Queer moments : the profound politics of performance

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
James, Dafydd
  • Subject: PN2000

This thesis is an investigation into the relationship between ‘queerness’, profundity \ud and the politics of performance. In what ways might moments of performance be \ud both ‘queer’ and ‘profound’? What are the conditions most likely to produce such \ud moments, and what are the political repercussions of such ephemeral performance \ud events? It challenges the notion that live theatrical performance is non-reproductive, \ud arguing that ‘queer moments’ produce resistant and transformative ‘excess of \ud truths’, generated through paradoxes. \ud \ud In analysing ‘queer moments’, this thesis engages in detail with a series of live \ud performances viewed primarily through the recent work of Judith Butler, though it \ud also draws on writings in deconstruction, psychoanalysis, phenomenology and queer \ud studies. The chapters work towards a final performative experiment: an attempt to \ud communicate in writing a sense of a ‘queer moment’ beyond/beside language and \ud representation, which I believe I experienced whilst watching Lia Rodriguez’s \ud production Such Stuff As We Are Made Of in 2002. \ud \ud To prepare the reader for this final chapter, the thesis presents a series of case \ud studies. Analysing a work by transgendered performance artist Lazlo Pearlman, it \ud argues that a deconstructive approach to the body in performance is limited. \ud Although the body is primarily recognised through language and representation, \ud there is a ‘materiality’ (the ‘feeling body’) that exists beside/beyond those modes of \ud recognition. Investigating three of performance artist Franko B’s works, the thesis \ud next demonstrates how performance might produce a ‘ghost of the queer subject’; \ud that is to say, a sense of the feeling body in moments akin to Roland Barthes’s \ud ‘punctum’. This potentially challenges the subject/other hierarchy between \ud performer/spectator through ‘visceral imaging’, which I characterise as imaging a \ud sense of the other through one’s own viscera. La Fura dels Baus’ XXX is analysed to \ud assess how the group’s apparent inability to deconstruct its representations and \ud circuits of desire severely compromised its potential for causing audiences to ‘see \ud feelingly’. Martin Crimp’s playscript Attempts on her Life and its performance in a \ud Welshjlanguage adaptation are analysed to explore how acts of translation can \ud reflexively and ethically mediate performance to reveal common human \ud vulnerabilities as part of an embodied ethicojpolitical practice. Queer moments are \ud identified as utopian instances within such processes: paradoxical truths produced \ud by live performance, which survive the ephemeral event.
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