Performance Test Labour
Performance: Test: Labour is a practice-led PhD research project that systematically engages the fields of performance art and dance choreography. The research aims to offer new perspectives on the international field of choreography through its negotiations between performance art and dance choreography. The research methodology has been developed across a number of critical approaches in relation to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Research methods have been particularly developed through a close reading of Avital Ronell’s The Test Drive, a work concerned with a Nietzschean understanding of experimentation. Nietzsche’s concept of playing the fool plays an essential role in this. Within this engagement with the test-subject, the research has drawn from an autobiography of the artist’s bio-political engagements with performance art and dance choreography. This autobiographical perspective has itself been informed by Michel Foucault’s engagements with Nietzsche’s understanding of genealogy. In this sense the thesis examines how specific genealogies of choreographic discourse in performance art and dance have served to contextualize this practice. Key artists in a performance art genealogy for this practice include Vito Acconci, Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman, bas Jan Ader and William Pope L. Artists from a dance choreography genealogy include Yvonne Rainer, Pina Bausch, Jerome Bel, Xavier Le Roy, and La Ribot. Jacques Derrida’s Nietzschean perspective of “otobiographies,” on the essential otherness of the autobiographical, has also informed this process of choreographic testing in terms of how these fields have been constructed via ‘the other’ in the artist’s practice. This perspective has also been informed by Judith Butler’s reading of performativity in terms of interpellation and normativity. This test-practice has especially involved the artist performing choreographed solo minimal endurance actions, that include repetition and spoken text, drawing attention to the processes of choreographing, through the lineages of performance art and dance choreography. These lineages are encountered in relation to the role of the ‘other’. Through performative strategies of repetitions of bodily actions in relation to text, this research at first appears to propose that physical labour can be recognised as the primary aspect in making ‘conceptual choreography’ that Bojana Cvejic refers to as ‘conceptual dance’. Such an approach differs from Cvejic, alluding to how this current genre of choreography does not focus on the role of physical labour. The core discovery of this project is how idiocy can be uncovered through an engagement in choreographic practice, in relation to concepts such as Giorgio Agamben’s bare life, to the degree that neither ‘labour’ nor ‘conceptualising’ can take precedence in practice. The research also creates new conditions of possibility for an understanding of labour as an alternative approach to Andre Lepecki’s questioning of the role of the physical body in choreography, in his call for ‘ontological still acts.’ Further contribution of this research is in its play with audience repair. In summary, Performance: Test: Labour, in its negotiations of the relations between performance art and dance choreography develops an original understanding of idiocy in terms of the physical and the conceptual as these notions have been utilized, deployed and related in performance research and practice.