From non-time to the presence of a timescape: transformations of the experience of contemporaneity in durational theatre and performance.
University of Surrey
Supervisor: Dr Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca
Institution email: email@example.com
This PhD proposal aims at developing a novel concept of presence in performance, corresponding to the temporal relations developed in contemporary durational theatre. Producing a new understanding of the concept of contemporaneity, the project will move beyond the pure self-presence of modernism and its post-modernist critique, in order to make an original contribution to recent discourse rehabilitating presence (Kaye, Power, Sherman). Here, contemporaneity is understood not only as concomitance, but as the dominant temporal experience of post-Fordism described by Marc Augé as a paradox in which an excess of time becomes ‘non-time’. Contemporaneity also refers to being with time (‘being con-tempo’), as articulated by philosophers, anthropologists and art historians but, surprisingly, not by performance scholars. This project departs from the premise that durational theatre is a site of dual temporality, ideal for extending the study of contemporaneity: it shares excess time with contemporary life and although it cannot escape measured time, it refuses to embrace linear temporality. By focusing on works by Marina Abramović, Jan Fabre and Robert Wilson alongside writings by Merleau-Ponty, Derrida and Augé as equal sources of ideas, a novel methodology of performance philosophy based on spectatorship as an experimental process, will explore four ontological aspects of presence: where, when and how it emerges and its relation to embodiment. Whereas existing literature on theatre’s duration and the politics thereof has been largely influenced by Bergson, this study looks to phenomenology for an alternative to ‘non time’. From this perspective the project will examine the extent to which durational theatre’s political potential consists in the enabling of a ‘con-tempo’ experience of temporal awareness, rather than time ‘wasted’ contra capitalist efficiency. Finally, this temporal experience will be suggested as a characteristic of contemporary art differentiating it from modern and post-modern practices.