Thoughts about “Interweaving Performance Cultures”

Are the terms “interweaving/entwining” acquiring the status of key concepts in contemporary performing arts? Both terms (and others related to them, such as Brecht’s “visible knots” or Michel Vinaver’s “interlacs” are increasingly felt as powerful metaphors, especially in connection to postmodern and transcultural practice, as they point to the discontinuous, fragmented, heterogeneous and processual character of the arts rather than to an alleged unity of monolithic structure, as implied in the idea of “Gesamtkunstwerk” or Peter Brook’s “yoghurt culture” (both of which stand suspected of hegemonic thinking). “Interweaving”, however, alludes not only to intertextual and intermedial connections, but also to intercultural links inherent in every performative event. In Japanese theatre, the terms open up onto an impressive array of technical possibilities and variants accumulated over time in traditional craftsmanship. Japanese audiences are well trained in disentangling the threads of sophisticated visual and acoustic patterns. It is not surprising that recent intercultural practice would accelerate the reactivation and reintegration of such techniques (for a long time isolated within the “classical” arts) into avant-garde forms, making them available to contemporary audiences. For Japanese artists, retrieving such native techniques and combining them with foreign elements provides the chance to resist hybridization and find distinct local (regional) signatures. It is precisely through their impressive craftsmanship in “interweaving” that Japanese artists may best contribute to the diversification of global theatre cultures.