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  • The Space Specific TheatreSkewed Visions' The City Itself
  • Branislav Jakovljevic (bio)

Among proto-situationist visual works, Ansger Jorn and Guy Debord's Fin de Copenhague (1957) is distinguished by its radical approach to cartography. While in The Naked City (1957) Debord takes fragments of a city map and conjoins them with arrows that indicate jumps from one area to another, in Fin de Copenhague the map almost disappears in the labyrinth of visual poetry, collage, and modifications of readymade visual material. The end result is not illegibility, but a short-circuiting of different technologies of reading: the text reads like a map, collage like a text, and map like a drip painting. The title, Fin de Copenhague, which seems to underline the cartographic approach, can be read as the pronouncement of the end of the city understood as a unified utilitarian organism; however, it also suggests the abolition of city planning in terms of center and periphery. It is a call for a city that has no single center of gravity, but instead consists only of ends, edges, corners, particular locales as unique places of intimacy. In a word, Fin de Copenhague is the personal cartography of the city, which Debord in his 1955 text "Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography" defined as "psychogeography": "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals." Therefore:

[T]he production of psychogeographic maps, or even the introduction of alterations such as more or less arbitrarily transposing maps of two different regions, can contribute to clarifying certain wonderings that express not subordination to randomness but complete insubordination to habitual influences."

(Debord 1955)

This definition clearly places psychogeography and theatergoing at polar opposites. Because of its neutrality of space, limitation of movement, and uniformity of environment, theatre seems to be the site of utmost resistance to psychogeography. Site-specific performance is animated, at least in part, by the impulse to depart from the neutrality of theatre's habitus. This departure does not necessarily lead away from the idea of theatre, but precisely toward its rediscovery in places where it is least expected. Skewed Visions' The City Itself is not an attempt [End Page 96] to reconcile antitheatricality of some of the central Situationist practices with conventional theatre. Instead, by using the heuristic practices of Situationist and site-specific art it questions the basic habits of theatre, and investigates new and viable forms of theatricality.


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Ansger Jorn and Guy Debord's Fin de Copenhague (1957) is a personal cartography of the city, a "psychogeography." (© 2005 fam. Jorn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/COPY-DAN, Copenhagen)

Temporally and spatially, The City Itself is a performance of great magnitude: it spanned three months (from early September to late November 2004), and across large sections of Minneapolis metropolitan area: from downtown streets and parking lots, to vacant land between warehouses, to bridges, highway junctions, and deserted alleys; to office buildings, stores, and a private home. At the same time, it is a performance that rigorously investigates the notion of intimacy: it brings performers and spectators close together, and, furthermore, encourages spectators to explore the specific effects of various situations and environments. Skewed Visions, a Minneapolis-based creative group dedicated to the exploration of site-specific performance, has been doing this kind of work since 1997. Over the past seven years, the core members—Charles Campbell, Gülgün Kayim, and Sean Kelley-Pegg—have performed their works in store windows, streets, abandoned factory buildings, warehouses, farmers markets, and even in a theatre. Campbell asserts that founding the group was a way of supporting each other's work:

The name Skewed Visions refers to the plurality of visions within the company and the individuality (or skewed-ness) of where these visions come from. In the development of our work we have found it useful to borrow both terminology and approaches from other arts (visual, music, architecture, for example). However, everything is pulled together to serve the work, whichever vision is being realized. We are more of a collective, really, than a company. A collective of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4715
Print ISSN
1054-2043
Pages
pp. 96-106
Launched on MUSE
2005-10-10
Open Access
No
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