"A dark revolt of being" : abjection, sacrifice and the real in performance art, with reference to the works of Peter van Heerden and Steven Cohen

Balt, C. (2009) "A dark revolt of being" : abjection, sacrifice and the real in performance art, with reference to the works of Peter van Heerden and Steven Cohen. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

This thesis is an exploration of some of the defining characteristics of performance art, and an investigation of how such characteristics relate to ritual. It highlights some key notions, such as that of the “Real” and the live, which are introduced in the first chapter. This chapter explores the theories of Peggy Phelan, Julia Kristeva and Jacques Lacan in its attempts to conceptualize the Real. It assesses how performance art as ritual attempts to revise traditional apparatuses of representation. It argues that, through a transgression of representation, performance art has the potential to challenge and revise established discourses on identity, culture and violence. The second chapter of this study is an attempt to provide a history and subsequent conceptualization of performance art, based on its exposition of the live. I have taken into consideration certain strategies that performance artists employ to evoke the live, referring specifically to the manipulation of the body. It is through abject encounters with the unsymbolizable “Real” that the performance artist reaches the borders of his/her subjective constitution, and performs a transformation of his/her identity that transcends the mechanisms of representation. The third chapter of this study attempts to find the connections that exist between performance art and sacrificial ritual. I will refer specifically to the theories of Rene Girard. Girard‟s notion of the “violent sacred” and its significance within sacrifice as an antidote to community crises will be explored in relation to collective transformation within the performance event. I choose to focus specifically on the role of the performer as surrogate victim/pharmakon, and the spectators/witnesses as part of the community. The fourth chapter explores how two South African performance artists, Steven Cohen (1961) and Peter van Heerden (1973), perform the abject body as the monster. Kristeva‟s notion of the abject will be examined in terms of the transformation of the individual performer as subject within performance art, and how, through the assumption of an “othered,” monstrous identity, the performer becomes the surrogate victim. The fifth chapter will entail an examination of Peter van Heerden‟s 6 Minutes. I will attempt to draw parallels between performance art and ritual through using this performance piece as a case study. I will focus on the strategies that Van Heerden implements to resist theatrical representation. 6 Minutes will be observed in terms of its link to sacrificial ritual, and it presentation of the live, and the Real. In light of these discoveries, I aim to locate performance art within politically-driven modes of art-making, and how such an endeavour relates to South African modes of theatre and performance.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Performance art; ritual; abjection
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1600 Drama
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Drama
Supervisors:Krueger, A. (Dr)
ID Code:1688
Deposited By: Nicolene Mvinjelwa
Deposited On:21 Jun 2010 10:12
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:21
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