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Richard Schechner professor of performance studies, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, delivered a lecture on the concluding day of the 9th edition of D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas. In his address he vouched for the fourth world which he says is rooted in the arts and also about why he likes Indian wisdom

Schechner’s theory of fourth world


Richard Schechner author and professor of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University believes that the world requires a fourth world to counter the tri-polar world which is based on the idealised religions, globalisation and militarism. He was speaking on the concluding day of the 9th edition of D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas on Friday at Kala Academy, Panaji. He was speaking on the topic, ‘How to perform the 21st Century.’

Speaking about the fourth world he said that this world will have a community with a purpose and where art aesthetics will form a base for a social change. He gave an example of a social theatre which takes place in diverse locations like jails, refugee camps, schools, hospitals, etc. He said, “The world will not change through technical miracles but spiritual and moral miracles.” He started speaking about the fourth world theory after referring to Pandit Nehru’s speech on the third world in the year 1955; Nehru had proposed for a moral force and not just military and economic force.

He also stated that the performers of the fourth world will explore and experience the new reality, where they will cross various borders of ideology, religion, etc. and where there will be a lifelong study and a scope to become someone else and yourself at the same time. “Performers can be the models of utopian society,” said the editor of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies. He is the founder of The Performance Group and East Coast Artists and has directed plays and conducted performance workshops all around world.

Schechner started his lecture speaking about military history of USA. He maintained that the amount of money spent on the military operations is phenomenal which in turn is affecting the lives of humans and also that of the earth. He said: “War is a powerful performance; we need to create new performance imagery equally powerful to war.” He further spoke about environmental degradation and assumed that at this rate, homo-sapiens will become extinct sooner than you think.

He said that the world is plagued with ignorance, denial, sexism, xenophobia, wealth inequality, racism, hatred, greed and disrespect for nature.

He however added: “My brain is pessimistic, but my belly and passion is optimistic. I have a tragic hope which recognises that we are in trouble, but hoping for the best.”

Schechner also elaborated about the women’s issues and how the violence against them is increasing day after day. He gave example of the 21-year-old Tanzanian girl was repeatedly beaten and made to parade around naked in Bangaluru. He further spoke about the One Billion Rising, a global movement, founded by Eve Ensler, to end rape and sexual violence against women. “The “billion” refers to the UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, or about one billion. It was started in 2012 as part of the V-Day movement. V-day which either stands for Valentine’s Day or the Vagina Day,” said Schechner.

He said that more than anything else world stands in need of solidarity. “Nothing is more powerful than global solidarity,” he said.

He also vouched for the community to come along and fight for causes. He also shared that social media is also a good platform to bring in likeminded people together to work for the cause. He said: “the process of performance is very good education. There is no lack of resources, but lack of thinking. Huge movements come from small starts. One needs not get discouraged and should device creative processes. Processes can be hopeful and helpful.”

During an interaction when asked about artists getting attacked for expressing their views and in extreme cases even getting killed, he said: “Artists are not actually a soft target because art does speak to people and tends to form groups. Art is kind of a seed of change. There is censorship to creativity as the joy of creativity is contagious.”

Schechner who is currently working on a co-authored book about the Ramlila of Ramnagar gave away an example related to Sita’s origin; she was found by King Janak while ploughing the field. “I love the Indian wisdom. Our future is already there. You just have to go to field of your mind, plough and find Sita,” said Schechner.

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