Unmarked: The Politics of Performance

Unmarked: The Politics of Performance

Unmarked: The Politics of Performance

Unmarked: The Politics of Performance


Unmarked is a controversial analysis of the fraught relation between political and representational visibility in contemporary culture. Written from and for the Left, Unmarked rethinks the claims of visibility politics through a feminist psychoanalytic examination of specific performance texts - including photography, painting, film, theatre and anti-abortion demonstrations.


[B]elief is in itself the image: both arise out of the same procedures and through the same terms: memory, sight, and love.

(Julia Kristeva )

The question of belief always enters critical writing and perhaps never more urgently than when one's subject resists vision and may not be "really there" at all. Like the fantasy of erotic desire which frames love, the distortions of forgetting which infect memories, and the blind spots laced through the visual field, a believable image is the product of a negotiation with an unverifiable real. As a representation of the real the image is always, partially, phantasmatic. In doubting the authenticity of the image, one questions as well the veracity of she who makes and describes it. To doubt the subject seized by the eye is to doubt the subjectivity of the seeing "I." These words work both to overcome and to deepen the provocation of that doubt.

As Jacques Lacan repeatedly argued, doubt is a defense against the real. And as basketball players know, sometimes the most effective offense is a good defense. Doubt can be temporarily overcome by belief, that old and slightly arthritic leap of faith. Like Jacob's struggle with the Angel who will not give him a proper name, Unmarked attempts to find a theory of value for that which is not "really" there, that which cannot be surveyed within the boundaries of the putative real.

By locating a subject in what cannot be reproduced within the ideology of the visible, I am attempting to revalue a belief in subjectivity and identity which is not visibly representable. This is not the same thing as calling for greater visibility of the hitherto unseen. Unmarked examines the implicit assumptions about the connections between representational visibility and political power which have been a dominant force in cultural theory in the last ten years. Among the challenges this poses is how to retain the power of the unmarked by surveying it within a theoretical frame. By exposing the blind spot within the theoretical frame itself, it may be possible to construct a way of knowing which

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