Conclusion: The Alchemical Wedding of Thought
“This then is the philosopher's stone that the Alchemist has been seeking for. It is the grand culmination of the Great Work.” (Hamilton, 1985)
Within the undertaking of this study I have pursued a phenomenologically driven exploration of the Alchemy of Artaud in order to generate an understanding of 'The Digital Double', as being perceived as a tool for the realisation of Artaud’s theatrical ideals. This journey has been a fundamentally alchemical experiment, in the use of practical method in order to explore a metaphysical epistemology. If I am to follow this alchemical methodology, the conclusion of this study would logically lie within the creation of the Philosophers Stone and the Reddening of the alchemical process. Within this personal alchemical journey then, the Philosophers Stone lies within an enlightened understanding of Artaud’s theatre. Within this short chapter I wish to bring together an understanding of the alchemical nature of Artaud’s theatre. I shall briefly discuss the tacit nature of this study and determine how the phenomenologically driven approach was an effective manner in which to determine the validity of my research aims.
By establishing an adequate understanding of the alchemical philosophy I am able to determine that Artaud’s pursuit within theatre was in fact alchemical. Alchemy is not the pursuit of creating gold from led but rather a far more esoteric operation in the personal transformation and ascension of consciousness. This conclusion was reached through an examination of the Hermetic literature in order to understand the epistemology of the renaissance Alchemist. In enacting their practical study the Alchemist was bringing themselves closer to understanding God, and unlocking the secrets of their universe. The Alchemist believed that they were brother to the Demiurge, and that Man was afforded an empowering position in calling forth the Quintessential principle entombed within all matter.
Artaud’s theatre similarly sort for a transformation of consciousness through the attempted rediscovery of a stage language beyond the conventions of discursive speech. This was an attempted restoration of theatres sacral function. Artaud, (utilising the Balinese performance as a conceptual template) placed his emphasis upon the use of gesture, light and sound within his theorised ‘Theatre of Cruelty’. Artaud wished to engineer a performance of metaphysical profundity. The orchestrator of such a performance would no longer be a series of independent craftsmen working in order to satiate the imaginations of a playwright; but rather a single individual, ‘The Producer’, who would engineer a performance of cosmic conflict. Within this chapter I inferred that ‘The Producer’ of such a drama was in fact very similar to the Alchemist in the arrangement of scenography in order to initiate a theatrical transformative performance. The primary focus of Artaudian drama lied in ‘The Producer’s’ ability to bring forth a metaphysical aspect within the drama.
Through Demaitre’s systematic juxtaposition of the Artaudian and alchemical methodologies I established the theatre Artaud wished to create was fundamentally alchemical. Each stage of the alchemical method of Conjunctio; Solutio, Negrido, Albedo, Citrinitas and Rubedo has an equivalent within the Artaudian performative model. Through close examination it was determined that Conjuctio and Solutio marked the preparatory steps of ‘The Producer’ (or Alchemist) within the Artaudian performance. This was then followed by the reactive stages of Negrido which was considered as the alchemical double of Artaud’s ‘Plague’ in the dissolution of prior conceptions of form. Emerging from the mortified mass are the white and yellow lights of Albedo and Citrinitas, marking the discovery of the Artaudian metaphysical aspect of theatre. The process culminated in the Reddening or Rubedo; the formation of the Philosophers Stone and the ascension of conscious thought. It is here that the Artaudian performance concluded, its sacral function completed and its audience cleansed of their ‘Carrion Man’ fixations. Through this systematic juxtaposition a deeper understanding of the fundamentally alchemical nature of Artaud’s theatre has been established.
Understanding the nature of Artaud’s theatre permitted an exploration of the Artaudian nature of contemporary stage technology. Through an investigation of Dixon’s taxonomy of 'The Digital Double’ I have established the Artaudian synergy of the many guises in which 'The Digital Double' takes. However an important conclusion as to the placement of this digital artefact was established; 'The Digital Double' in no way presented itself as Artaud’s double which is “reality untouched by the men of today” (Artaud, 1989, 87) but rather presented itself as the composite stage language of light, gesture and scenography in order to engineer a metaphysical profundity within performance.
The final chapter located the practical study of this work within the established conceptual framework of an alchemical Artaudian theatre. Utilising particular instances within performance I established a dialogue between the individual stages of the alchemical method and found their counterparts within Artaudian performance. Furthermore, through an investigation of 'The Digital Double'’s effects upon performance it was established that moments of transcendence momentarily occurred within performance as noted by the performer Virkutytė. 'The Digital Double' engaged with core concepts of Artaudian theatre, in being able to engineer moments of metaphysical profundity. The scale of this profundity was only examined in relation to the performers and technologists placed within this alchemical theatrical experiment; it will have to be examined within a broader study whether this profundity translated towards the audience in their perception of the performance.
I can conclude that there lies an undeniable Alchemy within Artaud’s theatrical model and that 'The Digital Double' is an effective medium for the exploration and deployment of this metaphysical profundity. A key component of the conclusion which I draw here is determined through my practical exploration of the theories of Artaud. While not explicitly referenced within each chapter, the practice accompanying this written body of work has generated an understanding of the abstract and conceived it within a tangible theatrical model. Reflecting upon Polanyi’s understanding of subsidiary aspects coming together in order to realise a single goal 36 then the use of a practical framework, in the deployment of 'The Digital Double', has become an analogue for the practical accompaniment of understanding the Alchemy of Artaud’s theatre.
Through the practical apparatus deployed I have engaged in a rich conversation between practice and research and reached moments of substantial insight which would not have been possible outside of a practical accompaniment. To cite such an example we could consider the parallel drawn between Artaud’s description of ‘The Plague’ being a psychic entity 37 and the phenomenon of technologist dislocation of presence when operating a digital system (Popat and Palmer, 2008). It was concluded that within this analysis the technologist’s attention became akin to that of Artaud’s ‘Plague’, intentionally instigating the catalytic change resulting from an expressive stage language. A second example of such a conclusion impossible to reach outside of the realms of PaR would have been the response drawn from Virkutytė within the practical exploration of 'The Digital Double'. With extensive practice, the ontological nature of the interaction of performer and ‘Digital Double’ changed into that of ‘Mastery’ (Kwastek, 2015, 233) this allowed for the deeper exploration of performance meaning and content and momentarily brought the performer to an experience of transcendence. It was concluded that while even momentary, this transcendence helped cement 'The Digital Double' as a tool for the achievement of metaphysical depth.
The practical methodology within this research has also helped inform an understanding of the Artaudian ‘Producer’ as Alchemist. Within the process of this research I have assumed many roles; researcher, theatre maker, Artaudian ‘Producer’, and I will argue, Alchemist. I have arranged scenographic elements in order to engineer performances which elicit a metaphysical engagement. The validity of this achievement can only be considered alongside the responses of my participating performers; these responses demonstrate that 'The Digital Double' is an effective tool for the exploration of metaphysical concepts and ideas. As Alchemist then I have engineered a performance which utilises an arrangement of scenographic tools culminating in the reactive agent of 'The Digital Double'. “In completing the circle the opus reaches its final stage, called rubedo, with the appearance of the King, or gold.” (Demaitre, 1970, 246)
My ‘alchemical gold’ within this study lies within my understanding of Artaud and 'The Digital Double' as an effective embodiment of his theories. In this regard this alchemical study has been a success, the Rubedo achieved and my personal Philosophers Stone created.
36 Polanyi regards the accumulation of knowledge by stating; “...knowledge dwells in our awareness of particulars while bearing on an entity which the particulars jointly constitute.” (Polanyi, 1966, 61)
37 This concept was drawn in analysis of 'The Digital Double' as ‘Manipulable Mannequin’ compared with the putrefaction of Artaud’s ‘Plague’. Artaud declared that the plague was “a kind of psychic entity”. (Artaud, 1970, 11)
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