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Phelan - If r 390runOli ~ 0:J ~:J a I'1J co...

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7 The ontologyof performance: representationwithoutreproduction Performance's only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes some- thing other than performance. To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economY,..Qfreproduction itbetrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology. ~rformance' s being, like the ontology of subjec- tivity proposed here, becomes itself through disappearanc{'Q. The pressures brought tobear on performance to succumb to the laws of the reproductive economy are enormous. For only rarely in this culture is the "now" to which performance addresses its deepest ques- tions valued. (This is why the now is supplemented and buttressed by the documenting camera, the video archive.) Performance occurs over a time which will not be repeated. It can be performed again, but this repetition itself marks it as "different." The document ofa performance then isonly a spur to memory, an encouragement ofmemory to become pre~~. . The other arts, especially painting and photography, are drawn increasingly toward performance. The French-born artist Sophie Calle, for example, has photographed the galleries of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Several valuable paintings were stolen from the museum in 1990. Calle interviewed various visitors and mem- bers of the museum staff, asking them to describe the stolen paintings. She then transcribed these texts and placed them next to the photo- graphs of the galleries. Her work suggests that the descriptions and memories of the paintings constitute their continuing "presence," de- spite the absence of the paintings themselves. Calle gestures toward a notion ofthe interactive exchange between the art object and the viewer. While such exchanges are often recorded as the stated goals ofmuseums and galleries, the institutional effect ofthe gallery often seems to put the masterpiece under house arrest, controlling allconflicting and unprofes- sional commentary about it. The speech act of memory and description (Austin's constative utterance) becomes a performative expression Thelontology of performance 147 when Calle places these commentaries with~n the representation of the museum. The descriptions fillin, and thus supplement (add to, defer, and displace) the stolen paintings. The fact that these descriptions vary considerably - even attimes wildly - only lends credence to the fact 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. While the art his- torian of painting must ask if the reproduction is accurate and clear, falle asks where seeing and memory forget the object itself and enter fuesubject's own set ofpersonal meanings and associations. Further her
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