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TitleErika Fischer-Lichte the Transformative Power of Performance a New Aesthetics 2008
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Table of Contents
                            Contents
Introduction Perspectives on performance:Germany and America Marvin Carlson
Chapter 1: The transformative power of performance
Chapter 2: Explaining concepts: Performativity and performance
Chapter 3: Shared bodies, shared spaces: The bodily co-presence of actors and spectators
Chapter 4: The performative generation of materiality
	Corporeality
		Embodiment
		Presence
	Spatiality
		Performative spaces
		Atmospheres
	Tonality
		Aural spaces
		Voices
	Temporality
		Time brackets
		Rhythm
Chapter 5: The emergence of meaning
	Materiality, signifier, signified
	“Presence” and “representation”
	Meaning and effect
	Can performances be understood?
Chapter 6: The performance as event
	Autopoiesis and emergence
	Collapsing dichotomies
	Liminality and transformation
Chapter 7: The reenchantment of the world
Notes
	Introduction
	1 The transformative power of performance
	2 Explaining concepts
	3 Shared bodies, shared spaces
	4 The performative generation of materiality
	5 The emergence of meaning
	6 The performance as event
Bibliography
Index of works
Index of names
Subject index
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 2

The Transformat ive
Power of Performance

‘Wonderfully erudite, clear and concise’
Maria Shevtsova, Goldsmiths College, University of London

‘A major reference work for debates on theatre theory, performance, and
methodology. Written by one of the foremost representatives of the field of
theatre studies’

Hans-Thies Lehmann, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt

In this book, Erika Fischer-Lichte traces the emergence of the performance as an
art event in its own right. In setting performance art on an equal footing with the
traditional art object, she heralds a new aesthetics.

The peculiar mode of experience that a performance provokes – blurring
distinctions between artist and audience, body and mind, art and life – is here
framed as the breeding ground for a new way of understanding performing arts,
and through them even wider social and cultural processes.

With an introduction by Marvin Carlson, this translation of the original Ästhetik
des Performativen addresses key issues in performance art, experimental theatre and
cultural performances to lay the ground for a new appreciation of the artistic
event.

Erika Fischer-Lichte is Professor of Theatre Studies at the Freie Universität
Berlin and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies on the Interweaving
of Theatre Cultures. She was President of the German Association for Theatre
Studies (1991–1996) and of the International Federation for Theatre Research
(1995–1999). Among her numerous publications are The Semiotics of Theatre (1992,
in German 1983), The Show and the Gaze of Theatre (1997), History of European Drama
and Theatre (2002, in German 1990), Theatre, Sacrifice, Ritual. Exploring Forms of
Political Theatre (Routledge, 2005).

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The performative generation of materiality 111

from the outset. Dionysus in 69 exemplifies that spatiality is brought forth by the
movements and perceptions of actors and spectators.

When creating specific spatial arrangements to stimulate new experiences, the
use of space in performance can also deliberately favor certain possibilities and
exclude others. Grotowski created situations of extreme proximity between actors
and spectators in his productions. Here, the audience could feel the actors’ breath
and smell their sweat. In his production of Słowacki’s Kordian (1961), he set up
iron bunk beds in three separate locations throughout the auditorium on which
the spectators – not more than 65 – had to take their seats. At the same time, the
bunk beds served as podiums on which the performance’s central events took
place. Actors and spectators actively shared the same space. The spectators, too,
were treated as inmates of the mental asylum. When the doctor called upon the
actors and spectators to sing a certain song, he stormed towards those spectators
who refused, ordered their compliance, and threateningly held a stick under
their noses. The actors moved through the entire space while the spectators were
bound to their beds, so to speak. Their perceptual possibilities depended on where
their bed was located and whether they occupied the lower or upper bunk. The
resulting spatiality determined the experience of the spectators.

Grotowski’s production of Calderón’s The Constant Prince adapted by Słowacki
(1965) operated on a similar principle. Here the theatre resembled a theatrum
anatomicum. The all but 30 to 40 spectators stood around the stage in concentric
circles and upward sloping rows; the rows were separated from each other by
walls so high that only the heads of the spectators were visible above it. This not
only immobilized the spectators but also pushed them into the roles of voyeurs
vis-à-vis the horrifying events on stage. In both cases the restrictions of the spatial
arrangements channeled the energy circulating in the performative space. The
affective potential of spatiality moved into the foreground and unfolded for actors
and spectators alike.

This was also true in Mothers at the significantly larger Frankfurt Schauspielhaus
and in Goetz von Berlichingen at the warehouse-like Bockenheimer tram depot,
although Einar Schleef deployed somewhat different spatial constellations. In the
latter production, Schleef constructed a broad double-storied runway across the
length of the depot, cutting through the middle of the space and leading directly
to one of the back doors, which opened at various times during the performance.
The actors, wearing iron-heeled boots, crossed the two levels of the runway and
mingled with the spectators while distributing boiled potatoes. The spectators sat
facing each other in upward sloping rows on both sides of the runway. While the
upper rows offered only a partial view of the events underneath the runway, they
provided a good view of the spectators sitting on the opposite side. The runway
events in turn frequently distracted those seated in the lower and middle rows
from observing the other spectators. The spectators in the lowest rows sat so close
to the runway that they were able to smell the actors’ sweat as they stormed past
them. These movements on and underneath the runway constantly redefined
the relationship between actors and spectators and opened or restricted specific

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112 The performative generation of materiality

possibilities for perception. The spatiality of the performance shifted constantly. At
one moment it favored the creation of a community between actors and spectators
only to destroy it again in the next.

The third strategy for the creation of spatiality builds on the possibilities offered
by a given space which is used, often simultaneously, in ways divergent from its
original purpose. Klaus Michael Grueber frequently employed this strategy. He
staged the Faust Salpêtrière (adapted from Goethe) at the Chapelle Saint Louis,
Hôpital de la Salpêtrière in Paris in 1975, Winter Journey (Winterreise) at the Olympic
Stadium Berlin in 1977, Rudi inside the ruins of Berlin’s Hotel Esplanade in 1979,
and Pale Mother, Gentle Sister (Bleiche Mutter, Zarte Schwester) at the Soviet Cemetery
located on the north slope of Castle Belvedere in Oberweimar (the summer
residence of Goethe’s patron, Duke Carl Augustus) in 1995. Grueber did not
leave these spaces unaltered; rather, his set designers (Gilles Aillaud and Eduardo
Arroyo or Antonio Recalcati) added details to enhance the space’s performativity
and change or increase their historical significance.

For Rudi, Antonio Recalcati put up installations in the front foyer, the palm
garden, the breakfast hall, and the “emperor’s hall”24 of the former Grand Hotel
Esplanade, which had received light or no damage from bombings during the
war. Up to the erection of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, these rooms had
still been regularly used for opera, press or film balls and other gala events, for
fashion shows, and beauty pageants. With the Berlin Wall, the hotel’s forecourt,
opening to the Tiergarten, was blocked off by concrete and barbed wire, and
the now much less sought-after building gradually became dilapidated. To this
building Grueber and Recalcati invited the audience for the performance of
Rudi. The actor Paul Burian sat in the breakfast hall and read out Bernard
von Brentano’s 1934 novella Rudi in a monotonous voice. With a slight delay
loudspeakers transmitted his voice into the other rooms. The other performers
included a boy with long hair wearing jeans, a shirt with an unusually large
collar, and a sweater, who played in the other room. Keeping him company was
a plump, gray-haired woman in a wheelchair, dressed in a black dress and vest.
The spectators could stroll through each of the rooms in their own time. They
could listen to the voice coming from the loudspeakers, sit down or move on
and return to each room as often as they wished (Kreuder 2000: 22–38). While
they could be sure that Burian, reading aloud, was a performer, the identity of
the boy or the old woman was less certain. In fact, such uncertainty extended to
the other spectators moving around. One’s relationship to people in the room
changed depending on whether one perceived them as performers or fellow
spectators. In one case, one might closely follow their every move, in another ask
them about their observations and impressions. In other words, the spectators
themselves largely generated Rudi’s spatiality through their movements and
perceptions. In addition, the spectators interpreted the objects in the rooms and
related them to text fragments. These meanings influenced their perception and
motivated movements and actions that further shaped the performative space.
Perception, association, memory, and imagination overlapped. The spectators

Page 240

Subject index 231

co-presence 32-3, 35, 38, 43-4, 60, 67-9, 73-4,
138, 181, 187, 191, 193, 199

corporeality 19, 39, 76-8, 80-1, 84-6, 90, 92-3,
97-8, 101,107, 116-17, 119, 125, 127, 129,
130, 133-5, 147-8, 162 see also physicality

crisis 12, 48, 50, 106, 132, 157-8, 176-7, 188,
194, 195, 198

cross-casting 82, 87
cultural performance see performance

dada 15; dadaists 138
dramatic character 11, 21, 34-5, 60-1, 76-80,

82, 84-8, 94, 97, 126-7, 147, 157, 176 see also
character and dramatic figure

dramatic figure 212n6 see also character and
dramatic character

dramatic text 33, 77, 138, 183-5

ecstasy 41, 56, 58, 100, 115-16 118, 120, 130,
134, 141, 162, 165-7, 186

effect: aesthetics of effect see aesthetics; presence
effect 93, 100-1

embodied mind see body
embodiment see body
emergence 77, 84, 99, 130-1, 138, 140-3, 145-7,

154, 163, 165, 167-8, 176, 181, 213n23
emotion 14-15, 52, 61, 77-8, 121, 140, 142-3,

149-54, 157-9, 162, 177, 192-3, 195, 197-9
see also affect and passion

energy 58-9, 67, 82, 84-5, 88, 96-9, 102-5, 111,
116, 127, 162, 165, 173, 198, 211n11

ephemerality 75, 162, 205
excess 12, 18, 54, 83, 86, 167, 198-9
experience: aesthetic experience 36, 49, 156-8,

165, 167-8, 172, 174-5, 177, 179, 182,
190-2, 194-6, 198-200; liminal experience
54, 174-7, 179, 190-6, 196,198-200;
perceptual experience 34, 69-70

feedback loop 38-9, 40-3, 46-8, 50-1, 55, 58-60,
62, 67-8, 71, 73-5, 105-6, 109, 114, 123,
130, 136-7, 141, 143, 150, 152-5, 157-8,
162-5, 172, 177-9, 187-8, 199, 202, 205-6,
211n4

festival 19, 35, 39, 56, 70, 101, 130, 161, 177,
181-2, 190, 195-201, 203

figure see dramatic figure
FLUXUS 19
futurists 15, 39, 138

gender 26-8, 128
genius 77, 84, 161

happening 19, 33, 60, 63, 131
hermeneutic aesthetics see aesthetics
historical avant-garde see avant-garde

illusionistic theatre 60, 61, 100
infection 36, 94-5, 192-4, 202
interpretation 16-8, 22, 25-6, 28, 30, 80, 95,

128, 143, 146, 159
liminal: liminal experience see experience;

liminal phase 175; liminal space see space;
liminal state 65, 67, 148, 176-7, 191-2,
194-5, 200

liminality 67, 157, 163, 174-9, 192, 194-5, 197,
199-200

literary theatre 77, 95, 138, 183-4
liturgy 13
live performance see performance
liveness 67-8, 73, 90

masses 51, 53, 69, 102
materiality 17-18, 20, 27, 33-4, 36-7, 75-6, 81-2,

86, 100, 105, 120, 125, 128-31, 135, 137-42,
144-5, 147, 156, 160, 162-3, 170, 181, 187-9

meaning 17-18, 20, 22-3, 27-8, 32, 34-6, 50, 67,
77-82, 85-6, 89, 91, 102, 112, 120, 125-8,
134, 138-9, 140-159, 161-2, 169-70, 172-5,
181, 184, 186, 196

mediality 32, 37-8, 138, 162-3
mediatization 67-71, 73, 92
mediatized performance see performance
memory 75-6, 85, 112, 120, 127, 140,

142-3, 157-60; episodic memory 158-60;
procedural memory 215n5; semantic
memory 158-60

metamorphosis 23, 189, 192, 196, 205 see also
transformation

mise en scène 15, 50, 106, 155, 164, 175, 182-90,
195, 200 see also staging

odor 116-20, 166, 172, 179, 189

order of presence see presence
order of representation see representation
passion 14, 34, 52, 61, 94, 101-2, 108, 127,

150-1, 192 see also affect and emotion
passion play see play
perception 17-18, 20, 22, 32, 36, 39, 45-7,

59-61, 75, 77-8, 86, 89-90, 94, 98, 107-17,
119, 126, 132, 134, 141-6, 148-50, 152-4,
156-7, 160, 162, 164-5, 169, 172-5, 177,
187-8, 190, 192-3, 200, 202-3, 205; aesthetic
perception 88; perceptual multistability 88,
147-8, 150, 157

performance: cultural performance 176, 195,
201; live performance 67-72, 74; mediatized
performance 68-71; performance art 18-19,
37, 49, 68, 75-6, 82, 87, 90, 92-3, 97-8, 101,
117-19, 127, 133, 162-4, 166, 168, 170-1,
175, 181, 189-90, 194, 196, 203 see also

Page 241

232 Subject index

action art and body art; performance space
see space

performative: performative acts 26-8, 31, 80,
84, 86, 92; performative space see space;
performative turn 18-20, 22-4, 29, 31, 36,
39, 49, 52, 70, 76, 80, 96, 98, 109, 172,
181-2, 193, 196, 207

performativity 22, 24, 27-9, 35-6, 77, 82, 85,
109-10, 112, 138, 154, 203

phenomenal body see body
physical contact 14-15, 22, 40, 60-5, 67-8, 92,

117, 156 see also touch
physicality 22, 34, 78, 80, 84-6, 88, 95, 98-9,

101, 134, 188 see also corporeality
play: Devil’s Play 60; Easter play 60; passion

play 101-2; tragic play 56
political: political act 44, 46, 170; political

community see community; political event
47, 196-200

postmodernism 168
presence 32, 60, 69, 72-4, 77, 87, 93-4, 96-101,

106, 115-16, 127, 136, 141, 147-50, 157,
162, 165-7, 173, 186-8, 199-200 see also
co-presence; order of presence 148-50, 157;
presence effect see effect; presentness 93-7,
100-1; radical concept of presence 99-100; strong
concept of presence 96, 100, 165; weak concept of
presence 94, 148

rasa 152, 190-1
reenactment 16, 28
reenchantment of the world 181, 189-90, 206-7
representation 20, 36, 68-9, 76-8, 80, 89-90,

96-7, 133, 147-50, 155, 157, 166, 184-6;
order of representation 148-50, 157

rhythm 57-8, 65, 90, 98, 131-7, 153-4, 159,
166, 185

ritual 13-15, 26, 30-1, 41, 51-4, 56, 68, 91-2,
104-5, 174-6, 178-9, 190-1, 193-6; birth
ritual 41; community ritual 22; death ritual
41; healing ritual 104-5, 191; incorporation
ritual 41, 178; rites of passage 41, 53, 174,
194; ritual community see community; ritual
studies 30, 51, 174; sacrificial ritual 30-1, 54
see also sacrifice and self-sacrifice

role reversal 22, 40-4, 47-51, 53, 55, 59, 164-5,
170, 172

sacrifice 30, 42, 53, 56, 153, 204 see also
sacrificial ritual and self-sacrifice

sacrificial ritual see ritual
self-referentiality 18, 141-2, 145, 150, 174, 186,

207
self-sacrifice 16, 91 see also sacrifice and

sacrificial ritual
semiotic aesthetics see aesthetics
semiotic body see body

semioticity 17-19, 35-7, 81, 138-40, 146-7, 154,
162-3

sound 19, 36, 58, 78-9, 116, 118-20, 122-5,
128-30, 132-6, 141, 153, 156, 160, 165-6,
172, 179, 189, 206 see also aural space and
tonality

space: architectural-geometric space 107, 114,
116, 125; atmospheric space 114, 119, 125;
aural space 120, 122-5, 128 see also sound
and tonality; liminal space 120, 128, 196,
205; performance space 25, 49, 59, 108,
178; performative space 107-8, 111-12, 114,
116, 119-20, 124-5, 170; public space 44,
114, 196, 201; theatre space 34, 52, 55, 107,
109, 115-16, 178, 196

spatiality 76, 107-8, 110-16, 119, 125, 129-30,
133-5, 162

spectacle 14-15, 26, 86, 109, 166, 181, 190, 195,
197, 199

spectator 11-22, 25, 32-6, 38-75, 78, 81-2,
85-91, 94-100, 102, 105-19, 122-3, 125,
128-32, 134, 136-43, 148-59, 161-8, 170-2,
175-81, 186-96, 198-9, 202, 205, 207 see also
audience

speech act 24-8, 169
staging 39-40, 42, 45, 47, 50-52, 55, 61, 88,

109, 182-90, 195, 197, 201, 205 see also mise
en scène

surrealists 15, 138
symbol 16, 54, 79, 144-7, 156, 175, 193

temporality 130, 132-6
tension 57, 75-8, 81, 98, 116, 126, 128-9, 198
theatre space see space
theatre studies 29-31, 83
theatricality 124, 188
theatricalization 181, 196-7, 200-1
time brackets 124-5, 131-4, 165-6
tonality 76, 107, 120-5, 128-30, 133-5, 162,

212n1 see also aural space and sound
touch 14, 60-5, 115, 130 see also physical contact
transfiguration 74, 84-6, 92, 99, 127, 166
transformation 12, 14-17, 20, 23, 26, 36, 50-2,

54, 64, 67, 83, 90, 92, 94, 102, 104-5, 120,
124, 128, 134, 140, 154, 174-5, 177-9,
181, 184, 190-3, 195-6, 198-9, 207 see also
metamorphosis

transgression 52, 204
two-world theory 78, 79, 82-3, 89, 153, 173,

183, 185-6

video 19, 72-3, 75, 128, 164
violence 14, 16, 18, 28, 42, 49, 54, 57, 64, 90-2,

153, 171, 199, 204
voice 20, 35, 38, 57, 79-80, 83-4, 86-7, 112-14,

120, 122, 124-30, 132, 134, 172

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