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Title: Le Sacre du Printemps (the Ballets Russes, 1913) and Italian futurism : thematic confluence and the politics of social tension, stylistic repulsion and aesthetic dehumanisation
Author: Crawford, Pamela Ann Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 7031
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2016
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This research has used methodologies of both comparative and transdisciplinary analysis to test the hypothesis that there was thematic confluence between selected works of the Ballets Russes and the Italian Futurists prior to the formal collaboration of the two artistic groups in 1917. The key point for this study is Sergei Diaghilev’s production of Le Sacre du Printemps (Le Sacre) performed in Paris and London in 1913. In the context of widespread scholarly acknowledgement of the significance of radical changes in the spheres of gender and sexuality at the moment of colonialism and imperialism in this period, this thesis identifies three sites of potential thematic confluence while contributing to the field a focus on the presence of ‘blackness’ as an unrecognised and under-analysed dimension of the politics and reception of Le Sacre and of Futurism. The first thematic confluence to be examined addresses the political and social tensions which were features of the European society at the awkward end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentiet-centuries. My study focuses, however, on issues of gender and sexuality articulated in the explorations of masculinity, homosexuality, women’s emancipation and reproduction. With an emphasis on the narratives of Futurist and Ballets Russes works, and drawing upon the interplay between currents in literary and religious philosophy, the thesis explores how these themes were represented in works of art and considers the role of the sacrificed virgin or Chosen One in Le Sacre with respect to anti-procreative practices and other forms of resistance. The thesis then explores the theme of ‘stylistic repulsion’ that refers to the complex and hierarchical relationship which European societies had with the subjects European countries were colonising in overseas territories. The works of the Futurist leader Fillipo Marinetti are for example, examined for their conflicted relationship between Europe and specifically Africa. In reviewing attitudes to people from outside Europe in relation to the narrative of Le Sacre, I explore the potential impact on the making and reception of Le Sacre — and in particular to its score composed by Igor Stravinsky — in relation to the presence in World Fairs and exhibitions of non-Occidental people who were made to perform their difference and culture in the period 1880-1920. This gives rise to an analysis of an interpretation of works of art which I argue were mediated by the presence of the colonised within European society and according to ever evolving constructs of race and power. The thesis then addresses the theme of ‘dehumanisation’, a term associated with the machinic in Futurism and Nijinsky’s choreographic aesthetic in Le Sacre. The Futurist Variety Theatre Manifesto (1913) proposed a dynamic of unifying connection between audience and performer but also exhibited forms of political dehumanisation in their manifestoes and theatre practice. These are reviewed with respect to the aesthetic and aural strategies which promoted sensorial interplay between audience and performer in Le Sacre. They are also aligned with the ambiguities in interpretations of the sketched record of Le Sacre made by French artist Valentine Gross and Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography of the work, together with his declaration of the absence of human beings in Le Sacre. The thesis aims to demonstrate the value of an enriched social history of art in transdisciplinary engagement with postcolonial theory, musical and dance history and the relations between performance and reception.
Supervisor: Pollock, Griselda Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available