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In Search of the Performer’s Way: The Work of Jerzy Grotowski from the Perspective of Daoism

Song, Jong Hyuk. 2019. In Search of the Performer’s Way: The Work of Jerzy Grotowski from the Perspective of Daoism. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The work of Jerzy Grotowski is investigated within the perspective of Daoism as it is
discoursed in the classical Chinese text, Dao De Jing. In identifying its connection with
the intellectual achievements of Grotowski’s contemporary Europe, i.e., Niels Bohr’s
principle of complementarity in quantum physics and Jacques Derrida’s notion of
différance in deconstructionism, Daoism provides an illuminating framework for
comprehending Grotowski’s praxis. The philosophical notions of Daoism may be seen as
underpinning Grotowski’s two most important principles, conjunctio oppositorum
(conjunction of opposites) and via negativa (way of negation), whose implication can be
encapsulated as the interaction of opposite pairs in the unceasing process. With these
principles, the actors of the Theatre Laboratory accomplished the ‘total act’, an act of the
body-text that embraces both one’s self and one’s cultural heritage, in the Poor Theatre in
which novel actor/spectator relationships were also tested. In his post-theatrical work,
Grotowski deepened his investigations of the performer’s body, which was finally
identified as the body of essence of ‘the doer’. Grotowski’s lifetime research, in short,
involved a persistent process of searching for the genuine body of the performer, which is
clearly comprehended in the Daoist perspective that the world exists in the constant
process of interplay between the fundamental pair of opposites, being (有, yǒu) and nonbeing
(無, wú).

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Jerzy Grotowski, Conjunctio Oppositorum, Via Negativa, Holy Actor, Participant, Czlowiek (the Man), Doer, Poor Theatre, Body-Text, Daoism, Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), Dao (Tao), Yǒu (Being) and Wú (Non-being), Wú Wéi (Non-doing), Jacques Derrida, Différance, Deconstructionism, Niels Bohr, Principle of Complementarity, Quantum Physics

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


31 May 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2019 14:27

Last Modified:

19 Jun 2019 16:53


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