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Alfred Jarry and Pataphysics

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Donald Joseph

on 6 December 2013

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Transcript of Alfred Jarry and Pataphysics

Alfred Jarry and Pataphysics
How the play was performed
Set, Lighting, Design, & Aesthetics
Armies represented as one soldier on each end of the stage
Break theatrical realism
An actor would place signs to show the locations of each scene
On the set of Ubu Roi, events are portrayed in an unrealistic manner. Jarry intends it to be strange, satirical. It draws attention to and makes fun of social norms.
Examples of Pataphysical Theatre
Ubu the King
Originally called Ubu Roi
Details about work:
Written to criticize a physics teacher whom Jarry disliked in school.
The play mocks the bourgeoisie by showing Ubu as a man whose evil nature emerges when he gets power.
Ubu is inspired by Macbeth because Macbeth dares to kill the king and take power of Scotland.
Just like Macbeth, Ubu works alongside his wife.
Ubu rises up to overthrow the king of Poland, but once he takes power, he starts his own reign of terror.
He finally faces his own defeat by the Tsar of Russia, but the significance of the story is in the symbolism, not the plot.
Ubu represents the corruption of the people Jarry saw around him in France.
The play is obscene and vulgar, and there is no noble hero.
What brought about Pataphysics
Jarry was a forerunner of the Theatre of Absurd, writing his works in a Surrealistic style.
After his famous play Ubu roi he invented a pseudoscience, which he called pataphysique.
He defined 'pataphysics as "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.
The term first appeared in print in the text of Alfred Jarry's play Guignol in the 28 April 1893, issue of L'Écho de Paris littéraire illustré, but it has been suggested that the word has its origins in the same schoolpranks at the lycée in Rennes that led Jarry to write Ubu Roi. Jarry considered Ibicrates and Sophrotatos the Armenian as the fathers of this "science".

Jarry claimed that pataphysics existed "as far from metaphysics as metaphysics extends from regular reality."
Jarry had meantime discovered the pleasures of alcohol, which he called "my sacred herb" or, when referring to absinthe, the "green goddess".
Lighting should be used to highlight events and signs must be visible and readable. Lighting should help to create an odd, surprising, appalling, offensive nature for the set.
King Ubu is to sometimes wear a cardboard horses head
King Ubu will wield a mighty toilet brush.
Ubu is to appear fat, ugly, greedy. The character is based off a teacher of Jarry’s whom he greatly disliked.
Costumes are to be historically inaccurate.
Jarry says that he “intended to write a guignol.” (An old form of French or English theatre involving puppets, which is also why he chose to have the characters place signs to show location of the set”)

Born on September 8, 1873 in Laval, Mayenne
Attended schools of Saint-Brieuc and Rennes
At 18, he moved to Paris to live on a small family inheritance to pursue his studies at the Lycee Henri IV.
After five months of military service, he devoted himself to writing.
Jarry's first book was Les Minutes de Sable Memorial, which was a collection of prose and verse, followed by Cesar-Antechrist, then L'amour abolu.
He then invented his famous Ubu trilogy, which gained him recognition among the Absurdists and those alike.
His fortune was soon dissipated, and he lapsed into a chaotic and anarchic existence in which he met the demands of day-to-day life with self-conscious buffoonery. He died in a state of utter destitution and alcoholism.

The entire time, the characters are usually screaming obscenities at each other.
It makes for a very vulgar play, with many curse words and raunchy word play
The characters that have higher royalty also treat the lower class like trash, showing no respect in their words with them

There was almost no music used in these plays.
The music that was played, was very short, and often involved a loud bang, something to startle the crowd.
It was kept to be a short, loud, and as gloomy as possible

How characters are different
The characters act extremely rude to one another
Other characters have a sort of elegence to them, but the characters in these plays are very disruptive and chaotic
These characters have no regard for human life, and only care about themselves
Some characters were used and treated as chairs, as if they had no human life.
There is a lot of yelling and screaming of characters to give emotion to it.
The sounds and music played are very short loud, inconsistant bangs.
They do this so everyone can hear the play clearly, and be frightened by the sounds

Like music, the sounds are very short and are often loud bangs
Nearly all the sounds are replace with loud bangs, such as the swinging of a sword or chopping wood with an axe
These sounds were used for a fright factor, not to please the crowd.

Audiences reaction to Pataphysical Theatre
Pataphysical theatre connects to the audience through its use of…
Pataphysical theatre to the audience appears as mass chaos. It is the directors job to manage that chaos and use it to convey the story to the audience.
In Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi the language throughout the play is very vulgar involving continuous swearing and sexual references such as to Ubu’s “green candle” or more commonly referred to as a syphilis encrusted penis.
The violence and wickedness that surrounds the play also promotes chaos on the stage. The crowds reaction to this chaos is to always be on the edge of their seat, to create drastic emotions such as to be appalled, and to have them formulate an opinion often triggered by these traumatic events and influence the audience towards a certain perspective to view the play with.

Volume is best utilized by Pataphysical theater by the loud banging and screaming that always seems to be occurring
There is always a lot going on and the audience reacts to each sound quickly and abruptly drawing attention from one thing to another on stage. Sound is a way in which the audience is kept guessing because it is used to divert the attention of the audience away from things the director want it to avoid and towards what the director want the audience to experience.
Sound can also be utilized for the element of surprise or to display emotions throughout the seen such as a mellow silence usually only to be erupted by vulgar conversation causing the audience to go along with the roller coaster ride of the play.
The audience is often drawn in to the visual appeals of pataphysical theatre such as colorful and exotic costumes.
Jarry defines pataphysics as "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments”
This leaves a pataphysical director with the task of creating an imaginary world on stage full of things that simply do not exist in the real world such as monsters while still maintaining a human like reality.
The audience is left watching an imaginary world with circumstances to which they can relate to such as ubu the monster king going insane in the kitchen.
The play started as a school-boy ridicule of Physics teacher, Felix Herbert.
The play was a satirization of power, greed, and their evil practices. Most importantly the tendency of the smug Bourgeouisie (upper-end self entitling middle-class) to abuse the authority they gain.
Ubu is Jarry's metaphor for the modern man- fat, ugly, vulgar, gluttonous, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, cruel, cowardly and evil.
“Ubu is at once a commentary on and a revolt against the world in which Jarry lived.” –Brian E. Rainey, Wascana Review
At the same time as playing a scary fun house mirror for the audience its an act of self-performance in which the artist demonstrated his right to say whatever he wanted in whatever way he wanted, and the world could take it or leave it.
Influences/Offshoots of Pataphysics
Jarry's writings had a profound influence on the Surrealist and Dada movements. With Picasso, whom he once gave a Browning automatic, he shared interest in masks. His absurd humor appealed to André Breton (1896-1966) and Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), who stated that the Dada spirit was the "non-conformist spirit of every century that has existed since man is man". Jarry's influence on modern science fiction is seen is J.G. Ballard's The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as a Downhill Motor Race (1967), which echoes Jarry's themes from his essay Commentair pour servir à la construction pratique de la machine à explorer le temps.
In 1966 Juan Esteban Fassio was commissioned to draw the map of the Collège de 'Pataphysique and its institutes abroad. In the 1950s, Buenos Aires in the Western Hemisphere and Milan in Europe were the first cities to have pataphysical institutes. London, Edinburgh, Budapest, and Liège, as well as many other European cities, caught up in the sixties.
In the 1970s, when the Collège de 'Pataphysique occulted, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, The Netherlands, and many other countries showed that the internationalization of pataphysics was irreversible.
During the Communist Era, a small group of pataphysicists in Czechoslovakia started a journal called PAKO, or Pataphysical Collegium. Alfred Jarry's plays had a lasting impression on the country's underground philosophical scene. A contemporary outcome of Patapaphysicalism is exemplified by Paul McCartney paying homage to Jarry's branch of metaphysics in his Beatles song Maxwell's Silver Hammer from 1969. With Barry Miles, a bookseller, he had talked about the "pataphysical society and the Chair of Applied Alcoholism, and wrote in the song: "'Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in home...'" In 1995 McCartney made for the American network Westwood One a radio series called Oobu Joobu, which was inspired by Jarry's character Père Ubu.
Even though Alfred Jarry did not have many works and is the only significant figure in Pataphysical theatre, his work in the field gave a lasting influence on many other subfields and artists.
Importance of Pataphysics
Pataphysical theatre is important for two main reasons. The first is its underlying influences it has on many different pieces of work. Jarry’s writings (pataphysical in nature) also had enormous influences on surrealist and dada movements.
The second reason Pataphysical theatre is important is its uniqueness. Jarry’s works were one of a kind, and dissimilar to theatre that came before and after Ubu The King.
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