Staging and the event: performative strategies in contemporary art

Russell, John (2007) Staging and the event: performative strategies in contemporary art. (PhD thesis), Kingston University,


My research proposes the idea of staging as the various ways in which artworks are presented and/or enacted in relation to both institutional and non-institutional contexts. This presentation (or staging) of the artwork is seen as implicit to its production and is therefore proposed as a model of doing (as art) and not merely an adjunct to the doing of art. It is however clear that the idea of art doing or acting is problematic. Artworks are confined (to use Robert Smithson's terminology) by their prefigured relationship to the structures of the institution, even in their critical function. My research is therefore tied to questions of how art can be seen to act or do as art (or possibly as non-art) given that this acting or doing is prefigured (and confined) by the contexts within which it is performed. This involves reflection upon the various contexts and configurations of this confinement with respect to contemporary binaric conceptions of artistic practice, as split between critical and aesthetic models and the management of artworks in relation to meaning (and in extension broader philosophical and theoretical ideas of language [as discourse] and/or as a system of control). From this point my research develops dialogically to embody or enact different theoretical and/or practice-led models as a series of exhibitions, installations and performances with reference to both critical strategies (as a form of staging which predicts critically the limits of its confinement), and as the attempt to think alternative conditions of possibility - of ways of doing and staging as speculative or meaningless (as art). As my research develops this can be seen to relate to contemporary discourses and debates regarding the event and the new, and in extension the rupturing or deterritorialising potential of language-as-event with reference to the writing of Gilles Deleuze (and Felix Guattari), Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Alain Badiou. The final section my PhD research, both in the form of this written thesis, and the artwork FROZEN TEARS, is staged as a staging of the fiction of an event of infinite connectivity - as a prophesy or curse of radical deterritorialisation.

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