Since the turn of the millennium, there has been an explicit interest to deal with theater as a visual event. Bringing theater studies in close connection with visual studies, it has been argued that theater is an image-producing medium (Jackob & Röttger 2009) that is embedded in historical scopic regimes (Bleeker 2008). As such, theater provides a stage for the image and critically engages with culturally specific practices of looking.
This research project aims to carry this idea further by considering the theater as a space in which images are brought to life within the time and space of the theatrical event. Drawing on W.J.T. Mitchell’s concept of the metapicture (1994), the project analyzes how contemporary theater directors like Romeo Castellucci, Rabih Mroué and others create theatrical “thinking images” that carry in them a reflection on their underlying medial operations and visualize how representation works. Moreover, they experiment with an animistic attitude toward the image, staging and (re)animating the image as a “living organism” (Mitchell 2005).
Combining a critical exploration of the processes of medialization with the magical animism of watching living images, contemporary theater practitioners pave the way for what Hans-Thies Lehmann has called a politics of perception (1999), in which the image is rediscovered as a heterogeneous entity that speaks to the spectator in a self-critical and magical way.