Performance art, liturgy and the performance of belief
The history of art and religion is intricately linked in Western culture. This thesis focuses on one strand of this relationship and is concerned with the role of performance practices in relation to spirituality in the West. Contemporary performance practice and theory are at the centre of this research. Case studies on the Roman Catholic Liturgy and the performance artist Marina Abramovi! are used to show how traditional analyses of spiritual performance have not accounted for the effects and affects of metaphysics in how we understand belief. I argue that examinations of spiritual performance are needed which do not try to understand such performances in terms of their representative meaning, but rather, seek to account for their performative qualities as practices that both instantiate and manifest belief. Performative theory has been used extensively to analyse language and human action, specifically the performance of gender. Here belief is taken as the subject of performative action and rituals are examined as performance practices which perform belief. Starting with Jacques Derrida, I begin a discussion of metaphysics and representation, tracing the nature of Western understandings of belief from Plato, to Friedrich Nietzsche, to Derrida, and to contemporary theological investigations into the nature of the human soul. This establishes the metaphysical history of the treatment of belief as well as various theoretical attempts to move past this model. The work of J.L. Austin, John R. Searle, Judith Butler and Saba Mahmood is employed to examine belief through speech act theory as a verb and finally through performative theory as an action. The first half of the thesis contextualises Western belief as a culturally specific entity that has not been analysed or understood in relation to its physical and material aspects, as well as developing an analysis of performative action. The second half applies the performative approach to the case studies.
- Theses