ReineltRoach - Performance Analysis It seemed to me (around...

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Unformatted text preview: Performance Analysis It seemed to me (around 1954) that a science of signs might stimu- late sociai criticism, and that Sartre, Brecht, and Saussure could con— cur in this project. ——Roland Barthes , "\< it is impossible . . . to decompose a perception;' to make it into a col— “a, lection of sensations, because in it the who‘ie' is rior to the parts. ""i\’,/ ,M ——~Maurice Merieau-Ponty Perhaps What we do most in theater and performance studies is analyze performances. Large portions of our classroom hours are devoted to dis— cussing texts and performances, and the relationships between them; or between historical performances, and their conditions of production and reception. Underlying many of our debates about the difference between live and mediated experiences of performance is some idea about what constitutes performance and also about what constitutes the experience of @ttending a, or to, performancef‘Qutside the United States, particularly in Europe, curricula in theater and performance studies almost always in— clude ciasses in performance analysis. From Sweden to Germany, concen- trated attention is paid to the pedagogy of performance analysis. Al- though this prescription is sometimes not the case in the United States, most North American curricula include introductory level courses in which students are expected to attend and write about performances. We foreground performance analysis in this volume as a preeminent activity of the field, embracing the need to examine tools and processes whereby such analyses are conducted. Semiotics and phenomenology, long in conversation with each other, have emerged over the last decade as major methodologies of per— formance analysis. Deconstruction, on the other hand, has become more important for its wide-ranging philosophical contributions than for its earlier analytic deconstructive procedures. We have organized this section using semiotics and phenomenology as key performance tools; other sec— tions of the book, in particular "After Marx,” “Psychoanalysis,” and "Gender and Sexualities,” will be seen to be the home of current reflec- tions on Derrida and deconstruction. CRITICAL THEORY AND PERFORMANCE 8 Perhaps the most prolific theorist of performance analysis, French scholar Patrice Pavis, is exemplary of the development of this practice. His books and articles have proposed methods for analyzing ali elements of performance, including the mise-en—scene, the actor, auditory, visual, and spatiai aspects of performance, and spectators’ experiences. He was an early proponent of semiotics and a maker of systems and charts, but he also has always recognized their limitations. Pavis acknowledges the need to keep transcending rational and cognitive methods in order to find ade— quate modes of analysis for the affective and embodied aspects of analysis and spectatorship. In his recently translated Analyzing Performance, he de~ velops a narrative in which the 1980s saw a reaction against the segmenta- tion and overly organized categories of semiotics in favor of a “global” reaffirmation of materiality and libidinal investments. Urging the develop- ment of a systematic synthetic process for maintaining the cognitive em- phasis on meaning in tandem with the embodied experiences of energy and flow, Pavis summarizes the.c_ur__rgnt chailewlgillflrformanceanalysis; ___,.__..—_._ c“..- _c ”The description of a performance alwaysmnego‘tiates the space b ween a totalizing deflmggdmformsymthesis and an empiricalifi‘d twssijpjrasrfiuaaag, betweaiiifiiifiaiéiiéiias???entertainers“asters-ex- plbiing what such a negotiation entails, lioweverfitis necessary to revisit the terrain of theatrical semiotics and phenomenology in order to grasp the specifics of their approaches. Semiotics developed out of linguistics. Early theoreticians of the sign such as Ferdinand Saussure and Charles Peirce saw that the structure of language was useful for understanding the structure of any sign system. Languages make meanings only differentially; that is, within a given lan» guage, words only derive meaning by reference to other words. The par~ ticular language system makes meanings possible through rules, conven- tions, distinctions. Since not only language but also human behaviors and customs are signs that operate within the organizing patterns of social sys— tems, Saussure called for a "science of semiology.”2 Claude Levi-Strauss, doing structuralist anthropology, recognized the affinity between cultural and linguistic analysis and explicitly linked his work to semiology. Signs, following Saussure, are divided into signifiers and signifieds. The signifier is the sound, or mark, that stands in for the signified, which is the concept, or meaning. Together they point to the referent, which is the actuality referenced. The ietters p e a c l: form a word signifying the concept “peach” and may be used to point to a particular round, yellow piece of fruit. Each of these connections is, however, arbitrary. That is, a different group of markings might just as well serve as signifier for the signified peachQVleanings are therefore conventionalfurth‘ rmoré?signi~ fiei's establish their meaning by reference to what they are not} peach is un- derstood as not apple or perch. Thus, meaning is the functional result of the difference between signs, and always might be otherwiset If meaning is always only present in difference, the stability of any particular sign sys- tem overturnsBA specific signifier means not only in relation to one other signifier that if is not, but to a whole tissue of sigiiifiersfiaoteiitially end- PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS less, through which meaning moves and slips in an eiusive play of signiw fication. From this view meaning is agtuallymalways.“absent, because it never simply “is’flpresent in themsighirFurthermore, the reading is not au- thorized by any stable center of meaning, any structure or system that is not itself implicated in the play of signification. A fascinating series of photographs by David Hockney illustrate some of these ideas. Hockney combined a number of separate shots into composite or cottage pieces called "joiners." In “Noya and Bill Brandt with Self-Portrait,” a series of Polaroid photos of Noya and Bill Brandt are on the floor while the figures of Noya and Bill look down at them. Forty- nine photos make up the whole collage, which represents Noya and Bill looking at themselves through the photo fragments. The Spaces in be- tween. the photos form a grid that simultaneously overlays and under- girds the whole. Each piece of the composition can be assigned meaning .in relation to the pieces arOund it, and, as the eye movos, the composite meanings change—different photos are foregrounded, different ways of seeing come into prominence and recede. Bill has, from one standpoint, two heads; Noya has feur feet. They are looking at tweive or thirteen Hockneys. Because of the grid, the edges of the photos are seen as distinct for each individual photo and also as arbitrary in that they do not repre« sent “reai” edges. Edges are made or composed, have no transcendent au— thority. Taken as a whole, the photographs make up a kind of language that can be read, but the units are not stable or fixed. The center of the col" lage seems to move, and the spaces between emphasize the ephemeral unity of the collage. The eye looking seems to slip, to be unable to "fix" on anything—or is it the surface that is slippery? In teens.winerieficstssnsastassithe nhelsssstsssfrsm the re- lationxslbgt 3 re varying unitsmmaking up the composition, .eachfif whiclias a Blames .d.siti.tssitaxalus.fi'eill..its matters ...1e..tlis.eisturs- 'sysEEinT'PHiweflver, these signifiers are not stable} each only composes itself into a sign in relation to what it is not—and the mobility of the composi— tion keeps the indeterminacy of the system on view. While the relational aspects of this "system" are the key to discerning meaning, meaning is clearly linked to cognitive processes and reading competencies on the part of the spectators. However, there is another way to grasp the experience of looking at the photographs, one that stresses the expdeientialandperceptual aspects of looking, and posits that which is seen as a gestalt of stimuli that is given to be grasped in its partialness by an apprehending subject. This method is phenomenological. As a philosophical school or movement, phenomenology has devel- oped many versions and emphases as it has evolved historically. The best known early proponent of phenomenology was Edmund Husserl, who at the turn of the century and into its early decades, based his effort on de- scribing the initial encounter that strikes the senses when subjects meet ob» jects, believing thatknowledge comes through bracketing off all presuppo— sitions about the nature of experience in order to focus on the structure of 9 (Fax Siam t- c. in}: - :MN~<«%?‘ Fig. David Hockney, “Noya and Bill Brandt with Self-Portrait." Photo credit: Rogers, Coleridge and White Ltd. ' the objects as given to consciousnessgfinowledge lies in the relationship between consciousness and its objects: and is notfinherent in the object, nor is it a property of a unified preexistin ._ subject. I—Iusserl called this the “phenomenological reduction,” and. hfprivileges conceptual and cogni- tive activity; thus relying on the concept of a transcendental ego. Unlike Husserl’s idealism with its emphasis on mental processes and transcendental subjectivity, Maurice Merleau—Ponty's contribution to phenomenological analysis was to insist on the materiality of the body, and the lived experience of being iffifific‘aiéa”"ifi“‘a bodyir'Ks‘Elizabeth Grosz explains, "Merleauwi’onty locates experience midway between mind and body. Not only does he linkflexperience to the privileged locus of consciousness; he also demonstrates that experience is aiways necessar- ily embodied, corporeally constituted, located in and as the subject’s in- carnation. Experience can only be understood between mind and bodyw or across them—in their lived conjunction? If experience is relational, then, it is constituted in the encoun er between something that is always (only partially available to perceptioh) showing itself from a limited given "aspect to an embodied subject who is itself constituted through its bodily orientation and its spatial, sensory, and perceptual orientation to the stim- ulus in question. Furthermore, the.hQSiLisbothmsubject-andobject' of'conscious-ness, and while all knowledge comes through the body, the body isnot identical . to counsgjguinessz'it’diiesvfiot' totally coincide. Thus, “the body I touch never ceincides withthe body that touches.’ "Experience is, then, not oniy the ex- perience of the world; it is also the experience of an aspect of one’s own subjectivity~experiencinghlt is profoundly self-reflexive and mobile. Returning to the Hockney collage, we can read it phenomenologi— PERFORMANCE ANALYSlS 11 ..I .i cally as well as semioticaiiy. Within the frame of representation, Noya and Bill are seen looking at images of themselves. They are each seeing differ- ent versions of the photos, experiencing different relations between them- selves as embodied and themselves as images. As a metaphor for lived ex— perience, the collage emphasizes the fragmentation and partiality of both the viewers and the images, but taken as a whoie, also emphasizes their coherence, their integration. Moving beyond the mimetic properties of the cottage, it is aiso possible to inctude the spectator of the collage in the re» lations under examination, reCOgnizing that any posited viewer is herself an embodied subject grasping in a primary way an experience of looking at, in which the content is also the experience of looking at, and so on, and so on, in infinite regression. Common then to both semiotics and phenomenology is the notion that the object or mark operates as a kind of signifier that through the hermeneutic process is linked to a signified. In place of this language of the sign, phenomenology uses the discourse of the givenness of phenom- ena and the apprehension of embodied consciousness. In recent performance analyses, both semiotic analysis and phenom- enologicai anaiysis are often unself—consciously embedded within the in- terpretations offered. A number of scholars have also explicitly used one or another of these approaches and argued on behalf of them. Erika Fischer- Lichte, for example, has developed a comprehensive semiotics of theater, ,. arguing that theater inalgespsepfsigns signsproduced by cultural sys- tems] In this metal'evel of functioning, theater ’5 signs are not identical to these other Signeestarsisonic in treatise. it? than Tfié‘aerasthma-always a specialfifisdugtan Garner, from a different perspective, argues in Bodied Spaces that the opposition between semiotics and other deconstructive theories and phenomenology is falsely predicated on a narrow and non- historical characterization of phenomenology, and urges a reconsidera- tion of the ways the theatri‘cFLevent is illuminated by analysis of its phe« nomenological complexity: ’From the phenornenological point of view,"fi"l-*:A<J_.'Mp\o mg,“ the living body capable 0' returning the spectator’s gaze represents a ‘7' 53,}, (J methodological dilemma for any theoretical modelmlike semioticswthat of); €1.45! 1 offers to describe performance in ’objective’ terms. Alone among the ele— J " ‘ M"? ments that constitute the stage’s semiotic field, thghbwodyjsga sign that benched-"8) ' Both semiotics and phenomenology have by now given rise to highly developed applications to theater and performance studies, not only in the work of Fischer-Lichte and Garner, but in the work of Marvin Carlson, Susan Melrose, Bruce Wilshire, and Bert States, to name the most V_ a prominent.9 In 1992, States was already arguing for the possibilities of see ' I V ing semiotics and phenomenoiogy as compatible rather than hostile methods of analysis. Indeed, he cites a passage from an earlier book by Patrice Pavis { Languages of the Stage) in order to illustrate that “descriptive methods of semiology and phenomenology are almost equally in evi- Clence.”10 These methods have become the primary methods of perfor- mance analysis in our field, and learning to recognize themmwhether \ 12 they are explicitly associated w CRITICAL THEORY AND PERFORMANCE ith one or the other theory, or are implicitly embedded together within an analytic discourse—is a significant and use- ful task for performance scholars. In the interests of pursuing this goal, we have printed States’s prophetic essay together with a new essay by Marvin Carlson. These two contributions give concentrated accounts of the contours of phenomeno- logical and semiological approaches to theater and performance studies. Following these overviews, two exemplary performance analyses show how these theories can work in practice. )im Carmody's essay demon- strates a particularly sophisticated use of semiotic analysis to parse a pro— duction of Moliere’s Misanthrope. This is followed by an essay by French— Canadian scholar Iosette Féral, who in her eclectic and wide—ranging analysis employs techniques from both semiotics and phenomenology as the implicit, embedded substructure of her performance descriptions and analysis. 1. G. a. NOTES 1. Patrice Pavis, Analyzing Performance: Theater, Dance, and Film, trans. David Williams (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), 18. 2. Saussure’s key concepts were published after his death in 1913. See Course in General Linguistics, trans. Wade Baskin (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966). 3. Key texts by Husserl include Logical Investigations (1900), Ideas Pertaining to a Pare Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy (1913), Lectures on the Phe- nomenology of inner Time-Consciousness (1928), and Cartesian Meditations (1931). 4. Key texts by Merleau-Ponty include The Primacy of Perception (1945) and The Visible and the Invisible, published after his death in 1961. 5. Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (Bloomington: indiana University Press, 1994), 95. This is an excellent account of phenomenology and its uses for feminist theory. Much of Grosz’s explication is applicable to per- formance theory. 6. Stanton B. Garner, In, Bodied Spaces: Phenomenology and Performance in Can- temporary Drama (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), 30. 7. Erika Pischer—Lichte, Iereiny Gaines, and Doris L. Iones, The Semiotics of Theater: Advances in Semiotics (Bioomington: Indiana University Press, 1992). 8. Garner, Bodied Spaces, 49. 9. See for example, Marvin Carlson, Theatre Semiotics: Signs of Life (Blooming- ton: Indiana University Press, 1990); Susan Melrose, A Semiotics of the Dramatic Text (London: Macmillan, 1994),- Bruce Wilshire, Role Playing and Identity: The Limits of Theatre as Metaphor (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982),- Bert 0. States, Great Reekonings in Little Rooms: On the Phenomenology of Theater (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of Caiifornia Press, 1985), and The Pleasure of Play (Ithaca: Cor- nell University Press, 1.994). 10. Cf. p. 1.1. ...
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ReineltRoach - Performance Analysis It seemed to me (around...

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