My research project
From non-time to the presence of a timescape: transformations of the experience of contemporaneity in durational theatre and performance
The thesis aims at elaborating contemporaneity as a concept alongside a notion of presence that moves beyond the pure self-presence of modernism and its post-modernist critique, in order to make an original contribution to recent discourse rehabilitating presence (Cull, Gumbrecht, Power, Sherman). Contemporaneity is understood not only as concomitance, but as the dominant temporal experience of post-Fordism described by Marc Auge as a paradox in which an excess of time leads to its annihilation, to the non-time of actuality. Etymologically, though, contemporaneity means being-with-time and it is characterized by a dual temporality, one dimension of which is the experience grounded in the historical present and the other is defined by the temporal aspect of the (theatrical) event through which contemporaneity is explored. Indeed, this is the way it has been elaborated by philosophers, anthropologists and art historians but, surprisingly, not by performance scholars as yet.
This thesis departs from the premise that durational theatre and performance is a site of dual temporality, ideal for carrying out the study of contemporaneity: it shares excess time with contemporary life and although it cannot escape measured time, it refuses to embrace linearity. The discussion focuses on works by Marina Abramovic, Jan Fabre and Robert Wilson that have defined durational theatre and performance after the 1970s, alongside the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, which form the main theoretical axis. A novel methodology of performance philosophy is developed based on spectatorship as an experimental process, in order to approach durational pieces and philosophical texts as equal sources of ideas and explore the spatial, social and temporal aspects of contemporaneity by using subjectivity as a catalyst. The Timescape - a term found in social theories of time (Adam, 1998), that refers to complex flows of time and to an intersection of space and time as a way of understanding the meaning of events - summarizes the original contribution of the thesis and expresses the contemporaneity of being-with-time. The presence of the Timescape is the contribution of the thesis to the concept of presence. Finally, the historical/political potential of being-with-time as presence of the Timescape, will be explored in the historical context of contemporary art.
Durational Theatre and Performance