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What is a posthuman theatre text?

Keywords: dramaturgy, subjectivity, consciousness, corporeality, technology

 

In this article, I read a selection of 21st century Estonian plays through the lenses of posthumanism. I examine the matters of subjectivity, corporeality, consciousness and relation to technology of the characters based on Katherine N. Hayles’ pioneering How We Became Posthuman (1999) and Rosi Braidotti’s The Posthuman (2013); some relevant ideas of transhumanism exceeding the biological limits of the human organism (Nick Bostrom) are also considered.

The first selected play is uus elysium. une luup (new elysium. dream loupe, 2001) by Andreas W and Jaak Tomberg. The play is a textual experiment of the technological theatre, the action takes place in virtual reality. go neo und romantix (2013) by Kadri Noormets is postdramatic and highly poetical. Otsuse anatoomia (Anatomy of Decision/Otsus, 2015) is a scenario of interactive theatre in Cabaret Rhizome, consisting of 64 possible plot developments. The audience are invited to influence the events in a family called Otsus (‘Decision’). Siret Campbell’s drama Beatrice (2017) is a science fiction romance depicting an attempt of prolonging the human life after the death of the physical body. This analysis is supported with two examples, Girl in the Machine (2017) by Scottish author Stef Smith, and The End (2010), a group work of Von Krahl Theatre performers.

Although the form of drama appears to be productive representing the ethical conflicts of a possible transhumanist future, the posthuman ideas appear in a more intriguing way in experimental texts. The ideas of posthuman subjectivity appear in the ways the concepts of body and consciousness are entangled in each text. Posthuman subjects can be amalgams (Hayles), socially and digitally programmed (Edward Scheer), but they are always dynamic and exist in an in-between zone of different concepts of the human and poetics of dramaturgy. The relation to technology is dominantly conflicted or dystopic, but might also form a challenging continuum of the human, technology and nature.

 

Riina Oruaas (b. 1981), MA, University of Tartu, Institute of Cultural Research (Ülikooli 16, 51014 Tartu), doctoral student, assistant in theatre research, riina.oruaas@ut.ee

References

Käsikirjad

A n d r e a s W, T o m b e r g, Jaak 2001. uus elysium. une luup. Käsikiri Eesti Teatri Agentuuris.

Cabaret Rhizome 2015 = Ajjar Ausma, Päär Pärenson, Anatoli Tafitšuk, Joonas R. Parve, Liisa Linhein, Otsuse anatoomia. [Luule. Dialoogid. Vahetekstid. Selgituseks tekstide juurde.] Käsikiri Cabaret Rhizome’is ja Eesti Teatri Agentuuris.

Von Krahli Teater 2010 = Mari Abel, Tiina Tauraite, Riina Maidre, Erki Laur, Taavi Eelmaa, Juhan Ulfsak, The End. Käsikiri Von Krahli Teatris ja Eesti Teatri Agentuuris.

 

Kirjandus

A l a i m o, Stacy 2010. Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

B o s t r o m, Nick 2005. Transhumanist values. – Journal of Philosophical Research, kd 30, Ethical Issues for the Twenty-First Century, lk 3–14.

B r a i d o t t i, Rosi 2013. The Posthuman. Cambridge–Malden: Polity Press.

C a l l u s, Ivan, H e r b r e c h t e r, Stefan 2008. What is a posthumanist reading? – Angelaki. Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, kd 13, nr 1, lk 95–111.

C a l l u s, Ivan, H e r b r e c h t e r, Stefan 2013. Posthumanism. – The Routledge Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory. 2. tr. Toim Simon Malpas, Paul Wake. Abingdon–New York: Routledge, lk 144–153.

C a m p b e l l, Siret 2017. Beatrice. Tallinn: Eesti Teatri Agentuur.

F u c h s, Elinor 1996a. The death of character. – E. Fuchs, The Death of Character. Perspectives on Theater after Modernism. Bloomington–Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, lk 169–176.

F u c h s, Elinor 1996b. The rise and fall of the character named Character. – E. Fuchs, The Death of Character. Perspectives on Theater after Modernism. Bloomington–Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, lk 21–35.

H a y l e s, Katherine N. 1999. How We Became Posthuman. Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago–London: The University of Chicago Press.

K a r u l i n, Ott 2010. Kuus naervat last nutmas. – Teater. Muusika. Kino, nr 12, lk 19–23.

K r u l l, Hasso 2018. Kosmiline mälu. Posthumanistliku eetika imperatiiv. – Vikerkaar, nr 1–2, lk 84–94.

L e h m a n n, Hans-Thies 1999. Postdramatisches Theater. Frankfurt am Main: Verlag der Autoren.

N o o r m e t s 2013 = kadrinoormets, go neo und romantix. Tallinn: Lugemik.

S c h e e r, Edward 2012. Posthuman scenarios and performative media. – Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, kd 17, nr 3, lk 23–32.

S m i t h, Stef 2017. Girl in the Machine. (NHB Modern Plays.) London: Nick Hern Books.

S z o n d i, Peter 1963. Theorie des modernen Dramas 1880–1950. (Edition Suhrkamp 27.) Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.

T a y l o r, Diana 2003. Acts of tranfser. – D. Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire. Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham–London: Duke University Press, lk 1–52.