Hesitating performance

Harris, Brent
Gallagher, Sue
Jackson, Mark
Item type
Degree name
Master of Philosophy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

This research project participates in the genre of Performance art. It explores performativity in relation to Emmanuel Levinas' formulation of two interlacing modes of language, the ethical saying and the ontological, political said. The saying is of my originary, ethical relation to the other person that constitutes me, whereas the said is the mode of 'content', knowledge, and ontology. The project suggests that at least two registers of performativity pertain to the saying. One is in Simon Critchley's description of the saying as performative, prior to any decision to perform. In regard to another meaning of performativity, I propose that a political signification of art may be what Levinas calls a "reduction" of the said that 'performs' a showing of the saying. To perform a showing of the saying, would, in a Levinasian engagement, be to make apparent the ultimate interruption by ethics of ontology and politics, thus pointing to a constitutive non-closure of the political like that theorized by Jacques Derrida and by Critchley. Such a non-closure of the political is tentatively linked with critiques of Nicolas Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics such as Claire Bishop's which draw on Jacques Lacan's notion of the subject. Performances explore the notion of the "reduction" of ontology resourced by Derrida's formulation of Levinas' later writing style as involving a sériature; serial and heterogeneous interruptions of the said1. The project has unfolded in a series of performance pieces, and will conclude with a final performance in March 2007. This exegesis articulates the major provocations for the project, contextualises the project with regard to selected art practices, and documents and discusses the major performance pieces.

Performance art , Ontology , Emmanuel Levinas , Jacques Derrida
Publisher's version
Rights statement