Fragments of times and spaces : collage in the theatre of Vs. E. Meyerhold, 1906-1926
The (re)discovery of collage by the Cubists and futurists was one of the most significant artistic developments of the last century. Collage practice was embraced by artists and intellectuals as more than a formal process involving the combination of image fragments using glue. From Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, through the Dadaists, the surrealists, and on into the era of post-modernity, collage has become a metaphysical expression of a world in flux, characterised by relativity and uncertainty. Often working in close personal contact with the avant-garde artists, theatre director Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold was intimately involved with the political, social and cultural upheavals of the early twentieth century. This thesis argues that Meyerhold's work with the artists of the avant-garde has been under-investigated in English language scholarship, and that the influence of artistic developments on his aesthetic extends beyond the well-documented instances of causal cross-over (for example, in stage design). Seeing the lack of scholarship relating Meyerhold's work directly to the collage device as an oversight, this thesis constructs a collage-based model through which the director's theatre can be read. Collage in Meyerhold's theatre is initially identified in the construction of the mise-en- scene. By 1926, the device emerges as the organizational principle underlying the performance as a whole, shedding light on the form and function of the director's aesthetic. Particularly significantly, through collage, Meyerhold's theatre is seen to engage with the questions of subjectivity and objectivity in the audience experience, and, in line with anti-positivist developments in philosophy, radically deconstructs the objective as a category. In addition, through collage, Meyerhold's theatre finds vital points of contact with today's performance practice which often engages with the multiplication of spatial and temporal frameworks through the use of multi-media techniques.