Chapter 3: Authorship. In the matter of life and death.


In this chapter I take Roland Barthes' literary idea of author and his political call for The Death of the Author (1977) and transpose it for the live artist who is both author and performer of her own artwork. This is in order to discuss how she might begin to mediate her own presence within that artwork. Barthes challenges the author in literature. I will parallel Barthes' literary author and his desired absence of the person of the author from the work, to the live performer, citing her person as present and fundamentally irremovable from the text of a live event. I suggest in this chapter, working on the premise that how one is present in an artwork is political and significant in the production of meaning in that artwork. I deconstruct Barthes' literary death in order to illustrate how a performer cannot 'die' in Barthes' sense unless they are first performing in the present tense.


Our comparative relationship is this:





Barthes describes the author as “a modern figure, a product of our society insofar as ... it discovered the prestige of the individual, of, as it is more nobly put, the 'human person”. Barthes then says of literature “It is thus logical ... it should be this positivism, the epitome and culmination of capitalist ideology, which has attached the greatest importance to the 'person' of the author” (Barthes, 1977: 143). Barthes is concerned with “restoring the place of the reader” in modern literature (143). The question that I pose in this chapter is how does a performer mediate her own presence in order to restore the place of the reader in a live event?


The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centered on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions... The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through their more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author 'confiding' in us (143).


The person of the author is the origin of a literary work. Of course there is always a hand that puts pen to paper and writes. There is always, in this sense, an author. Barthes critiques an author who uses the text as a way to speak for or about herself. To remove the person from the literary work is to destroy a traceable point of origin and also then to remove a desire or need in the spectator to trace. To destroy the author is to destroy the function or purpose of traceability, “the whole of the enunciation is an empty process, functioning perfectly without any need for it to be filled with the person of the interlocutors” (145). The death of the author as I understand it, is the presentation of a text in such a way that does not incite the reader to look towards the author of that text in order to find out what the text means. It is a way of presenting a text that demands the reader to consider the text and ultimately her own relationship with or experience of it.  I wish to state that an author's conscious decision to remove her person from her work, and her ambition to provide an open text for the reader is already an indication of that author's life, tastes and passions. The want to construct a situation whereby the reader writes is in itself a political one and says something therefore about the author. There is in the first place a politic of presence that has been preferred. In respect of this politic I add that the death of the author is '(re)/presentation' without an intent to educate or impose the reader'. The author in the first place takes an authoritative position, and secondly through a set of presumptions falsely assumes a knowing of her reader.


Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing (142).


In respect of the live event we must also approach the death of the author by removing not so much one's identity from the writing but rather the idea of a singular body writing. In other words one could destroy a singular point of origin by presencing or activating multiple origins. In a live event we must look towards the whole space of the theatre and the collected bodies within.


The idea of collective or communal creative drive is quite important. I think that is a deeply political position to take. In relation to that but also a separate political dynamic that is carrying a lot, in fact… the work… carries something… that is this openness, it generates spaces rather than closures. I think this is a really simple politic, but as far as I am concerned is the most important one - it is against consuming - it demands a lot from the audience - it demands that you work as hard as the person making the work. That's what makes people say that some work is exclusive, but it isn't exclusive, it's just that people don't have the opportunity to get into a position where they can work that hard. It's important that we make work, which pushes away a consumerist politic (Lynch, 2001: Appendix 4).


In his essay, Barthes' analysis moves between the text and the reader. It is the text itself that is scrutinised by Barthes. In order to discuss authorship within the live performance event, and to write this towards the performing body we must consider the text in the first place as it becomes written upon the space of the performance by the performer. It is the movement between the performer and the text that I focus on now. To consider the author within live artwork (and by this I mean all art work that employs a live presence) we must consider performing synonymous with writing. I will look not to the text but to the relationship between the performer and the text. This is an investigation into the act of writing.


I begin with Barthes' image of the text which functions as a transparent allegory. I suggest that for the live event the way the performer performs their text-act holds more significance than the text-act itself in terms of constructing an ultimately performative relationship to the text-act for the reader-spectator. The body of the artist-author-performer is present. No matter how much the text-act is predetermined or how much a body is constructed and focused on performing a text act, there is a leap from one to the other and this takes place in real time by a body that is experiencing, consciously or less so. In a live event, the author may be conceptually and theoretically 'written out'. The author may secure devices and concepts in and around the performing body that serve to communicate to an audience that the text-act is 'open'. However, the death of the author cannot be constructed into the text-act. Even if the death of the author was the theme of a live work, 'death' will not happen if the performing body does not consciously enter the realm and condition of the live whereby the “temporality is different... every text is eternally written here and now” (Barthes, 1977: 145).


Barthes introduces the performative:

a rare verbal form (exclusively given in the first person and in the present tense) in which the enunciation has no other content (contains no other proposition) than the act by which it is uttered (146).


Barthes is concerned with the construction of a text in such a way that it remains open for the reader to gain access, to write herself into the text.




When we refer to the live event we need to fold our comparative view of the act of writing




Peggy Phelan states that:

The interaction between the art object and the spectator is, essentially performative and therefore resistant to the claims of validity and accuracy endemic to the discourse of reproduction (Phelan, 1993: 147).

Phelan supports Barthes affirmation that once the author is removed the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. If one authors a text then, a limit is imposed on its potential for significance. One closes the writing. Ultimately for the performer, the only way to refuse authority is to have a performative relationship to the text act also. In this sense, a performer needs to read as well as write, or needs to witness as well as perform. She must, through the mediation of her own presence, induce a performativity within the reader. Writing begins with the performing authors own submission or indeed 'death'. The “the modern scriptor” is “born simultaneously with the text” and “is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing” (Barthes, 1977: 145). The performer is writing live, weaving a line into the fabric of a social space. The body of the performer is interlocked with the body of the spectator through recognition of oneself as being part of the place of performance. The site of performance is not the body, or even a focus on one's own body as a singular entity. The whole space is an absence of self as a singular notion and does not describe the 'person' of the author or the 'person' of the reader but rather blows open, fragments and interlocks the persons; the personal into the social. Presence (present-ness) announces the people of the author - the plural - the multiplied line. Jacque Derrida asks:


But what is a stage that presents nothing to the sight? It is the place where the spectator, presenting himself as a spectacle, will no longer be either seer (voyant) or voyeur, will efface within himself the difference between the actor and the spectator, the represented and the representer, the object seen and the seeing object. With that difference, an entire series of oppositions will de constitute themselves one by one. Presence will be full, not as an object which is present to be seen, to give itself to intuition as an empirical unit or as an eidos holding itself in front of or up against; it will be full as the intimacy of a self-presence, as the consciousness or the sentiment of self-proximity, of self-sameness (propriete)” (in Zarrilli, 1995: 33).


In the live event I suggest that the performing body is the first site for the spectators inquisitive gaze. It is towards the body that performs that they will look first. The performing body is in a critical position due to the fact that, as Barthes says, the witness will be “determined to listen to (their) relation with the body of the man or woman singing or playing”. Barthes goes on to say that.

This relationship is erotic, but in no way subjective… The evaluation will be made outside any law, outplaying not only the law of culture but equally that of anti culture, developing beyond the subject all the value hidden behind 'I like' or 'I don't like' (Barthes, 1977: 188).

A performative relationship for the spectator must begin with the performative relationship within the body writing and what is being written. The performer must work to shift the spectator's focus away from his or her own body as site and towards the space of performance as site. Places in which all present are a part. And then, what can she say about that space? What is the potential for knowing about a site in which we are all living, and dying from moment to moment; occurring?

It is here that I choose to set up improvisation as a practice that (amongst many things that it does and can do) trains the performing body to consider the real time nature of performing (or writing). Improvisation in its simplest definition has no pre determined plan and no pre determined goal. It is the practice of writing in real time. It is a temporal practice which asks the performing body to be in the condition of the here and now. To achieve a present-ness which considers neither past nor future. For the performer, only when she acknowledges the space and time of her performing can that the text-act can be liberated in what Barthes calls an 'anti theological' activity.


An activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God and his hypostases - reason, science, law (147).

To achieve a state of performing in the present tense I imagine a double body, a split consciousness, which does not halve, but multiples my sense of awareness. This play forces a displacement of the fringe of contact between what happens and how it comes to happen. When I perform I am oscillating between (at least) two bodies. There is 'me' performing, signifying, committing. There is 'me' receiving information, a receptor, my mind put amongst the collective energies of a gathered crowd. When I invite a public to witness my performance act I have authored this act. I have made and I am making it happen. I bring my text-act into the site, and this material is, governed by my own principles and laws, as author. My performing occurs out of the principles and laws governing the whole space of the event and so contaminated by the collective presence of all bodies within. The author must coexist between writing 'what she came here to write' and reading her own writing as it occurs within the condition of things as they unfold in real time.


In his essay 'Lesson In Writing' Barthes writes:

The reign of the quotation, the pinch of writing, the fragment of code, none of the promoters of the action being able to take responsibility in his own person for what he is never alone in writing… the stressing of codes, references, discontinuous observations, anthological gestures, multiplies the written line  (172).

Barthes speaks again about a disconnection of the author from a locatable 'origin' or 'person' in his essay The Grain of the Voice (179) he refers to vocal music and outlines a part, “the very precise space (genre) of the encounter between a language and a voice” (181). The grain is the name that Barthes gives to this space of “significance” and positions the voice in “a dual posture, a dual production of language and music”. I am paralleling this dual posture with the double-bodied state of the performer, which initially must exist as a consciousness of this duality, an intentional focus for the performing body.  The performer is on the one hand part of the object (that which has entered) of her performance and on the other; she is part of the site (there where she enters) of her performance. The grain is “the materiality of the body speaking its mother tongue; perhaps the letter, almost certainly significance” (182).

The person who wishes to put herself in her own artwork as part of that artwork but who does not wish to author her work in a modernist sense needs to physically understand the grain in order to relinquish responsibility for her actions, optimising the potential of what those actions might come to mean. That person wishes to stimulate, by an activity of rubbing against, another. They wish to move towards a mode of presence which will exceed a self referential play between signifier and signified, and move into an un ending, processual play of significance, the effects or consequence of which the performer does not seek to know or control. It is a dynamically implied or enforced destination in time that will identify the person of the performer.


The death of the Author is a paradoxical state for the performing body. 'Author' is a position from which the performer moves towards and away, departs and returns continually as writer and as reader of the text-act. There is a submission that is essential in order to let events unfold without leading the writing, without dictating it. This submission is conscious and authored by the performing artist.


The performer is placed as both signifier and signified. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary only in the sense that it is not absolute. The process of relating though need not be rendered ultimately subjective or personal. The grain, for Barthes refers to what he acknowledges as the “apparently abstract side, the impossible account of an individual thrill” or rather an experience of listening (181). For the performer, experiencing her self-performing, this inspection is useful as it gives us an image of an oscillating movement between 'private' and 'social'. Here I might appropriately use any number of 'oppositions': action - reaction, speaking - hearing, past - future. There is 'energy', a potency which is generated through this oscillation. If a performer focuses in too directly on her text-act (if she acts and speaks from her past and of her future) she will not 'let in' the present. She will only signify and thus presence, (or the live event will be reduced to) an irritation, a cough in the audience, a heckle, a mislaid prop.

Our focus is the hyphen itself. In language not an utterance, not a 'this' or a 'that', but a suspension, a tension that dissolves, that is the blur of any finite distinction between one and another. This hyphen, or this oscillating play is spatial. As it concerns the live event it includes the lived space that the performing body inhabits. So, for this writing, the image of the double- body is necessary only long enough for us to understand that the space the body inhabits is part of, or gets in between what signifies and what is signified. Between the signifier and the signified the event occurs. The live performer is present: not either but both signifier and signified. Presence is firstly a loss of self as a singular idea. One is not absent; rather one has a pluralistic presence.

For the performer I ask for a critical and practical awareness of her relationship with herself as author, and with authorship.  Barthes refers us back to Brecht's 'veritable distancing', his Verfremdung, speaking about the author being 'distant' “like a figurine at the far end of the literary stage” (145). However, he also says that the author needs to be “born simultaneously with the text”, there is no past, no future, the text “eternally written in the here and now”. In this sense I wish to reconsider Barthes' image and to take quite literally the notion of 'distant' for a performer. To distance herself she would need to have a chosen point of origin from which to be 'distant'. I take the word literally because it is taken literally in much live artwork that I see. I see an interpretation by the performing body, almost an illustration of 'distant' that seems to have become a post modern 'style'; the performer has a 'distant' look, she is remote in her manner, possibly aloof. The notion of distance if understood literally by the performer will easily serve to separate the performer from the time and space she is in. This brings us back to the introduction to this paper and to a discussion of 'neutrality' as a mode of performance that whilst having no practical methodology, has become aestheticised. Ultimately, this mode of presence hopes for but never reaches a real engagement with site. I suggest that the author, in order to 'die' must consider death as an expansion not a removal. 'She' is everywhere.  Her attention is peripheral and heightened. Death of the author is not a removal of the author but a presencing of the author expanding, covering the whole space of performance, exploding almost in full Technicolor into the eye of the spectator, into the whole space of the event.

Barthes uses Julia Kristeva's theoretical distinction between the pheno-text and the geno-text to enable a theoretical disengagement of the 'grain' from acknowledged values of, in this case, vocal music.

The pheno song “covers all the phenomena, all the features which belong to the structure of the language being sung, the rules of the genre... the style of interpretation: in short everything in the performance which is in the service of communication, representation, expression”.  The geno-song is “the volume of the singing and speaking voice, the space where significations germinate from within language and in its very materiality; it forms a signifying play having nothing to do with communication, representation or expression… it is, in a very simple word but which must be taken seriously, the diction of the language” (182).

The distinction between the pheno-song and the geno-song which is useful for the performing body to consider, is that the first serves to communicate and to express something, whilst the latter attends more directly to the performing of a text without communicating anything above or beyond that text through one's own performing of it. The pheno-song is such that the person of the performer relates and thus expresses her own relationship to the text, whereas the geno-song describes a relationship with ones body as it performs.


I shall briefly describe two examples of performance that in the first instance of describing what they do fall side by side into category, genre and style.  Two female vocalists. A and B.  Both of these performers appeared in the same performance space as unaccompanied solo vocalists. Both were framed in space by a single spotlight. Both performers were technically of a high standard with a similar range and ability. Neither performed from a pre determined score. Both were improvised, written live, out of choices made by the performers in real time. In the event of writing critically after these performances it is clear to see how they appear common to one another. A shared categorisation is easily imposed if I only speak of the event by describing what it was. However, these two performances and indeed these two performers are worlds apart.


In respect to the pheno-song, A is irreproachable, but to borrow again Barthes' words, “here is the soul which accompanies the song, not the body” (183). A, as a performer, excluded her spectator's writing from her own. Her presence told us how her song felt for her. We, her present readers, could only behold her undeniably impressive performing. A illustrates as she performs the feeling of what happens, of what is happening to her.

B describes her own performances as 'intense explorations of the intra-action of voice/body'. She approaches and tests her own body frame as an architectural site for vocal production, placing/directing the voice to various resonating chambers. B commits herself to all the processes of enunciation with what Barthes might call an expressive reduction. She says herself that her work is very formal and this sense of formality might come from the very specific perameters she sets herself when she performs. She is though, however formally, quite clearly improvising. When she speaks about how sound is being made in her body, she describes it as a two way process: she makes a sound, listens to it and it instructs where and how the next sound should happen. For B there is space between her voice and her body and there is most certainly time. Waiting is part of the process central to her vocal production. For B this is not a spiritual/emotional experience, she does not use mental imagery or memory or fantasy to inspire her next sound. She sees the room she is in. She listens to how her voice sounds as it hits the wall and creates an echo, as it cracks or trembles from the dust in her throat. Within the performing of her scores there is a process of choice making in real time. She looks at me and I know she sees me. It is clear that there is a double- bodied state of consciousness for B when she performs.


What transpires physically is so subtle and so fundamental to her ability to open a text which is so intrinsically produced by a very intimate relating to her own body. I can see her listening to her own voice.  I can watch her body preparing, coping, and waiting. This solid, almost matter of fact physical presence holds the weight of the powerful image and sound that B is creating and at the same time not expressing but being expressed. B works within an improvisational space, or rather she acknowledges and works consciously in a real time state of affairs. Her process of experiencing something, listening, responding, is an improvisational process set within a rigid structure.

It is transitive/open as opposed to static/closed. I have heard so many different images related back to me after a performance by B, writings and experiences of the work that are neither imposed nor censored by her.


The mode of presence that A adopts we must assume in a professional capacity to be a choice. We must assume that it is her intention to seduce her audience with her performance. This is a desire, an ambition that might succeed on some and fail on others. I do not wish to dictate how a performer puts herself in front of her public but must emphasise that if one chooses to write in the domain of the live, if lived space is the medium of one's choice then how one chooses to place one's body in there is a political one. Cullen's intent did not seduce me, but colluded, implied and involved me.  To place one's consciousness between one's self as signifier and signified, as performer and spectator, or finally as hyphen in between these oppositions is to introduce site as a genre itself; the genre of encounter, of liquidation; the grain.  In the translation of these performances from live to recorded mediums it is very possible that A would here become preferable. Something is lost in the recording of B's performance. That is, the live event itself. Because A does not submit her performance into the live, she is possibly more totally preserved in a recording.


Between the writer(s) and the written “nothing occurs to interfere with the signifier” (183). We can say now that 'no thing' occurs, or rather space occurs. In the language of criticism, when 'described', the works of A and B sit in close proximity to one another. When their presence is considered as a political and affective organising tool, their work must be read as almost oppositional.  Barthes speaks of the grain as a genre between the voice and language. There is a lack of writing towards lived social spaces and spatial culture, possibly because the only way these texts could become written is collectively as dialogues, as collaborations, with multiple lines from multiple points of origin. It is because one could never write towards a point but would have to submit, in part, to a lack of knowledge or only ever a partial knowledge about the subject(s) of enquiry.


For the two vocalists I have mentioned I could borrow Barthes' paradigm; “there is one whom I like very much (although (she) is no longer heard), the other very little (although one hears no one but (her)” (181).  This sentence plays between two levels. On a micro level, the idea that 'she' is no longer heard illuminates the whole space of performance as active. The body is the whole site of which B's body is consciously a part. B's body produces sound into and out of the space we are all in. She submits her body as vessel, as a means of interlocking the entire space and time of the performance and as a spectator I am allowed in, allowed my own personal and private meaning. With A, in opposition, all I can hear is 'her', her feelings, her meaning is signified and I am uninvolved. Her body is a temple not a vessel.  On a macro level we can easily see how the place of the author remains dominant in our cultural values. In contemporary culture we still fix too much attention on the body as site, rather than the body as part of site.


Barthes contextualises the grain into an art history saying that “the whole of musical pedagogy teaches not the culture of the 'grain' of the voice but the emotive modes of its delivery” (183). The grain occurs when presence exceeds this culture. Barthes says of the pheno-song that it will not move us to jouissance. Jouissance remains un-translated from the French language that Julia Kristeva first wrote it. This is because 'no thing' exists in the English language which quite explains its meaning. The word suggests a 'loss' but also a pleasure of the loss of self as a singular notion or entity. The movement between signifier and signified is at once totally abstract and as it passes through a lived space, totally material. Jouissance is a transformative moment for the experiencing body as it moves in and out of site/sight. It is a loss of one's own 'subject', fragmented but in the sense that it is multiplied, spread over, and engaged with the present as a “space of pleasure, of thrill, a site where language works for nothing” (188). Here language works for 'no thing', or rather for space. Jouissance is a social pleasure; it is a brief loss of identity as a singular being and a submission into a social body, into liminality.


Through my experience of performing, my body has become more articulate and knows better this state of 'play'. What I have understood is that I will never know it fully. In the moments when I have panicked, resulting self conscious thought, a clinging on to some alien sense of 'I know what I am doing' - when my ego, exposed, has failed to cope with its on position, I have felt the live die. All that is left in these moments is I lost, and a broken bridge, my audience lost, and nobody knowing where to look; like in a conversation, when without thinking (out of nervousness or naivety) I have said something wrong. Instead of admission, or silence, or letting time pass, I panic and say more, keep saying more and more in an attempt to rectify my wrongness, and I bury myself in a hole full of things I do not 'mean' but in which my flailing body is trying to 'pretend' meaning, to save itself. There is no live art work which, however 'open' in its construction in terms of its inviting the audience into a position of reader, places the performer in a less 'tyrannical' position.


I wish to end my comparison between these two vocalists by mentioning how their own presence affects the space through the idea of 'mistake'. I suggest that A is more likely to suffer 'mistakes' because her mode of presence is not 'open' to the occurrence of lived space within her and her text-act. In the words of John Cage:

Value judgements are not in the nature of (her) work either as regards to composition, performance, or listening. The idea of relation being (that) anything may happen. A 'mistake' is beside the point, for once anything happens, it authentically is (Cage, 1990: 107).

There is no emphasis for B on leading the audience towards a desired response - there is instead a construction of the viewer to experience the whole space of the theatre including her own presence, as part of the performance act. The value of a work is not placed upon a successful construction, i.e., the text-act does not hold a primacy in the work. Rather it is open, in that it pursues a presencing of the spaces around the text-act. 'Meaning' is substituted to induce an experience as authored by the receptor. The relevant 'body' is the collective social body. There is, in the performer always ambivalence, a coexistence of opposition and conflict between a presence and a dilution, a fluidity of presence. One does not attempt to remove oneself from the whole picture, but one becomes (and thus incites the spectator to become) part of the whole. A useful question that a performing artist might ask herself is whether or not something could 'go wrong' with her intended performance once it is placed into the unpredictable live domain or is the construction of one's text-act willing to be de/reconstructed in the live domain?

Performances' major contribution to knowledge falls outside of the existing structures of language, aesthetics and certainly of documentation. Contemporary philosophical and literary debates surrounding the body often seem to 'block out' the body as it is lived live. 'The body' is removed from time and space, from local, lived contexts. When we discuss mind and body, the relationship between them is not social, lived, temporal space. In our criticism and our analysis, in order to discuss the body we need to consider the constructive frames through which we write. Is there really any reason to imagine a body outside, or set apart (distanced) from the context in which it is occurring? In contemporary live art practice there is an over emphasis on the body-as-site.


Improvisation is a way we can approach the movement between thinking and doing. This movement is improvised. It is a leap (of faith). Consider the sense of time between the ideas of reaction and action. The first is immediate, instinctive, the latter is placed in time and a choice has been made. Consider site, the site that gets in between thinking and doing. Site is not abstract, it is material, and site is a condition that we are all in. Unique to the live artist, and to the live domain, is a consideration of time and simultaneity of multiple writings. The site of her enquiry is the space and time that her text-act occurs within. This occurrence is always a first time thing.

Within the performance act, the author is present and dying simultaneously, from moment to moment and a successful 'death' is dependent on the level and quality of engagement invested by the performer into the text. Mina Kaylan writes a description of this engagement. The word presence, she says, often connotes a “mystifying and metaphysical quality of being, an essence ascribed to the person of the individual actor or performer” (Kaylan, 1991: 48).  This quality is eternally ambiguous and does not easily invite critical enquiry. When one is approaching the site of performance then presence is a poetics of embodied space. The hyphen drawn between the performer and her text-act is marking the place that presence is.

As a performer, I do not imagine my body to be the site of my enquiry. My body is a dynamic element within site. The presence of my body within my work serves to perform a relationship to and a reflexive position within whatever context has been 'set up'. I build a frame around my body and invite a reading of 'place' as occupied and contaminated by 'bodies'. In other words my body 'practices place'. There is something that is almost polemical to what can be understood from a body -as- site. The body here foregrounds - makes primary a 'pushing away', off the body towards place and towards place embodied: Place as Body.  Therefore the witness is invited to invest in the social event: in the social, considering them selves as an active and affective part of an event.  The body is part of site, and a reflective and reflexive organising tool that works to presence the infinite circuitry of shifting connections and relationships that take place as part of the social (whole) body. Frame building is one major craft of the contemporary live artist. Constructing a clear conceptual/fictional frame allows for a critical dialectic space within. It is the constructions and the concepts that map out the artist's chosen site of enquiry. Site becomes the event. The writing of live art loses 'site' due to an over emphasis on the artist's body-as-site.

Kaylan states that:

The main problematic in investigating presence as an element in the signification process of live performance is the difficulty of placing it within the categories of analysis already offered by contemporary critical theory (48).

It is necessary to stress how easily writing about the performance act can slip into the discussion of criticism - of the problematics of 'recording presence' as different, but constantly falling into my attempts to speak about the performance act. In terms of 'presence' - the grain, the geno-text, semiotic consciousness - are all assimilated from criticism, all appeal to the live presence of the reader. There must be then, writing towards the poetics of space that for the performing body becomes a poetic of self(s). Performance Studies needs a clear distinction between an imagined science of space on the one hand and an experiential knowledge of the production of space on the other, of negotiating the tension between structural/symbolic and local/illustrative explanations.

What makes the live arts unique is writing into a social present; writing as performance; a multiple writing that occurs from within an embodied site. It is strange then that within criticism the person of the author, her subjectivity, is held back or written out. It seems necessary to reconsider her person(s). I have set up the performing body as being at least double in its function within a live event. Performance theory, as a critical text, is nervous about writing the 'self'. There is a mistrust of citing any 'first person' with regards to writing after the event. Performance theory functions as a critical language that avoids reference to 'self' because it is a complex, unsophisticated or unreliable writing. However, if a performer wishes to negotiate her own death in performance she must first come to critical terms with her own live presence. Unless presence can be discussed as part of a semiotic language, all we are left with is the singular person of the performer. The singular body is caught in our sight deferring of the plural body(s) existing fluidly and temporarily in site. The presence of the performer, if not acknowledged by the performer as critical and signifying will perpetuate paradoxically a 'tyrannical centering on the author'. The actuality of site will be deferred, written out and filled in by the author. We need models of habitation that respect the somatic and affective integrity of our existence.

When we draw Barthes' critique of the author towards the live act, the author is present. A performer's presence will serve to make the text-act transparent to the extent that she, the (single) person, can be seen through the text-act she performs. Her own sense of 'self' as constructed by the presence of a gathered crowd is effective. Her life, his tastes and his passions will contaminate the unprotected text-act. Death of the author, for Barthes, is “to reach that point where only language acts, 'performs', and not 'me'” (Barthes, 1977: 143). This death restores the place of the reader. 

I have to negotiate death and life in order to not close my text-act, to not let it slip into a purely visual, semiotic reading, or, into an account of the personal, the charismatic 'me'. I recognise the tyranny of authority within the production of a live artwork and through this recognition see the importance of considering how 'I' exist within it. On the one hand 'I' have intention, I will carry out the activities that I came here to do. This 'me' will get on with the job at hand, to perform the job as well as possible. Another me is whatever falls outside a construction or an idea in the moment of its becoming. I take in my audience, I am at the same time as quiet, anterior to the performance act itself, also front lining, exposed to the unpredictability of a gathered crowd and the unknown factors at play within the live event. This exposure I believe, incites an exposure of the reader, induces her reception, and her own agency. If the performing body is not conscious of this 'unknown', particularly in an artwork that is explicitly exposing that body, then the presence of that body is in danger of undoing its own artistic and conceptual intent I will try to know.  We are reconsidering the person of the author, not as a key to meaning, but as a pluralistic member, an interlocutor, which makes liminal this notion. Recent critical theory has reduced subjectivity to a spatial dimension, yet it is through time that a sense of self and agency occurs.

The author will not die until she first knows how to live.


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