, The Brian

, The Brian

W h a t i s w t o p e r f o r m ” ?

In business, spofts, and sex, “to perform” is to do something up to a standard — to succeed, to excel. In the arts, “to perform” is to put on a show, a play, a dance, a concert. In everyday life, “to perform” is to show off, to go to extremes, to underline an action for those who are watching. In the twenty-first century, people as never before live by means of performance.

“To perform” can also be understood in relation to:

• Being • Doing • Showing doing • Explaining “showing doing.”

“Being” is existence itself. “Doing” is the activity.of all that exists, from quarks to sentient beings to supergalactic strings. “Showing doing” is performing: pointing to, under­ lining, and displaying doing. “Explaining ‘showing doing'” is performance studies.

It is very important to distinguish these categories from each other. “Being” may be active or static, linear or circular, expanding or contracting, material or spiritual. Being is a philosophical category pointing to whatever people theorize is the “ultimate reality.” “Doing” and “showing doing” are actions. Doing and showing doing are always in flux, always changing — reality as the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus experienced it. Heraclitus aphorized this perpetual flux: “No one can step twice into the same river, nor touch mortal substance twice in the same condition” (fragment 41) .The fourth term, “explaining ‘showing doing’,” is a reflexive effort to comprehend the world of perfor­ mance and the world as performance.This comprehension is usually the work of critics and scholars. But sometimes, in Brechtian theatre where the actor steps outside the role to comment on what the character is doing, and in critically aware performance art such as Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s and Coco Fusco’s Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit West (1992), a performance is reflexive. I discuss this sort of performance in Chapters 5,6, and 8.

Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535-475 BCE): Greek philosopher credited with the creation of the doctrine of “£lux,n the theory of impermanence and change, You can’t step into the same river twice because the flow of the river insures that new water continually replaces the old. * ;

Guillermo G6mez~Pefia {1955*-* ): Mexican-born bi-national performance artist and author, leader of La Pocha Nostra. His works include both writings Warriorfor Gringostroika (1993), The New World Border (1996)> Dangerous Border Crosseh (2000), and Ethno-Techno Writings on Performance, Activism, and Pedagogy (2005, with Elain e Pena) — and performances: Border Brup (1990), El Nafiazeca (1994), Border Stasis (1998), Brownout: Border Pulp Stories. (2001), and Mexterminator vs the Global Predator (2005). – .

Coco Fusco (I960- ): Cuban-born interdisciplinary artist based in New York City, Collaborated with Guillermo Gomes-Pena on the performance Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit the West (1992) Other performances include: Dolores from Wh to 22h (2002, with Ricardo Dominguez) and The Incredible Disappearing Woman (2003 with Ricardo Dominguez). Fusco is the author of English is Broken Here (199S), Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of ‘the Americas (2000) Bodies That Were Not Ours (2001), and Only Skin Deep (2003, with Wallis).

reflexive; referring back to oneself or itself.

P e r f o r m a n c e s

Performances mark identities, bend time, reshape and adorn the body, and tell stories. Performances — of art, rituals, or ordinary life — are “restored behaviors,” “twice-behaved behaviors,” performed actions that people train for and rehearse (see Goffman box). That making art involves traininthe g and rehearsing is clear. But everyday life also involves years of training and practice, of learning appro­ priate culturally specific bits of behavior, of adjusting and


nd h


performing one’s life roles in relation to social and personal circumstances.The long infancy and childhood specific to the human species is an extended period of training and rehearsal for the successful performance of adult life. “Graduation” into adulthood is marked in many cultures by initiation rites. But even before adulthood some persons more com­ fortably adapt to the life they live than others who resist or rebel. Most people live the tension between acceptance and rebellion. The activities of public life — sometimes calm, sometimes full of turmoil; sometimes visible, sometimes masked — are collective performances. These activities range from sanctioned politics through to street demon­ strations and other forms of protest, and on to revolution. The performers of these actions intend to change things, to maintain the status quo, or, most commonly, to find or make some common ground. A revolution or civil war occurs when the players do not desist and there is no common ground. Any and all of the activities of human life can be studied “as” performance (I will discuss “as” later in this chapter). Every action from the smallest to the most encompassing is made of twice-behaved behaviors.

What about actions that are apparently “once-behaved”— the Happenings of Allan Kaprow, for example, or an everyday life occurrence (cooking, dressing, taking a walk, talking to a friend)? Even these are constructed from behaviors previously behaved. In fact, the everydayness of everyday life is precisely its familiarity, its being built from known bits of behavior rearranged and shaped in order to suit

specific circumstances. But it is also true that many events and behaviors are one-time events. Their “onceness” is a function of context, reception, and the countless ways bits of behavior can be organized, performed, and displayed. The overall event may appear to be new or original, but its constituent parts — if broken downfinely enough and analyzed — are revealed as restored behaviors. “Lifelike” art — as Kaprow calls much of his work — is close to everyday life. Kaprow’s art slightly underlines, highlights, or makes one aware of ordinary behavior — paying close attention to how a meal is prepared, looking back at one’s footsteps after walking in the desert. Paying attention to simple activities performed in the present moment is developing a Zen consciousness in relation to the daily, an honoring of the ordinary. Honoring the ordinary is noticing how ritual-like daily life is, how much daily life consists of repetitions.

: Allan Kaprow (1927-2006): American artist who coined the term “Happening** to describe his 1959 installation/performance 1S Happenings in 6 Parts, Author of Assemblage, Environments a Happenings (1966), Essays on the Blurring of Art and life (2003, wit Jeff Kelley), and Childsplay (2004, with Jeff Kelley), *

• • > !•

restored behavior: physical, verbal> or virtual Actions that are not-for-the-first time; that are prepared or rehearsed. A person may not be aware that she is performing a strip of restored behavior. Also referred to as twice-behaved behavior.

Erving G o f f l T i a n

Defining performance

A ‘”performance” may be defined as all the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants. Taking a particular participant and his performance as a basic point of reference, we may refer to those who contribute to the other performances as the audience, observers, or co-participants. The pre-established pattern of action which is unfolded during a performance and which may be presented or played through on other occasions may be called a “part” or a “routine.” These situational terms can easily be related to conventional structural ones. When an individual or performer plays the same part to the same audience on different occasions, a social relationship is likely to arise. Defining social role as the enactment of rights and duties attached to a given status, we can say that a social role will involve one or more parts and that each of these different parts may be presented by the performer on a series of occasions to the same kinds of audiences or to an audience of the same persons.

1959, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 15-16



There is a paradox here. How can both Heraclitus and the theory of restored behavior be right? Performances are made from bits of restored behavior, but every performance is different from every other. First, fixed bits of behavior can be recombined in endless variations. Second, no event can exactly copy another event. Not only the behavior itself — nuances of mood, tone of voice, body language, and so on, but also the specific occasion and context make each instance unique. What about mechanically, digitally, or biologically reproduced replicants or clones? It may be that a film or a digitized performance art piece will be the same at each showing. But the context of every reception makes each instance different. Even though every “thing” is exactly the same, each event in which the “thing” participates is different. The uniqueness of an event does not depend on its materiality solely but also on its interactivity — and the interactivity is always in flux. If this is so with regard to film and digitized media, how much more so for live performance, where both production and reception vary from instance to instance. Or in daily life, where context cannot be perfectly controlled. Thus, ironically, performances resist that which produces them.

P Which leads to the question, “Where do performances take place?” A painting “takes place” in the physical object; a novel takes place in the words. But a performance takes place as action, interaction, and relation. In this regard, a painting or a novel can be performative or can be analyzed “as” performance. Performance isn’t “in” anything, but “between.” Let me explain. A performer in ordinary life, in a ritual, at play, or in the performing arts does/shows something — performs an action. For example, a mother lift a spoon to her own mouth and then to a baby’s mouth to show the baby how to eat cereal. The performance is the action of lifting the spoon, bringing it to mother ‘js mouth, and then to baby’s mouth. The baby is at first the spectator of its mother’s performance. At some point, the baby becomes a co-performer as she takes the spoon and tries the same action

— often at first missing her mouth and messing up her lip and chin with food. Father videotapes the whole show. Later, maybe many years later, the baby is a grown woman showing to her own baby a home video of the day when she began to learn how to use a spoon. Viewing this video is another performance existing in the complex relation between the original event, the video of the event, the memory of parents now old or maybe dead, and the present moment of delight as mother points to the screen and tells her baby, “That was mdmmy when I was your age!”The first performance “takes place” in between the action of showing baby how to use the spoon and baby’s reaction to this action. The second




performance takes place between the videotape of the first performance and the reception of that first performance by both the baby-now-mother and her own baby (oranyone else watching the videotape). What is true of this “home movie” performance is true of all performances. To treat any object, work, or product “as” performance — a painting, a novel, a shoe, or anything at all — means to investigate what the object does, how it interacts with other objects or beings, and how it relates to other objects or beings. Performances exist only as actions, interactions, and relationships.

Bill Pa r e e l Is w a n t s y o u

t o p e r f o r m

A 1939 full-page advertisement in The NewYork Times selling the Cadillac Seville car features American legendary football coach Bill Parcells staring out at the reader (see figure 2.1). One of Parcells’ eyes is in shadow, the darkness blending into the background for the stark large white-on-black text:





Bill Parcells (1941- ): American football coach. Winner in 198^ and 1991 of two Superbowls with the New York Giants, , ^

Underneath a photograph of a Seville, the text continues in smaller type, “Great performers have always made a big impression on Bill Parcells. That explains his strong appreciation for Seville [. . .].”

The ad conflates performing in sports, business, sex, the arts, and technology. Parcells excels as a football coach. By making demands upon his players he motivates them and they respond on the field with winning performances. Parcells’ excellence derives from his drive, his ability to organize, and his insistence on careful attention to each detail of the game. His stare has “sex appeal”—his penetrating gaze is that of a potent man able to control the giants who play football. He combines mastery, efficiency, and beauty. At the same time, Parcells displays an understated flash; he




knows he is playing to the camera and to the crowds. All of this informs the ad, which tries to convince viewers that the Cadillac, like Parcells, is at the top of its game, sexy and powerful, well made down to the last detail, dependable, the leader in its field, and something that will stand out in a crowd.

fig 2.1. Football coach Bllf Parcells in an advertisement for Cadillac automobiles that appeared in The hew York Times in 1999. Phot courtesy of General Motors Corporation.

E i g h t k i n d s o f p e r f o r m a n c e

Performances occur in- eight sometimes separate, sometimes overlapping situations:

1 in everyday life — cooking, socializing, “just living” 2 in the arts

3 in sports and other popular entertainments 4 in business 5 in technology 6 in sex 7 in ritual — sacred and secular

in play.

Even this list does not exhaust the possibilities (see Carlson box). If examined rigorously as theoretical categories, the eight situations are not commensurate. “Everyday life” can encompass most of the other situations. The arts take as their subjects materials from every what and everywhere. Ritual and play are not only “genres” of performance but present in all of the situations as qualities, inflections, or moods. I list these eight to indicate the large territory covered by performance. Some items — those occurring in business, technology, and sex — are not usually analyzed with the others, which have been the loci of arts-based performance theories. And the operation of making categories such as these eight is the result of a particular culture-specific kind of thinking.

Marv i n C a r l s o n

What is performance?

The term ^performance” has become extremely popular in recent years in a wide range of activities in the arts, in literature, and in the social sciences. As its popu­ larith y and usage has grown, so has a complex body of writing about performance, attempting to analyze and understand just what sort of human activity it is. [. . J The recognition that our lives are structured according to repeated and socially sanctioned modes of behavior raises the possibility that all human activity could potentially be considered as ‘̂ performance,” or at least all activity carried out with a conscious­ ness of itself. [. . J If we consider performance as an essentially contested concept, this will help us to understand the futility of seeking some overarching semantic field to cover such seemingly disparate usages as the performance of an actor, of a schoolchild, of an automobile.

1996, Performances Critical Introduction, 4-5






• J – l l i ” S B


It is impossible to come at a subject except from one’s own cultural positions. But once I began writing this book, the best I could do is to be aware of, and share with the reader, my biases and limitations. That having been noted, designating music, dance, and theatre as the “performing arts”may seem relatively simple. But as categories even these are ambiguous. What is designated “art,” if anything at all, varies historically and culturally. Objects and performances called “art” in some cultures are like what is made or done in other cultures without being so designated. Many cultures do not have a word for, or category called, “art” even though they create performances and objects demonstrating a highly developed aesthetic sense realized with consummate skill.

Not only making but evaluating “art” occurs everywhere. People all around the world know how to distinguish “good” from “bad” dancing, singing, orating, storytelling, sculpting, fabric design, pottery, painting, and so on. But what makes something “good” or “bad” varies greatly from place to place, time to time, and even occasion to occasion. The ritual objects of one culture or one historical period become the artworks of other cultures or periods. Museums of art are full of paintings and objects that once were regarded as sacred (and still may be by pillaged peoples eager to regain their ritual objects and sacred remains). Furthermore, even if a performance has a strong aesthetic dimension, it is not necessarily “art.” The moves of basketball players are as beautiful as those of ballet dancers, but one is termed sport,

the other art. Figure skating and gymnastics exist in both realms (see figure 2.2). Deciding what is art depends on context, historical circumstance, use, and local conventions.

Separating “art” from “ritual” is particularly difficult. I have noted that ritual objects from many cultures are featured in art museums. But consider also religious services with music, singing, dancing, preaching, storytelling, speaking in tongues, and healing. At a Christian evangelical church service, for example, people go into trance, dance in the aisles, give testimony, receive anointment and baptism. The gospel music heard in African-American churches is closely related to blues, jazz, and rock and roll. Are such services art or ritual? Composers, visual artists, and performers have long made works of fine art for use in rituals. To what realm does Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor and his many cantatas or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C Minor belong? Church authorities in medieval Europe such as Amalarius, the Bishop of Metz, asserted that the Mass was theatre equivalent to ancient Greek tragedy (see Hardison box). More than a few people attend religious services as much for aesthetic pleasure and social interactivity as for reasons of belief. In many cultures, participatory performing is the core of ritual practices. In ancient Athens, the great theatre festivals were ritual, art, sports-like competition, and popular entertainment simultaneously. Today, sports are both live and media entertainment featuring competition, ritual, spectacle, and big business.

fig 2.2. Ice skater Denise Biellmenn does a triple toe-loop as seen in a time-lapse photograph, n.d. Photograph by Alberto V/enzago. Copyrigh Camera Press, London.



Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): German composer; choir director, and organist. His polyphonic compositions of sacred music place him among Europe’s most influential composers.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756—91): Austrian composer whose vast output and range of compositions including operas, symphonies, and liturgical music.

Amalaritts of Metz (780-850): Roman Catholic bishop and theologian, author of several major treatises on the performance of liturgical rites, including Eclogae de ordine romano (Pastoral on the Roman Kite) (814) and Liher officiahs (Book of the Ser (821)/ ••’ ‘ . • : ‘ • • . : • . – • ‘ . •


As noted, some sports are close to fine arts. Gymnastics, figure skating, and high diving are recognized by the Olympics. But there are no quantitative ways to determine winners as there are in racing, javelin throwing, or weight lifting. Instead, these “aesthetic athletes” are judged

qualitatively on the basis of “form” and “difficulty.” Their performances are more like dancing than competitions of speed or strength. But with the widespread use of slow- motion photography and replay, even “brute sports” like football, wrestling, and boxing yield an aesthetic dimension that is more apparent in the re-viewing than in the swift, tumultuous action itself. An artful add-on is the taunting and victory displays of athletes who- dance and prance their superiority.

For all that, everyone knows the difference between going to church, watching a football game, or attending one of the performing arts. The difference is based on function, the circumstance of the event within society, the venue,

logues \ and the behavior expected of the players and spectators. e) ” There is even a big difference between various genres of the performing arts. Being tossed around a mosh pit at a rock concert is very different from applauding a performance of the American Ballet Theatre’s Giselle at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. Dance emphasizes movement, theatre emphasizes narration and impersonation, sports emphasize competition, and ritual emphasizes participation and communication with transcendent forces or beings.

< Dia vic ;

o. B. H a r d i s o n

The medieval Mass was drama

That there is a close relationship between allegorical interpretation of the liturgy and the history of drama becomes apparent the moment we turn to the Amalarian interpretations. Without exception, they present the Mass as an elaborate drama with definite roles assigned to the participants and a plot whose ultimate significance is nothing less than the “renewal of the whole plan of redemption” through the re-creation of the “life, death, and resurrection” of Christ. [… J The church is regarded as a theatre. The drama enacted has a coherent plot based on conflict between a champion and an antagonist. The plot has a rising action, culminating in the passion and entombment. At its climax there is a dramatic reversal, the Resurrection, correlated with the emotional transition from the Canon of the Mass to the Communion. Something like dramatic catharsis is expressed in the gaudium [joy at the news of the Resurrection] of the Postcommunion. C. . J

Should church vestments then, with their elaborate symbolic meanings, be considered costumes? Should the paten, chalice, sindon, sudarium, candles, and thurible be considered stage properties? Should the nave, chancel, presbyterium, and altar of the church be considered a stage, and its windows, statues, images, and ornaments a “setting”? As long as there is clear recognition that these elements are hallowed, that they are the sacred phase of parallel elements turned to secular use-on the profane stage, it is possible to answer yes. Just as the Mass is a sacred drama encompassing all history and embodying in its structure the central pattern of Christian life on which all Christian drama must draw, the celebration of the Mass contains all elements necessary to secular performances. The Mass as the general, case – for Christian culture, the archetype. Individual dramas are shaped in its mold.

1965, Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages, 39-40, 79

o r



In business, to perform means doing a job efficiently with maximum productivity. In the corporate world, people, machines, systems, departments, and organizations are required to perform. At least since the advent of the factory in the nineteenth century, there has been a merging of the human, the technical, and the organizational. This has led to an increase in material wealth — and also the sense that individuals are just “part of the machine” (see figure 2.3). But also this melding of person and machine has an erotic quality. There is something sexual about high performance in business,” just as there is a lot that’s busi­ nesslike in sexual performance. Sexual performance also invokes meanings drawn from the arts and sports. Consider the range of meanings attached to the phrases “performing sex,” “How did s/he perform in bed?” and being a “sexual performer.” The first refers to the act in itself and the second to how well one “does it,” while the third implies an element of either going to extremes or of pretending, of putting on a show and therefore maybe not really doing it at all.

R e s t o r a t i o n o f b e h a v i o r

Let us examine restored behavior more closely. We all perform more than we realize. The habits, rituals, and

routines of life are restored behaviors. Restored behavior is living behavior treated as a film director treats a strip of film. These strips of behavior can be rearranged or recon­ structed; they are independent of the causal systems (personal, social, political, technological, etc.) that brought them into existence. They have a life of their own. The original “truth” or “source” of the behavior may not be known, or may be lost, ignored, or contradicted — even while that truth or source is being honored. How the strips of behavior were made, found, or developed may be unknown or concealed; elaborated; distorted by myth and tradition. Restored behavior can be of long duration as in ritual performances or of short duration as in fleeting gestures such as waving goodbye.

Restored behavior is the key process of every kind of performing, in everyday life, in healing, in ritual, in play, and in the arts. Restored behavior is “out there,” separate from “me.”To put it in personal terms, restored behavior is “me behaving as if I were someone else,” or “as I am told to do,” or “as I have learned.” Even if I feel myself wholly to be myself, acting independently, only a little investigating reveals that the units of behavior that comprise “me” were not invented by “me.” Or, quite the opposite, I may experience being “beside myself,” “not myself,” or “taken over” as in trance. The fact that there are multiple “me”s in every

fig 2.3. Charlie Chaplin turning, and being turned by, the wheels of industry in Modern Times, 1936. The Kobal Collection.



person is not a sign of derangement but the way things are. The ways one performs one’s selves are connected to the ways people perform others in dramas, dances, and rituals. In fact, if people did not ordinarily come into contact with their multiple selves, the art of acting and the experience of pos­ session trance would not be possible. Most performances, in daily life and otherwise, do not have a single author. Rituals, games, and the performances of everyday life are authored by the collective “Anonymous” or the “Tradition.” Individuals given credit for inventing rituals or games usually turn out to be synthesizers, recombiners, compilers, or editors of already practiced actions.

Restored behavior includes a vast range of actions. In fact, all behavior is restored behavior — all behavior consists of recombining bits of previously behaved behaviors. Of course, most of the time people aren’t aware that they are doing any such thing. People just “live life.” Performances are marked, framed, or heightened behavior separated out from just “living life”—restored restored behavior, if you will. However, for my purpose here, it is not necessary to pursue this doubling. It is enough to define restored behavior as marked, framed, or heightened. Restored behavior can be “me” at another time or psychological state — for example, telling the story of or acting out a celebratory or traumatic event. Restored behavior can bring into play non-ordinary reality as in the Balinese trance dance enacting the struggle between the demoness Rangda and the Lion-god Barong (see figure 2.4). Restored behavior can be actions marked off by aesthetic convention as in theatre, dance, and music. It can be actions reified into the “rules of the game,””etiquette,” or diplomatic “protocol” — or any other of the myriad, known-beforehand actions of life. These vary enormously from culture to cul­ ture. Restored behavior can be a boy not shedding tears when jagged leaves slice the inside of his nostrils during a Papua New Guinea initiation; or the formality of a bride and groom during their wedding ceremony. Because it is marked, framed, and separate, restored behavior can be worked on, stored and recalled, played with, made into something else, transmitted, and transformed.

As I have said, daily life, ceremonial life, and artistic life consist largely of routines, habits, and rituals: the recom­ bination of already behaved behaviors. Even the “latest,” “original/'”shocking,” or “avant-garde” is mostly either a new combination of known behaviors or the displacement of a behavior from a known to an unexpected context or occa­ sion. Thus, for example, nakedness caused a stir in the performing arts in the 1960s and early 1970s. But why the shock? Nude paintings and sculp tings were commonplace. At the other end of the “high art—low art” spectrum, striptease

was also common — and erotic. But the naked art in museums were representations presumed to be non-erotic; and strip­ tease was segregated and gender-specific: female strippers, male viewers. The “full frontal nudity” in productions such as Dionysus in 69 (1968) or Oh! Calcutta (1972) caused a stir because actors of both genders were undressing in high-art/live-performance venues and these displays were sometimes erotic. This kind of nakedness was different than naked bodies at home or in gymnasium shower rooms.

fig 2.4. The lion god Barong ready to do battle against the demon Rangda In Balinese ritual dance theatre, 1980s. Photograph Jim Hart, Director of TITAN Theatre School, Norway. .

At first, this art could not be comfortably categorized or “placed.” But it didn’t take long before high-art naked performers were accommodated in-many genres and venues, from ballet to Broadway, on campuses and in store­ front theatres. Even pornography has gone mainstream, further blurring genre boundaries (see Lanham box). Of .course, in many cultures nakedness is the norm. In others, such as Japan, it has long been acceptable in certain public circumstances and forbidden in others. Today, no one in most global metropolitan cities can get a rise out of spectators or critics by performing naked. But don’t try it in Kabul — or as part of kabuki.

Restored behavior is symbolic and reflexive (see Geertz box). Its meanings need to be decoded by those in the know. This is not a question of “high” versus “low” culture. A sports fan knows the rules and strategies of the game, the statistics of key players, the standings, and many other historical and technical details. Ditto for the fans of rock bands. Sometimes the knowledge about restored behavior is esoteric, privy to only the initiated. Among Indigenous Australians, the outback itself is full of significant rocks, trails, water



Robert L a n h a m


Known informally as alt-porn, this genre attempts embellish pornography with a hip veneer by offering soft- to hard-core erotic next to interviews with members of appropriately cool and underground bands. The form first surfaced in 2001, when the West Coast web site SuicideGirls began to offer erotic photos of young women online. Later the site added interviews of artist and celebrities (from Woody Allen to Natalie Portman to the current hot band, Bloc Party) and then soft-core videos online. Imitators like fatalbeauty.com, brokendollz.com and more than a dozen others soon followed.

Joanna Angel, 24, started BurningAngel in 2002 as a hard-core alternative to such sites. L . JThefirstxxBurningAngel.com The Movie” was released for sale online on April 1 [2005] and sells for $20. Shot on a shoestring budget of $4,000, the film, which stars Ms. Angel (her stage name), is a series of hard-core sex scenes strung together without benefit of a plot. It burnishes its hipster credentials by incorporating music by the Brooklyn band Turing Machine and Tim Armstrong of Rancid. Interviews with bands like Dillinger Escape Plan and My Chemical Romance are interspersed with the sex.

uSome people make music, others paint, I make porn/7 she [Ms. Angel] said. Still, Ms. Angel is in no way a pioneer in he field; there seem to be plenty of women who, rather than struggle to get published in The Paris Review or written up in ArtNews, have instead channeled their creative ambitions into erotica.

} 2005, uWearing Nothing but Attitude,” 15.






j C l i f f o rd G e e r t z

\ Human behavior as symbolic action

I Once human behavior is seen as [. . . ] symbolic action – action which, like phonation in speech, pigment in painting, line i writing, or sonance in music, signifies – the question as to whether culture is patterned conduct or a frame of mind, or even the two somehow mixed together, loses sense. L . J Behavior must be attended to, and with some exactness, because it is through the flow of behavior – or more precisely, social action – that cultural forms find articulation. They find it as well, of course, in various sorts of artifacts, and various states of consciousness; but these draw their meaning from the role they play [. .” J in an ongoing pattern of life C. . J.

1973, The Interpretation of Cultures, 10,



.V C D C

holes, and other markings that form a record of the actions of mythical beings. Only the initiated know the relationship between the ordinary geography and the sacred geography. To become conscious of restored behavior is to recognize the process by which social processes in all their multiple forms are transformed into theatre.Theatre, not in the limited sense of enactments of dramas on stages (which, after all, is a practice that, until it became very widespread as part of colonialism, belonged to relatively few cultures), but in the broader sense outlined in Chapter 1. Performance in the

restored behavior sense means never for the first time, always for the second to nth time: twice-behaved behavior.

C a u t i o n ! B e w a r e o f

g e n e r a l i z a t i o n s

I want to emphasize: Performances can be generalized at the theoretical level of restoration of behavior, but as embodied practices each and every performance is specific and differ­




ent from every other. The differences enact the conventions and traditions of a genre, the personal choices made by the performers, directors, and authors, various cultural patterns, historical circumstances, and the particularities of reception. Take wrestling, for example. In Japan, the moves of a sumo wrestler are well determined by long tradition.These moves include the athletes’ swaggering circulation around the ring, adjusting their groin belts, throwing handfuls of salt, eyeballing the opponent, and the final, often very brief, grapple of the two enormous competitors (see figure 2.5). Knowing spectators see in these carefully ritualized displays a centuries-old tradition linked to Shinto, the indigenous Japanese religion. By contrast, American professional wrestling is a noisy sport for “outlaws” where each wrestler flaunts his own raucous and carefully constructed identity (see figure 2.6). During the matches referees are clobbered, wrestlers are thrown from the ring, and cheating is endemic. All this is spurred on by fans who hurl epithets and objects. However, everyone knows that the outcome of American wrestling is determined in advance, that the lawlessness is

play-acting — it’s pretty much “all a show.” Fans of sumo and fans of World Wrestling Federation matches know their heroes and villains, can tell you the history of their sport, and react according to accepted conventions and traditions. Both sumo and what occurs under the banner of the World Wrestling Federation are “wrestling;” each enacts the values of its particular culture.

What’s true of wrestling is also true of the performing arts, political demonstrations, the roles of everyday life (doctor, mother, cop, etc.), and all other performances. Each genre is divided into many sub-genres. What is American theatre? Broadway, off Broadway, off off Broadway, regional theatre, community theatre, community-based theatre, college theatre, and more. Each sub-genre has its own particularities — similar in some ways to related forms but also different. And the whole system could be looked at from other perspectives — in terms, for example, of comedy, tragedy, melodrama, musicals; or divided according to professional or amateur, issue-oriented or apolitical, and so on. Nor are categories fixed or static. New genres emerge,

fig 2.5. Japanese sumo wrestlers grappling in the ring. The referee in ritual dress is in the left foreground. Photograph by Michael Maclntyre Copyright Eye Ubiquitous/Hutchison Picture Library.



fig 2.6. (above) “The Road Warriors” professional American wrestler posing with their manager. -Copyright 5uperstar Wrestling, (right) Wahoo HcDaniel displaying himself for his admiring fans. Copyright www.pwbts.com.


others fade away. Yesterday’s avant-garde is today’s main­ stream is tomorrow’s forgotten practice. Particular genres migrate from one category to another.

Take jazz, for example. During its formative years at the start of the twentieth century, jazz was not regarded as an art. It waŝ akin to “folk performance” or “popular entertainment.” But as performers moved out of red-light districts into respectable clubs and finally into concert halls, scholars increasingly paid attention to jazz. A substantial repertory of music was archived. Particular musicians’ works achieved canonical status. By the 1950s jazz was regarded as “art.” Today’s popular music includes rock, rap, and reggae, but not “pure jazz.” But that is not to say that rock and other forms of pop music will not someday be listened to and regarded in the same way that jazz or classical music is now.The categories of”folk,””pop,” and “classical” have more to do with ideology, politics, and economic power than with the formal qualities of the music.

” I s ” a n d ” a s ” p e r f o r m a n c e

What is the difference between “is” performance and “as” performance? Certain events are performances and other events less so. There are limits to what “is” performance. But just about anything can be studied “as” performance. Something “is” a performance when historical and social context, convention, usage, and tradition say it is. Rituals, play and games, and the roles of everyday life are perfor­ mances because convention, context, usage, and tradition say

so. One cannot determine what “is” a performance without referring to specific cultural circumstances.There-is nothing inherent in an action in itself that makes it a performance or disqualifies it from being a performance. From the vantage of the kind of performance theory I am propounding, every action is a performance. But from the vantage of cultural practice, some actions will be deemed performances and others not; and this will vary from culture to culture, historical period to historical period.

Let me use the European tradition as an example to explain in more detail how definitions operate within contexts. What “is” or “is not” performance does not depend on an event in itself but on how that event is received and placed. Today the enactment of dramas by actors “is” a theatrical performance. But it was not always so. What we today call “theatre” people in other times did not.The ancient Greeks used words similar-to ours to describe the theatre (our words derive from theirs), but what the Greeks meant




in practice was very different from what we mean. During the epoch of the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the enactment of tragic dramas was more a ritual infused with competitions for prizes for the best actor and the best play than it was theatre in our sense. The occasions for the playing of the tragedies were religious festivals. Highly sought-after prizes were awarded. These prizes were based on aesthetic excellence, but the events in which that excel­ lence was demonstrated were not artistic but ritual. It was Aristotle, writing a century after the high point of Greek tragedy as embodied performance, who codified the aesthetic understanding of theatre in its entirety — in all of its “six parts,” as the philosopher parsed it. After Aristotle, in Hellenic and Roman times, the entertainment-aesthetic aspect of theatre became more dominant as the ritual-efficacious elements receded.

Aeschylus (c. 525-c>456 BCB): Greek playwright and actor, j regarded a£ the first great tragedian, Surviving works include The : Persians (ci47ZBCE}mdTheQresteia(4>S8BCE). ‘ ”

j Sophocles (c* 496~c» 406 BCE): Greek playwright, credited with j introducing the third actor onto the stage of tragedy. Surviving plays \ l include Oedipus the King (c. 429 BCE), Ekctra (date uncertain), a { Antigone (c. 441 BCE), ‘*\ ‘


Euripides (c. 485—c. 405 BCB): Greek playwright whose surviving works include Medea (431 BCE), Hippolytm (428 BCE), The Troja Women (415 BCE), and TheBacchae (c, 405 BCE)»

Skipping forward more than a millennium to medieval Europe, acting written dramas on public stages was “forgotten” or at least not practiced. But there was not a scarcity of performances. On the streets, in town squares, in churches, castles, and mansions a wide range of popular entertainments and religious ceremonies held people’s attention. There were a multitude of mimes, magicians, animal acts, acrobats, puppet shows, and what would later become the commedia delTarte. The Church offered a rich panoply of feasts, services, and rituals. By the fourteenth century the popular entertainments and religious obser­ vances joined to form the basis for the great cycle plays celebrating and enacting the history of the world from Creation through the Crucifixion and Resurrection to the Last Judgment. These we would now call “theatre,” but they were not named that at the time. The anti-theatrical prejudice of the Church disallowed any such designation. But

then, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the revolution in thought and practice called the Renaissance began. Renaissance means “rebirth” because the humanists of the day thought they were bringing back to life the classical culture of Greece and Rome. When Andrea Palladio designed theTeatro Olimpico (Theatre of Olympus) inVicenza, Italy, he believed he was reinventing a Greek theatre — the first production in the Olimpico was Sophocles’ Oedipus — not pointing the way to the modern proscenium theatre which the Olimpico did.

Andrea Palladio (1508-80): Italian architect who worked in Vicenza and Venice designing villas and churches, .Palladia’s Teatro Olimpico, completed four years after his death, is the only remaining

, example of an indoor Renaissance theatre. Author of/ Quattro Libr delT Architettura (1S 70, The Four Boohs on Architecture^ 1997

i ) >

Take another leap to the last third of the nineteenth century. The notion of theatre as an art was by then well established. In fact, so well founded that counter-movements called “avant-garde” erupted frequently as efforts among radical artists to disrupt the status quo. Onward into and throughout the twentieth century, each new wave attempted

dt o\ dislodge what went before. Some of yesterday’s avant­ ! garde became today’s establishment. The list of avant-garde movements is long, including realism, naturalism, symbolism, futurism, surrealism, constructivism, Dada, expressionism, cubism, theatre of the absurd, Happenings, Fluxus, environ­

n mental theatre, performance art . . . and more. Sometimes worki s in these styles were considered theatre, sometimes dance, sometimes music, sometimes visual art, sometimes multimedia, etc. Often enough, events were attacked or dismissed as not being art at all — as were Happenings, an antecedent to performance art. Allan Kaprow, creator of the first Happening, jumped at this chance to make a distinction between “artlike art” and “lifelike art” (see Kaprow box). The term “performance art” was coined in the 1970s as an umbrella for works that otherwise resisted categorization.


The outcome is that today many events that formerly would not be thought of as art are now so designated. These kinds of actions are performed everywhere, not just in the West. The feedback loop is very complicated. The work of a Japanese dancer may affect a German choreographer whose dances in turn are elaborated on by a Mexican performance artist . . . and so on without definite national or cultural limits. Beyond composed artworks is a blurry world of “accidental” or “incidental” performance. Webcams broadcast over the internet what people do at home. Television frames


^ B




the news as entertainment. Public figures need to be media savvy. Is it by accident that an actor, Ronald Reagan, became president of the USA and that a playwright, Vaclav Havel, became president of the Czech Republic, while another actor and playwright, Karol Jozef Wojtyla, became pope? Performance theorists argue that everyday life is performance — courses are offered in the aesthetics of everyday life. At present, there is hardly any human activity that is not a performance for someone somewhere. Generally, the tendency over the past century has been to dissolve the boundaries separating performing from not- performing, art from not-art. At one end of the spectrum its clear what a performance is, what an artwork is; at the other end of the spectrum no such clarity exists.

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004): fortieth president of the United States (1981-89) and Governor of California (1967-75), Reagan was a broadcaster, movie actor, and public speaker before entering electoral polities’. Known as the “Great Communicator,” Reagan*s self-deprecating quips and relaxed manner on camera endeared him to millions despite his conservative and often bellicose policies.

Vaclav Havel (1936— ): Czech playwright who was the last president of Czechoslovakia (1989—92) and the first of the Czech Republic (1993—2003)/ Afierce defender offree speech and leader of the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 overturning Communist rule, Havel’s often political plays include The Memorandum (1965), Protest (1978), and Redevelopment (1978).

Karol Jozef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II (1920-200S): Polish actor and playwright who in 1978 became pope. During,World War II, Wojtyla was a member of the Rhapsodic Theatre, an underground resistance group. Ordained as a priest in 1945, Wojtyla continued to write for and about the theatre. His theatrical knowledge served him well as a globe-trotting, media-savvy pontiff. See his Collected Plays and Writings on Theater (1987).

M i a n K a p r o w

Art I ike art and lifelike art

Western art actually has two avantgarde histories:’ one of artlike art, and the other of lifelike art. C. . J Simplistically put, artlike art holds that art is separate from life and everything else, while lifelike art holds that art is connected to life and everything else. In other words, there’s art at the service of art, and art at the service of life. The maker of artlike art tends to be a specialist; the maker of lifelike art, a generalist. C. . J

Avantgarde artlike art occupies the majority of attention from artists and public. It is usually seen as serious and a part of the mainstream Western art- historical tradition, in which mind is separate from body, individual is separate from people, civilization is separate from nature, and each art is separate from the other. C. . J Avantgarde artlike art basically believes in (or does not eliminate) the continuity of the traditionally separate genres of visual art, music, dance, literature, theatre, etc. C. . J

Avantgarde lifelike art, in contrast, concerns an intermittent minority (Futurists, Dadas, guatai, Happeners, fluxartists, Earthworkers, body artists, provos, postal artists, noise musicians, performance poets, shamanistic artists, conceptualists). Avantgarde lifelike art is not nearly as serious as avantgarde artlike art. Often it is quite humorous.

It isn’t very interested in the great Western tradition either, since it tends to mix things up: body with mind, individual with people in general, civilization with nature, and so on. Thus it mixes up the traditional art genres, or avoids them entirely – for example, a mechanical fiddle playing around the clock to a cow in the barnyard. Or going to the laundromat.

Despite formalist and idealist interpretations of art, lifelike art makers’ principal dialogue is not with art but with everything else, one event suggesting another. If you don’t know much about life, you’ll miss much of the meaning of the lifelike art that’s born of it. Indeed, it’s never certain if an artist who creates avantgarde lifelike art is an artist.

1983, uThe Real Experiment,” 36, 38

M a p s ” a s ” p e r f o r m a n c e

Any behavior, event, action, or thing can be studied “as” performance. Take maps, for example. Everyone knows the world is round and maps areflat. But you can’t see the whole world at the same time on a globe. You can’t fold a globe and tuck it in your pocket or backpack. Maps flatten the world the better to lay out territories on a table or tack them to a wall. On most maps, nations are separated from each other


by colors and lines, and cities appear as circles, rivers as lines, and oceans as large, usually blue, areas. Nation-states drawn on maps seem so natural that when some people picture the world they imagine it divided into nation-states. Everything on a map is named — being “on the map” means achieving status. But the “real earth” does not look like its mapped representations — or even like a globe. People were astonished when they saw the first photographs taken from space of the white-flecked blue ball Earth (see figure 2.7) .There was no sign of a human presence at all.

Nor are maps neutral. They perform a particular interpretation of the world. Every map is a “projection,” a specific way of representing a sphere on a flat surface. On maps, nations do not overlap or share territories. Boundaries are definite. If more than one nation enforces its claim to the same space, war threatens, as between Pakistan and India

fig 2.7. The Americas and Hurricane Andrew as photographed by weather satellite in 1992. Image source NA5A.


over Kashmir, or Palestine and Israel over Jerusalem. The most common projection in use today is derived from the Mercator Projection, developed in the sixteenth century by the Flemish geographer-cartographer Gerardus Mercator (see figure 2.8).

Gerardus Mercator (IS 12-94): Flemish geographer-cartographer whose basic system of mapr making is still practiced today. His actual name was Gerhard Kremer, but like many European scholars of his day, he Latinized his name.

The Mercator Projection distorts the globe wildly in favor of the northern hemisphere. The further north, the relatively bigger the territory appears. Spain is as large as Zimbabwe, North America dwarfs South America, and Europe is one- fourth the size of Africa. In other words, Mercator’s map enacts the world as the colonial powers wished to view it. Although times have changed since the sixteenth century, the preponderance of world economic and military power remains in the hands of Europe and its North American inheritor, the USA. Perhaps it won’t be this way in another century or two. If so, a different projection will be in common use. Indeed, satellite photography allows a detailed re­ mapping of the globe. There are also maps showing the world “upside down,” that is, with south on top; or drawn according to population, showing China and India more than four times the size of the USA. The Peters Projection developed in 1974 by Arno Peters is an “area accurate” map showing the world’s areas sized correctly in relation to each other (see figure 2.9). No longer is Greenland the same size as Africa when in fact Africa is fourteen times larger than Greenland. But the Peters map has its own inaccuracies. It is not correct in terms of shape — the southern hemisphere is elongated, the northern squashed. Making a flat map of a round earth means that one must sacrifice either accurate shape or size. If the Peters map looks “unnatural,” then you know how much the Mercator Projection — or any other map — is a performance.

fig 2.8. A contemporary version of the Mercator Projection map of the world. Copyright Worldview Publications.


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fig 2.9. The Peters Projection “area accurate” world map. Copyright Oxford Cartographers.

Arno Peters (1916-2002); German historian. Developed in 1974 an area-accurate world map, known as the Peters Projection.

One of the meanings of “to perform” is to get things done according to a particular plan or scenario. Mercator’s maps proved very helpful for navigating the seas because straight lines on the projection kept to compass bearings. Mercator drew his maps to suit the scenarios of the mariners, merchants, and military of an expansionist, colonizing Western Europe. Similarly, the authors of the new maps have scenarios of their own which their maps enact. Interpreting maps this way is to examine map-making “as” performance. Every map not only represents the Earth in a specific way, but also enacts power relationships.

It’s not just maps. Everything and anything can be studied “as” any discipline of study — physics, economics, law, etc. What the “as” says is that the object of study will be regarded “from the perspective of,” “in terms of,” “interrogated by” a particular discipline of study. For example, I am compos­ ing this book on a Dell Dimension 4100 desktop computer. If I regard it “as physics,” I would examine its size, weight, and other physical qualities, perhaps even its atomic and

subatomic qualities. If I regard it “as mathematics,” I would delve into the binary codes of its programs. Regarding it “as law” would mean interpreting networks of patents, copy­ rights, and contracts. If I were to treat the computer “as performance,” I would evaluate the speed of its processor, the clarity of its display, the usefulness of the pre-packaged software, its size and portability, and so on. I can envision-Bill Parcells staring out at me telling me how well my computer performs.

M a k e b e l i e f a n d m a k e – b e l i e v e

Performances can be either “make-belief” or “make-believe.” The many performances in everyday life such as professional roles, gender and race roles, and shaping one’s identity are not make-believe actions (as playing a role on stage~or in a film most probably is). The performances of everyday life (which I will discuss in more detail in Chapters 5 and 6) “make belief” — create the very social realities they enact. In “make-believe” performances, the distinction between what’s real and what’s pretended is kept clear. Children playing “doctor” or “dress-up” know that they are pretending.


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