The Mediality of Performance
Svend Erik Larsen, AARHUS UNIVERSITY
First a claim: all performances are acts, but all acts are not performances. The argument follows in the remaining part of the paper, showing how some acts can be fenced in as performances, and how the corresponding notion of performance offers an approach to literature that emphasizes its textual dynamics. Let us first take a look at an act, and then see on which conditions it becomes a performance. With a hammer in my right hand and a nail in my left I swing the hammer and hit my thumb. Ouch and four letter words. Is this a performance or just a clumsy act? It definitely belongs to the last category, but perhaps not to the first. If I decide to define it as a performance, if only a bad performance, would I have added anything substantial to an understanding of my clumsiness and spontaneous use of a particular vocabulary? Probably not.
But if instead the hammer act, with or without a spectacular thumb hitting, happens on stage, it is altogether different. The hammer equilibrist may then have been a carpenter desperately trying to finish the backdrops before the opening