Cornering the ‘self’: visualising Wyndham Lewis’ Enemy of the Stars as theatrical narrative
This project uses visual and theatrical design to visualise Wyndham Lewis’ play Enemy of the Stars in the context of depicting violence. The script of the play has been regarded as unreadable. However, I have decoded it by applying Chinese syntax and also provided a pictographic way of comprehending written text. This method has been devised from a Chinese traditional approach to reading poems.
Because of the rise of visual emphasis in theatrical productions in the early twentieth century and because the play was first writtenin 1914 and revised in 1932, this project focuses on the time-frame of World War I and between the period of two World Wars (1910-1938). However, the world premiere did not occur until 1980 and there were only two other productions of the play, both of which were staged in the 1980s. Based on interviews of directors of these three productions, as well as of those who had attended the performances, this project draws up a complete record of the staging of Enemy of the Stars. Moreover, it investigates the underlying reasons for these productions and their impact on their audiences.
From a visual and textual analysis of Wyndham Lewis’ works, this project identifies that his depictions of violence are contradictory: in his visual works the violence is implicit whilst in most of his textual works it is explicit. Since traditional Western visual depictions of violence are more explicit than Chinese ones, this project compares these two cultural approaches in order to examine the differing attitudes towards violence and the meanings of depicting it as well as to investigate its influence within a theatrical context.
Wyndham Lewis published the first version of Enemy of the Stars in BLAST in 1914 as part of the Vorticist manifesto. Although the play appeared only as a piece of written text, it was however considered as visual imagery by Vorticists. Nevertheless, the play follows Lewis’ written style of explicit depiction. In accordance with Wyndham Lewis’ own visual style, some imagined scenographies of the play in its 1914 and 1932 forms are provided in the project.
There are also six visual works which form part of my thesis: three of them are aiming to express my understanding of cultural, historical and social influences on the depiction of violence; the other three are designed as a dramaturgy package that states my interpretations and understanding of the depictions of violence in Enemy of the Stars. Through these six designed visual works, this project demonstrates that by using implicit depictions of violence, one can provide a more comprehensive sense and understanding of violence than by using explicit expressions.