For an analysis which is interested in both the final product of the mise en
scène and its origins, we have to invent a theory which considers production as well as
reception; a theory which is neither partial nor unilateral like the research on the creative process in literature and theatre or the aesthetics of reception (where everything is based on different readings of a
work by different audiences). We must invent a model which combines aesthetics of production and reception, a model which studies their dialectical interaction, which looks at both the anticipated reception
of the production and the activity of the spectator in the act of reception (Pavis, 1985: 281-297).
3.1. Productive-Receptive Theory
There is indeed a real danger, as Thies Lehmann points out, of simply transferring the
production problems to the realm of reception, naively expecting the spectators to resolve them all with
a wave of a magic wand, as if they were endowed with all theoretical power. Productive-receptive theory
attempts to distribute evenly the process of shaping forms and signs among productive and receptive instances;
it assumes that one cannot ignore the other, that in fact they work artfully in tandem, generating strategies
and routes of greater or lesser negotiability. This productive-receptive concept results in an interactive
strategy where we produce as a creator and receive as a spectator. Such a strategy prevents us from
returning to the debate about the intentionality of the creator-producer and the subjectivity of the
spectator-receiver. We must look for their mutual seduction (rather than reduction); this seduction is
familiar to those cultures involved in intercultural exchange; they surrender to it without hesitation and not
In the same way, it hardly seems worthwhile to reintroduce the subjectivity/objectivity
polarity in order to associate subjectivity with the artist and spectator, and objectivity with the work of art.
Evidently, it is the subject who analyses and evaluates, but to say that analysis is subjective is not only
banal, it also presupposes the existence of an objectivity on which everyone might finally agree, and which
would be the common, lasting reference, the object finally trapped in the flight of desire.
Another field which needs to be developed is the kind of semiology which is interested
in ideological questions and observes how signs are anchored and constituted in a whole
socio-economico-cultural context Empirical studies on audiences have (or should have) understood that an
examination of the cognitive, emotional and semiological mechanisms used by the spectator to create
meaning cannot be neglected (Schoenmakers, ed., 1986 and Sauter, 1988). Is the semio-cognitive approach compatible with the sociological and ideological approach? A method such as socio-semiotics explicitly asks
that crucial question. Socio-semiotics differs from reception theory stemming from German
Rezeptionsästhetik and American reader-response criticism, both of which unfortunately neglect the
ideological plurality of the reader or spectator because they presuppose an 'ideal,' isolated, individual
reader rather than an ideological, cultural intersection of tensions and contradictions corresponding to
conflicting tendencies and groups (chapter 2, part 3).