“Empty chairs at empty tables”: the fundamental absence of performance

Symonds, Dominic (2013) “Empty chairs at empty tables”: the fundamental absence of performance. In: Song, Stage and Screen VIII: What We Do When We Do What We Do: Process and Performance in Musical Theatre, 2 - 4 July 2013, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

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


Much of the discourse surrounding performance centres on and even fetishises its qualities of presence and liveness. This paper seeks to challenge such assumptions by exploring the ubiquity of absence in the practice of performance. I will note how the voices of writers, directors and choreographer are absent from the act of performance; how the immediacy of performance becomes increasingly corrupted by the decay of its elements; and how, at moments of heightened emotion, memory becomes blanked out or mis-remembered. I will call on concepts of decay, memory and loss in relation to both the practice and reception of performance, noting how fundamental modes of engagement with performance—emotion memory, reflection—not only challenge the immediacy of the performative encounter, but perhaps also call for dissociative, proxy engagements with the Here/Now, disrupting the authenticity of performance’s claim to presence. I will conclude by suggesting that not only is absence a staple element of performance, but it is in fact the sine qua non that, paradoxically, gives performance its performativity.

Keywords:Collaboration, Absence, Presence, Liveness, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Performance
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W310 Musicianship/Performance studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
ID Code:22460
Deposited On:09 Mar 2016 15:15

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