The Techniques of the Arts

art, literature, digital culture studies

This essay for the inaugural issue of Technology and Language explores the languages of the theatre which define and constrain its mode of production. The very inability of the theatre to establish, even as an illusion, a non-theatrical reality, turns out to be its major asset and strength. Especially in regard to Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin’s reflections on history, technology, and Brecht’s epic theatre, the peculiar grammar of gestural reading and writing becomes apparent. A quotable gesture is not tied to a particular subject but stands, frozen in time, as an element of action. It exposes the unfulfilled promise of a historical moment, allowing theatrical techniques to uncover the message of redemption in the cultural material of a tragic past. Accordingly, the many intersecting, non-instrumental technologies of theatrical production give us a language for reading history and deciphering here and there an index of a better future that was buried in the past.