- La cuarta dimensión del teatro: Tiempo, espacio y video en la escena modernaby Alcázar, Josefina
Josefina Alcázar frames her impressive study on time, space, and video in twentieth and twenty-first century theatre by reminding the reader that technology and art have always been inseparable in Western history. From the ancient deus ex machinato the contemporary use of computer-aided holographic projection, creators and spectators of theatre alike have been impacted by technology, both within the performative space as well as in the greater cultural and philosophical milieu. In addition to guiding the reader through the ways that advances have changed not only our understanding of theatrical performance, but also our perception of time and space, Alcázar argues that technological innovations have become dramatic elements in themselves, allowing creators, performers, and spectators to explore ideas, worlds, and concepts that would otherwise be left unexamined.
The revised and expanded La cuarta dimension del teatrofollows a mostly chronological organization. In the first chapter, Alcázar surveys technological advances of the last two millennia through the lens of how advances have modified our perception of time and space, creating a reciprocal relationship in which reality informs art; and art, likewise, informs reality. Alcázar highlights creative pioneers who utilized cutting-edge innovations in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such as Adophe Appia, who saw the possibility of using light for more than simple illumination, Edward Gordon Craig, who used light to create three-dimensional scenography, and Max Reinhardt, who revolutionized theatrical production with the revolving stage.
Alcázar then shifts her focus to how scientific, technological, and philosophical advances of the twentieth century have influenced theatre. Expertly guiding the reader through quantum mechanics, cubism, and futurist manifestos, among other topics, Alcázar shows how the avant-garde, both artistic and scientific, forever changed our notion of time and space and how these are portrayed in theatre. Alcázar highlights the confluence of film and the Commedia dell’Arte in Vsevolod Meyer- [End Page 183]hold’s biomechanics in order to set the stage for the core of her work, the exploration of the fourth dimension of theatre, as coined by the director of epic theatre Erwin Piscator, to describe the role of cinematographic images projected onto a screen. Alcázar traces the development of contemporary Western theatre through the influence of Bauhaus, Total Art, the New York avant-garde, the Happenings and performance art of the 1960s, emphasizing the use of photographic and cinematographic projection in brief descriptions of selected works from European, North American, and Mexican theatre and performance art. The author discusses how television, videotape, and feedback change our perception of reality in which time becomes non-linear, space is compressed, and collage replaces causality. Here Alcázar gives examples of Robert Wilson’s “theater of images” as well as other examples of non-narrative and deconstructed theatre.
The final two chapters of the book are perhaps the most instructive as Alcázar delves into contemporary performance art, a field which she has investigated extensively. In particular, Alcázar describes in greater detail representative performance pieces, dramatic works, and cybernetic body art by mostly Mexican performers that would not be well-known to the general public. In the final chapter, “Video y teatro”, Alcázar’s text takes on an apologist tone, arguing for the value of the incorporation of video and new technologies in theatre before cataloguing the use of video on the Mexican stage during the last three decades.
Alcázar’s text is at its best when analyzing specific uses of technology in theatre as well as how our perception of time and space has influenced as well as been influenced by theatre and art. Also illuminating is the impressive collection that accompanies the text of images and stills from European, North American, and Latin America theatre and performance art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The pace of the text...