“The theatre he planned is a commando action against the established culture, an assault on bourgeois public; it would both show people that they are dead and wake them up from their stupor” (Sontag, 43:1). This kind of theatre provides a sort of “shock therapy”, against all forms that have been set within arts and through other manifestations of the human intellectual regarded collectively, a ‘physical’ attack on the spectator to show those that are unconscious of their unconscious through the transcription of art. This then transcribes into a journey, that seems like a quest through the self. The mind becomes then becomes the reference point, point of view, true sense of the self that in which the only way we communicate with it is through the use of language, the word, which is what mainly drives the world and us (the flesh) that Artaud speaks about that is being privileged. That through the removal of such we are able to make art more cognitive and that he sees as true theatre. This theatre he established deliberately exists as an action against norm.
“His diagnosis is that we live in an inorganic, ‘petrified culture’ – whose lifelessness he associates with the dominance of the written word – was hardly a fresh idea when he stated it; yet many decades later, it has not exhausted its authority” (Sontag, 43). Artaud’s written word had become source of this “petrified culture” where it has dominated and still continues to dominate within our society. Through repetition and its reinforcements which suggests and compensates for the weakness of the original signal. If repeated often enough, a new cerebral pathway is formed. Some brand names have been repeated so often that they have become part of our everyday vocabulary. For example to mention two, Nike and Bic started off as unknown brands, through the use of repetition, their products became synonymous with their representation the same process used in education and conditioning as children – frequent exhortations to ‘be careful’ or ‘do not touch’ these ‘fearful’ collection of words eventually become engrained in our minds that we do not question their validity eventually then creating a ‘petrified culture’.
He then proposed the Theatre of Cruelty even though Sontag does not see it as a new Western theatre rather as Artaud puts it that “it could be assumed …another form of civilisation” (Sontag, 43). According to Sontag he is not necessarily referring to a ‘civilisation’ but rather the idea of it that foundations our history for which was made for the “bourgeois public” (Sontag, 43). It is known that Artaud’s work within theatre has impacted the way in which art has and still can be approached. His type of theatre is specific and he marks it that theatre cannot be random but it needs to provide an ultimate religious purpose (Sontag, 41).
As a physician to culture, Artaud understood that the only way in which to reach people in this world was through science as most people believe research based findings, however, this then becomes a research based finding on the self. Exposed, vulnerable to all that one discovers about themselves, through the use of the mind of which he uses within his approach of theatre, the science being the mind. “The function that Artaud gives the theatre is to heal the split between language and flesh” (Sontag, 38). This type of theatre is imagined to be that the body is reborn within thought and thought itself reborn within the body. It would then be the responsibility of the actor to do however through movement and through their voice apart from talking (language) (Sontag, 38-39).
The first examination he had to be himself, he then diagnoses of the self and after being examined as a ‘lunatic’ according to Sontag’s essay he mentions how he found that there was a split within his mind. Of which he in know for always trying to figure the split between life and theatre or the body and language. “He diagnoses his own disease as a split within his mind (“my conscious aggregate is broken,” he writes) that internalises the split between mind and body” (Sontag, 39). Artaud is known to use the theatre as a metaphor (find quote). That split in which he mentions is that of disassembled collections
“Theatre is a projected image (necessarily on ideal dramatisation) of the dangerous, ‘inhuman’ inner life that possessed him” (Sontag, 40). After being diagnosed as a ‘lunatic’. Through creating such an image Artaud wants art to address itself towards the spectator through their “total existence” (Sontag, 36). That this experience of the spectators “total existence” one of its beneficial is the spiritual effect it had on the audience whose power according to Artaud relies on a disavowal of all forms of mediation (Sontag, 35). In order to show the truth, archetypals are shown rather than the individual mindset through this risk within the space that is theatre is achieved for this “archetypal reality”in which Sontag mentions that it then is seen as ‘dangerous’ and for Artaud this what true theatre becomes,an experience that translates as intimidating excluding subtle emotions, lightheartedness, (or any) reassuring of intimacy (Sontag, 36-37).
“The ‘cruelty’ of the work of art has not only a directly moral function but a cognitive one. According to Artaud’s moralistic criterion for knowledge, an image is true insofar as it is violent” (Sontag, 37). The hopes in Artaud has for art is that he opposes the separation between art and life, and the separation between reality and representation that are used within all theatrical forms that imply such a separation. From this moralist point of view as Artaud approaches art he believes it to be not serious enough in The Theatre and it’s Double he suggested on eliminating sets altogether leaving the body at the forefront.
Through that he achieves what his theatre wants to show which is “the organic basis of emotions and the physicality of ideas – in the bodies of the actors” (Sontag, 33). “He sees art as an action, and therefore a passion, of the mind. The mind produces art. And the space in which art is consumed is also the mind-viewed as the organic totality of feeling, physical sensation, and the ability to attribute meaning” (Sontag, 30). As art is seen as the action, meaning that it occurs in response to that of the mind also which it is the very same ‘place’ in which we use to consume the art and make meaning for ourselves. Sontag sees Artaud’s notion of art as impressive, this would be impressive as what he has done is that the very same thing in which we use to make the art and that in which we consume the art has been sustained through the use of language. Within the work of Artaud he is able to reject such privileging of language, he challenges art to be rather an experience and an analysis on the work of art.
Artaud’s “manic Hegelianism” according to Sontag, “in which art is the compendium of conscious, the reflection by consciousness on itself, and the empty space in which consciousness takes its perilous leap of self-transcendence.” (Sontag, 30). Art is a collection of concise but detailed information of the conscious, a reflection by that of consciousness in and of itself, the empty space in transcendence would be the spiritual and physical effort in which Artaud shows his obsession for these two mentioned efforts as for art would be seem by Artaud as that difficult experience. Where art is a compilation of a body of knowledge, for example the general encyclopedia could be seen as the compilation of all human knowledge.
“Artaud defines the theatre as a place where the obscure facets of ‘the spirit’ are revealed in ‘a real, material projection'” (Sontag, 35).