Viewing Theatre Posters & Embodied Spectatorship as in a Senefelder Galaxy



Year of publication 2020
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description Spectators in the long nineteenth century experienced the transformation from letterpress ‘Gutenberg Galaxy’ to telegraphic ‘Marconi Galaxy’ (in Marshall McLuhan’s terms). The emerging spectacularity of the period could be better conceptualised as a ‘Senefelder Galaxy’. Thanks to Alois Senefelder’s invention of lithography, streets became flooded by pictorial, illustrated posters. A written word voiced its expression and urgency through images and returned to the world of things when pasted on the poster walls. Poster walls alongside newspapers trained spectators in fragmented simultaneous seeing. Posters (before industrial advertisements) advertised performative entertainment events and lead a pedestrian (unlike other local business publicity) to a distant place at a distant time and turned him or her into the theatre visitor. Theories of performative identity (by Judith Butler) could be applied to Sarah Bernhardt who did not perform identity of dramatic characters but the identity of ‘monstre sacré’ or ‘Divine Sarah’ employing multiple visual appearances (performances), eg. in Alphonse Mucha’s posters. A spectator is also a flâneur walking the streets, a connoisseur when encountering a Mucha poster and an admirer when applauding an actress and objectifying a woman with the male gaze (drawing from Laura Mulvey). In phenomenological terms, he or she is embodied when moving, seeing, and thinking in situ and in actu (Maurice Merleau-Ponty). Spectators, theatres and posters are altogether situated in one shared space as acting bodies.
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