Studying theatre directing I was told to always seek the intentions of the characters. What do they want? To find what a character wants we where normally asked to investigate the situation they where in. What happened before? What new information have they gotten? What did they want before? But also other factors were part of the analysis; as what personality they where, social position, class, gender and so forth, would give clues to find the wants of the character – and make us analyse the play as a web of human wants. A network of fictive dreams hopes and expectations. Boring.
I had my own theory. Sorry, “way of experiencing the world” would be a more precise formulation. There was no way in this analysis to describe what happens at a disco. Or when you watch a beautiful scenery. When you are carried away by your surroundings. Sometimes, or in my case often, actions are a result of a mood or sensation rather than a plan, strategy or will. And to understand the sensation and how it influences us – the backdrop - the landscape of the action is essential. No artist has illustrated this as precisely as Pieter Bruegel. By insisting on always depicting more than one situation in his paintings, they put forward an investigation game – what do these people and these situations have in common? Many art historians have written extensively on this – trying to make sense and a system out of these carnivalistic universes. I am not an expert on 1600-century painting or history, but to me it is quite obvious – they are all affected by the same mood or sensation. They are all affected by the same landscape. They behave like they do because of the mood, because of the backdrop, their surroundings.
I believe this realisation was what made me start to investigate the relationship between landscape thinking and theatre.
Image: "The Procession to Calvary" - Pieter Bruegel, 1564, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna