Attention, Agency, Affect
In the Flow of Performing Audiences
C. Maria Laudando
This introduction focuses on the fractious, contested concept of ‘participation’ as it has emerged from the recent cross-fertilisation of literary and cultural studies with an array of performance theories and practices. Drawing on the ‘travelling’ and interstitial concepts of performance and performativity it provides a concise overview of all the different contributions (ranging from installation artworks and reality shows to photography, embodied narrative and antithetical forms of theatre) in terms of a limited but significant sample of the contemporary inter- or trans-disciplinary dialogue tensely taking place among different artistic and critical perspectives on the issue of performing audiences.
Andreas Hudelist and Elena Pilipets
Walking Art: The Movement In-Between
Following Nicolas Bourriaud, art is a state of encounter which keeps together and provides a space of relations. Unfortunately, though, he pays not enough attention to the lived experiences of the participants enabled by this relationality. So the question we are interested in is not what ‘is’ relational art. It is neither about approaching relationality as a theoretical concept, nor defining art as relational aesthetics. It is about the question of what relational art ‘does’, or how it comes to its force as a practice. Therefore, we want to use Brian Massumi’s idea of art as a political happening by taking a closer look at the relational dimensions of the Alter Bahnhof Video Walk by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller presented at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel. We want to explore the variety of affective encounters within the relational dimension provided by the frame of Video Walk. By describing the practiced artfulness of the Video Walk-frame as a relational transformation we will focus on its performative potential approaching the happening of art as an ‘in-between’ of space and time.
Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Performing Literature in Transition
Now that the book-based technology of literature is critically mutating, literary studies have the chance to look again at the material interfaces mediating its writing and reading performances. This historical juncture is bringing to light the contingent and performative nature of the literary as event. I propose to stage the encounter between text and matter, literature and contingency in three sites where the literary emerges and demerges as a property not inherent in an object but emergent in a relation: digitization; affect in reading; writing performance in contemporary art. My theoretical assemblage joins affect theory with Rancière’s promise of radical equality heralded by the “aesthetic regime”. I am looking for the non-specific heteronomy of the literary and its suppressed links with event, affect, aisthesis. My starting and end points are in Norwich, where Rory Macbeth has copied the text of Thomas More’s Utopia on the walls of a condemned building. Displaced and unreadable, it is the perfect resting ground where to start re-reading the ‘literary’.
Playing with the Audience: Performative Interactions in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound
The article focuses on a one-act comedy Tom Stoppard wrote in 1968, when performance art experiments, mainly aimed at converting the ‘passive’ role of the audience into an (inter)active participation, were being undertaken in British theatres. The Real Inspector Hound is not an experimental play – it might actually be seen as a parody of those experiments – but is likewise centred on the role and agency of the audience and on the performative nature of role-playing. This article inspects the way in which even a ‘traditional’ piece like this, by offering the possibility to investigate some of the questions posed only metaphorically elsewhere, can provide a productive insight into the mechanisms by which we (both ‘performers’ and ‘spectators’ in our life) can ‘act’ upon reality and can ‘be acted’ upon. Performativity, in the sense provided by the theoretical framework of poststructuralism, is actually brought to the fore in the play when the iterativity inherent in the pre-scripted roles of the characters and of the audience comes to be interrupted, and questioned, by the emergence of a chaotic and parodic anti-conventionality.
Performing Duggars: The Interaction between Producers, Performers and Spectators in the Reality Show 19 Kids and Counting
With twelve seasons of the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, numerous specials and three books under their belt, the Duggar family have become a social phenomenon. From the point of view of both cultural and gender studies, the fact that a Christian fundamentalist family, who proclaim submissiveness to a male headship to be the cornerstone of family life, should become popular with an audience of millions constitutes a fertile ground for research. Over the nine years the Duggars have been in the public eye, this modest dressing, bible-believing, patriarchal family have been progressively ‘mainstreamed’ so that their TLC show might appeal to an increasingly wider audience. The ‘monstrous’ element has been taken out of what was ultimately a family-friendly version of a freak show, while a subtle balance was reached between what makes the Duggars a unique microcosmos and the strategies deployed to present them as a model family. I intend, therefore, to analyse the mechanisms through which the viewers’ reactions to the show have influenced this cosmetic ‘makeover’ and the way in which the audience’s reception of the series has eventually defined both the Duggars’ performance and the content selection for each episode in the latest seasons.
Performing Deaf Culture: The (Changing) Role of the Audience
‘Performativity’ and ‘performance’ are key concepts in sign language literature and Deaf theatre, which both unveil the ideological and epistemological limits of such terms as ‘language’ and ‘literature’ and invite to consider the body itself as text. Because of its oral nature and face-to-face transmission, which at first took place mainly within Deaf clubs, this peculiar type of literature was not preserved until the advent of film and digital technologies. Indeed, the latter finally allowed to fix what was once transient and transitory, capturing signs and making it possible even to set up an archive. However, this very event has brought about contrasting effects on sign literature, heavily affecting the way it is composed, transmitted and received by the audience, now separated from the artist. Paradoxically, while increasing sign language literature audience, film technology has also alienated the latter, as Krentz (2006) observes. Another issue closely related to the audience/performance relationship is that of translation, examined, among the others, by the Flying Words Project, a creative duo made up of a hearing and a deaf.
Giuseppe De Riso
When Narration Is Made Flesh: An Affective Reading of Geetanjali Shree’s The Empty Space
This paper examines Geetanjali Shree’s The Empty Space (2011) as an exemplary novel exploring the performative power of language in order to re-create an episode of violence somewhere in the Indian sub-continent. Describing the explosion of a bomb in a university cafe, the narration makes events emerge as the product of a field of forces relying on the bodily perception and sensorial participation of the reader. The essay focuses on the ways through which Shree’s novel shuns hermeneutic or representational readings of violence in favour of a skin or ‘haptic’ writing whose performative power relocates a story of violence from its geographical location to the body of the reader. In acknowledging the human body as the shared ground of any possible communication, the author attempts to overcome the divisive binarisms and cultural juxtapositions brought about by the ocularcentric understandings of knowledge and culture.
Sue Lovell and Teone Reinthal
“I Saw a Woman”: Performance, Performativity and Affect
Drawing on Augusto Boal’s revolutionary deconstruction of the aesthetic space of theatre in preference for social action theatre existing beyond the proscenium, the article focuses on the concepts of performativity, emotion and embodiment as they occur in experimental forms of improvised performance and explores the relationship of affect to agency. It suggests that the symbiosis of affect and performance marks the shift to performativity, recognising performativity as a tool of agency. Integral to the argument is the recognition that, again drawing on Boal, people have a capacity to see themselves seeing themselves, prompting deeper understandings of self in relation to the social. Accordingly, the paper espouses an awareness of how improvised, community theatre projects shift participant understandings of emerging and liminal identities and argues that in order for the performance to become performative, there must be the taking up and nurturing of a contingent, discursively produced agency.