The dramaturgy of spaces in the post laboratory
A home for theatre laboratory
When members of Odin Teatrel, or their extended family of collaborators, show visiting guests around the home of the ensemble in Holstebro, Denmark, they seem to take a great deal of pleasure in this task. I noticed the pride of those leading such tours, first as a participant and then as a guide myself. I first visited this space as a foreign guest student, then as a scholar and fellow resident in Denmark. Afterwards, in the role of collaborator, I have shown around colleagues and students who knew of the ensemble but never visited their home. With each tour, I harvested new discoveries about the ensemble’s history and practices, about creative principles, about relationships within creative shared tasks. This happens not only because the place where Odin Teatret lives is constandy changing (it reflects the fluctuating needs and the dynamic processes that have led the ensemble through laboratorial practices for more than 50 years) but also because of a specific topographic ontology, which I wish to describe in the present contribution.
The farm in the Danish countryside that has housed Odin Teatret since 1966 has become legendary through a great number of written and spoken narratives about its origins. Storytelling on Odin Teatret’s formation includes its early foundation in Oslo, Norway, in 1964, in a literally subterranean space, a damp old air raid shelter1, and its migration to Denmark, where the group started training and preparing for the first performances. The ensemble was invited by the municipality of Holstebro to move there, and part of the agreement with the public bodies was the gift of an unused farm in exchange for cultural production. Famously, director Eugenio Barba negotiated that little of the expected cultural production would be public and much of it could be internal to the group. By- convincing the municipal institutions that the ensemble would establish itself as a
theatre laboratory, he guaranteed a multi-level strategy: the inexpert actors and director would take their time to actually team how to make theatre, the foreign ensemble would either learn to speak Danish or develop non-verbal acting skills, and Danish actors would be recruited. The ensemble would in general take the time needed to settle in a new geographical and professional context. Even though Barba recounts this pivotal episode with amusement (Chemi, 2018), a deep respect for the progressive and courageous choice of the municipality at that time clearly shines through in his tone; but there is equal awareness of the challenges of establishing the project within a potentially unreceptive environment. The mindsets of the parties to this deal embodied a potential to clash: the overreligious rural Danish community, the extremely young and inexpert Scandinavian actors, and the Southern Italian director, brought up in the discipline of a military academy and Grotowskian apprenticeship. Regardless of the true motivations on all sides, this cultural-political negotiation both sanctioned the establishment of a theatre laboratory, and also provided for the fuzzy concept of the concreteness of physical frames (the farm) and of professional time (the preparatory work).
In the laboratory space, material and ephemeral elements act on each other as indivisible components of the same social practice: tangible physicality (shared places, artefacts, artistic traditions, collaborative projects) cannot be separated from intangible beliefs (affects, values, rules, mindsets, ideologies). Purely for the purpose of this chapter, these two components will be approached separately, in order to address the specific research question that led my analysis: how do the tangible and intangible frames and structures of laboratory influence its participants’ creativity and learning? My methodological approach is hybrid and built on qualitative empirical data (qualitative semi-structured interviews and ethnographic field observations), autoethnographic materials that I have collected over the past twenty years (Holman Jones, Adams & Ellis, 2016) and desk study on artistic and scientific laboratories. The empirical data have also been used in two books (Chemi, 2018; Chemi & Christoffersen, 2018) where they are described in greater detail. By using this body of knowledge, the interconnectedness between physical/emotional space, in/out, and artistic/scientific laboratory will become even more evident.
Reification of theatre laboratory
Bruno Latour (1987) is the sociologist who has studied laboratories in the most original way. He looked at scientific laboratories and ended up, on the one hand, describing laboratory life in detail (Latour & Woolgar, 1979) and, on the other, developing a methodology' aimed at embracing the complexity of human and non-human actions in a network of cultural influences (actor-network theory). In his observations, the material settings (desk, bench, office, informal spaces) not only merge with mythologies, behaviours and cultural representations, but also represent ‘the reification of knowledge’ (Latour & Woolgar, 1979, p. 68). As in the scientific laboratory, where once data are produced the material layout will be forgotten, in theatre laboratories physical frames exist as reification of the knowledge produced within their frames. Latourian perspectives allow us to invert the material/immaterial relationship: ‘objects [...] are constituted through the artful creativity of scientists’ (Latour & Woolgar, 1979, p. 129). The consequence is not only a contextual construction of creation, but also the very negation of biblical-exegetical interpretations of creativity as discovery (p. 169). Ideas are not discovered in the laboratory, which serves instrumentally the higher purposes of creative epiphanies, but rather the laboratory influences the construction of knowledge by delimiting the process, so that ‘the object [material layout] becomes the reason why the statement [knowledge] was formulated in the first place’ (P- 177).
Ideas are not created by the individual (genius) but rather emerge from a complex exchange of influences, where the laboratory is one of the crucial dialogic partners. In this sense, theatre laboratory is not invented but constructed through reciprocally influencing forces of collaborative entanglements that often follow invisible routes. Does this ontology imply that no truth is possible and only relativism can explain scientific knowledge? This is neither what Latour advocates nor what theatre laboratory practices. However, the concept of truth and knowledge- creations is challenged in both contexts (the scientific and artistic laboratory) by means of a constructivist sociology’ that does not obliterate materiality. To the concept of truth Latour & Woolgar (1979) substitute the concept of‘out-there-ness’ (p. 175), meaning what is out there, knowable and approachable.
Once more, scientific logic is inverted when out-there-ness is conceived as the consequence of knowledge-creation and not its objective cause. For laboratory practices, this means that knowledge is not created in the laboratory against the background of external observations and applied to other external contexts, but rather laboratory practices reify knowledge that shapes out-there-ness and extends to other social contexts. Neither in scientific nor in theatre laboratories is it possible (or desirable) to verify, apply or establish linear correspondences to, or even bypassing social contexts. What is possible is the construction of facts, in the scientific laboratory, and the construction of collective, poetic metaphors, in artistic laboratories. Queries about what laboratories are, in either context, lose their relevance, in favour of a topographic issue: where does the laboratory' emerge? This question finds its particular significance when looking at how Odin Teatret has structured its laboratory practices throughout its many years of activities, because of the emergent and co-creative character of these practices.
The affective studio
Latourian perspectives on the body and embodied practices in scientific laboratories can be useful in broadening views on theatre laboratories. Mostly studied within the domain of theatre studies, theatre laboratories have been framed historically in the genealogy of theatre studios at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Schino, 2009). However, recent studies on the emergence of early theatre laboratories (Chemi, 2018) show that, besides the artistic purpose, spaces are fundamental elements of these artistic environments, together with the collective dimension (a group), the ethos (shared values) and the activity structures (research, pedagogy'). Laboratory practices emerge through intra-active (Barad, 2007) networks of reciprocal material-discursive influences. This calls for the consideration of affects as the vocabulary of the body.
According to Latour (2004), the body is ‘an interface’ (p. 206) that is affected by what it experiences and learns, and at the same time it learns to be affected. The actors’ bodies are dynamic trajectories that (need to) learn to be sensitive to affects and be affected, but at the same time they need to learn how to perform this vitality (in Baradian sense) as if they were something/someone else. Actors engage in relationships with each other (human), with things and spaces (nonhuman), with worlds and environments (more-than-human), and also with imagined worlds (imagined-human) (Chemi, 2020). The imagined worlds actors iteratively shape and un-do meaningfully perform the entanglement of meaning and matter.
As Barad (2007) explains, meaningfulness is semantically determined by the embodiment of apparatuses. The loci where theatre laboratory emerges are spaces that are ‘third’ (Bhabha, 1994), and contain dichotomies without reducing them to syntheses or taxonomies. One of the consequences is that their dramaturgies perform affective-material complexities. Looking closely at the spaces of Odin Teatret’s laboratory, it is possible to investigate how affects emerge in perfor- mance/performativity practices, in the occurrence of post-laboratory, in the dramaturgy of spaces and through the critique to the laboratory.
The pedagogical space
Reflecting on my own experiences as inhabitant of Odin Teatret’s spaces, I marvel at the feelings attached to them. The feeling of pleasure I derive from the exploration of these frames seems to originate from a three-folded experience of identity: (1) genealogical, (2) personal and (3) professional.
In order to define genealogical identity, I looked at Нага way’s (2016) concept of ‘making kin’ and the performativity of an entangled feeling of belonging to a given cultural tradition. In the case of my participation in the tours through Odin Teatret’s physical spaces, this derives from performing to external participants the father’s house as my own. The father’s house is Barba’s own metaphor (see, for instance, the performance Min Fars Hus, Eng. My Father’s House, 1972-1974) and I extended it to the mother’s house (Chemi, 2018) in order to embrace a more appropriate kinship, not only for gender equality Issues. In the event of these visible positioning in/out the cultural space, by means of trajectories through Odin Teatret’s home, my performance of self is clearly established within the community to which I feel I belong. It meaningfully constructs my lived life as a contribution to a larger historical trajectory. To this, the experience of personal identity is strictly linked. A deep feeling of self might emerge as a consequence of the performed identity and the participation in relationships in space might end up revealing a meaningful individual ontology and becoming.
In some occurrences, personal and professional identity might overlap, dissolving into each other. In the autoethnographic observation of my sharing Odin Teatret spaces, I noticed a specific source of pleasure, which seemed to be related to cognitive accomplishment. In my role as a guide, I perform my professionally as an expert who is knowledgeable within frames and traditions. However, no matter how expert, I am always an external participant in the guided tours. Mine is a participating periphery'. In this role, my attention goes to my own learning. Regardless of how often I have visited Odin Teatret’s home, I always collect new information about the most recent changes or acquisitions, or old information in renewed insights that can be triggered by a serendipitous sensory experience. This place functions as a fluid organism, in constant transformation, and in order to accommodate the changing needs of its inhabitants and its pulsating organisation.
Since its very beginning, time and frames have had the character of pedagogical spaces for this organism. The ensemble needed first of all to build skills, knowledge and methods, as much as they needed to construct, renovate and rebuild the farm. Even though Barba insists that his aim was not to do research but to make performances (Chemi, 2018, p. 116), the organisational structures of the ensemble’s work were pedagogical and knowledge-seeking from its beginning: the ensemble had to learn the craft of theatre and its members had to teach each other the skills they already possessed from previous training or experiences. Their work had the character of a laboratory inasmuch as their purpose was not to perform for any performance’s sake, but to appropriate a specific, different way of doing theatre, which had its roots in the work of Western innovators—Stanislavski, Meyerhold, Chekhov, Grotowski. Barha did not intend to engage in any kind of performance, but he wanted to build performances that enquired into a specific genealogy of theatrical innovations. Therefore, the semi-formal pedagogical events that the group initiated had the purpose of inviting experts who were participating in this fluid lineage. The aim was to learn from these experts. The physical and affective frames that the ensemble set itself to adjust answered to the need for enquiry, for reciprocal teaching and learning, for giving space and time to trial-and-error processes, for reflexive discussion, for pedagogical exchanges with external experts.
The artistic space
In Chemi (2018), I compare modern theatre laboratories with the Renaissance artists’ studios. Showing an extremely innovative attitude, the Renaissance studio (Cole & Pardo, 2005) was an artist’s space that had been transformed into a space of enquiry, indeed of study. As in the modern understanding of the term, the Renaissance studio merged within one unique cluster physical frames (architectures), relationships (occupants), and functions (activities). Formerly, Italian visual artists had given different names to the spaces dedicated to the artist’s and the scholar’s work. The former was better known as bottega (shop) or stanza (room), and was a public/performative space, while the latter was known as studio proper, or scrittoio (desk), and was a private and experimental space. Cole and Pardo (2005) maintain that Renaissance practices in the visual arts, contrary to what is commonly believed, often combined rather than separated bottega and studium. Analogously, the performers’ studio seems to have combined different places/ functions. The working spaces of the emerging theatre laboratories in the nineteenth century ‘had not been as delimited as in the fine arts studios, but theatre was built on the dialectic between backstage and stage, and their corresponding functions of preparation and performance’ (Chemi, 2018, p. 9). Theatre laboratory challenged the division into hidden—or invisible—backstage and transparent frontstage in several ways: the Italian-style stage (teatro all’ilaliana) exploded into a performance space where actors and spectators were not divided by a fourth wall, and artistic activities were not necessarily destined for public performance but for participation. Odin Teatrel’s work demonstrations or community engagements (such as the barter) display a performative flow that blurs what should be conventionally hidden or staged.
This new view of the Renaissance studio clarifies the multiple functions of its physical delimitation, and opens up to understanding the fluidity of actions or behaviours, but also the collective dimension of artistic creation. With its origins in both Romantic and industrial culture, the idea that creativity is an individual enterprise has been influencing centuries of studies and current approaches (Chemi et al., 2015). However, most updated perspectives on creativity describe it as a collective-relational phenomenon (Glaveanu, 2014, Sawyer, 2007, Sawyer & DeZutter, 2009, Wyatt, 2018), linked to democratic (Adams & Owens, 2015) and eco-systemic (Harris, 2014) emergence rather than economic growth.
I can indicate at least three qualities of interactions that occur at Odin Tealret when the spaces are used (this refers to exchanges that are specific to this social space), safeguarded (this refers to the everyday care of the space through mundane but fundamental chores), or developed (this refers to the extension, transformation or implementation of frames). Each of these interactions is characterised by a number of practices strictly related to and dependent on each other:
о Ritual (for instance the 50 years jubilee celebration) о Cultural-political (the municipality’s elegant meeting room) о Artistic (public performances) о Pedagogic (training, educational activities) о Research (library, archive, video room) о Administrative (for instance, for project management) о Care and kinship (especially, but not exclusively, for the young generations and their offspring)
о Shared chores (cleaning, providing food) о Duties (everyday administration) о Dissemination of values/rules
о Ad hoc according to growing or changing needs о According to resources (economic, workforce, time) о Occurs sporadically.
Whether these social interactions occur indoors or outdoors, they all reify the entangled network of the Odin Tealret laboratory. Spaces that facilitate laboratory collaboration in the arts require the paradoxical possibility of negating the arts’ movement towards visibility and performativity, reclaiming space and time that is hidden, protected and studious. The purpose is still artistic: the creative exploration of producing artistic products for audiences. These spaces need to dwell at the periphery of any of the artistic disciplines or genres, not in secluded or inaccessible ways, but in a separation that allows for and protects investigative processes. This, I believe, is the reason that Barba, lately, insistently advocates for the importance of creative processes, instead of products (Barba, 2018). Dramaturgical production that escapes the obligation to be made public after a short, linear making, or to be made public at all, is at the core of theatre laboratory research. Therefore, the core can only be situated topographically in the periphery, at the edge.
Odin Teatret’s dramaturgy and pedagogy have been challenging the concept and practice of theatre as a fixed physical space by bringing theatre outside the theatre room. Sharing these practices with other poetic communities, the reformulation of performing spaces has been frequent in popular theatre (Schechter, 2003), political theatre (Boal, 2000) and agit prop (Silva, 2018). Since the 1960s, artistic practices have been slipping out of formal spaces—studio, laboratory, atelier, taller—in order to meet society at large and to unfold their activities in encounters with casual receivers. Happenings, community art, activist and political art, conceptual art, site-specific and performance art are just a few examples of this movement. Artists have taken over public spaces, jails, hospitals, educational institutions, landscapes, and made of these environments their own craftsman’s room, reinventing at the same time the artistic space and the artist’s identity. This journey has brought poetic discursive-material practices into organisations
(Skoldberg, Woodilla & Berthoin Antal, 2016), leadership and management (Taylor & Ladkin, 2009), creative industries (Adler, 2011), knowledge-creation (Strati, 2003), education (Chemi & Du, 2017, 2018), and healthcare (Clift & Camic, 2016). According to Strauss (2017), Marxist aesthetics can explain much of the artist’s intention in engaging in collaborative partnerships with society, reclaiming the use of art as a tool of social intervention. It can be argued, though, that, rather than being a modern (or post-modern) construction, the outdoors studio or laboratory emerged somewhat earlier in the history of theatre. As Barba and Savarese (2019) have shown by means of rich iconographic evidence, open- air venues were at the origins of Western theatre and common to different cultures around the world. The charlatan, mountebank or acrobat tradition is undoubtedly one of the references of post-dramatic actor’s theatre. However, while in former times outdoors venues had practical rather than aesthetic motivations, the recent obliteration of the predominance of closed spaces corresponds to an ideological statement. While the former was due to necessity, the latter is chosen by conviction.
Reviewing the physical spaces where the Odin Teatrel ensemble have been carrying out their dramaturgical and pedagogical activities so far, it is possible to identify two main areas, each of which can be divided into sub-areas. The first main distinction is between inside and outside spaces.
о Alternative or underground spaces transformed for theatre purposes (Oslo bunker)
о Everyday spaces transformed for theatre purposes (farm, gym) or for other knowledge projects (office, library) о Cultural spaces transformed for theatre purposes (castle, exhibition room, conference centre, university, school, church) о Laboratory/studio proper to performance (performing or training room) Theatre space (traditional theatre spaces)
о Urban spaces (streets, squares, alleys, building facades, city gardens) о Nature (seashore, forest, desert) о Outdoor cultural spaces (castle courtyards)
Common to all is that they are different places of community, where physi- calily merges with human affects and relationships. This could be said for all spaces that establish a deeply affective and bodily relationship for/with humans. What distinguishes these spaces from others is the fact that their activities reconstruct in/out topologies in one single intra-active flow and perform their ontology as a continuum of (genealogical, affective, cultural) kinship and skilled performance of bodies. The purpose being the creation of imagined worlds in their
‘vitality’, understood ‘in terms of a new sense of aliveness’ that is ‘exuberant creativeness [that] can never be contained or suspended’ (Barad, 2007, p. 177).
Daichendt (2012) has reviewed the transformation of studio practices through the lens of the visual artist-teacher. Defining the hybrid practice of artists who have also pedagogical tasks, Daichendt (2016) goes back to the nineteenth century in order to find the first example of such a designation. This does not mean that hybrid artist-teacher practices did not occur before George Wallis, British ‘self- declared artist-teacher’ (Daichendt, 2016, p. 79), but rather that awareness of this as an autonomous profession only began to rise concurrently with industrialisation and its influence on artistic ideologies. Looking at the development of both artistic and pedagogical practices, one observes the emergence of out-there-ness as a laboratorial space—either devoted to learning, to creation or both. Considering Odin Tealret’s assimilation of theatrical or community spaces alone, it is evident that artists rarely anchor their work to one single space. Rather, with the emergence of art as activism, public, social spaces have been occupied by a new form of art-making and—I would argue—a new laboratory practice.
The academic notion of the arlist(s) retreating to their loft to conjure a masterpiece is an outdated and romantic ideal that is hampered by both economics of the art world and post-modern practices. It was conceptual artists in the 1960s, who were the leaders of this movement that originally saw the
studio as a type of bondage that limited their creativity-and they sought
locations to make art that specifically aided in developing their ideas. An example might be the physical restrictions of a doorframe or the height of a ceiling and how something so simple can limit the size of art produced in a particular studio. However, this bondage may also refer to the traditional materials of art making as well that limit how and where they can be used [...]. The 16th century ideal of a large workshop or studio to facilitate ambitious pieces has remained the standard for artists through the centuries. A workspace represents a home, storage, and success and maintaining a studio as an artist means that you are a genuine and serious artist. [...] It’s a place where the artist can retreat from the world and conjure new concepts and images never seen before. While the artist may only see the studio as a place to house materials and where the non-glamorous aspects of their work are accomplished, it more often is a romanticized space [...].
Davidts and Paice (2009) collect evidence for the ‘fall of the studio’: contemporary artists deny any centrality to the studio, establishing fluid relationships amongst work, collaborators, context and artistic challenges. American conceptual artist and pedagogue John Baldessari coined the definition of post-studio
art-making (Daichendt, 2016, p. 87), which opened up to a number of hybrid forms, such as the open-air, on-site, on-route or portable studio (Farias & Wilkie, 2015). Likewise, I would argue that Odin Teatret extends theatre laboratory to a post-laboratory practice. Odin Teatret brings the artists’ studio outside, outdoors, in community spaces. By doing so, the ensemble extends the physical and psychological limitations of performance and its pedagogy'. There are no limits to the size of costumes, props, movements, sounds in space, or interactions. But they also stretch the very concept of the laboratory dimension: no longer a physical space (if it ever was), nor a single function (the space for making art or the space for selling/performing art), but an affective and psychological space characterised by multiple functions and creative-relational exchanges (Wyatt, 2018).
The dramaturgy of space(s)
According to Barba (2010), ‘a performing space [is] any place in the open air or indoors deliberately selected to establish a particular actor-spectator relationship’ (p. 45). It is solid, entangled (in a Baradian way) and never neutral. Turner (2004) explains Barba’s pluralistic conceptualisation of dramaturgies—the director’s, the actor’s, the spectator’s—as different aspects of the same creative energy, which is invisible but tangible experientially. To these Barba adds the dramaturgy of the event, concept used mostly in informal conversations or during the preparation of community events, and indicating the structured design of large events, co-created with other artists groups and local communities, by the application of the methodology' of barter.
In 2010, Barba added to the above three dramaturgies that of space: the ‘capacity to arouse in the spectator a double perception’ (Barba, 2010, p. 45) of what is matter-of-factly recognisable and of what is envisioned, ‘a potential space, ready to divest itself of its identity in order to be transformed by the forces of the performance’ (p. 45). This dramaturgy is practiced against the paradox of holding ambivalence and complexity alive without reducing them to an indifferent synthesis. The locus that is dramaturgically conceived and realised embraces both doing and undoing, affirmation and negation, in a logic that is proper to third space ontologies (Bhabha, 1994), but also to poststructuralist material entanglements (Barad, 2007). The dramaturge Barba structures his creation by emptying and refilling the space in a fluid river of influences. The ‘space-river’ (Barba, 2010, p. 46) is sensory, liquid, constantly moving and accessible from two opposite river banks.
The metaphor becomes technique when performance spaces are designed by opposing two reciprocally facing rows of spectators (e.g. Brecht’s Ashes, The Gospel According to Oxyhrincus, Talabot, Kaosmos, Inside the Skeleton of the Whale, The Tree) and where the actors dance back and forth, constructing their actions as if they were waves of energy that flow before the eyes and bodies of spectators. However, this also becomes a dramaturgical principle that helps the director ‘to strengthen the performance’s elusive order, the ambivalence of its sensorial stimuli and the spectator’s dramaturgy’ (Barba, 2010, p. 48). The river-dramaturgy enacts loci of creativity where the ensemble is able to co-create. Only spaces that are third, alternative to mainstream and underground, can host the pluralistic premise of Odin Tealret’s dramaturgy, because the technique of montage implies the interweaving of individual, autonomous creations together with the director’s overall vision. I would argue that this is a specific kind of group or team creativity (Sawyer, 2007), because it occurs in metaphor-building environments and with artistic purposes: it is ensemble creativity. Together with the metaphor of weaving (and undoing the weave), Barba (2010) chooses a sensory association with perfume-making to explain his dramaturgy of dramaturgies, or more simply the fundamental technique of montage.
In mingling, the single aromatic essences lose their autonomous value. They become perfume, an intense indivisible unity. During the rehearsals, the director distils and blends the dramaturgies of the actors. When the performance is ready, if the process is successful, the different dramaturgies settle and condense into perfume which acts on the dramaturgy of the spectator.
(Barba, 2010, p. 204)
With this, Barba does not imply that any trace of individual work is obliterated, but rather he reaffirms the autonomy of the collectively shaped performance, where individual threads continue to exist, but are alchemically transformed in a living organism. In this ‘environment-in-life’ (Barba, 2010, p. 206), egotistic distinctions between ‘I’ and ‘you’ become shared creation and awareness. This organic environment ceases to become simply technique or practice (see the distinction in Madison, 2018, pp. 4-6) and becomes a pulsating, entangled (‘web of motivations’; Barba, 2010, p. 206), relational-creative periphery, where participants are and remain ‘in the place of risk' (Varley, 2019).
The critique of laboratory
It can be concluded here that laboratory spaces not only contribute to dramaturgies as attractive backgrounds, but also imply an autonomous dramaturgy, which is meaningful and meaning-generating. In Latourian terms, spaces where laboratory or post-laboratory dramaturgical activities occur construct these activities and reify their ‘norms and superstitions’ (Barba, 2010, p. 206). It is meaningful that the multiple participants in theatre laboratory activities (actors, directors, pupils, administrative and technical staff, collaborators, researchers, spectators, politicians) interact with and within the laboratory frames in a plurality of ways.
One potentially useful critique is Karen Barad’s (2007) understanding of laboratory as an open, inclusive social practice. A ‘shift from apparatuses as static prefab laboratory setups to an understanding of apparatuses as material-discursive practices through which the very distinction between the social and the scientific, nature and culture, is constituted’ (p. 141) and characterises the construction of knowledge. Theatre laboratory, with its practices that challenge the predominance of language and the binary interior/exterior opposition, can be looked at as an example of ‘dynamic practices of material engagement’ (Barad, 2007, p. 55). The pulsating flesh of actors and actresses substitutes dualistic ontologies with laboratorial methodologies that are strictly linked to labor as hard work or engaged investment of energies, but that stretches beyond ‘the violence of the laboratory space’ (Madison, 2018, p. 7) as colonising force. It is telling that these spaces are constructed by and emerge only through the actors’ bodies.
Often, the guided tours at Odin Teatret occur when the ensemble is on tour. This makes the exploration easier, as there is no concern about disturbing working artists. However, when the ensemble is not present, something is notably missing: in a theatrical tradition based on the actors’ dramaturgy, their own bodies and physical presence are the spaces of performance. When these are missing, the house is nothing but an empty simulacrum, demonstrating that the frames of the house are meaningful as long as creative relationships are keeping them alive.
These affective-embodied experiences unfold in tangible and intangible spaces. Barba (2019), without attempting or intending any opposition, describes the actors’ spaces as threefold: the inner space, the venue, and the public space. The first is a ‘shadow space’ (Barba, 2019, p. 90) that builds the creative core of the individual actor or actress, where they tap into biography, memory, experience and technique. This must be cultivated in order for the actor to step into the other two spaces as a creative, responsive agent. The second is the space of negotiation between actors and spectators. In modern and post-modern theatre traditions, this is not just background or casual frame but rather a fundamental dialogic partner, an ‘ally’ especially ‘for the reformers of theatre who prepared their actors for a new mode of acting on stage’ (Barba, 2019, p. 91). The third space mentioned is the public space whose function is not originally performative, but is a space that can be altered, invaded, decontextualised, revitalised by dramaturgical and performative means. These three dimensions cannot be separated out—they are yarns of different colours woven into a ‘cosmological performance, knotting proper relationality and connectedness into the warp and weft of the fabric’ (Haraway, 2006, p. 91) of theatre laboratory practices.
What still needs investigating is how this laboratory—or post-laboratory— engages with communities, shaping both co-creative processes that are transformative, and social creativity. When laboratory activities involve participants—not audiences, not spectators but fully participating members of a shared creation— what does this imply for the dramaturgical investigation and its reification in performative structures? Can ensemble creativity contribute to the emergence of poetic communities, shaped as ‘environment[s]-in-life’ (Barba, 2010, p. 206)?
FIGURE 16.1 Odin Teatret’s planimetry, ground floor. By permission of Odin Teatret.
FIGURE 16.2 Odin Teatret’s planimetry, first floor. By permission of Odin Teatret.
1 On the Norwegian origins of the group, the poetic documentary by Elsa Kvamme (2017) provides an engaging affective storytelling (with English subtitles).
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