Theatrum Mundi – The World Theatre
July 18 to November 4, 2018
“All the world’s a stage…“ – this much-quoted saying from William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It had a particular significance during the Baroque era: the classical notion that earthly life was nothing but an illusory appearance staged by the gods, in which each human being must play the role allotted to him, was fundamental to the prevailing European world view of the day.
At royal court banquets and in the rapidly-spreading multimedia spectacle of opera as a universal work of art, the then ruling classes, self-proclaimed representatives of God on earth, staged and reflected this world to glorify Him and keep hold of the reins of power.
In his Gesamtkunstwerk, or universal work of art, Richard Wagner also holds a mirror up to society, especially in the Ring of the Nibelung. Not to preserve it, however, but rather to supplant what he saw as the traditional order – composed of the aristocracy, the corrupt world of finance and decadent politics – after its destruction by his “aesthetic world order”.
At the start of the student unrest of May 1968, French author Guy Debord observes that people live in a “Society of the Spectacle”. In this illusory, consumerist world, the economy determines the roles for the sole purpose of its perpetual self-preservation.
And today? In the virtual world of the internet and social media, the questions surrounding appearance vs. reality, stage vs. world and the role of the individual are more pertinent than ever.