The Morning After (the night before): Emancipating Spectators in Participatory Live Art
This thesis develops a theoretical framework for the analysis of spectator-participation in live art by examining the performance practices of Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s La Pocha Nostra, Marina Abramović, and Gob Squad. It explores the potentialities and limitations of participation from all sides of the performance border, drawing on my experiences as a performing-spectator, watching-spectator, and as an artist-collaborator with La Pocha Nostra. Unravelling the relationship between these roles, it reveals how participation can create a new hierarchy amongst spectators. The thesis offers a new way of looking at the phenomenology of participatory live art by determining these encounters as a complex network of contradictory and interdependent relations, underlined by the “paradox of participation”: the duality of holding the position of both performer and spectator at the same time. Accordingly, it argues that these performances constitute a “symmathesy” of participation, to use Nora Bateson’s term, which should be viewed as a whole experience rather than as a series of parts. Advancing on from “the emancipated spectator”, as outlined by Jacques Rancière, the study reconsiders its meaning within live art. In doing so, it demonstrates how ritual, presence and ethics converge to underpin the transformative and emergent processes that foster and manage participation, while acknowledging the way that imposed sanctions serve to uphold the performance. Moreover, it maintains that spectator-participation has developed into a practice in its own right, and charts the birth of a new breed of spectator who anticipates the possibility of co-creation. It recognises several emerging types of participant, namely the “expert participant-spectator” and the more transgressive “dis-spectator”. The thesis establishes that participation can offer spectators a licence to act in ways outside of their everyday political and social reality, at the same time; it calls attention to the lack of consideration and after-care given to spectators post-participation.
Research Institute : Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies
- PhD