Alaric Sumner, The politics of performing art

reviewed by Edmund Hardy

This is a performance-lecture in pamphlet form, with a short editorial comment at the end from Lawrence Upton, who puts the case:

"In 1991, as [Sumner] was breaking from an earlier stage of his life and establishing a new pattern of survival based in West Cornwall, he had expressed a desire to have a new kind of writing, which he then called "monologues", alongside his poetry and more theatrical writing. This piece is perhaps the first example of that desire coming to fruition."

The lecture has a lot more questions than answers, and this is good. "Your preconceptions are questioned and contradicted. Isn't this the whole and only political purpose of performing art?" Later this is questioned: what happens when you've been shocked and then you see the shocking thing again? His discussion of Stellarc and public body-piercing is pertinent. (Are all these question marks the lecture's own meat-hooks?)

"Meaning isn't somewhere, meaning is what is done with something." There's also a cry of despair: Because "art" is "dismissed are irrelevant to practical life", then, says Sumner, "Oppositional art is fucked from the outset." A positive cry, because the lecture implicitly asks, So now what?

[Alaric Sumner, "The politics of performing art" published by Writers Forum]

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