Fusing the Fictional and the Real in the Contemporary Performing Arts

Projects by the via Negativa Group


  • Barbara Orel




Fictional, Real, Theatricality, Absorption, Via Negativa Performance Group, Denis Diderot, Perception


The exploration of the relationship between the fictional and the real in projects by Via
Negativa, a performance group from Slovenia, is based on the presumption that the
recognition of what we experience as fictional or real is decisively influenced by the perceptual
activity of the spectator. The article argues that the exchange between the elements of fiction
and reality takes place in two different concepts of representation: theatricality and absorption.
These are two opposing notions used for defining the relationship between the image
represented and the spectator. Theatricality is the effect of the address that the image makes to
the spectators and thus makes them conscious of their own act of perceiving. Absorption, in
turn, describes the context in which the image is put to view as a closed, self-sufficient
sign-system establishing such conditions of perception that make the spectator focus
completely upon the object represented; the audience is so overcome by the presented image
that they experience this as if they were absorbed into the staged world. These two concepts are
elaborated on the basis of Denis Diderot's essays on theatre and fine art. The essay proves
useful for the argumentation of the thesis since they testify that theatricality and absorption,
each in their own way, include the spectator's personal investment into what comes across as
fictional or real. A detailed analysis of selected performances by Via Negativa shows that the
real assuch (i.e. theauthenticity of the real that isconfirmed in the identity with its own self)
is impossible to achieve. Under the gazeof the spectator, the real is always compelled to reveal
itself through some kind of representation. As also found by Alain Badiou, the authenticity of
the real can only be presented through the role of semblance, mask or fiction.

Author Biography

Barbara Orel

Barbara Orel is Associate Professor of Performing Arts Studies and head of the research group
of the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television at the University of Ljubljana. She has
published in Performance Research, (Yale) Theater, Playing Culture: Conventions and Extensions
of Performance (Rodopi, 2014). Her publications include monographs on Play within a Play
(Igra v igri, 2003), Performing Arts and the Politics of Representation (Scenske umetnosti in
politike predstavljanja , 2008; editor), Hybrid Spaces of Art (Hibridni prostori umetnosti, 2012;
co-editor) . She was also curator of the Slovenian national theatre festival Week of Slovenian
Drama (Teden slovenske drame, 2006?07) and Borstnik Theatre Festival (Borstnikovo
srecanje, 2008?09).




How to Cite

Orel, B. (2018). Fusing the Fictional and the Real in the Contemporary Performing Arts: Projects by the via Negativa Group. Nordic Theatre Studies, 26(1), 44–54. https://doi.org/10.7146/nts.v26i1.109739



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