Edited by Caroline Wake and Anna Teresa Scheer
This issue of Performance Paradigm—our twelfth—attends to love, information, and performance in all of their individual and intertwined complexity.
Edited by Meg Mumford and Ulrike Garde
Performance practice since the 1990s has been characterised by an increased interest in theatre that either operates without professional performers or minimises their involvement. Instead, those performing have included a diverse array of specialists in areas of expertise other than that of performance-making. Often referred to as ‘experts’, they have frequently been selected according to their life experiences and/or connection with particular social categories such as economic class, field of work, ethnicity, age, and (dis)ability (Bishop 2012: 219).1 The concept of the ‘expert’ and the many theatre practices and discourses connected with it often challenge the professional / non-professional opposition. For example, while experts may not fulfil the criteria of people who are regularly engaged in the paid occupation of acting or performing, they do share with such professionals an ability to demonstrate special skills, training, and/or knowledge, often including advanced skills in performing a version of one’s self. We are aware that our use here of the term ‘non-professional’ could reinstate the type of binary troubled by the word ‘expert’. Nevertheless, we find the term useful as a way of referring to those figures, in works and events created by professional artists, who are not extensively trained in acting or performing and who usually do not earn their living from appearing on the stage.
Edited by Helena Grehan
When I first came across Jodi Dean’s brief discussion about art in her book The Communist HorizonI was both excited and enervated. I wanted to shout ‘go away, you are wrong’ but at the same time I had an unsettling sense that there was (potentially) some truth in her observations. Dean argues that the aesthetic focus
disconnects politics from the organized struggle of working people, making politics into what spectators see. Artistic products, whether actual commodities or commodified experiences, thereby buttress capital as they circulate political affects while displacing
political struggles from the streets to the galleries. Spectators can pay (or donate) to feel radical without having to get their hands dirty. The dominant class retains its position and the contradiction between this class and the rest of us doesn’t make itself felt as such. (Dean, 2012: 13–14)
Of course the truth of the matter is contingent—it depends on what kind of art we are talking about, where we are situated (geographically, politically and culturally) and how we as spectators, viewers, participants or consumers choose to respond in each situation. So after a great deal of somewhat agitated thinking I decided that instead of shouting the best way to think through
Dean’s provocation was to utilise these ideas as the basis for a Call for Papers for Performance Paradigm. I reasoned that as this would be our 10th anniversary issue what better way to celebrate this milestone than to invite scholars and artists to think about and respond to Dean’s challenge to the value of art in the 21st century.
Edited by Anna Hickey-Moody
The essays brought together in this collection explore the capacity performance art holds to move its viewers: to make us see anew. This collection is intended to take the reader on a journey through experiences of different kinds of wonder. Assembled along a register that ranges from wonder as questioning, as curiosity and asking otherwise (‘I wonder if…’), to experiencing a state of wonder in which experience effects awe, in which we are moved, the papers assembled here illustrate performance and the performative nature of art as aesthetic technologies that provoke question and “enable the world to surprise us, however gently” (Coleman and Ringrose, 2013:20). The wondering begins with questioning – with what if things were otherwise?
ISSUE 8 (2012) SPECIAL ISSUE, PRACTISING CONTEMPORARY ART IN THE GLOBAL CITY FOR THE ARTS, SINGAPORE
Edited by C. J. W.-L. WeeWe live in what appears to be a distinctive moment in which the contemporary arts, new museums and art biennales have become linked to what is called ‘commodity reification’ and a near-frenzied consumerism that are part of the free-market capitalism that became pronounced after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the city-state of Singapore, culture once used to mean race and the ethnic cultures linked to the so-called CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Other) model of ethic-cultural management in the city-state. Since the early 1990s, though, cultural policy has expanded to include the more recognisable arts policy. This ‘moment’ of culture – essentially from the 1990s for Singapore – has led to a seemingly overnight establishment of institutionalised art markets, museums and performing arts centres, notably The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, opened on 12 October 2002. Such developments have contributed to transforming the puritanical and (that long-favoured People’s Action Party [PAP] adjective) pragmatic city-state from a purported cultural desert into … what exactly? A Global City for the Arts (the title of a 1992 policy paper)? A cultural hub through which other people’s cultural products flow through, where sometimes expression can be a problem, and where ‘hip’ capitalism is celebrated? Singapore wants to be contemporary urban chic now, replacing the old stentorian urban modern of the late 1960s and 1970s – an ‘old’ that is still not too far away in the past.
Edited by Peter Eckersall, Helena Grehan, Edward Scheer
‘In case of rapture this car will be empty’ reads a bumper–bar sticker popular among certain Evangelical Christian sects. In this event, it is envisaged that the world will be ravaged and only true believers will be saved in a performance of ecstatic, glorious mutual transformation: an image of happiness in extremis replicated throughout the violent ideologies and practices of fundamentalist cults around the world. A literal exemplification of Zygmunt Bauman’s provocation: ‘Is progress towards happiness to be measured by thinning out the bevy of fellow travellers?’ (2008: 25). Meanwhile, other slightly less eschatological experiences of happiness are no less performative nor less deeply felt in the body. Ecstasies of sex, food, narcotics, shopping, travel, sunshine, ‘magnificent’ and ‘excessive’ (Bauman, 2008: 25) forms of consumption alongside the thrills of the will to power are all vehicles for the pursuit of happiness. As such they are transformative of contemporary experience, in modelling, controlling and inspiring states of happiness. In this respect, performance might always be an artefact conceived of as an ‘Image of Happiness’ (Marina Abramovic, 1996), something radically different to everyday neurosis and potentially generative of new propositions for life.
Edited by Stephen Muecke
I wrote to Jimmie Durham last year with a view to putting together this special issue of Performance Paradigm, and this letter is reproduced below. The idea came not only from meeting Jimmie and Maria Thereza Alves in Sydney at the time of the 2004 Sydney Biennale (as discussed in Darren Jorgensen’s contribution to this volume), but also reading his writing, which arrives in surprising ways, in emails where he tells stories you are not sure are ‘true’, to essays, to narratives and poems. Noel King has attempted to collect as many references to these writings as he could, and this bibliography follows this introduction.
In a recent article in the Weekend Australian, historian Jeffrey Grey worries about the slippage into ‘carnival’ that the nation’s Anzac Day memorial services now seem to strike (Grey in Matchett, 2009: 24). No longer solemn affairs that enable remembrance through studied silence, the annual assemblages of youthful pilgrims on Anzac Cove in Gallipoli each April 25 instead engage a heady phantasmagoria of signifiers exceeding even what Frederic Jameson might interpret as the ’nostalgia mode’, in which ‘we seem condemned to seek the historical past through our own pop images and stereotypes about the past’ (1983: 10).
Edited by Bryoni Trezise and Caroline Wake
The German city of Cologne woke up yesterday without a memory. (Boyes, 2009)
In March of this year we were both struck by an image in the Times Online of a collapsed archives building in Cologne, which, before becoming a ‘pile of smouldering brickwork’, had held the manuscripts of Karl Marx, the letters of Friedrich Hegel, edicts issued by Napoleon and King Louis XIV, and an early document dating back to 922 (Boyes, 2009). The event was suggestive enough, yet the newspaper account was arguably even more so. The headline ran ‘The city without a memory’ and the article noted that ‘There was even less warning of the collapse of the building than would have been given during a nuclear attack’. Even the typos were evocative, with an image caption rather endearingly referring to the ‘six-story’ building. Inevitably the loss was read through the prism of other, prior losses – some of the documents ‘had been recovered from library buildings smashed by Allied bombing during the Second World War’, the damage was compared to that caused by a fire in the Anna Amalia library in Weimar 2004, and a reader (Jessica of Indianapolis) commented ‘It’s the library in Alexandria all over again.’ Intriguingly, it was also read in terms of future losses: John of Vancouver chastised the archive for not having digitised the documents, while Daniel of London opined ‘This story will trouble my sleep. My epiphany, my moment of clarity may have been prompted by a piece of literature now lost. I shall never know.’
Of course, these statements are both overblown and incomplete. What we would add to them is that while Cologne may have woken up without an archive, it has not woken up without a memory (Taylor, 2003). Yet this event, its reporting, and the response to it seem to literalise a cultural moment in which memory collapses under its own weight, in which citizens (both local and global) are traumatised both by the event (what has happened), and the non-event (what was never to happen – they will never read that book that they were unlikely to read anyway). In fact, it seems to speak to the parallel conversations taking place across trauma studies, memory studies, and performance studies, for how it positioned notions of the “unspeakable” familiar to trauma discourse, alongside notions of the “restorative” or “repeatable” familiar to memory discourse. Hence to write about performing the ends of memory is to write at the intersection of two prefixes: the ‘re’ and the ‘un’, where one can simultaneously mourn the loss of Marx and Hegel’s original documents and nonetheless celebrate their endless repetition(s) in contemporary research in the Humanities. As a post-discipline, performance studies attempts to find pathways through these oppositional pulls, where performance itself is at once recollective and generative, an unrepeatable event that is nonetheless constituted through acts of repetition.
Edited by Helena Grehan
The announcement of the ‘End of History’ has not produced nor been coincident with an end to the ideological differences encoded within that concept. Instead it has seen an intensification of conflicts which, however local in origin, are global in scope: civilization wars, culture wars, wars on terror and drugs, perhaps a re-emergent cold war? In terms of the local investment in these conflicts, the government led by John Howard in Australia has been an enthusiastic protagonist in these wars and in the absurd parody of ‘situation ethics’ that they have produced. This is the least ethical government in living memory in Australia but it has still been tremendously popular.
It is widely acknowledged that dramatic changes wrought in 1960s Japan were such that art and cultural practice were transformed into an emergent avant-gardism. Hybridity, physical and intellectual intensity, formal innovations and transgressive acts are all characteristics of 1960s theatre, dance, cinema, literature and performance art in Japan and elsewhere.
The 1960s era was significant not least for the emergence of new aesthetics connected to a rapid evolution of political sensibilities. In Japan, as in Europe and America, artists were rethinking materials and forms often in terms of bodies juxtaposed with mediated spaces and objects. Art works began rejecting academic and formal qualities of art and instead related to the everyday experience of the world, foregrounding experiences of time and immediate sensory perception in a language which was conceptual and dynamic.
For the last decade or more media technologies and live performance have become increasingly interrelated and interdependent. Debates about this critical nexus have resulted in a diversity of views. While there is broad acknowledgement that this interpenetration has resulted in widespread innovation, there is also evidence of a certain anxiety about the status of live performance. Questions have often focused on the resultant status of the live body, the changing nature of the performance experience and of technology itself. The experience of the ‘live’ based on notions of presence is often promised and reinforced by the effect of a mass audience, but it is increasingly susceptible to digital subversion by the temporal disintegration and restructuring of audio and visual data.
This is the landscape in which we are staging this inaugural issue of Performance Paradigm. The articles and interviews we have assembled here ask questions as to how we can best use the heightened audio-visual experience offered by media technologies to best effect and what might such performance experiences communicate? Does the performance come to be about the media interface alone or are other possibilities suggested?