Research on Grotesque Movement & Theatre of the Absurd

23 Mar

Grotesque is a form of art described by Kuryluk ‘separation, mixture, reassembly, duplication, multiplication, elongation, compression, enlargement, miniaturization, reversal, simplification, overcrowding, and fantastic interpretation and projection’. It doesn’t necessarily mean gross, but on the contrary it can describe a dream-like state, and works that are art just because an artist defines them as such. Works that are satirical of political and social situations and works that question what world it is we are living in.

Grotesque is considered one of the precursors of the Theatre of the Absurd. Absurdism was art written primarily from European playwrights and was usually work that expressed the idea that life is meaningless and human communication breaks down. Realism gives way to irrational repetitions of speech, actions and illogical acts all leading to the ultimate conclusion. Silence.

An Absurdist play is mainly tragicomedy. ‘Nothing is funnier than unhappiness. It’s the most comical thing in the world’.

Pirandello was a famous Italian playwright, who was known for his experimentalist nature as an artist. He wanted to break the fourth wall that was presupposed by the Realists, like Ibsen. However, he was much more conformed in his personal life. He had an arranged wedding and unhappy marriage.

Grotesque has links to the Dada movement, which sprang up during WWI. It’s purpose was to ridicule the meaninglessness of the world. It was anti-war, anti-bourgeois and anarchistic. Dada was known for its rebelliousness and the nihilism its art produced.

Dada, along with Pittura Metafysica would influence the Surrealist movement. It rejected Dada’s cynicism while incarnating its sense of illogical, non-linear presentation while using the dream-like state of Pittura Metafysica. Dali is the most infamous of the movement and claimed that his works came to his dreams and trance-like states.

Another major figure in Surrealism was Rene Magritte, with a blunt, matter-of-fact style. In his art, he takes the known, the familiar and distorts it, reshapes it to create something of alien quality.

Vaudeville is linked to Dada as well. It was very popular in the USA and parts of Europe from 1880 to 1930s. And the main concept is absurd. Absurd acts one after the other, in no particular order.

Heavily linked with the Theatre of the Absurd is Existentialism, which was an influential philosophy in Paris at the period when Theatre of the Absurd was rising. Existentialist plays focus on characters trapped in an incomprehensible world subject to any occurrence. Language is not able to form meaningful human communication. It is the inevitable devaluation of ideals, purity and purpose.

 Absurd is that which is devoid of purpose…. Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless”.


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