Emptiness and Excess: The Cave, the Colonnade, and the Cube

  • Teemu Paavolainen
Part of the Performance Philosophy book series (PPH)


Thread 2 addresses the antitheatrical tradition through the emblematic Cave, Colonnade, and Cube of Platonic parable, Baroque architecture, and minimalist sculpture. As textbook cases of ‘antitheatrical prejudice’—of theatricality as a term of contempt—it is argued that all three exhibit an empirical and aspectual quality of theatricality, in which their historical opponents have perceived a distinct threat to performed norms of mimesis, measure, and modernism. If the theatricality that Plato attacks is one of ontological emptiness, then that of the Baroque is one of flamboyant gestural excess, exemplified by Bernini’s Colonnade in St Peter’s Square. Conversely, when the modernist art critic Michael Fried attacks the ‘theatricality’ of sculptural ‘literalism,’ it is to defend just the sort of caved absorption that Plato arguably opposed. Through its related dramaturgies of escape, from Plato’s Cave to Performance Studies, the antitheatrical prejudice is here presented as a specifically antitextural one.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teemu Paavolainen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TampereTampereFinland

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