Mediated Breath: The interface between Beckett's Intermedial Breath, Fried's Theatricality and the Visual Arts

Sozita Goudouna

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

287 Downloads (Pure)


Mediated Breath examines a wide range of possibilities of understanding and redefining the context in which the corporeal function of breathing is represented in art, during the performative turn, and in relation to contemporary debates around presence and relational aesthetics. The thesis aims to examine Beckett's Breath, both as a minimalist art work in order to see how it might contribute to debates led by Fried around minimalism and (anti)theatricality, and as a text for and related to contemporary intermedial production in order to explore how intermedial art practices contribute to new understandings, for example of the body's intermedial relationship to the world. The above issues are addressed, in relation to the special significance that respiration acquires by means of an artistic system.
The thesis examines, in particular, Beckett’s Breath (1969) in the spectrum of intermedia aesthetics, high-modernist art criticism and theories on theatricality, so as to comprehend Beckett’s ultimate venture to define the borders between a theatrical performance and a purely visual representation, in the context of the interface between the theatre and the visual arts. Beckett’s playlet demonstrates a decisive moment in the history of theatrical experimentation, in part because of the new relationship it developed towards the formal possibilities of the theatrical event. The exposition of the components of a medium in skeletal form is pivotal for understanding aspects of Beckett's intermedia practice.
Breath is analysed, alongside Michael Fried’s seminal essay on minimalism “Art and Objecthood” (1967) and the “Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit” (1949). Beckett’s final piece of discursive writing, considered within the context of its subject matter, the tension between abstraction and expression, the dilemma of artistic expression and the impossibility of expression in painting. The “Three Dialogues,” also, illuminate specific aspects of the playlet, principally Beckett's decision to eradicate the text and the human figure, hence, the interest lies in the ways that Beckettian aesthetics translates into practice. This reading attempts to provide a theoretical model for thinking about the intersection of critical discourses in the visual arts and the theatre, more specifically about the notion of anti-theatricalism in the theatre and the modernist anti-theatrical impulse in the visual arts. In this perspective, Breath serves as an indication of the formative, productive role of anti-theatricalism in the theatre and not as an external attack on it.
Breath, as a representative piece of minimalism in the theatre, is paradigmatic of Beckett’s aesthetics of impoverishment and his fidelity to failure. As such it resists recuperation and can be seen as a critique of the conditions of art making, display, marketing and interpretation, in contrast to minimalist art, which became dependent on these processes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Nield, Sophie, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 May 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • Intermediality
  • theatricality
  • Dr Sozita Goudouna
  • Sensorial
  • Beckett's Breath
  • Visual Arts
  • Aesthetics
  • philosophy
  • Beckett studies
  • History of art

Cite this