Practices of relations in task-dance and the event-score : towards a new concept of performance in art

Wikstrom, Josefine (2017) Practices of relations in task-dance and the event-score : towards a new concept of performance in art. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The main aim of theis thesis is to construct a critical concept of performance within a generic concept of art through a two-fold operation. Firstly, it reconstructs the development of a generic concept of performance - distinct from the performing arts - in the period of post-WWII art in North America by focusing on task-dance and the event-score as two emblematic artistic strategies of this period. Task-dance and event-score practices, it argues, had a central role in the practical transformation from a medium-specific to a generic concept of art. Secondly it examines the key philosophical concepts that are inseparable from a generic concept of art, and are necessary for the reconstruction of a generic concept of performance: 'practice', 'labour', 'autonomy', 'abstraction', 'medium', 'mediation', 'subject', 'object', 'structure' and 'abstraction'. The central argument of the thesis is that a critical reconstruction of the concept of performance within the context of post-WWII art must take into account a generic and a autonomous concept of art. The latter refers to a post-medium-specific concept of art, which is still autonomous in Theodor Adorno's understanding of the term: art as derived from, yet distinctively and formally separated from empirical reality. Embedded but formally abstracted from the social relations from which it comes, the category of 'performance', the thesis argues, is a practice of relations. It is a practice in the sensein which Karl Marx formulates practice in his early writings as social and sensuously empirical. It also refers to practice in the sense in which Marx articulates a radically new concept of the subject through this category. The thesis also aims to make a contribution to art theory through its critical methodology. It forces a reconsideration of performance within the framework of 'art in general', and more specifically, it emphasises dance's central role in this history. It employs a number of terms and categories central to task-dance and event-score practices that, it argues, are internal to the generic category performance as it operates within the context of a generic concept of art. The central problem from which this thesis sets out concerns the way in which the dominating concept of performance - derived from cultural theory - is used within art theory. Cutting across disciplines such as Cultural Studies, Performance Studies and Theatre Studies, this conception fails to distinguish between art and culture more generally, and between art and other modes of reality. In short, the thesis confronts a cultural concept of performance - and the related category of performativity - as well as its application to performance practices in art, with a critical one that is reconstructed through a different set of philosophical categories and methods. Chapter 1 argues that the development of a generic concept of art and performance is best described as a shift towards practice, primarily through Marx's account of this. Chapter 2 confronts art-theoretical conceptions of the event-score and task-dance, based in structuralism and pragmatism with Immanuel Kant, and demostrates how John Dewey;s notion of art relies on a conflated notion of Aristotle's practice/poiesis-distinction. Drawing on Husserl's 'phenomenological reduction' and Kant's 'acts of abstraction', Chapter 3 argues that they negation of a medium-specific conception of the object in event-score and task-dance practices constructed a new conception of the art object: the performative structure-object. Chapter 4 considers the role of negation in task-dance, in relation to Adorno's concept of autonomous art and Marx's notion of abstract labour. Chapter 5 demonstrates the way in which the performative-structure object is transcendental and performative, and argues that it must be understood as the practical condition for the generalisation of the category of performance within art.

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