Reading – Phillippe Auslander:Presence and theatricality in the discourse of performance and the visual arts

This weeks reading was by Phillippe Auslander taken from From Acting to Performance: Essays in Modernism and Postmodernism

Key points of the piece:

  • There are levels of ‘liveness’ – “the presence of an intital audience has no real importance to the performance as an entity”
  • Whether or not a photograph or other piece of media was true or performed, and whether there was an audience to the ‘live’ event, does not mean that the documentation itself cannot be a performance.
  • Documentation of performances can fall into two categories: documentary and theatrical
  • Documentary is the more typical category, in which images and media serve as a representation of  an original performance
  • A documentary photograph is access to the reality of the live performance
  • Chris Burden’s ‘Shoot’ is a documentary piece
  • Theatrical work encompasses ‘performed photgraphy’. Rather than documenting a performance, the photograph is the performance itsself.
  • In thearical work the media is staged, and the actions depicted would have no meaning without the media itself
  • Klein’s ‘Leap Into The Void’ is a thatrical work.
  • It is possible to breach both of these categories, as shown by Vito Acconci’s ‘Photo Piece’ in which he walks down a street trying not to blink and takes a photograph of the street inf front of him everytime he does.
  • This piece blurs the disticntion between the categories, as the photograph’s are by Acconci performing, not of Acconci performing. They were produced by the performance and not for it. Therefore the photographs are both a depiction of the performance and an integral part of it.

Key words:

  • Ostensible – Prentence: Something which may appear to be true, but isn’t necassarily fact.
  • Semiotic- the study of signs or symbols

    Chris Burden's 'Shoot'. Auslander would classify this as a documentary work, as it is evidence of the existance of a performance

    'Leap into the Void' by Yves Klein. According to Auslander's theory, this is a theatrical piece, as the performance is the image itself, not the action it contains. This supports the idea of different levels of 'liveness'


About Abi Britton

Creative Events student from Kent.
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