The Efficacy of Awkwardness in Contemporary Participatory Performance.
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This thesis focuses on contemporary participatory performance in which participation is facilitated awkwardly, and in which awkward modes of participation are welcomed and encouraged. My use of the term ‘awkward’ here is not so much in reference to embarrassment, uneasiness, or social faux-par, though I do observe and critically respond to such phenomena throughout. Instead, the term ‘awkward’ is predominantly employed as an adjective in line with the dictionary definition ‘causing difficulty; hard to do or deal with’ or ‘not smooth or graceful; ungainly’. Such awkwardness is framed as productive because of its disruptive relation with the smooth running of inter-relational encounters. These disruptions, I argue, in turn encourage critical reflection on our co-presence with others without removing us from that co-presence. Thus it allows for necessary affective and critical work to occur within the participatory performance itself as opposed to being delegated to those not involved and encountering the performances through secondary sources. This focus on awkwardness in contemporary participatory performance occurs in response to what art critic Claire Bishop and others have defined as the ‘Social Turn’ in art and performance. This ‘turn’ refers to the increased critical, curatorial and cultural attention given to socially engaged, participatory and relational art practices since the late 1990s. The key aim of this project is to refocus this attention onto practitioners that, in my reading, have a productively awkward relation with its rhetoric, ideologies and socio-politics. My approach to these practices is often supported by the writings of Slavoj Žižek, especially his employment and supplement of Lacanian psychoanalysis. His theories of the ‘big Other’ and its ‘super-egoic injunctions’, of over-identification, of the ‘real’, ‘symbolic’ and ‘imaginary’ registers that structure our reality are worked-through as I develop my own theories of agency, reality and fantasy, desire, and socio-political efficacy through critical engagement with awkward participatory performance
- Theses