‘Horror vacui’ also known as kenophobia is fear of open or empty space. It’s a compulsive need to fill in an empty space on an artwork. The artists felt this need to ensure that no space is left empty and each nook and cranny is filled. It was quite a rage in Egypt and such art work could be seen on migration period art objects as well as in art work of the famous French Renaissance engraver, Jean Duvet.
This phobia of filling up a vaccum transformed itslef into performing arts where an artist feels this need to ensure that there is not a moment during the performance when there is silence. There have been many times where I have seen an actor on the stage saying his lines or doing the dramatic gestures but all I could think was if he would just let the feeling and that emotion sink in and let the silence prevail then it would have been profound and beautiful. I have witnessed great comedic lines fail because of not giving the audience that silence and time to react or comprehend. One might call it “nervous energy” but what it truly is the fear of vacuum in their performance. This constant need to ensure if the audience is actually enjoying what they are seeing or listening.
Great performances comes by two things that are vastly underrated;
1. Relaxation.An artist needs relaxation on stage. The confidence to be in the character. There are various relaxation exercises one can do to make sure that when you walk on that stage you are at ease and can handle anything. Such exercises can be simple breathing exercises, listening to soothing music or noises or even guided imagery. All these techniques are quite popular in art schools across the globe.
2. Truth. Before starting a scene or a performance one should always try and be grounded in the truth. This can be achieved by asking various questions to one self. These questions are very basic like, why am I in this situation? Is the character saying the truth or lying? If lying then why so? How will this scene impact the whole performance? Once these are answered one will feel very clear headed, grounded and relaxed.
Horror vacui is not a bad thing. It is actually an excellent tool to know and understand if there are questions that needs to be answered. To round it up, a true performance, relaxation and confidence can come only when one is being truthful on the stage. As Stanislavsky wrote, “You may play well or you may play badly; the important thing is that you should play truly.” These words are indeed to live by for any performer.