Re-performance, Mourning and Death: Specters of the Past




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This research conducts an in-depth analysis into the recent trend for creating re-performances, interrogating the relationship between re-performance and issues of death, loss and memorial. The interrogation is underpinned by a combination of philosophical and psychoanalytic discourses on mourning and loss with performance studies theories, particularly those relating to re-performance and the documentation of performance. Thus, it draws on work by performance studies scholars, such as Peggy Phelan, Diana Taylor, and Rebecca Schneider and philosophers, including Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva and Simon Critchley, to develop an original framework for theorising re-performance. By positioning these discourses in relation to one another, this research examines a new area of investigation within the field of performance studies. The thesis questions whether re-performance strengthens and at the same time destabilises performances relationship to death and its status as an ephemeral art form. It argues that re-performance creates a bodily archive, in which performances can be stored, and that it, therefore, prevents them from disappearing. Through its analysis of re-performance related work by artists including Martin O’Brien, Sheree Rose, Bob Flanagan, Ron Athey, Julie Tolentino, Hannah Wilke and Jo Spence, this research equates this process of re-performance with acts of mourning and memorial. It asserts that re-performance enables performance to prepare us for loss because although the initial performance disappears, it leaves behind echoes, traces and specters. The thesis goes on to argue that these echoes and traces can be used to create re-performances which are haunted by the specter of the initial or earlier versions of the performance. Hence, whilst acts of re-performance bring the past back to life, they also provide performance with a future. Linking this to notions of mourning, the thesis contends that both acts of mourning and acts of re-performance are transformative and are therefore predicated towards both the future and survival.





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