“Let the good incendiaries with charred fingers come!”: Modernist performance and the destruction/construction of legacies

Warden, Claire (2014) “Let the good incendiaries with charred fingers come!”: Modernist performance and the destruction/construction of legacies. In: Modernism Now! British Association for Modernist Studies International Conference 2014, 26-28 June 2014, Senate House, University of London.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


The modernist avant-garde was littered with transient performances. Thrown up quickly, they engendered shock, confusion, anger and delight, before disappearing again leaving little material evidence in their wake. In a sense this ephemerality is the joy/bane of all performance, but it seemed particularly evident in the work of the futurists, dada and the surrealists. As figures from all three inter-related ‘movements’ rejected notions of re-performance, legacy and institutionalism, twenty-first century scholars and practitioners are left with a perplexing problem: how should we best respond to or understand work created by leaders like FT Marinetti who, in the 1909 Futurist Manifesto, claimed they should be ‘thrown in the waste paper basket like useless manuscripts’ as soon as they hit 40 by vigorous, new artists.

Taking Marinetti’s provocation and the transient, destructive, experimental attitudes of his compatriots as challenges, alongside Susan Stanford Friedman’s scholarly call to arms that ‘change is what drew me to modernism in the beginning. Why should it ossify? Why should the fluid freeze over, the undecidable become decided?’, this paper seeks to trace the fragmented journey of modernist performance ideas into the twenty-first century. Examining recent work from site-specific performers like Studio Azzurro, playwrights like Michael Vinaver and Martin Crimp, the ‘cyborg theatre’ of La Fura dels Baus and others, this paper aims to tentatively reconstruct an ongoing fractured narrative of modernist performance, concluding by suggesting multiple ways modernism might act as a catalyst for contemporary performance makers.

Keywords:modernism, performance
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
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ID Code:14454
Deposited On:03 Jul 2014 09:30

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