Exploring the Concept of Liveness in Performance Studies from the Perspective of Peggy Phelan and Philip Auslander

Article Type:
Research/Original Article (دارای رتبه معتبر)

Liveness is one of the most important issues to consider in all arts in general and in performing arts in particular. In recent years with the ever- increasing popularity of intermedial and multimedial it has assumed a new significance and the nature and definition of liveness has become the subject of much theoretical debate. Following this novel trend numerous scholars and theorists have contributed to the vigorous debate on liveness. Liveness has been analyzed in various fields such as performance studies, media studies, film and television studies, sports studies, virtual studies and more. The present study, however, focuses on performance studies and media studies. In the wake of  Peggy Phelan’s observations in  “Unmarked: The Politics of Performance” namely claiming that performance’s only life is in the present as well as placing considerable emphasis on the fact that performance is ontologically ephemeral, numerous theorists contributed to advancing the discussion. Philip Auslander, initially determined to take issue with the ontological view, made an effort to investigate liveness taking innovations in digital and hybrid performances into consideration. Therefore, warning against solely attempting to locate liveness in the object of perception, he highlighted the role of spectator or audience. Recent innovations, however, proved these considerations insufficient too, since particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic the absence of live performance from cultural experience necessitated reassessment of previously agreed-upon statements. The present descriptive- analytical research which is conducted with comparative approach aims to explore the theories of Phelan and Auslander regarding liveness. In this regard, an attempt is made to examine the ideas of both theorists and compare them in the light of recent findings in this field. The findings of this research indicate that Phelan’s ontologically- based definition of liveness, though significant, might not prove practical considering recent innovations. On the other hand, Auslander’s pronouncements, initially based on the historicity and contingency of liveness, at each stage, reflect the specific conditions of the case studies he chooses to investigate. Particularly if we consider the new definition of space, which is related to the space created in digital performances, the co-presence of performer and spectator in time and space can exist, albeit in a new sense of space.

Journal of Motaleate-e Tatbighi-e Honar, Volume:13 Issue: 25, 2024
31 to 42
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