Situational                                                                                        Performance Sociology

…there is a skill that has its connoisseurs and its esthetics exercised in any labyrinth of powers, a skill ceaselessly recreating opacities and ambiguities – spaces of darkness and trickery… Even the field of misfortune is refashioned by this combination of manipulation and enjoyment. (De Certeau: 18)

1. There is a necessity to define, rule and smell out the space(s) in which to intervene (into that space, not as locus but a knot of timely discourse, an arena and atmosphere) by ‘enriching the space-time of direct experience’ (Vaneigem: 229); precisely to confront the problem of public space. Hear that rumour mill: “what the hell I encountered an idiot, laughing as a bear… you won’t believe it I have a picture on my mobile phone to prove it”. Fled from public discourse the perceived boundaries between private and public, in the guise of personalised communication systems, bombarded and invaded by others’ intimate and shocking revelations: the private conversations between individuals played out on the tops of buses, the bullying insistence of social networks, the instant replies, all undermining our sense of intimacy. Not since Diderot first questioned the idea of a nascent public opinion, as a ‘sense’ of public good in the coffee houses and salons, of Paris and London, have the distinctions between public space and the free space of thoughts been made so openly fluid, so troubling and challenging. How should we behave, how intervene, how interrupt and resist; so as not to miss the moment (of spontaneity)? How this laughing art insinuates then, an insertion into ‘public space’ where the boundary between intimacy/extimacy, secrecy and privacy dissolve into a certain unbounded transparency.


2. You can never find the ideal time/space in which to insert your interruption. It is necessary then, to show a commitment; to be sincere and have the willingness to act on one’s feeling  – quite simply to be foolhardy, literally to die for it as Robert Desnos did – in this glorious make belief…

3. It is an aesthetics that inevitably and inextricably engages both artistic praxis and the audience, by confronting, undermining, sharing and/or provoking real situations of commitment; not only as rhetorical or aesthetic encounters as such but as moments that engender a certain knowing pathos (as con/passion). There is an urgency and desire for a pathos in laughter affect – the experience of encountering in and through the wound[1]– in the exposure of empathy, sympathy or even apathy:

The wound opened up by presence cannot be healed without relinquishing the position of the subject as some one …The wound can be healed for a moment or two, but always outside of time, in total abandonment or total surrender, in an ecstasy of love, …or an ecstasy of action, and in any case in complete relinquishment of the subject position. (Ophir: 183)

This requires a certain dissolving of the subject self, evinced in the primary role of the addressee within laughter events: of seeing the other self/as the other, dissolving into the laughter of the other.

4. In this laughter dis/engagement, there is an art that communicates best to those who are resistant to it; a resistant engagement that goes far beyond the coterie of like-minds, broadening the scope and realm of art, while refining its ethical dimension or standpoint. It thinks of relations as aesthetic, by regarding all communication as a knot of ethical manoeuvring  – the ballet of decency – teasing out these subtle choreographed distinctions: the frictions, disagreements, confusion in taste, ‘the shock of the unintelligible’ (Adorno 1980: 180).

5. These artistic encounters must appear as unsolicited gifts. In these unintelligible offerings, concealed, revealing barbs and spurts of laughter burst, such that: ‘tricked by an art. Into the institution to be served is insinuated styles of social exchange, technical invention, and moral resistance, that is, an economy of the “gift” (generosities for which one expects a return), an esthetics of “tricks” (artists’ operations) and an ethics of tenacity (countless ways of refusing to accord to the established order the status of a law, a meaning, or a fatality)’(De Certeau 1988: 26-27). Though they are often unwelcome tricks, ambivalent gifts calculated to confront: a gift of unhappy interactivity, imposed encounters that have been hijacked or inserted, unwelcome generosities that captivate, or experiments in unequal reciprocity. In these vanguardist techniques – an offering in the esthetics of tricks– self, mastery, law and in/authenticity are challenged then submerged in playful webs of counter gift and counter move.

[1] ‘The experience of encountering cannot be explained as a meeting between two bodies in space – someone encounters something – for the encounter as some one being presented with some thing includes the ‘internal’ split of she who encounters and the ‘internal’ space of her consciousness (or soul, or self) …the experience of presence is a ‘wound’ in being, for it posits some one who perceives in the face of some thing that is perceived, without making it possible to ground the internal space of the presence in its external space’ (Ophir: 183).

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