Deleuze and Performance

Deleuze and Performance

Deleuze and Performance

Deleuze and Performance


Introduces the thought of Gilles Deleuze to researchers in performance theory and practice.


Laura Cull

Was performance important to Deleuze? Is Deleuze important to performance – to its practical, as well as theoretical, research? What value might research in Performance Studies have for Deleuze Studies and vice versa? Such are the kind of questions this introduction, and indeed this volume as a whole, aims to address. Further, we might ask, what are the implications of Deleuze’s ontological prioritisation of difference, process or becoming for a field in which many continue to privilege the notion of performance as representation, as anchored by its imitation of an identity: ‘the world’, ‘the play’, ‘the self’? Correlatively, can philosophy follow Deleuze in overcoming the anti-theatrical tradition embedded in its history, perhaps even reconsidering what it means to think in the light of the embodied insights of performance’s practitioners?

Given his unorthodox readings of Kafka, animated accounts of Bacon, encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema and diligent attention to music – from Boulez to Cage – one can only imagine Deleuze to have been an extraordinary audience member at a performance, a view the Italian actor and director Carmelo Bene affirmed when he described Deleuze as ‘a lucid connoisseur of theatre’ (Bene 2002: 1166; see Chiesa, Chapter 4, below). and yet, beyond his engagement with Bene, which will be a focus of this introduction, we have relatively little to go on – at least on first inspection. If theatre and performance were genuinely of interest to Deleuze, why did he (and Guattari) not write more about it, particularly given their direct contact with contemporary practitioners during the flourishing of performance in the 1960s and ’70s? Although the arts are frequently privileged in Deleuze’s philosophy as sites of fundamental encounter, he seems to have had a complex, even troubled, relation to performance.

For instance, we cannot ignore Deleuze’s occasional denigration of theatre in relation to his apparently favoured art of the cinema. in . . .

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