Differential presence: Deleuze and performance
Cull, Laura Katherine
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To allow for the publication of the thesis content in the form of a monograph.
Abstract This thesis argues that presence in the performing arts can be reconceived, via the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, as an encounter with difference or ‘differential presence’ which is variously defined as immanence, destratification, affect/becoming, and duration. These definitions are developed through a series of four analyses of exemplary performance practices: 1) The Living Theatre; 2) Antonin Artaud; 3) Allan Kaprow and 4) Goat Island. Chapter One recuperates the Living Theatre from a dominant narrative of ‘failure’, aided by the Deleuzian concepts of ontological participation, immanence, production/creation and ‘the people to come’. Reframing the company as pioneers of methods such as audience participation and collective creation, the chapter argues that their theatrical ambition is irreducible to some simple pursuit of undifferentiated presence (as authenticity or communion). Chapter Two provides an exposition of three key concepts emerging in the encounter between Artaud and Deleuze: the body without organs, the theatre without organs, and the destratified voice. The chapter proposes that To have done with the judgment of god constitutes an instance of a theatre without organs that uses the destratified voice in a pursuit of differential presence – as a nonrepresentative encounter with difference that forces new thoughts upon us. Chapter Three defines differential presence in relation to Deleuze’s concepts of affect and becoming-imperceptible and Kaprow’s concepts of ‘experienced insight’, nonart, ‘becoming “the whole”’, and attention. The chapter argues that Kaprow and Deleuze share a concern to theorize the practice of participating in actuality beyond the subject/object distinction, in a manner that promotes an ethico-political sense of taking part in “the whole”. Finally, Chapter Four focuses on the temporal aspect of differential presence, arguing that through slowness, waiting, repetition and imitation, Goat Island’s performance work acknowledges and responds to ‘the need to open ourselves affectively to the actuality of others’ (Mullarkey 2003: 488).
PhD in Drama