Modalities or Surfaces

Postmodern Poetics and a Riddle


  • Janne Tapper



Playing, Surfaces, Postmodernism, Design, Cognition


This article will examine the playing with aesthetical surfaces in postmodern theatre and how it
reflects the poetics and the cultural logic of late capitalism. Surfaces are examined as aesthetic
elements of the postmodern culture of the image. This culture is not neutral as it seems to
reject the modern spiritual depth, for instance, sense of history and hermeneutic depth. The
article examines the riddle concerning how the absence of these aspects of human thought in
surfaces generates the spectators' need to produce coherent individual activities, trajectories,
and eventually acoherent culture. This reflexive mechanism of surfacesis analyzed within the
framework of Donald Norman's (2005) cognitive principles of design. Starting from the
premise of Gilles Deleuze's and Felix Guattari's (1987) and Lev Vygotsky's (1978) notions of
play, it is interpreted that postmodern stage and culture works, metaphorically, like the plane of
immanence, the way of thinking in which an agent is able to move, make transitions and
crossings in a revolutionary way without restrictions of reality's conditions. However,
culturally the blurring of boundaries between play and reality may lead to delirium and
ill-founded practices. Theatre and art examine these ill-founded practices but involve in their
poetics a strong dimension of reflexive level of human cognition. This reflexive level is an
explanatory perspective, which helps spectators examine theatre's mechanisms as metaphors of
cultural logic, to achieve a critical position extrinsic from the flux of postmodern culture. This
poetics is examined in several cases of theatrical representation including Sofia Coppola's film
The Bling Ring (2013), The Need Company's production The Lobster Shop (2006), Kristian
Smeds' production The Unknown Soldier (2007) and in several casesof postmodern art and stage

Author Biography

Janne Tapper

Janne Tapper holds a PhD in theatre studies from the University of Helsinki, Finland (2012)
and MA in theatre directing from the Theatre Academy Helsinki (1987). From 2012-14 he has
worked as a post-doctoral researcher in Systemic Learning Solutions (SysTech) value network
at the University of Jyv.skyl. and at the University of Helsinki, developing innovative
approaches for e-learning. Tapper has annually lectured at the Universities of Helsinki and
Tampere and at theTheatre Academy Helsinki since 2010. He has worked as a theatre director
for 20 years since 1987 at several Finnish City Theatres and at the Finnish Broadcasting
Company (YLE).




How to Cite

Tapper, J. (2014). Modalities or Surfaces: Postmodern Poetics and a Riddle. Nordic Theatre Studies, 26(1), 56–67.



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