“Notes on the necessity of the explicit body in performance” – Pavlos Kontouriotis


Kontouriotis, P. (2012) Notes on the necessity of the explicit body in performance. In: Performance Festival. State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki

// 1 . subjectivity (Foucault) = the amalgamated product of a dual process: the process of subjectification (the construction of a new entity or the creation of a new identity) + the process of subjugation (the subordination of an identity to the disciplinarian regimes of a given society)

The body is the site where subjectivity finds its mode of expression. Modern society exercises its disciplinarian authority in the body.

// 2. “The body becomes a useful power only if it becomes productive and subjugated.”

The political investment in the body is connected to the economic system.

The body can be shaped, it is part of a political field.

Relations of authority ——> direct control on the body ——> training ——> machine

How? —–> theatrical metaphor (Erving Goffman and Richard Schechner):

body –> stage

script –> societal structures

The body is the stage where the script is reenacted over and over again

Scopophilic tendency from childhood (visually based culture)

We repeat actions we have seen and through this repetition (rehearsal in French) we consolidate into characters, personas and identities

“This regulated spectatorial activity marks and forms both the subject and the object of the look and hence one is acting simultaneously as both a performer and audience.”

“…all elements of identity are performative acts” (ref. Judith Butler)

Body ——> manifestation of the capitalistic scenario:

“regular” ——> regulated

“normal”——> abiding to a norm

“correct ——-> penitentiary

“identity” ——> not the persona, but the character

// 3. “Body art, performance, art, live art, aktionism, call it whatever you like, militantly reverses the function of performance to destabilize the regulating societal script.”

Performances of abjection and transgression:

expose the norm by transgressing it

are acts of empowerment over one’s own body

// 4. Live art:

manages to convert the spectator into a witness

the piece of art is not valued (or should not be valued) according to prefixed aesthetic criteria

differently than the theatre, there is no previous agreement between performer and spectator, no previously given guidelines on how to approach the event, it is not a conventional mode

it is experienced through a corporeal, affective response

it forces the spectator to give his/her own meaning to what is seen

anything can happen

// 5. Body Art is a response to the disciplinarian authority over the body. It promises emancipation and empowerment. It shows a hope that a change is possible where Otherness is allowed.

// 6. The urgency of the body (in art) and its possibilities to provide alternative methodologies for reliving the present.