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Material matters: Towards a New Materialist Approach to Contemporary Performance Art.

21st century questions about the ways in which we produce and consume our material environment have given rise to a new focus in contemporary performance art. A growing group of artists are taking the stage to explore the performative entanglement of human beings and material objects, often in order to critically question the interplay of nonhuman actors in everyday life. By doing so, these performances also ask for new modes of performance analysis and interpretation that incorporate an understanding of (nonhuman) materiality as inherently performative. To this day, most performance scholars are still of the belief that the co-presence of human beings is the most fundamental characteristic of performance art, which often results in the reduction of material objects to their decorative status or to their function as documentation of the live performance that is lost for good. This project aims to encounter these present-day performances through the recent insights of new materialism(s). New materialism is a contemporary theory that, simply put, articulates the idea that all matter has the ability to act in this world, and that agency is distributed amongst materialities in space and time. This indicates a remarkable shift: objects are no longer defined as passive things, ruled and interpreted by human subjects, but are valued as vital and unstable entities that can exert an influence on other (human) entities. Subsequently, new materialism also embodies a transversal gesture that experiences the relationship between meaning and matter, culture and nature, and subject and object as non-hierarchical and co-constitutive (Coole and Frost 2010; Dolphijn and van der Tuin 2012). By connecting these concepts of new materialism to traditional key-notions within the debate on the ontological characteristics of performance art and performance experience, this project pursues to establish a mode of analysis that allows for a focus on how human and nonhuman agencies intertwine and generate new meanings within this performative entanglement.
Date:1 Oct 2017  →  30 Sep 2019
Disciplines:Art studies and sciences, Theatre and performance