Holding Clouds is Futile / Attending performance from the Buddhist perspective of Bardo: an exercise for times of transition
Delft, Jesse van
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In this thesis, two distinct fields of study and practice, namely Tibetan Buddhism and contemporary performance are coupled. This demonstrates how they can jointly answer the questions whether and how contemporary theatre may be a training ground to exercise (an alternative) way of being with (periods of) transition. Buddhism proves to be a useful perspective to answer these questions as it has a strong focus on impermanence as a study object as well as practices which can be done to prepare for periods of change and transition. The Tibetan term bardo, stems from the traditional compilation of texts called The Bardo Thödol Chenmo. It is used as a reference point to create a systematic lens to look at performances’ potentiality to induce experiences of transition and invite for a specific attitude towards them. Bardo is, traditionally understood as a liminal state between death and rebirth, but also conceived as any transitional period one can be in. To use bardo as a perspective on performance I divided the concept into two ‘expressions’ of its meaning: bardo-as-continuous-transition and bardo-as-an- intermediate-modality-of-existence. The perspective is based on the similarities I argue for in Chapter 1, between experiencing an immersive performance and practicing visualization meditation, a practice done in preparation for bardo. Attentiveness and a nongrasping attitude are added to the perspective, as these are, according to Buddhism, attitudes which one should have in a period of transition. Two case studies, Curve, by Schweigman& and Het Houten Huis and Continuum by Johannes Bellinkx, are analyzed in how they immerse their audience into a bardo experience and how they invite attentiveness and nongrasping. The outcomes of this analysis show ways in which performance has the possibility to be a place in which spectators can prepare themselves for future transitions.