Essays on Performance and Its Documentation
Explores the relationship between the documentation of a live performance and the audience’s experience of it
Most people agree that witnessing a live performance is not the same as seeing it on screen; however, most of the performances we experience are in recorded forms. Some aver that the recorded form of a performance necessarily distorts it or betrays it, focusing on the relationship between the original event and its recorded versions. By contrast, Reactivations focuses on how the audience experiences the performance, as opposed to its documentation. How does a spectator access and experience a performance from its documentation? What is the value of performance documentation?
The book treats performance documentation as a specific discursive use of media that arose in the middle of the 20th century alongside such forms of performance as the Happening and that is different, both discursively and as a practice, from traditional theater and dance photography. Philip Auslander explores the phenomenal relationship between the spectator who experiences the performance from the document and the document itself. The document is not merely a secondary iteration of the original event but a vehicle that gives us meaningful access to the performance itself as an artistic work.
“A rich and rewarding book. Reactivations reminds us how to think about performance in a manner that is direct and pragmatic, while still ambitious and fully embedded in both conceptual and historical knowledge of our subject.”
—Matthew Reason, York St. John University
“Philip Auslander is one of the most penetrating observers and interpreters of performance. He addresses the subtle substance and still radical and difficult form of performance in elegantly articulated, original insights, thought-provoking perspectives, and respectful debates. Reactivations is Auslander at his best.”
—Kristine Stiles, Duke University
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