Real Events Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture by Philip Auslander Review by: Jennie Klein PAJ: A Journal of Performance and

Art, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 130-133 Published by: Performing Arts Journal, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3245921 . Accessed: 17/03/2012 11:51
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. As she argued in her 1993 book Unmarked:The Politics of Performance. it is thus in the domain of performance that Phelan finds "Hope. but writing's supplement traces the architecture of the ruin's Hope. a belief that has been echoed in much less theoretical terms by performance artists themselves. What better place to situate that site than art/live performance. -Peggy Phelan. The effort to "cite"the performance that interests us even as it disappearsis much like the effort to find the word to say what we mean.as Phelan'sclaims for the radical ontology of live performance addressa collective nostalgia (one that is modernist in origin) for a site of resistance or transgression. Reading F or PeggyPhelan. but only vaguely remembered." the trace or indication of a place from which a revolution might take place. performance derives its strength from its unique ontology of non-reproducibility. as Phelan proposes to do. This is not particularlysurprising. Writing towards disappearance.New York: Routledge. is an inherently optimistic act..writingabout performance. Performance's ability to elude what Phelan has termed "the politics of visibility" places it outside of the (phallic) Law and therefore outside of the domain of patriarchal and oppressive representation. 1999.. an ephemeral art form that disappears even as it is appearing. one that does not so much "fix"the performance as re-position it to mean something new and exciting. but the futile looking attaches us again to Hope. is an impossible task as the performance cannot be re-instated. Phelan's belief in the inherently transgressive nature of performance.which she prepared with Lynda Hart). has become enormously influential in the six years that have passed since the publication of Unmarked (and of the anthology Acting Out: Feminist Performances. which has traditionally situated itself outside of the realm of hegemonic representation? Does performance reallystand apart ontologically 130 - . It's impossible to succeed. Liveness:Performancein a Mediatized Culture. It can't be done..REALEVENTS Jennie Klein BOOK REVIEWED: Philip Auslander. Performance can never be re-presented.

created first Liveness: in Performance a Mediatized for television.Aus. even that done live setting. appeals to our nostalgia for what we assumed was the im-mediate: if the In his first chapter.duced by MTV. Auslanderpoints out that television initiallymodeled itself on the ideto ology of "liveness.S. Finally it explains why the performance theory. back at the history of televiLooking sion." Auslander writes.Auslanderargues mediatized image can be recreated in a that live performance." Auslander argues that all live performance. cannot claim independence from the language of mass reproduction. even that associatedwith the avantgarde. resulting in the displacement of live performance."In an effortto get resentation of a musical event. it must have been 'real' to artiststoby avant-garde performance begin with."able capturethe intimacyand immediacyof live theatre in a way that film could not (originally all televisionbroadcasts werelive).Auslander's leased CD.while a character in by Philip Auslander his recentbook such as Ronald McDonald.e. then makes "live"appearin Culture. Thus television sitcoms such as Happy Days or children's films such as The Lion King are made into stage events after the initial mediatized verThese provocativequestionsare posed sion has been released. according to a simple logic that copyrightlaw.is shapedby and modeledupon the mediatized of representations television.."that 'live'event the touchstone of performative authenis 'real'and that mediatizedevents are ticity is now the Unpluggedseries proand secondary somehowartificial repro. concert bears a striking resemblance to parture prevalentin both popularculture and a music video. It also explains why the "live"rock ing of "liveness"at the end of the twentiethcentury.the rock concert. and ized. "Live wisdom.ances at various McDonald's around the U. beyondthis conventional landerexaminesthe placeand ideology has become the means by which of "live"performance three institu.. as well as why the live point of deis the common assumption.day. even the aid of large video screens showing and the significance "liveness" a society the "live" action down below on the of in whose point of referencehas become stage) authenticates the previously rethe television.. ultimately and comes concert (which can only be experienced to someverydifferent conclusions about by those not close to the screen through the ontology of performance. mediatization) that defines it as live.mediatized representations are naturalin tions: television. itself a mediatized repductionsof the real. which is now used after the fact to validate the "realness" the mediatized of event. whichhe takeson the mean.performance." Far from standing in opposition to contemporary mediatized culture. ". live performance defines itself in relationship KLEIN / RealEvents * 131 and ideologicallyfrom other forms of representation in today's culture of simulacraand media representation? Is it in factabove(or beyond)the Lawand its discursive structures? is it in fact Or the result of those very forms that it supposedlyopposes? . particularly since live performance is "already inscribed with traces of the possibility of technical mediation (i. This ideology of "liveness"in connection with television and the televisualhas continuedtodayin spiteof the fact that most television is no longer live.

as it is not at all clearthatliveperformance has a separateontology. Auslander exin amines the position of performance to the actuallawsthat govrelationship ern its use in American society. In a very literal.but from the demand for the "real" createdby mediatizationitthat self.werethatculture to be somehow miraculouslyzapped as out of existence.to that culture.Interest132 * PAJ 64 ingly enough."Bothlive applicable performanceand the performanceof mediatizationare predicatedon disapThe televisualimage is propearance: duced by an ongoing processin which scan lines replaceone another."Auslander of recuperation. in part because "the essence of testimony is not the information reof called but the performance recalling it in the courtroom. which raisesmore questionsthan it answers. which she suggests is an unique attributeof performance.Phelanis of course referringto the law in the Lacaniansense of a symbolic realm of which servesto regulate social discourse in interactions both public and private. Somewhatmore literally.In fact. in factequally is to televisionitself. I suspect many people will take issue with this small book. televisual other technicalreproducand like live performances. particularlyin regardsto the privilegingof the live over the mediatized. memory. become tions. a double tion. The very desire for live performance comes not from the need for community or immediacy (two commonly cited benefitsof the live over the mediatized). takeson Auslander Phelan'scontention that performance. subjectto surveillance "The fact that the groundregulation.Auslander suggests Phelan's thus claim for an uniqueontologyof performance. material sense. or is "unable" to enterinto the economyof reproduction. live performancein the form of witness testimony is given precedencein jury trials. which can exist only in memory. by some performance Americanlaw deniesperformance legal standing as intellectual property and recuperatesit as central to the legal processitself. themselvesthroughdisappearance. On the other hand. live performance excludedfrom copyrightprotectionbecause of the belief that as an unfixed mode of culturalproductionit cannot be copied. which is based gesture in the sameunderstanding the ontolof of performance that advocated as ogy theorists[Phelan].he findsthat the qualities ascribedby Phelanto live performance have an exact parallelin the law itself." In the final chapter.especiallywhen it is is and retrieved.and it is alwaysas absentas it is present. in ing of performance an ontology of is livenessand disappearance as fundaof mental to the understanding performancein and of the law as it is to many accountsof performance from emerging the performancetheory problematizes desireto see thatontologyas a sourceof resistanceto reproductionand regula"In concludes.the use of recordingscauses them to degenerate."live"performance it is presentlydefined would cease to exist. outlined above." in Liveness: Performance a Mediatized Culture raises some very interesting points. In a rather brilliant theoretical sleight of hand." frombeing outsideof the law. is On the one hand. is somehowoutside of the Law. is fallacious. Given the popularityof Phelan's theories. One of its most troublingaspectsis that it forces those of us who write about .beforethe accused Far and the jury. Auslanderpoints out that Phelan's ontologyof disappearance.

" JENNIE KLEIN teaches art history at Berea College in Kentucky. Can we reallycontinue to argue. 130-133: ? 2000 The Johns Hopkins University Press KLEIN / RealEvents * 133 .and Laurie Anderson have become. I regret that Auslanderdid not includea chapter the meaningof live on art performance/performance in relationship to the art world. hope for transgression.avant-gardeperformance-particularly feministandminorityperformance-to re-theorizeits meaning in relationship to other forms of culturalproduction. that their performativeactions take place in a realmof transgression againstthe patriarchalnorm? Or do we now need to construct in relation the mediatized it to culturein which it wasproduced? an As arthistorian who writesaboutperformance. it might be necessary to jettisoncompletelythe notion that performanceis ontologicallyunique in its stanceagainst mediatization oppositional and instead begin to explorethe mannerin which certainparticular performances"workthe weaknessin the norm" (to paraphrase JudithButler)and begin to re-iterate the representations produced by a culturealreadysaturated by a mediatized notion of what constitutes "liveness.in order to retain the Hope (hope for resistance. PAJ. could we argue (as I suspect Auslanderwould) that the very development of this art form was premised upon its position within a mediatized culture that continues to valorize an ever more elusive liveness?Could this particularargument change how we theorizethis sort of work?Perhaps.NO.known artists such as Holly Hughes. Since performance art "originated" the late in sixtiesandearly seventies some (although would traceits roots even furtherback to the beginningof the twentiethcen- tury). 64 (2000) PP.Karen Finley.given the media spectaclesthat the performances of well. hope for a breakwith the norm) aboutwhich Phelanwrites.

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