Acts of Writing: Writings on Contemporary Performance
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The work published between 1992- 2000 and presented here forms a continuing meditation on, and exploration of contemporary performance. The term 'contemporary performance' is used to refer to practices and discourses in the performance arts that have occurred over the last decade. There is a particular emphasis on those unstable, hybrid and interdisciplinary areas of performance (including performance art, installation, 'new' dance, 'experimental' theatre, 'live' art) which resist easy definition or categorisation, and which may be further characterised as postmodern in the sense of a reflexive, contextualised and knowingly problematic practice. More specifically the work builds a sustained thesis on contemporary practice and addresses in a number ways some of the central issues surrounding the placing and practice of performance. It focuses on relationships between performance, textuality, the body, and spatiality; as well as on issues of context, framing and the place of performance in contemporary culture. The work engages with a number key terms applied to contemporary performance including ephemerality, displacement, equivalence and ecology, which contribute to the central thesis that contemporary performance is an unsettled yet always contextualised practice which resists fixities and holds itself between a condition of fragmentation and integration. Contemporary performance is considered from a number of points of view: • as performance: where the events and relationships which constitute performance can be documented and mapped; • as contextualised practice: where the conditions that enable or disable performance can be identified; • as process : where the dynamics and media of performance can be situated; • as site : where the frames, surfaces and boundaries of performance can be examined; • as ecology: where the internal and external interdependencies of performance can be identified; • as a problematic: where the terms and assumptions that constitute a reading of performance can be identified and analysed. Two key ideas inform the thesis that emerges from the work: firstly the recognition of an ethical stance towards performance; and secondly the search for a methodology which can disclose the dynamics of performance. The 'acts of writing' are seen as an active as well as reflective methodology - an engagement with the event of performance understood as a located, contextualised practice. The published work presented here sets out some of the underlying conditions and methodologies from which my work in the field of contemporary performance proceeds. As a thesis it provides sustained evidence of a 'multiple practice'- that is a set of practices and engagements in the field of research that explore what might be termed the 'ecology' of contemporary performance from various positions. This multiple practice is a way of locating the work and of attempting to realise an ethical stance towards performance. The recognition that the conditions of contemporary performance depend on an interdependency of contexts and that performance situates itself as an unstable catalyst that oscillates between these contexts has enabled me to locate my research into contemporary performance in the variety of ways evidenced by the published output collected here.
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