Sunday, October 4, 2009

Culture- A Fable

Culture began when someone tasted something sweeter, saltier, more pungent than usual and shared it with a friend. In song, movement, dress, awareness, people began cultivating certain qualities to discover, establish, strengthen, and inspire themselves as a group.

And this ensemble of what is considered to be knowledge, what are valid beliefs, ideals, what is held to be logic, norms, performances and material objects came to embody the accumulated experience, wisdom, values, fears and ideals received from the past and made manifest in the sense perceptions of the present. Thus everything we know through the senses of our social existence and continuity is our culture.

In our history, most, but certainly not all, cultural production was directed by the aspirations of autocrats, religious institutions, dynasties, feudal lords, or, most recently bureaucratic orders. These predominating institutions have sponsored (and manipulated) both the perceptible form of human continuity and the modes in which we share our current experience. Thus, whether they are benevolent or not, our experience is enmeshed with them. The fact of the matter is that we are born, live and die within them. Whatever culture we are born into is the matrix of our thinking and perceptions, our nightmares and our dreams. No human can avoid this.

The underlying point in rehashing all this here is simply to clarify the groundwork for theatrical performance. The performance space, the kinds of actions to be dramatized, the kind of stylization, the kinds or words, diction, gestures, costumes and so forth, even the idea of performance itself are all social/cultural artifacts. All have their own histories and carry with them their own specific resonance. All have evolved in a context of suffering and embody a deep relationship to human longing.

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