The Pleasures of Writing about the Pleasures of the Practice: Documenting Psychophysical Performer Trainings




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title


Bloomsbury Methuen Drama


Book chapter

Peer reviewed


The Pleasures of Writing about the Pleasures of the Practice: Documenting Psychophysical Performer Trainings Previous studies investigating the written documentation of embodied performer trainings have predominantly focused upon the difficulties of making such textual articulations. Highlighting the ‘indescribable’ state of sensorial processes (Zarrilli 1988: 101) and a perceived ‘“aporia between logos and the body”’ (Kobialka in Dolan 2005: 168), in such studies these difficulties normatively appear as a war with words or as a limitation of register (Melrose 2006: 120-135). In this war, words may ‘betray’ (Artaud 1958: 71) or ‘asphyxiate what we would like them to give birth to’ (Barba 1995: 50). Following this, psychophysical performer trainings can generate multiple and creative embodied pleasures that the participant or practitioner wishes to express, and so critically and reflexively examine. However, in the context of this textual betrayal, those pleasures can appear impossible to articulate, as ‘Bliss is unspeakable’ (Barthes 1975: 21). Whilst not ignoring or underestimating the challenges raised by articulating these somatic pre-performative processes, this chapter refuses this negative positioning of written documentation and questions the over romanticised perception of performative and pre-performative embodied processes as magically beyond documentation. I argue that the potential to articulate the embodied sensations of pleasure provoked by psychophysical performer trainings lies in possible modes of activating and conveying the pleasures of writing about one’s practice. I root this argument within consideration of the working and writing practices of an international range of performer trainers and practitioners, focusing particularly on my own pleasurable experiences as a participant and participant-writer within Odin Teatret, Phillip Zarrilli, Sandra Reeve and Eva Schmale’s practices. All of this material is explored in apposite dialogue with Hélène Cixous’ depiction of the sensorial processes of the urgent and energized ‘drive to write’ (Cixous 1991: 1). Despite her explorations of embodiment, Cixous’ theories are near absent in writings upon body-based performer trainings, and where her work appears in explorations of performance documentation, these explorations have, understandably, focused solely upon the feminist potential of Cixous’ early concept of écriture féminine. Thus, the very practical possibilities of Cixous’ theorisations across her oeuvre of, what I propose are, intensively and detailed psychophysical processes of writing, appear to have been missed. These exhilarating processes of writing are embedded in Cixous’ depiction of a dialogic, interwoven relationship between the pleasures of the body and the word. Therefore, this chapter demonstrates how these theories of writing offer an extremely useful and fresh framework through which the participant-writer could attempt to articulate an experience of embodied bliss without negative consequences for that experience. Indeed, such articulations may rather enable the production of further fruitful embodied and lexical pleasures that significantly and joyfully enhance the knowledge gleaned from these performer training processes.



Documenting Performance, Performer Training, Pleasure, Psychophysical Performance Practice, Embodied Writing Processes


Clarke, Alissa (2017) The Pleasures of Writing about the Pleasures of the Practice: Documenting Psychophysical Performer Trainings. In: Sant, Toni (ed.), Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving, London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, pp. 253-270


Research Institute

Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)
Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies