Academic journal article Liminalities

The Reality of Contingency: Performance as Materialized Trope and the Theorization of Rupture

Academic journal article Liminalities

The Reality of Contingency: Performance as Materialized Trope and the Theorization of Rupture

Article excerpt

The conception of performance as rupture is a relatively new linkage of live, materially enacted events and the productive disruption of social reality. The recent work of several theorists provide an invaluable starting point for theorizing the role of performance in challenging oppressive instantiations of the Real in the context of what Guy Debord has called "the society of the spectacle." However, ruptural performance, as currently theorized, tends to ignore the temporal element of the performance, which we believe is essential to disrupting monolithic conceptions of spectacular capitalism. If ruptural performances do succeed in jamming the material flows of capital, the lack of theorization about the extended effects of what we will classify as the "reading" and "rereading" of the performative event places an overemphasis on the ephemeral nature of the rupture. This, we argue, ultimately leads to passive contemplation, a spectacular logic that rupture must counter not support. Therefore we argue for an examination of the extended temporality of ruptural performance as that which exposes reality as a contingent and an arbitrary assemblage, disrupts the spectacle on the level of signification by opening reality to constant re-interpretation and renegotiation, and enacts alternatives to current instantiations of truth, both materially and ideologically - all after the ruptural event has taken place. This requires an understanding of performance that moves it away from theatricality and towards materialized trope.

In the following article we summarize and critique current conceptions of rupture, offer our alternative theorization of performance and rupture, and link these conceptions to an example of ruptural performance. The first section examines Tony Perucci's recent theorization of rupture as published in "What the Fuck is That? Poetics of Ruptural Performance," as well as Josette Feral and Leslie Wickens' work on "The Aesthetics of Shock." We believe each author forwards a necessary starting point to theorizing rupture, but ultimately ignores the ongoing re-negotiation that occurs after the event takes place. Furthermore, we critique both theorists' evocation of a monolithic understanding of spectacular capitalism and neo-liberalism, and argue that spectacular capitalism is a specific instantiation of an epistemological framing that constructs what constitutes reality.

In the second section, we suggest an alternative theorization of performance, through Paul de Man, as materialized trope; an embodied enactment of signification that navigates the divide between the figural and literal components of meaning production as well as rethinks the binary between textuality and materiality. Ruptural performance is a specific instantiation of materialized trope that acts performatively - it does not attempt to hide the fact that it cannot account for its own production and thus leaves open the possibility of continued rereading, or the challenging of the production of truth and reality. In this sense we believe that rupture is a performed act of intellectual specificity and focus on the temporal moments that occur after the ruptrual event itself. This intellectual specificity is a contextualization of the historical production of truth coupled with an exposure of reality as contingent that enables the viewer to disarticulate the inevitability of their current spectacular condition. In the third and final section we examine the Occupy movement to demonstrate the necessity of including the temporal element of materialized trope in reading an event as rupture.

I: (Re)framing Rupture

Making Strange: Theories of Rupture

In his essay, "What the Fuck is That? The Poetics of Ruptural Performance," Tony Perucci theorizes ruptural performance as that which "seeks to challenge and disrupt the values and especially the experience of the society of the specta cle...it shares with spectacle the qualities of being dramatic and theatrical, what distinguishes them is how they disrupt the experience of daily life, a rupture of the living of social relations" ("What" 3). …

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