Let’s begin with the basics. Stage and cosmos - that vast starry thing one occasionally sees hanging above one’s head - have a yen for each other.
This mutual attraction found its expression - to choose just a few examples - in the open-air theaters of ancient Greece, where the deities descended from the cosmic heights to participate in human affairs, in Sanskrit Drama where Shiva danced the universe into being and annihilation, in Medieval Mysteries where the city became a site of a cosmic pageant from Creation to Judgment Day, in the Renaissance London where theater itself became the Globe (Totus Mundus agit histrionem). Throughout history, the stage embodied cosmic processes just as the universe, too, embodied itself as theater.
In this cosmos-to-theater and theater-to-cosmos paradigm, the body of an actor does not always come into full view. However, stage without an actor is merely a place of potentiality; it becomes activated only through the performer. So to speak about Theatrum Universum means to invoke the actor, in whose body the universe and theater unite. The actor’s body is then both the cosmic body and the theater-body, in which the drama of constitution and re-constitution of our lived reality becomes enacted.
And there have been, in fact, throughout history, the times in which this tripartite alignment came close together. One of those periods was the European Renaissance, where the notion of Theatrum Mundi coincided with the concept of the human body as microcosm (Plotinus) and where the theater became articulated as the Globe. Jumping more or less four hundred years, the triadic equation of body-cosmos-theater, has again a chance to re-emerge. Why now?
Given the discoveries in science, which resulted in new insights into the structure of matter, body-theater-cosmos can unite trough the re-configured notion of materiality as a primarily energetic and also potentially proto-sentient phenomenon.
For us, like for the Neo-Platonist, matter appears alive, permeated with energy and capable of transformations that place it within a range of what we may mean by embodied consciousness. As such, it can potentially enfold complex creative codes that give rise to the supposedly immaterial formations such as art, literature, drama, and philosophy, and become what Neo-Platonist might call a storehouse of images arising both “in the mind of God and in the flesh of the world.” Because of this newly re-discovered capacity of matter to embody and engender sentient patterns, calling an actor’s body a cosmic body looses its purely metaphorical and mystical character and becomes a call for a practical investigation and exploration of this very real potential to be just that: a cosmos and a theater in one body housed.
Aleksandra Wolska authored the articles in this blog. And to that, she says, "Meow."