– Spring/Summer 2000
Walter De Maria
Non-Trueness as the Nature of Theatre
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Olafur Eliasson, Your Windless Arrangement, Installation View, Louisiana Museum of Art, Humblebaek, 1997. Courtesy the artist.
Theatre hinges on a paradoxical relationship to reality. It works with spaces and people that materially and visually match our experience of reality - and which could hence be taken for reality - but at the same time theatre aims to duplicate this reality, which then 'appears' in performance as a front, as a construction.
Our awareness that we are dealing with 'appearances' is the source of the distance between theatre and reality, the source of its significant incongruity with the signified. Its appeal consists in its capacity to translate reality into language without having to change the medium. People play people, spaces imitate spaces. The illustrative nature of theatre is thus intentional and not medial. Theatre is in immediate contact with reality and derives its dramatic impact purely from cracks in the immediacy of that contact. As a double of reality it highlights the immediacy of the performed front, of the non-true - in the sense of the German unecht that mixture of not real/not authentic/not genuine. Theatre, with its power to impress, ifs authenticity, and its mediation of real emotions, seeks to hide this non-trueness, seeks to turn the spotlight onto the non-true so brightly that the real/authentic/genuine (in German das Echte) starts to look non-true.
One could say that theatre is working to make us forget reality which, in the moment that we are caught up in a theatrical experience, only exists as memory. The sense of comfort that pervades a theatre independent of the theatricality and drama of a play, the sense of being sheltered from the emotional upheavals on stage, is based on our awareness that the intensity of the experience has been