My new book explores the artistic activity of performers. It is aimed at performers and their audiences, for whom it will have immediate practical value. Insight into the nature of artistic performance transforms a person’s practicing, rehearsing, performing and teaching. It also transforms the experience of the audience. Audience members at concerts, the theatre, or dance performances will feel a new involvement with the performers and with what is happening onstage. Explaining how all this comes about requires some examination of theoretical topics such as: Are performers artists in their own right? What do they create? What is the relation of a work of performing art to a performance of that same work? These are philosophical questions, so to make good its practical purpose the book must also dip occasionally into philosophy.
I take motion as a point of departure, because everything performers do is done by moving their bodies. Intentional bodily movement depends on a body map that governs it, and understanding the relation of movement to the body map is a source of power in practicing and performing. But performing is not mere movement, it also communicates emotion, so the book must explain how motion is used to convey emotion and how audience members comprehend and respond to emotion thus conveyed.
The concept of love is the third essential topic. Love does not refer to anything that performers directly do, but rather to the preconditions that must be met if performance is to be successful. Love enters the picture in several ways. The performer must be secure in himself, which can be seen as a form of self-love. In addition, the relation of performers to one another in performance has the earmarks of a loving relationship and so does the interaction of performer and audience. When performer and audience feel themselves in such a relationship the occasion becomes memorably significant and powerful.
Seeing performance in terms of motion, emotion, and love, and also making clear what it is that performers create, reveals that performance yields artworks different from anything available in non-performing art. A performance offers an experience with greater intensity and a more coherent structure than the ordinary experiences of life; in performance, one’s experience during that stretch of time is shaped into an artwork.
The book will be decorated with a series of 24 etchings, Balli di Sfessania, by Jacques Callot (1592-1635).
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