The Rise of Manipulating The Puppet as a Figure of the Other

Piris, Paul C R T (2012) The Rise of Manipulating The Puppet as a Figure of the Other. Doctoral thesis, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.


Since the beginning of the 1980s, artists such as Neville Tranter in the Netherlands, Philippe Genty in France, Ilka Schönbein in Germany and Compagnie Mossoux-Bonté in Belgium have developed a new form of performance that I call manipulacting. By interacting with puppets, performers enter the fictional world of the puppets and appear as their Others. This study argues that manipulacting is a new and distinct form of performance. Although manipulacting combines acting and puppetry, it differs from them because it discloses a human being and an object engaged in a relation of self to Other. Manipulacting is defined by this specific relation and not by a particular aesthetic or technique. The methodology of the thesis is framed by Practice-as-Research from a directorial perspective. The enquiry includes four personal research projects – Seaside (2007-08), Postalgia (2008), Urashima Taro (2007-09) and The Maids (2009-10) – that explore the relations between manipulactors and puppets through different dramaturgical and performative settings, interviews with Neville Tranter, Nicole Mossoux and Duda Paiva, and detailed analyses of Cuniculus (2008) by Tranter and Twin Houses (1994) by Mossoux-Bonté. The thesis proposes two areas of new knowledge. Firstly, it suggests a rethinking of the nature of the puppet and an understanding of it by way of its alterity. It discusses the ontological ambiguity of the puppet in manipulacting, by re-functioning phenomenological aspects of thought developed by Sartre in The Imaginary (1940) and 5 Being and Nothingness (1943), and by Levinas in Totality and Infinity (1961). Secondly, the thesis explores the specificity of manipulacting by looking at representations of the Other developed in dramatic and postdramatic performances. It explores the alterity of the puppet in relation to dramaturgical meaning, as well as the production of ambiguity in performance. It concludes by discussing the core dramaturgical and performative elements that constitute manipulacting.


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