How the artist is present in her artwork is political. There is a critical presence that has no bearing on whether one is performer, actor, dancer, musician or ethnographer. How one is present will influence, consciously or not, the text-act as (you) play upon its surface no matter what discourse or genre you are working within.


It is a simple matter of public over private interest. How she is present, how she considers one, enters space and understands her self as part of a whole, is a micro-ethic. She is exposed, part of, not separate from the site she occupies. She is significant in the processes of significance.


Presence, as the loss of a discreet body, a body fully present in the present tense, needs to be physically practised in order to become part of, to enlighten and affirm, the concepts and theories that write 'the' body. This body, my body experiencing, contributes to the knowledge I have of some things. I have tried to marry my own subject-ance, my perceptions as a mode of analysis, with certain concepts and theories, not to set one up against the other, but to pursue a more total discourse for the body in the intersecting field of live art.


(The body) is implicitly defined as unruly, disruptive, in need of direction and judgement, merely incidental to the defining characteristics of the mind, reason, or personal identity through its opposition to consciousness, to the psyche and other privileged terms within philosophical thought (Grosz, 1995: 3).


There has been a substantial period of time in which it has seemed appropriate or necessary to perform in a way that attempts to remove the author-artist and his/her own private meanings from live artwork. The cultural and critical theory that surrounds contemporary live art practice does not prefer to recognise the 'person' of the work when it reads. And, I ask again at the end of this writing, 'why not'? I end this thesis with a conviction that it is necessary to see that person first in order to depart, see through or return to one's own self as co-writer of a text-act. As the performer enters the performance space she enters into a process of identification with her public. This moment is fundamentally irremovable from the actual experience of being. It is precisely how she, the performer then deals with this process of identification, how she disperses or diverts or seeks to open up these processes inviting performativity, conceptuality and liminality into actual live art practice as opposed to just in its theory.


It is wrong to presume that the live art body, just because she is 'being herself', not pretending to be anybody else, not performing actions or movements or choreographies that are complicated or challenging, is not totally subjected to experiencing the feeling of what happens in this moment of entering, when private and public along with all other oppositional forces implode into the performing body. Ignorance of this is visible and obscures present-ness.


That possibly less sophisticated dialogue, storytelling, analysis and critique from within practice are continuously written out, by concept is a mistake. 'My' subject body, in theory, becomes replaced or written out by 'the' object body. This mistake is made as much in practice as it is in theory. I do not desire the anarchy of replacing one for the other, only that my unsophisticated text is not overlooked and that 'I' can be trusted to be both subject and object without losing one to the other (there is a score of O; love, no points). I desire to hear more from some-body who has been (t)here.


I have felt irrelevant and mourned reason, brought here to stare at the disengaged.

I have read words that have moved me to tears.


Within the theory and writing of contemporary live art focus is placed largely on the spectator, on the social space and the concepts that frame it. In practice, a live artist, especially one that is being herself, the performing ethnographer who wishes to make active these spaces, to open them/her, must surely have a self consciousness as well as a social one, otherwise her space will not be open. The self of that performer, when not conscious will occur anyway but as awkwardness, as mistake, as fracture.


Our recent history has experienced a dark age. A period of 'absence'; of restraint; of stripping down the human subject to its most objective state has deferred the possibility for transformation, for liminality in these social spaces. For the performance act this has incurred in respect (or fear) of the expressive self, through its nearness to or indeed its inducement through 'self' expression. It is not that transformation in live artwork does not happen, it is simply that it does not get referred to in any critical or analytical sense.


I have tried to re-approach self expression through notions of presence in the performance act so that we might re-consider bringing it back. It is not that I wish to express again my own 'feelings', or my utopia for the future. The self that I express post post modernism is no longer 'my own'. It is this self-less-ness that I wish to touch. We can begin to explore, to move in and out of our liminal selves, our another-ness. It is a heightened state of awareness that comes from experiencing transformation that will nurture and support our analytic, intellectual engagement with our human condition.


I have identified the 'gap' between the person of the performer and the activity they do. I have written this gap as feminine, as performative and as improvised. I have placed all this within a discussion of presence. 'I' within this text has purposefully shifted positions within my own subject(s): as reader, writer, performer, analyst, patient, observer, collaborator, participant, teller and story.


Expressing oneself in public is a dangerous activity. In most theatre and gallery spaces that I sit or stand to experience performance, I rarely feel danger. The space is most often 'safe'. I am not beside myself, outside of my own skin. But I feel danger now, as I write this. My feeling of failure is immense. Now, it really is all about me, and all that I think I mean.


Liminality is more than an in between, or an other-ness. It is not a transition. The liminal state is not separate from our 'normal' state of being; as we exist within rational and logical structures. Liminality is part of who we are. Liminality may be seen as essentially spiritual whereas 'this', our 'normal' plane is essentially material. Liminality is integrative of all experience.


 Along with analysis of the concepts and theories of the body must come a democratisation of the senses, and certainly an opening of them. Critical weight must be given to the fluid nature of the experiencing subject and so to conceptual reconsideration, reaffirmation and new rationalisation for the human subject to be a 'who' and a 'how' as well as a 'what'. Liminal performance requires a specific and conscious attention to the present tense, transforming how 'one' performs into how 'she' moves.


Liminality itself is the process of transformation at work. Improvisation practises a process of consciously achieving transformation. And, this is the process of entering a liminal state. We often dismiss subjective modes of awareness as intuition, that unnerving knack that some people seem to have of perceiving the answer almost before the question is asked. Our fear of accepting 'other' modes of awareness is another of our many ethnocentrisms, which in this culture are all founded on fear. It is easy to see back through our fascination with and misunderstanding of rites of passage and liminality why we hold ourselves in with defensive mistrust of another's touch. Liminality is central to the social process, and the site of performance becomes 'empty' and 'barren' without this recognition.


The thesis 'floats'. Sometimes it sounds superficial in its analysis. As Scott Dela Hunta remarks in the Practising Presence conversation (Appendix), presence can be found anywhere. But for the sake of my own professional practise, and artistic interests it anyway seemed necessary to try, by approaching presence through what are the dominant texts, theories and critiques of contemporary performance studies in the UK at present. The thesis uses 'corner post' examples as it searches for the most direct translation of theory into practise, in order to best focus on the practise. I lean conceptually on the resounding conclusion I can present from this research: Experience is a mode of analysis. I can write from the premise that presence is discussable only by reading indirectly, by getting close without (my) being present. In order to literally deal with presence I can play on words more usefully than I can choose the words themselves. Can I really not know quite what 'I' mean(s) and say it anyway?


It is useless, then, to trap women in the exact definition of what they mean. Women return within them selves... within the intimacy of that silent, multiple, diffuse touch. And if you ask them insistently what they are thinking about, they can only reply: Nothing, everything (Irigaray, 1995: 29).


Theory has affirmed my practice and has become it in many ways. The dialogue between theory and practice needed to remain civilised. They were there to support one another. The thesis and my performance practice remained utterly distinct as experiences, but shifting between these layers upon layers of reconsideration became a creative process in itself. I am committed to the future of performance studies and continue to make performance works, and to perform, collaboratively in varying contexts. My tools of construction and the physical awareness that I practise in performance have been fundamentally informed by this research.



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