Figuring diachrony: ethics before the voice
Harris, Brent Graeme
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This PhD project engages the fields of contemporary art, performance studies and performance philosophy. It explores participation and the relation of ethics to politics, through performance art works in public places. The research developed through a series of performances by the researcher, the researcher’s participation in performances of others, and in the writing of this exegesis. The project engages a reference field occurring among selected texts of the ‘ethics as first philosophy’ of contemporary philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, selected texts of Jacques Derrida, selected passages of David Wills’s Dorsality, performance works of Ant Hampton and Glen Neath, Martin Nachbar and others, and writings on performance of André Lepecki, Brian Massumi, Alan Read, Liza Kharoubi and others. Following the introduction of the project in Chapter One of the exegesis, Chapter Two explores becoming and belonging within performance practices in relation to locale and the there, prosthetics, and recording. It proposes a choreographic engagement with passing, attending and tethering, where it proposes these as something like the ‘quasitranscendental’ structures Rodolph Gasché proposes–as conditions of possibility of classes or categories, and conditions of impossibility of the closure of such classes and categories. In relation to this it invents the neologism 'attendeer' as a relation of attention to passivity. The engagement with tethering recalls an audio-recorded voice saying, ‘Bear in mind that you are tethered’, in Hampton and Neath’s performance The Bench or Hello for Dummies. The project’s engagement with choreography references David Wills’s writing in Dorsality¬ of a ‘technology in the back’ (2008: 12), a technology in the human animal that is behind, prior to, and undoing of, conceptual perspective. Chapter Three explores modes of resemblance within the performance practices in relation to Levinas’s proposition in ‘Reality and Its Shadow’ of a passive participation in ‘the image’ which suspends conceptuality, as no longer the participation of a subject or substantive. It proposes that at times performances, through their minimal differences with life in general in a locale, open an engagement with ‘the image’. Chapter Four considers this project’s methodology through an exploration of Levinas’s ‘The Trace of the Other’, and Wills’s writing of dorsality as modes of ‘bending back’. In relation to this it considers the project as practice-led research. Exploring relations on footpaths of passers-by and attendeers in my performance practice, Chapter Four begins an exploration of responsibility and relations of ethics to politics, engaging writings on performance of André Lepecki, Liza Kharoubi, Alan Read, and writings on politics of Simon Critchley. Chapter Five engages my performance practice in relation to Levinas’s writing of ethics as diachronic time¬–‘a saying prior to anything said’–and juxtaposes aspects of Levinas’s engagement aspects of Jean-Luc Nancy’s engagement with Listening. Chapter Five explores relations of saying, seriality and interruption, and considers Levinas’s proposition of ingratitude in relation to the possibility or impossibility of the movement of a work that is not a restitution to the same. ‘Figuring Diachrony: Ethics before the voice’ relates performance practice to the possibility or impossibility of figuring the trace of ethics.