in discussion General discussion / The relation between Performance & Philosophy » Past Performance
I would like to point out that this is an unfinished essay, and was written in a moment of insipiration. I would like to open these ideas up for discussion for further input from those interested. I am in the process of reading Heidegger's Being and Time, which will feed into main argument in the coming months. I would like to start a discussion on temporality aspect of performance ontology, something that is of great importance, in its own existence:
Discussing the past in performance terms, comes rather naturally, as performance happens in the past. This is an overtly ludicrous statement to make in the light of performances taking place right now, however, one could argue that the past is created before the Present is present. It is common practice to hear Phelan’s argument from scholars, practitioners and those active in discussions of philosophy and performance, for the quotation that has almost become a cliché in this recent rhetoric: “Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participated in citation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance” (1993: p.146). This is indeed true; to reproduce the performance is to undertake another performance or as Phelan states ‘to document it’.
Fundamental to performance axiom is the question: What is Performance? To this inquiry, we may approach the theatrical view, the contextualised event or action. These ‘actions’ as the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, stated are the purpose of plot or narrative (Ferguson 1961).
Indeed, I have possibly miss quoted Phelan in her argument, being that the sentence previous to the one above reads, “Performance’s life is only in the present” (1993: p146). This is a falsification of the premised performance happens here and now, without it happening there and then. The broad scope that performance ontology, without parameters, renders action to already have been undertaken before its recognition of its own being has occurred. This I will begin to discuss later in more depth but I would like to follow Phelan’s argument for a while to consider the statement presented above.
We see performance, and as it is happening, actions being portrayed in ‘real time’, time that allows us to influence said actions, prompting the phrase: ‘Every performance is different’. The traditional means of defining performance, that is the theatrical presentation, is to follow the premise that in real time there is a sharing of the same moments in time, the same seconds and the actions that take place within them. Benjamin (1935) has discussed this as aura, or the specific position of this event in time and space. Many purists of this argument reject any form of technical reproduction in the work of art, claiming, as Benjamin (1973) did, “technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach, for the original itself” (p.214).*
*[It has been recently reported in the Guardian newspaper (26.01.2009) companies are encouraged to produce DVDs of successful performances. Why? The RSC has announced that its recent production of Hamlet, starring David Tennant is to be released, removing it from its original staging in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2008. The production will unnaturally retain its facticity, in it’s past. Tennant will forever remain Hamlet, while Patrick Stewart (Tennant’s co-star) will truly embody the ideas of Captain Pickard, as being resurrected from one situation (in the past) to another, on DVD in the future presentations.] (FOOTNOTE)
I follow the argument presented by Benjamin and Phelan that time and space of a performance is significant to its integrity, and technical reproduction of this, is murderous to its own concept of it. The ‘post production‘ of performance creates a scenario whereby one digitalises oneself to preserve one’s histories. Would I recognise myself, without the idiosyncratic anomalies? The hybrid structure of experiences of any future presentations of digitalised performances will be lost at the time of filming. This of course is nothing new, as Aristotle has documented, action (and thus performance) is an imitation of object presented by man.
Phelan progresses in her 1993 essay, to discuss the disappearance of the body, through representation* in performance. This I also agree to, however, it is not the body’s desire to be rooted in the significance of the performance. The presence that Benjamin discusses can be resulted from “the aura which, on stage… cannot be separated for the spectators from the that of the actor” (p.233) The representation of bodies onstage refers to the accomplishment of the existence of the Present; therefore, arguably past. The body is driving forward for receipt of the Present: what is happening next? How will I react to future situations? It is the aura or presence that these two scholars discuss to be the juxtaposition of the Past and the Future. It is the nothingness that escapes that Present which renders performance existent.
- It is rather an assumption to continue without making reference to this statement. Phelan discussed this in relation to technological intervention ‘in a live setting’. A live feed that is of the performer in the same space would present disrespect for the performer’s body. In this instance the body has disappeared to the command of the film. (FOOTNOTE)
German philosopher, Max Scheler (1916) has provided a good perspective in his writings: “an act is never also an object for it is essentially to the Being of act that they are Experienced only in their performance itself and given in reflection” (as cited in Heidegger 1962: p.73)(my emphasis). This not only dispels that performance can be an ‘experienced’ act to be contextualised for theatrical presentation but a reflection upon what has happened and the semiotic; a constant referral to the past. As the Dasein lies within the possibilities of actions, performance, either granted or denied, is a reflection upon these possibilities. (More discussion to come following these lines….)
As I said this was a moment of thought I've had recently and wish to submit it.