Before, Beneath, and Beyond Participation

Performance by Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña

SECTION III [The Before in The After]


–       Drawing from Bergson, Benjamin, de Certeau, Douglas, Austin, Derrida, Merleau-Ponty, Schneider, Phelan, Foucault, Butler. Will cross-reference secondary Artaudian, Brechtian, and Fluxus sources including artist statements, art reviews, practitioner essays, movement manifestos, and visual art history articles.

–     As noted previously, some of the misgivings outlined herein relate to a left-over conception of democratic versus totalitarian art practices. This is also in keeping with select Enlightenment and Modernist binary philosophical propositions that still permeate Western culture. That which do not account for situational plurality, nor diversity of experiences, and can’t answer to the question of expert specialization.

–    Also noted previously, some misaligned interpretations relate moreso to fragmentary cross-references, particularly in the plastic arts on campuses. Summary review of documented strains of anti-theatrical, anti-theatre, anti-dead-theatre sentiment. Note common interest in both intimate and interpersonal attributes of participation, regardless of presentational composition (environmental conditions and performance approach), and the open field of experimentation across disciplines.

–    Some of the confusion is, however, precisely a matter of perception. Touch upon relevance of perspectival (subject-to-object) aesthetics, phenomenological discourse, and performative theory. Discuss instability of inter-relational dynamics and the dimensionality of temporal experiences. Also note shifts in the emphasis of concern, and the subjective vantage point, inherent to the following (practitioner) beliefs as compared to the focus of philosophical inquiry (participant experiences).

–       Perception: Participants versus Captives. Arms length analysis has it’s rewards but the perils include the seduction of clean ideas over the messiness of embodied experiences. Discuss relevancy of volunteerism and invitation to conceptions of the active / passive spectator. Note participant’s varying contributions and just-as-likeliness to withhold / reject / resent participation, whether seated or taking physical action, and as a witness to or immersed in the action.

–       Perception: Event versus Narrative. All performance-premised works are contingent upon event occasioning whether coordinated, circumstantially, or through trace documentation. Narrative is understood in a plethora of ways by varying creative practitioners, whether or not a literary text is referenced, and is not necessarily antithetical to spectacle. Cultural anthropologists recognize speach acts as instantiating sub-texts and literality inscriptions upon societal agents and social actors. Philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists recognize public roles and personal identities as narrative constructions. In fact, it might even be said that narrative in is the eye of the beholder rather than exclusive to the hand of the artist.

–       Perception: Interactive versus Didactic. Storytelling no more risks haughty or manipulative airs than facilitated event sequences. Exchanges between people and things does not necessarily evade experience of objectification, subjugation, and entrainment, because most Westerners already live immersed in their technics and humans are creatures of habit. Diversity of spatial arrangements and communicative modalities cannot, unto themselves, account for affective (associative, sensual, and/or emotional) experience. Defining user interfaces, technological mechanisms, environmental systems, and performance styles as qualitative outcomes rather than as technical approaches  – confounding ‘the what’ with ‘the who’ and ‘the how’ with ‘the why’ – is equally as practitioner centric.

–      Perception: Conceptual versus Representational. The very designation of a live performer as a reproduction is an abstraction that, in fact, isn’t possible without sophisticated technological mediation. Representativeness is a condition of art-making and engagement across disciplines and does not preclude conceptualization. Repetition is also no less an attribute of other creative methodologies. Discuss the transposition of attitudes and terminologies originating among painters (eg: Abstract Expressionism) onto performance-premised events and approaches to art-making. Note also that we can encourage, and might influence, one or another character of engagement but do not decide the precise mode of reception / perception / interception on behalf of our guests. The pretense that we do contradicts claims of liberating the spectator.

–      Overall Conception: Performativity versus Theatricity. Review descriptions of alterity, as it pertains to Absorption (in relation to illusion) and Distancing (in relation to ‘the real’). Introduce the issue of inter-subjectivity in relation to performing Persona and Character. Note prevailing conceptions of will and agency (game theory) over opportunity, involuntary confrontation over invitations to participate, and the Art / Life distinction. Each of these problems can be inter-related to Capitalist impositions and influences over culture, that which artists can choose to address or not, but cannot escape association regardless.

–    There is value in the attempt to parse out differences of approach, and divergent creative intents, as we set out to expand upon conventional definitions of ‘Art’. Our search for an appropriate new vocabulary is intended to benefit creative discussions, to inform potential participants, and contribute to propositional discourses. Trans-disciplinary theory and cross-disciplinary research lends well to this search and exploration. I propose, however, that appropriate terminology might best evolve out from experience of practice and in relation to participant feedbacks. As opposed to propping up banners in allegiance to genealogies or to the vocabulary unto itself. Therein theory can inform practice, without holding the latter hostage, and further our combined philosophical understandings of performance-premised engagements.

This above is a work in progress. Related Posts:
Section I [Introduction]
Section II [Before Participation]
Section IV [Beneath the Artspeak]
A List of Related Articles and Books.


One thought on “Draft Outline: In The After

  1. Pingback: Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’ | scrapaduq

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