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What is it to be Human?  a Theatre Science Perspective Richard Muscat & John J Schranz April 20 – the opening of the seminars on THEATRE & NEUROSCIENCE.

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Presentation on theme: "What is it to be Human?  a Theatre Science Perspective Richard Muscat & John J Schranz April 20 – the opening of the seminars on THEATRE & NEUROSCIENCE."— Presentation transcript:

1 What is it to be Human?  a Theatre Science Perspective Richard Muscat & John J Schranz April 20 – the opening of the seminars on THEATRE & NEUROSCIENCE Organised by Umberto Eco’s Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici Universita degli Studi di Bologna

2  What is it that Neuroscience and Theatre-making have in common?  What could it be that each can learn from the other?  what could a reflection on this tell us with regard to what it means to be human ?  It appears that the human being comes into being equipped with a grammar of action which cannot be acquired otherwise.  Theatre making requires that same grammar of action to be reorganised and codified in a manner in which it can be knowingly refined – a manner which then seems to allow it to be used creatively and with an ever increasing dynamism.  The cognitive sciences are providing new insights into the mechanisms that substantiate that grammar, allowing it to achieve new syntactic heights that make the word “imitation” unsuitable as a description of human action.  Keywords : Human, Neuroscience, Theatre, Grammar, Creative

3 “In Theatre” and “In Life” Stanislavski’s insight reversed The collaboration between theatre praxis and the cognitive sciences

4 The work of the theatre-makers who changed the face of performance in the 20th century changed the field of play profoundly E. G. Craig – “Human flesh cannot be disciplined.”. Which brought about a movement from  Writing for theatre to  Writing about theatre Art formArt form CreativityCreativity DisciplineDiscipline TrainingTraining AnalysisAnalysis TerminologyTerminology Writing Writing

5 There were previous instances of encounters between theatre and the (would be) “sciences” Physiognomy – LavaterBrowne della Porta However – things are no longer as they were then.

6 1. Performance has, since then, been recognised as been recognised as an art form. An art form, moreover, where the artist is, at the same time, Artist, locus of creative act, process, “medium” and “objet d’art”.

7 2. More importantly, however, Performance has been recognised as the art form where has been recognised as the art form where that which is to be experienced & perceived that which is to be experienced & perceived as ART by the beholder is the very eventhood of the doing. HUMAN ACTION AS ART

8 In the theatre laboratory, the Performer, working scientifically as all artists work, the Performer, working scientifically as all artists work, chooses to “repeat” his action; chooses to “repeat” his action; he chooses to analyse it; he chooses to analyse it; he chooses to fragment it into ever smaller, constituent elements; he chooses to fragment it into ever smaller, constituent elements; he chooses to categorise it, catalogue it, name it; he chooses to categorise it, catalogue it, name it; he chooses to organise it in clear structures; he chooses to organise it in clear structures; and then and then he chooses to re-constitute it as a whole, working to restore to it the qualities which Action has “in life” – he chooses to re-constitute it as a whole, working to restore to it the qualities which Action has “in life” – the flow, the unpredictability, the unexpected, the quality that makes it proceed naturally from whatever preceded it and lead to whatever will follow it, the quality which unifies our myriad, infinitely small actions into a sensible whole. the flow, the unpredictability, the unexpected, the quality that makes it proceed naturally from whatever preceded it and lead to whatever will follow it, the quality which unifies our myriad, infinitely small actions into a sensible whole.

9 Above all, however 3. The theatre-maker, independently of whether he is director-pedagogue or Performer, he is director-pedagogue or Performer, is now recognised as being is now recognised as being the “double artist”: (i) Theatre-maker (i) Theatre-maker AND AND (ii) Author, writing literary and theoretical works (ii) Author, writing literary and theoretical works about his own work as theatre-maker – about his own work as theatre-maker –

10 – He questions himself, therefore. – He questions himself, therefore. He articulates his reflections upon his own process. He shares his own self analysis with others. The Performer is “subject” & “object” of his own research. The Performer is “subject” & “object” of his own research. He is the transcending of both “subject” and “object”. He is the transcending of both “subject” and “object”. He is at once scientist and guinea-pig. He is at once scientist and guinea-pig.

11 Heinrich Von Kleist In our richest asset, that is, in our consciousness, that is, in our consciousness, Von Kleist finds, also, our deepest problem – “flaw” perhaps, one could even say. “flaw” perhaps, one could even say. Consciousness is iterative. It accentuates our capability to learn – indeed, it enables our learning to learn. AND YET – It pulls us out of the present. It brings us to look at what was and at what will be. We thus move outside of the creative event – which is markedly in the present. which is markedly in the present.

12 The Middle Voice and the dawn of Greek Tragedy. The Middle Voice and the dawn of Greek Tragedy. Allowing the event to happen. Allowing the event to happen. “The descent of Grace” (Grotowski). Being “Channel” (Grotowski). The “Amen principle” (Ingemar Lindh). “The descent of Grace” (Grotowski). Being “Channel” (Grotowski). The “Amen principle” (Ingemar Lindh). Possibilities of intention. Deciding unknowingly on the basis of a process of deliberation which is engaged equally unknowingly. Possibilities of intention. Deciding unknowingly on the basis of a process of deliberation which is engaged equally unknowingly. Is this the posing of questions about free will? Is this the posing of questions about free will? Is it here, therefore, that the Performer’s creativity resides? Is it here, therefore, that the Performer’s creativity resides?

13 Recognising creativity as, in the Performer, residing here, may be tantamount to recognising what it could be to be Human – Recognising creativity as, in the Performer, residing here, may be tantamount to recognising what it could be to be Human – poised half way between animals and gods. The work of the Performer upon himself seeks to heighten the possibility of allowing action to proceed from an unawares, though highly refined, deliberation of a myriad intentions. Training appears to be aiming for this unique way of Being. The work of the Performer upon himself seeks to heighten the possibility of allowing action to proceed from an unawares, though highly refined, deliberation of a myriad intentions. Training appears to be aiming for this unique way of Being. It may be tantamount to recognising what it may be that we may have forgotten. It may be tantamount to recognising what it may be that we may have forgotten. If, then, that were to prove to have been the case, seeking now to “recuperate it”, or, at any rate, working for it knowingly, could lead to an ulterior empowerment. If, then, that were to prove to have been the case, seeking now to “recuperate it”, or, at any rate, working for it knowingly, could lead to an ulterior empowerment.

14 “Performing”… in a scientific laboratory

15  What can one ask of neuroscience?  What cannot one ask of neuroscience?

16 In the laboratory, the scientist is able to operationalise the doer, the medium, and the event – that which is evaluated is the outcomes of the performance… and NOT the performance itself. In scientific laboratories where animals are studied it is difficult to operationalise human characteristics, such as: self appraisal.

17 There are “questions” that may be asked in the context of rats performing tasks in laboratory conditions.

18  One cannot ask questions of a rat.  A rat can’t (bother to) ask itself questions.  Neither, for that matter, can it ask questions to a scientist. However, In the case of the Performer, however, each time round, the answer is an unconditional YES

19 Other considerations emerge, moreover.  The relative INability of having personal experience of the DOINGS of, say, a musician… a musician… BUT THEN  The (more than relative!) ABILITY of having personal experience of the DOINGS of the theatre Performer – his very human Actions.

20  Then there is the particular nature of the act of DOING. The memory of Actions DONE seems to have a privileged status. The act of DOING, in itself, enhances learning… which in itself preserves memory.

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27 GRAMMARS 1. The innate grammar of speech No mother can teach grammar to her child. No mother can teach grammar to her child. Born with the disposition for grammar, Born with the disposition for grammar, one acquires it further by assimilation, one acquires it further by assimilation, by “deuterolearning”. by “deuterolearning”. Later, by (re)learning the grammar we (unknowingly) know, we become able to knowingly refine it, Later, by (re)learning the grammar we (unknowingly) know, we become able to knowingly refine it, thus becoming able to (knowingly) try to write poetry – something we could not do before. thus becoming able to (knowingly) try to write poetry – something we could not do before.

28 2. Taking the Action of an other as one’s own Model We human beings are the only beings We human beings are the only beings who can go beyond taking as our model who can go beyond taking as our model the choice of an object which someone else makes, the choice of an object which someone else makes, or the choice of a locus. or the choice of a locus. Most animals can do that. Most animals can do that. We Human Beings can go BEYOND that, however – We Human Beings can go BEYOND that, however – We are able to take as a model the ACTION OF ANOTHER We are able to take as a model the ACTION OF ANOTHER – and we are unique in being able to do so. – and we are unique in being able to do so.

29  The innate grammar of Action One is not taught how to touch one’s own face. One is not taught how to touch one’s own face. Quite as in speech, one is born with the disposition for Quite as in speech, one is born with the disposition for action, and in the same manner, one acquires it further action, and in the same manner, one acquires it further by assimilation. by assimilation. In the same manner, then, via Performance training, one can (re)learn the grammar one (unknowingly) knows – categorising it, analysing it, reorganising it, refining it… In the same manner, then, via Performance training, one can (re)learn the grammar one (unknowingly) knows – categorising it, analysing it, reorganising it, refining it… until one controls it to such a point as to arrive at being poetic with it, both in theatre and in life. until one controls it to such a point as to arrive at being poetic with it, both in theatre and in life.

30 It is for this purpose that the Performer trains. With his iterative work upon himself, he seeks to intervene upon as many as possible of the faculties he knows he operates. He seeks to potentiate as much as possible of what it is that makes him Human. It is for this reason that he provides an ideal locus for science to inquire into what it means to be human.

31 BRAIN PLASTICITY The Holistic Dimension

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