photographed by Man Ray.

photographed in 1948, the year of his death, when he produced his radio show.

      A lot of theater performance conventions we now take for granted were greatly manifested by Antonin Artaud in the 30s. Artaud with his passionate ideas of theater had given us the vibrating "Theater and Its Double" (1938). He was such a beautiful young man (as the first picture above) when the Surrealist movement began to sprout. Perhaps it's not that hard to associate elements of Surrealism and the post-war syndromes with Artaud's theory.

      Drama scripts were just too conscious at the time and needed to go deeper, to the dreams, to the darkness. The search of the mysterious fear and the oriental influence (though I must say the language barrier perhaps mystified the Europeans' impressions of the oriental) had permitted a new spirit in Artaud and then the development in theater. However Surrealism was linked to the study of psychology while Artaud chose to praise on the metaphysics. The "storytelling psychology" was all too conventional and occidental since Shakespeare.

      Artaud was a passionate genius. What he wanted to express was very universal, more than the scope of theatrical practices. The following was my favorite quotes from "The Theater and Its Double":

- "...provokes the most mysterious alterations in the mind of not only an individual but an entire populace."

- "The stage is a concrete physical place which asks to be filled, and to be given its own concrete language to speak."

- "To resolve by conjunctions unimaginably strange to our waking minds, to resolve or even annihilate every conflict produced by the antagonism of matter and mind, idea and form, concrete and abstract, and to dissolve all appearances into one unique expression which must have been the equivalent of spiritualized gold."

- "A theater that wakes us up: nerves and heart."

- "Capable of asking the question in the burning and effective way.....its purpose a higher and more secret one."

- "A kind of strange sun, a light of abnormal intensity by which it seems that the difficult and even the impossible suddenly become our normal element."

      Though genius, he was drained in asylums for 10 years before his death. Being experimented and tortured by electric shock treatments, Artaud's late years were just too disturbing for me to imagine. This sensitive, capable soul had been tortured thoroughly and abandoned his faith. At his last production: Pour En Finir Avec Le Judgement De Dieu, he recorded his poetry reading as a vocal performance for a public radio show. The piercing poetry in 1948 still echoed inside my eardrums. (for you who are interested in hearing him:

      This vibration and disturbing effect his poetry left me is perhaps his ideal goal for the theater.


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