Postmodernism and performance.

Melrose, Susan (2011) Postmodernism and performance. In: The Routledge companion to postmodernism. Sim, Stuart, ed. Routledge Companions . Routledge, London and New York, pp. 194-203. ISBN 9780415583329. [Book Section]

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What do writers perform, when they/we use a particular term – or a practitioner’s name – in academic writing that purports to be ‘about’ performance/s? It is worth noting in the present context that the suffix ‘-ism’, added to the noun term ‘the postmodern’ (or, indeed, the suffix ‘-ist’, added to the qualifier ‘postmodern’), performs a properly ‘modern-ist’ capture upon an otherwise open, dynamic and incomplete, ‘soft-edged’ cluster of practices. The suffixes ‘-ism’ and ‘-ist’, I argue here, are categorising: they signal a desire to pin something down, the better to inspect – and, apparently, to know - ‘it’. Confronted then by the invitation to write about ‘postmodernist’ performance, as is the case here, I can’t avoid a return to J-F. Lyotard’s observation of the 1970s, that he had “favored a certain procedure”, which was to “emphasiz[e] facts of language and in particular their pragmatic aspect” (Lyotard, 1979/1984, p.9), in his attempt to account for what he called the postmodern condition of the age. The use of language, others have noted, does (or performs) something, and in my argument the use of nouns can seem to conjure ‘something’ up - almost as though it already existed, prior to that act of word-conjuring. Postmodern-ist performance, in other words, might seem already to exist/have existed, and on this basis might well be pinned down, and written ‘about’, by spectators, in terms of its apparent ‘messing around with’ some of the conventions identified (as I have done above) as ‘modern-ist’. This chapter suggests that qualifying performances in these sorts of terms tends to be an option available to spectators and writers, rather than one chosen by practitioners, for whom the postmodern is rather less easily identified, in practice, and may always escape its actualisation.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts
A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts > Dance group
A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts > Theatre Arts group
Item ID: 8010
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Depositing User: Susan Melrose
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2011 10:35
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:23

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