject of contemporary post-humanist discourse, however the precise qualities of “the body” are largely left undefined or awash with psychoanalytic terminology. This thesis seeks not merely to put the body back into art, but to specifically localise and specify the bodies, or the traces of bodies and various circuitous narratives, that are present in the objects and practice connected with visual arts.

I guess the major preoccupations of both performance and art theory, concern the fraught notions of mimesis, representation, authenticity that are central to aesthetic inquiries in European traditions since Aristotle. What is more compelling for my inquiry is the nature of spectatorship, and the nature of metamorphosis, and the point where mimesis and metamorphosis intersect, and art , “the arts” challenges spectators to become witnesses and participants, or enables them, us, to realise our own possibilities for social and cultural agency.

The life class, or life studio generates a set of exchanges that are very relevant to the dilemma of representation which is at the heart of aesthetic & philosophical theory. A significant body of art history has dealt with representations of the nude, and the relationships between artist and model/subject of figurative works. Within the art historical discourse on the body from the past 40 years, models occupied a significant discussion point on exploring discourses of the nude, the social relations of women's bodies and the male voyeur. However models were largely discussed as, and conflated with their representations. Art theory largely deals with images and objects as largely atemporal phenomena. There is almost no literature which describes the life class or the experiences and history of artists models. For this reason Performance theory is attractive in trying to articulate the temporality and materiality of embodiment, mimesis, gesture, and representation which are central concerns of corporeal aesthetics.

Literature on contemporary figurative art has almost no discussion on the life class or artists models . As artists increasingly used their own bodies or relied on mechanical representations of their own or others bodies, the nude artists model has become increasingly redundant, and overshadowed by the saturation of reproduced images of models or mannequins, which characterizes visual culture. However I would contend that aspects of the contemporary life class, or the life studio still resonate with the tension of unresolved corporeality of the artist and the subject as well as the depictions generated. These aspects are probably more easily articulated according to theoretical models derived from aspects of performance such as Michel Foucault's social theatres and Butlers ideas of the self as performed, inscribed through performative repetitions.

In many ways, the life class has become a historical oddity, or a kitsch anachronism confined to the nostalgia of doddering amateurs who refuse to accept the saturation of electronic images, with greater verisimilitude, distribution and influence. Most life drawings look kitsch, flat, inept and uninteresting.. There is a curious shrinking cowardice attached to the clothed artist who stares and draws from a naked human being. There are awkward residues of elitist social relations, the objectifying of one person by another, financial coercion, a power imbalance, the speaker and the spoken for. The artists who draws form the nude appears to shrink from accepting and expressing that it is only our own bodies that we can manipulate, and not the bodies of others, or cartoon copies either

I have a perverse fascination with elements of contemporary social culture that are perceived as obsolete , anachronistic or inept. This certainly fuels my own genealogical approach, and is reinforced by Derrida's writings on the margins, or parergons. So for me, studying how the body is situated in contemporary visual culture, involves studying activities that are relatively marginal, vestigial, and yet which circulate in similar economies of social and cultural exchange as other more compelling or cutting edge areas. For me, locating alternative possibilities for how bodies can be represented, experienced and communicated, requires a genealogical approach. My current research is involved with what Michel Foucault described as “the vast and tender freemasonry of useless erudition”. I am interested in anatomical history, physiology, philosophy, interrogation my own practice, and employment and I am pursuing oral history of other artists and models, at the risk of being enmeshed in a lacunae of daft empiricism.

Aside from a labyrinthine aspect of genealogical research, my thesis is largely directed by a theoretical comparison between the life class, as a specific situation of figurative presentation and representation, and theatre. By describing the life class as theatre, I hope to explore some affinities across research in performance theory and art history, which explore the nature of representation, mimesis and spectatorship. The life class has often been described as a theatre in pejorative sense, invoking passive theatrical “staged” elements of the model, the dais, the timing which have their affinities with “tableaux vivants” which were a brief craze in music halls in 19th c England. The picture that emerges is of a rather false environment that is both coy and eccentric, lying somewhere between nudist camps, and sewing circles..

To describe the life class as theatre is potentially meaningless in a discursive milieu where almost every social setting is now described as “theatrical” and all states, acts and intentions, the very condition of being is also described as performative. So apart from describing the obviously “staged” aspects of the life class; the dais as proscenium, the easels and donkeys as confining architecture by which to restrain and separate the audience of artists, and the model as a performer, I have to ask what is theatre? Is it a site of social relations defined by performer, audience and architecture? Or is it a more specific set of conventions which generate social space place of prescription, presentation representation, pedagogy? Or is it site of magic, or transcendence?- where unspeakable forces are harnessed by shaman/sorcerers and set loose upon the spectators? Is theatre a socialised site where spectators realise their own forces as well as their passivity? My research is largely informed by Artaud's ideas on theatre from theatre and its double. Artaud is attractive to contemporary cultural philosophers and art historians, but the aspects I like about the theatre of cruelty, is its condition of impossibility. When and how does “theatre” take a place? When is theatre not an imitation of life, but a force that challenges even destroys it? It is this critical, even apocalyptic notion of theatre which I like to explore. I like the ideal of theatre as a becoming, theatrical practices being those which seek to provide the conditions where this could take place. maybe I should have titled my paper, the theatre as life class?

In trying to articulate some of the aspects of what is an unwieldy field of enquiry, I have based my discussion of the analogies between performance and art theory, between the life class and the theatre on three facets. I intend to explore each facet as contentious and contested, in order to articulate them as sites for a type of reimagining, not only of the life class, but of embodiment and embodied spectatorship itself. These fields are the performance of the artists model, the performativity of the artists as spectators, and the potentially explosive aspects of the classroom and life studio as a mise en scene.

There is almost nothing written on the practice of life modelling, aside from fairly superficial biographic accounts. It is certainly hasn't been described as a metier, and has a history of being largely poorly paid, casual, unreliable amateur, and short term employment. In the 19th century this was less so, especially in Europe where whole families would work as a artists models, often for their entire lives. Part of my research involves interviewing some of the 200 artists models currently working in Sydney, to gain some empirical record of the aspects of formalised physical presentation in which they are engaged.

Many artists (and models) will state that being a good model has very little to do with stripping naked or having a “good” body, but in knowing how to pose. Posing itself is nothing like photographic or fashion models or of body building contestants, and is not an inert “display of bodily excellence” but is a type of performance. The closest description I came to what life modelling involves were in the “paroles sur le mime” by Etienne Decroux. Decroux's ideas of “mime statuaire”, of mime as being a corporal language, not aiming to translate words into gestures, but to move the body into configurations that would suggest or invoke abstract, emotional and non linguistic states.

Decroux's quotes are interesting for art history. He aligns sculpture and art with performance, and articulates the agency of the performer in arranging their own body with that of the sculpture who generates a representation. (translate quote)

Decroux is an awkward figure in the history of performance. He developed an institution of mime corporeal in the mid 20th C, when art was becoming increasingly abstract. The body that Decroux sought to explore was the idealised body of neoplatonism, isolated, reified and abstracted into idealised geometric principals. Decroux body was the utopian body of a machinic socialism, trained, disciplined, singular, and able in its rigorous materiality to break down the messy artifice of mixed theatre. Aspects of the body were conceived as a site of authenticity in the theatre, where the authority of text, scenery, props and costume were regarded as flawed, frivolous. Decroux's bodies look almost Stalinist in their almost naked effacement. Decroux presents the body as an awkward hybrid of automaton and mannequin.

Decroux's academy of mime was a training ground for some of the greatest mimes and mime actors of the 20th century, such as Jean Louis Barrrault and Marcel Morceau. What is attractive about Decroux was an insistence on the possibilities of the body as being able to convey, even create meaning that was beyond a mimicking of language or objects, but could convey something of the body itself. Decroux's words on the internal sculpture of the body are also extremely evocative. They are grounded in art history, and incorporate some of the limitations of modernist art practice. I will discuss this more, later. Buto has a had a smaller but more significant impact on contemporary performance theory. Ichikata's ideas on the body in flux, and on the relationships between bodies and objects have a strong affinity with Deleuze's ideas on the BWO, a mutable whole of surface exchanges rather than a reductivist specialisation and isolation of certain internally viewed but largely abstract anatomical zones.

Decroux's mime statuaire aimed to invoke the arrested tension of Rodin's sculpture. Rodin's sculptures were actually assemblages of sections that were modelled and cast separately. It is almost impossible for a live model to pose in the contorted arrangements of a Rodin sculpture, or to sustain the position for a duration of a sculpture class. (6 and 30 hours). Rodin's forms are based on movement and not repose. St. Martins school of art were exploring how to generate the type of mobile tension. Models would twist and hold parts of their bodies in succession, and sculptors would work with them. Almost like a form of contact improvisation. And what I really found attractive in this movement was that it explored the artists own body, the body that performed, than mimed the model, that enacted gesture and used gesture as a residue. This movement emerged in the later 70s and early 80's and then seemed to vanish, with education cuts, and also a art historical milieu in England that was profoundly hostile towards the body.

The criticism of the life class that emerged on most feminist texts from the 1970's and 1980's, relied on theories of spectatorship which implied that the viewers, artists, were voyeurs, or passive spectators. The typical analysis described the female nude (model) as operating as a metonym for men's own physical embodiment, sexuality, irrationality etc., in effect functioning as a phantasm of the men's own selves projected on to women. The platonic ideal, represented by the nude, being encapsulated in such words as beauty, sublime etc. really was little more than the phallus, and had nothing to do with representing actual women. This totalising view of the nude, while elucidating some of the socialised and gendered grounding in which images of the nude circulated, has had very little to say about how these images have been produced, and what they consist of. (male) Artists working from (female) naked models were conflated with (male) spectators of naked images of women. These were described as intrinsically complicit or directive of the voyeuristic gaze of the spectator. Most of these theories were derived from structuralist theories of popular culture and film, and then adopted by art theory. And what they do is to collapse all image making into the same order of activity. Photography was located as a uncontested heir to the apparent verisimilitude of slick looking 19th Cc salon paintings. the determining capacity of the images was ascribed to what they were representing, rather than what residues of their production or construction were legible.

What these types of analyses ignored were they types of temporal differences intrinsic to differing mediums. Photography in the 20th C became largely instant. Even though a photography shoot may take hours, it consists of a mechanical recording of a series of multiple glances, which mirror, more closely the types of looking that viewers of 2D images have. Drawings and paintings however are much slower, and sculpture even more so. The act of life drawing is largely dependant on the model, and also on the artists own physical capacities to mimetically reproduce their (controlled) or uncontrolled visual and physical responses to the model in front of them. Given this perspective, the artist is no longer a type of voyeur, spying the singular performance of the model, but a type of participant in the performance, but not quite a central performer, but a participating witness. A witness is different form a spectator, they feel a part of what they are watching, they feel impelled towards and action from it.

My intervention into art theory with this project is largely to articulate figurative images in terms of the embodied gestures of the artists. Again this is largely Artaudian. In its search beyond the “text” or language, to a stammering onomatopoeia of movements and noises which convey something beyond language. I don't look at figurative images in terms of the narrative of what is being pictorially depicted or represented, but look at the traces of gestures, the marks, the residues of embodiment , the artefacts of gestures, movements made by the artists. This is what gives the work its temporal edge. Drawings and paintings are not taken, they are not located in an instant, but occur in a state of duration, over time. They are a product of multiple glances, actions movements, blinking. The artists is not struggling with the less than ideal body in front of them so much as their own less than ideal dexterity in tyring to represent the body in front of them. What is the nature of this trace? Is it a tracing off a mimetic gesture, imitating the pose (not often? is it a tracing of a series of gazes, often a disciplining of the stochastic glances to a linear progression along contours? Is this is what is represented by a line?

I'd differentiate between an artist and performer, in that a performer does not generate a plastic residue of their actions. A performance is isolated spatially and temporally within the theatrical timeframe. Art generate residues, (images, objects) that transmit something of the performance beyond its immediate situation. Possibly these image residues can be seen as analogous to text, and the way that oral histories and stories and songs get transcribed and written into text, but I'm not sure. Writing is largely governed by fairly strict semiotic conventions. While spoken language can be stretched, strained murmured interjected and distorted, written languages have fairly straightforward rules for the translation of phonetics into written text. The nature of the rules for drawing, or painting have been considerably challenged however. The “decline of academic life drawing” has meant that contemporary figurative images are heterogeneous and not so much lack verisimilitude, but are characterised by an absence of conventions for how marks on a page, canvas or on an object are articulated as either gestural or representative signifiers. Art historians don't have any sort of consensus on ascribing the representative capacities of various visual elements (be they formal, abstract, gestural or representational) to any sort of “authentic” theatre of mimetic exchange.

The sort of academic or avant-garde scepticism towards linking plastic images with any project of authentic representation is what fuelled contemporary movements of performance art. This is also called “body art” in art history circles. Performance art, is meant to enable theatre to take a place within the refractory viewing spaces of the art gallery. Most performance art interventions have been informed by surrealism and Artaud's ideas of the theatre not as imitating life, but of providing the conditions for a transformation of reality. The mise en scene of the gallery, with viewers ambulating around art objects and through a space dedicated to internalised visual contemplation is fecund as an alternative theatrical architecture. Viewers and actors are less separated, viewers are not constrained within the theatre but can enter or leave (especially in durational pieces), viewers are occasionally invited to participate or collaborate with the performer. Many of these pieces are reminiscent of guerrilla theatre, underground theatre, situationist stunts like “massing” or even TAZ interventions like raves. Presenting an inflective culture, which intersects with life, mimics it and in miming it as a sort of disruption generates a challenge to social conventions of passivity.

What I like less about performance art is the type of “knowing passivity” enacted by the sophisticated art connoisseur. I know from my own gallery performances, that viewers are reluctant to even laugh let alone participate, speak , question or engage with the performance. So I think that performance art needs to be activated by discourses and practices that energise the spectator to be an active witness, not a cool voyeur. I really like some of the reflexive interventions by Mike Parr recently, where he has articulated and acted on his own spectatorship of the mass media, and generated a hysterical mimetic response. Also what Parr has done with this as well is to exploit the mise en scenes of his performances. Parr has used durational pieces, the recording, representation and transmission of his durational pieces, the transmission of these representations and the construction of virtual and physical forums for spectatorship. By inviting an online audience to torture him remotely, he disrupted the cool remoteness of electronic communication, and in his durational work, he invited the audience, ambulant where he was immobile to witness his suffering directly. Parr's and Abramowicz's work from the 1970's both pushed the boundaries between performer and audience to an almost fatal limit, which is terrifying. Possibly what is the most unnerving of this type of guerrilla theatre is the risk involved if spectators refuse to play “with” the performer, or `with” the spectators. Just as in pedagogical theatres of classrooms, seminars etc., the performance is predicated on the establishment of an artificial realm or one bound by separate and distinct rules of behaviour. Otherwise the performer, the initiator, the medium or shaman is too vulnerable.??????

This leads into the area of life class, which I believe has the most possibilities for a volatile engagement with the becoming of theatre, and that is the mise en scene elements.


There have been precious few attempts made to activate or even articulate the volatile elements of the life class, since the nineteenth century. The most obviously volatile element of the life class, and one which made it the centre for literature, legal and even theatrical concerns was its role in the presentations and regulation of sexuality. The issues which were once largely confined to the life class in the 19C have in the 20th C, been mostly encompassed by the proliferation of explicitly erotic or pornographic photographs, films, literature, websites in the commodities domestic sphere, and by the proliferation of strip shows and other social theatres connected with the sex and hospitality industries, such as parlours of brothels and massage parlours, escort agencies, phone sex agencies and topless bars. Life classes proliferate in “recreational arts” spheres largely in continuation of the tame but slightly risqué nostalgia for 19th bohemia. Many sketch clubs feature artists models that present themselves according to the conventions of eroticised display and comportment associated with mainstream visual culture (i.e. they are young adults, slender, female), and are dominated in many cases by the types of heterosexist, masculine scopic regimes criticised by most feminists.

Comparisons between erotic art, erotica performance and the life class are easy to make. The pedagogical role of the life class in representing and regulating the display of sexuality has been largely superseded by pornography, and the proliferation of “obscene” practices, images and fantasies in the littoral zones of hyperspace and the personals columns. These contemporary social theatres of sexual (re)presentation are more compelling to cultural theorists than the life class, so it is of limited interest for me to explore these areas of the life class further. I believe it's possibilities for the regulation and exploration of sexuality per se have been exhausted.

However there are other volatile elements of the life class, concerning spectatorship and death. Performances are usually isolated temporally and spatially to a theatre, or performance venue, be that an interactive website, a theatre or a temporal intervention in public space. There are often video or photographic records of such performances which circulate later, but they function as an unmarked evidence of the event. With the life class, involves a type of spectatorship specifically geared to creating gestural and mimetic residues of a performance. These residues function to create a second sphere of spectatorship, that of the gallery audience of the images and objects, which are far less legibile “records” of performance as a type of secondary performative, gestural utterance themselves., and they challenge the “scopic regime” within the life class itself. By creating an mimetic image or a gestural residue of their spectatorship of the model as performer, the artist, and the work of the artist becomes the subject of the models own spectatorship.

I regard this volatile element of the life class, which has been largely overlooked in art history is the unstable and reciprocal roles of spectatorship between model and artist, and the types of agency or action that spectatorship can imply. Artists are acknowledged as audiences for models, and who need to control and regulate their own movements so as not to violate the models vulnerability as naked, and not interferes with or breaks the performance. However models are audiences for the artists own performance in mart making and are bound by a silent contract, not to interfere with, comment on or disrupt the artists own artwork. Tamar Garb story about the male model and female spectator. The invisible spectator, removed form the performer is less vulnerable. Which returns me to the conundrum of what drawing/painting a body actually is. How is it different from gawking at someone, glancing at them, staring at them, taking a snapshot of them, or acting on their body. It has elements of all of these tings. I feel it is less invasive than taking a photograph of someone, and yet insomuch less personal than touching someone. I feel violated when artists and students touch me when `m posing and horrified that they presume it is their right to do so.

So what I hope to do, in describing the life class as a theatre, is to imagine these volatile elements, and to imaging the life class potentially as an Artaudian theatre and as something which does not exist, and is destroyed at the point where it takes place..

I don't' regard this as a privileged site of authentic representation of the body. Not at all, but I see it as a space where spectatorship can potentially be enlivened (which is not happening at the Arthaus pub). Life drawings a s a set of plays, imaginary games, games with textures, gestures, desires, reimaginings, and a space where representation, as repetition can have polyphanic resonance. Not an exchange between image, self and commodity. But self, image, abstraction, performance, imitation, imagination, gesture, the substrate of stuff.

If I had seen parrs performance, I would have probably drawn him, as this is how I know how to bear witness to something or someone. This is how I know how to be present with someone or something and to enter a space of active conscious stillness. I'm not sure if he would have liked this to happen. Parr's performance evoked to a lot of what Scarry wrote in “the body in pain”, and also what Lingis wrote in “the community of those who have nothing in common.” Pin is that which destroys language and destroys meaning. Witnessing pain is horrible because we are witnessing someone's own incapacity to articulate or contain their affective sensation, and we are taken into a space where meaning no longer operates according to the rule of simulacra (a representation of a representation of a representation. All of which function as units of exchange) but into a space of death, death being a finality that cannot be exchanged. As Foucault says dying is a pure event that can never verify anything. It cannot be exchanged, or reversed and cannot really be represented. Death is a great unnamed unbearable mystery that is only really cognicised in the individual trauma of grief. As Lingis writes however, death is the immanent condition for living, and life is the activity which we carve out of death. Lingis also described the importance of being with those who are passing form life into death, of bearing witness to the most singular and isolating experience that exists. This is where I start to wonder about what spectatorship is, what is bearing witness, and what is appropriating or violating someone's experiences by representing it, or what is giving it expression. If pain (and death) is characterized by its own unspeakability, it's own unrepresentability then for someone to depict or represent someone else's pain is to a certain extent to speak for them, which is problematic.

My own awareness of this dilemma real only emerged in the past year. As an artists model I have a social circle of friends who are models and artists, some who are models only. I have modelled with some friends, and drawn others, and others have drawn me. So I am familiar with a type of mimetic exchange and comfortable with it. The last `doubles” gig I did was with a friend, with whom I'd collaborated on guerrilla theatre performance projects and also drawn. We'd done a series of crazy poses, standing on our heads, pretending to throttle each other, whip each other, writhe on the ground and culminated with a six hour tableaux vivant from Gericaults raft of the medusa. He was crouched in a slump of despair while I slid off the dais in contorted death agonies using a type of shoulder stand where I rested on his shoulders. All fun stuff and a very intimate and precious experience, because models posing together have a type of complicity. Because we are performing “silent” models are able to speak, quietly, and implicitly in the double modelling are the quite comments, gestures and squeezes where we feel each other's pain thresholds and physical limits. Talking is a great distraction from pain and discomfort of extended poses. Anyway the next time my accomplice modelled, I persuaded him to be tied to a crucifix and pretend he was Jesus dying on the cross. A few weeks alter he was diagnosed with cancer. I found at that point impossible to imagine drawing him, because I knew that all I would be seeing would be his corpse. Earlier this year he had to go into hospital and his partner (also an artist and model) kept a vigil by his bedside and took her watercolours to draw him. We'd all read Lingis and all decided that spending time with him was the best way we could show our support. We were all sitting around drawing each other pretty much. That's what artists do. When our friend saw this he was horrified at the thought that we would draw him in hospital bed, and expressed it as a violation. He wasn't presenting himself to us, he wasn't in control of how he was presented before us, and he wasn't in control of his body, or able to understand or articulate what was happening, at all. My last memory of him is of a type of wild eyed terror and rage, a desperate rage to cling to life. Actually my last memory of him was the last time I read his weblog from April, and the last brushmark I put on a painting of him that I finished after his death. What art objects do (like written texts) is they change temporal order. Time doesn't proceed in a sequence but loops backwards and forwards, in the way that memory does. The way we carry objects with us, horde, discard, exchange, destroy, create and collage them is a similar way to how we actualise our experiences and memories. I think that this looping, this disruption of the continuum off birth, life, death is a way we have to try to mediate death, to cheat it, to alternate it, even generate a simulacra of it that can be exchanged.

I guess this is anecdote is a long winded way of arriving at my argument that the life class is a theatre which is based around exploring and representing and deferring death. I believe that this largely overlooked aspect of the life class can elucidate why the life class would have persisted and proliferated when its capacity to express and regulate sexuality has become largely redundant. My research involves exploring this form a social history of medical anatomy and the life class, as well as a discussion of how the practices of a life class, mimic and mediate death. The historical emergence of the life class coincided with a significant historical changes in the way in which they dying, death and corpses were institutionalised and exhumed from the social spheres. Michel Foucault described the emergence of social institutions in the nineteenth century which regulated and institutionalised madness, deviance, illness, criminality and sexuality, and also discusses the history of medicine in a way in institutionalising and isolating death. A lot of recent art historical research is exploring the links with the history of anatomy, and social histories of medicine are emerging with social histories of art.

Recently I came across an account of a demonstration of electricity on the nerves of a man, hung at the gallows, and reanimated in a demonstration of electricity. Previous to this I'd read a number of startling descriptions of how ecorches or flayed figures, which are standard prop in old style art schools were created, and been horrified. The Ecorche, a “flayed St Bartholomew” was actually made from a criminal, who had been hung, flayed, arranged in the pose and then cast in plaster. No art or artifice was used in representing the exactitude of the muscular structure. Just a kind of macabre sadism. Other texts recount how the bodies of criminals and the poor were used for anatomical study, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. This coincided with two social developments, one was the removal of executions form the public sphere to the walled realm of the gaol, and the second was the emergence of the public hospital as the place where dying and preparation of the dead for burial took place, instead of the family home. This was true initially especially for poor people, but later spread.

In most art institutions, students spent from one to two years drawing from plaster casts of ecorches. These were more popular than classical casts of Venus, who was deemed in England to be too erotic. These ecorches were known to be live casts from recently hung criminals. People must have been aware that they were coming as close to drawing the dead as possible.

The second aspect relates to the practices of the life class and life modelling. Life models work naked, and they hold a series of poses that are still. Acting in “freeze frame”, playing statues. In the 19th century a craze swept through the theatre called “tableaux vivants” I'm tyring to see if there is any literature on this and why it was so popular, apart from the references of actors pretending to be paintings. What I believe is occurring is that the life class is the one accessible theatre where death is enacted, or mimicked, and where people can mimic it in turn. The model's alternance between stillness and movement is one contributor to this atmosphere of playing Lazarus, also the model is naked, which sets them apart from the drawers as a type of shaman. but other aspects of modelling and drawing lead me to conclude that this is what is going on.

Working as a model, often the poses that come to mind are ones from paintings or sculpture, and half of the fun is pretending to be a work of art, but the other aspect is holding “death” poses, and the more tortured and contorted, the better. The atmosphere of the life class is like watching a group of people in a trance. Drawing from a model is largely an experience of being in a trance, acting spontaneously or automatically in a state of suspended animation. What models do is not so much strip or display their bodies, but enact a state of suspended animation, and try to induce an affinitive response in the audience. A “good” model is someone who can induce this trance like state, who can fascinate and mesmerise the audience, and it isn't usually through beauty or extraordinary feats of contortion and endurance. (although the latter help), what is mesmerising in a model is to witness a believable metamorphosis, not between model and statue but between model and corpse. This requires a curious type of absent presence. The model doesn't become a corpse for the duration of the pose but hovers between a lifelike and a deathlike state, generating a feeling of suspense, and a sense of an imperative to respond - to “catch” the pose before it changes. To pose, and to adopt a position that is credible as a pose is not to “act natural” at all but to act profoundly unnaturally, to generate a suspension of belief. If to watch a pose is to witness a type of endurance, or suffering or alternation with death, drawing is to participate in its magic. In a drawing we try to capture the moment between life and death when a body hovers at the point of being a statue before resuming its fluid mobile state.

I like the Aristotelian idea of the theatre as a space of learning, and the idea of mimetic gesturing as the primeval act of knowing and cognising phenomena. I think theatres should be spaces where the “audience” becomes witnesses rather than voyeurs and are compelled to take that witnessing into our own lives. Where people have a space to mimic, to incorporate what is performed in front of us. I am still uneasy about the role of spectatorship, witnessing, retelling or representation of theatres, conventional of Artaudian theatres. And hope that my presence here today may create some cross fertilizations in the reflective thinking and practice of cultural interventions that may enable theatre to take a place.