This writing investigates physical presence within the performance act. It examines the significance of the present-ness of the 'live' artist asking questions that include what and where is presence and can presence be practiced? I suggest that within critical/experimental/live art practices and theories the body is discussed and conceptualised at great length, but that in respect to the live event itself, emphasis is placed on the activity and not on how that activity is conducted by the performing artist. That body and then the spectator's body are still constructed to contemplate what happens and not to experience how it is happening. The thesis suggests a lack of critical attention paid to how the artist presents and to the real time medium of their practice.

This is written towards the artist who is physically and actually present within her own artwork and for the performer in training who finds herself amongst the contesting and converging languages and styles as they exist in performance studies at present.

The research seeks to construct frames that can help a cross genre understanding of performance presence and locate presence as an interrelated concern between all live art practices, as that which underlies technical training, skill, aesthetic or generic performance styles. Throughout, the concern is that either because of the performer's choice to ignore it, or by a lack of understanding/sensibility of presence as part of a work, there exists no shared language through which presence may be addressed.

The research strategy is in part to use experience as a mode of analysis drawing on the performance project max factory, a collaborative project held between the author and Felicity Croydon. 

I begin by excavating the relationship that max factory hold both conceptually and actually with the live event and goes on to consider this practice within key theoretical frames. I argue that in order to posture transformation, or incite change/revolution in the spectator the performer needs to experience her own actual social body as she performs. This sets up a plurality which is affirmed through two key texts; Roland Barthes' Death of the Author (1977) and Luce Irigaray's notion of the feminine imaginary in her essay This Sex Which Is Not One (1985). I draw connections between the social studies of Victor Turner and his writing on liminality and the physical-social practice of improvisation, using specifically the methods of improvisation artist Katie Duck. All live action is implicitly improvised due to its existence in real time and, improvisation is choreography in real time.

The writing argues that through a post modern period the experimental performing artist became self conscious, installing a mode of performing that worked to neutralise, or strip down the artifact of the body to show the performing body 'as-it-is' on stage. Due to a lack of critical attention and physical consideration of present-ness, neutrality, or 'being your self' on stage has become the dominant mode of performance for experimental/intellectual live artists. For the performer the gap exists between their conception of their self and their actual self, or the story they are telling and the story of their telling. 


 

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