Aesthetics of [the] Invisible: Presence in Indian Performance Theory

Nair, Sreenath (2019) Aesthetics of [the] Invisible: Presence in Indian Performance Theory. In: The Routledge Companion to Performance Philosophy. Routledge. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

Aesthetics of [the] Invisible: Presence in Indian Performance Theory
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The question of ephemerality in current performance studies scholarship needs a different critical framing and vocabulary – not to debate the relationship between the archive and performance, but to understand the nature of the spatiotemporal dimension of how the invisible emerges and operates in the flesh in performance. In this essay, I wish to focus on the philosophical insights of Indian performance theory arguing that the notion of “presence” in the Natyasastra cannot be conceived in the strict Derridian sense of the traces as the play of absence (Olson, 2011, p. 215), but the dismissal of it: performance as the presence of excess. In order to do this, I intend to outline two sets of critical observations that further contextualize the investigation of the ontology of the body in performance. Firstly, I examine the Natyasastra’s concept of visibility and ‘presence showing how embodiment and imagination inform the foundational discourse of the emotive experience (rasa ) of performance. Here, I turn my attention to Peter Brook’s production of Battlefield [date] to situate the discussion of ephemerality, arguing that the performance exists only in the fictive and imaginary world, and hence, the ‘real’ in performance cannot be misunderstood as physical existence. I will also recount the articulation of an ontology of absence by Indian logicians such as Gautama (600 BCE-200CE) to emphasise the way in which the invisible gains the same ontological status as the visible in Indian performance theory. Following this, my second set of observations will shift the emphasis from the body in performance to the act of perception (by whom? The audience?) to identify a gap in current debates on the ontology of performance. Finally, I argue that Indian performance theory, through the idea of the experience of art as rasa or taste, offers new ways of understanding the material base of [the] invisible in performance. In this way, I’ll argue, performance functions as heterotopia, the “other site” (Foucault, 1986, p. 24) where imagination, both in terms of creation and perception, gains a new ontological dimension where fictive becomes ‘real’ when the performance takes (a) place. This, I’ll suggest, is the aesthetics of [the] invisible by which performance creates the excess rather than its own disappearance as ‘trace’.

Keywords:Presence; ephemerality; Indian Performance theory; the Natyasastra; Battlefield; trace; heterotopia; ontology of absence
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V511 Epistemology
W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
ID Code:35745
Deposited On:03 May 2019 08:12

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