Location: S.S209 ARIA attic, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp

Time: 14h30-17h, unless communicated otherwise

Performance and media histories are littered with objects: props, posters, postcards, newspaper clippings, costumes, slides, (remains of) technologies, etc. They are pieces of the puzzle we create every time we try to reconstruct and understand a live event from the past. However, by the obscure life that is theirs, by their “auratic” power, some objects do not appear as inert human possessions but instead as actants, with specific features, energies, and potentials. We call them objets chargés. The charged object imposes its singularity. It is charged because it exceeds its mere materialization or mere utilization. In its most paradigmatic form it appears as magical, sacred, supernatural or ritual, as it signals towards a radical elsewhere. It seems to transport its own context – archaeology, archives, ethnology, folklore, fiction – with it, at least for the connoisseur viewer. And, yet, the object lives through the efforts of its mediators who breathe life into it by establishing a link with the spectator: shamans, priests, artists, demonstrators, curators, collectors, antique dealers, auctioneers, archaeologists. The objet chargé allows performance scholars to “touch time”, to experience the past in the present and to imagine new futures. When, where, and how does an object of this type take on a theatrical life and contribute to performative events? These questions prompt us to think outside of methodologies in theatre and performance studies that feature solely human agents of artistic practice and scholarship.

Preparatory readings

  1. Agamben, Giorgio. “Mme Panckoucke; or The Toy Fairy”, in Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, 56-60 (to go further, see the whole part II, 31-60).
  2. Roelstraete, Dieter. “Art as Object Attachments: Thoughts on Thingness”, in When Things Cast no Shadow: 5th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art, edited by Elena Filipovic and Adam Szymczyck, Zürich: JRP/Ringier, 2008, 446 [republished in The Object, edited by Antony Hudek, Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press, 2014, 65-67].
  3. Cook, James W. “The Feejee Mermaid and the Market Revolution”, in The Arts of Deception: Playing with Fraud in the Age of Barnum, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001, chap. 2, 73-118.

Thibaut Rioult 

is a postdoctoral researcher and member of the SciFair team at the University of Antwerp where he works on the project “Objets chargés : mettre en scène l’âme des choses” (Charged objects: performing the soul of things). Rioult is a scholar in magic studies. His doctoral thesis investigated the “Illusion of Supernatural and Illusionists during the Renaissance Period” (Paris, ENS, 2018). He is assistant editor of Arcana Naturae, a journal for the history of “secret” sciences, and secretary of the French association Magie, Histoire et Collections (the world’s oldest association of magic collectors, founded in 1937). He co-led the axis “L'art magique, pratiques et discours” of the programme “Deceptive Arts. Machine, Magic, Media” (2015-2018). He has written several research papers and book chapters on illusionism in various fields (performance studies, philosophy, history, media studies, aesthetics, etc.). He belongs to the “Fantastic Illusionism” art movement.

Kurt Vanhoutte 

is associate professor, chair of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Antwerp and director of the Research Centre for Visual Poetics (www.visualpoetics.be). Vanhoutte was granted major projects with specific relevance to the interplay of theatre and science, including a European 7th Framework program on digital immersive technology, several projects on performing science granted by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and a JPI Cultural Heritage project on the magic lantern. Currently, he is spokesperson-coordinator of B-magic (Excellence of Science Program, 2018-2023), a project enabling an interdisciplinary team to study the optical lantern and its impact as a visual mass medium between instruction and entertainment (www.B-magic.eu). He is also Principal Investigator in “Historical Bias, a project researching ideological bias through intersectional analysis of past data (c.1800-c.1940)”. Vanhoutte has published many book chapters and articles in journals, including in Early Popular Visual Culture, Contemporary Theatre Review and Foundations of Science. He has been active in the field of art and science as a curator and dramaturg.