chapter  9
Absolute, abstract, and abject
Learning from the event-space of the historical avant-garde
ByDorita M. Hannah
Pages 16

Considering the impact of evental thinking as spacing, this chapter focuses on the influence of Europe's historical avant-garde on theatre architecture: whereby scenography as spatial scripting could no longer be contained within geometrically constructed vistas on the prescribed stage, resulting in new spatial models that undermined architecture's will to fixity, stability, and endurance. In concentrating on modernism's philosophical, political, and perceptual revolutions the chapter identifies three distinctive attitudes to performance space – loosely cohering around the avant-garde movements of symbolism, constructivism, and surrealism – that emerged between 1872 and 1947. Termed absolute, abstract, and abject these revolutionary spatial models challenged the nineteenth-century auditorium, which could no longer house the theatrical and technological upheavals that were occurring. The well-constructed playhouse seemed as meaningless as the well-made bourgeois play; principally challenged by the avant-garde's writing and unbuilt proposals, out of which the absolute, abstract and abject spatiotemporal models emerged, which illuminate theatre history and inspire new approaches to contemporary performance space.