A Pathognomy of Performance by S. Bayly

By S. Bayly

Exploring the subjects of the development, ephemerality and democracy that mark the come upon among functionality and philosophy, this unique learn elaborates clean views at the reports of undoing, fiasco and catastrophe that shadow either the either degree and daily life.

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Performance, feeling the demand of the audience that brought it into being, is always gesturing beyond – or more precisely, behind – itself, and never more so than when it goes for broke in playing for real, trying to invoke the secret ‘real’ of rehearsal and make it present again in public. Thus the playing of rehearsal is foreshadowed and foreclosed by the anticipation of the very event – performance – that legitimizes it. The reappearance of the naked, cut and bleeding body within the practices of British-based live art during the 1990s (for example, in the work of Franko B and Kira O’Reilly) could be considered as another manifestation of the desire to do away with this sense of mimetic foreclosure.

The music is turned off. The audience, such as it is, remain. It appears that some of them, the brothers included, are unsure as to the exact nature of what is taking place. Minutes go by. Two or three people are bent over the prone figure. A white ambulance van arrives, its blue emergency light pulsing silently. The paramedics emerge and gently ease the body of the wirewalker onto a stretcher and then into the van, which drives off. The spectators disperse. Amazed and somewhat confused, the brothers return to the restaurant and tell their parents the story of what they have witnessed, about how the high wire walker stepped out onto the wire so high up, fell off onto the ground, did not move and was taken away by an ambulance.

But distasteful unease defines the nature of these instants, the unexpected thrills of spectatorship normally occluded by performative competence. They thrive on the epistemological uncertainty surrounding what actually takes place and what is ‘merely’ performed. They are at once enthralling 24 A Pathognomy of Performance and revolting: one wants to watch and to look away. 9 Both of the thrilling moments recounted earlier lodged into the memory of a child and became sedimented there, awaiting another encounter that would disturb them.

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