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Reviewed by:
  • A Split Second of Paradise: Live Art, Installation and Performance, and: Performing Processes: Creating Live Performance
  • Joshua Abrams (bio)
A Split Second of Paradise: Live Art, Installation and Performance. Edited by Nicky Childs and Jeni Walwin. London: Rivers Oram Press, 1998; 160 pp.; illustrated. $50.00 cloth, $17.50 paper.
Performing Processes: Creating Live Performance. Edited by Roberta Mock. Bristol, UK: Intellect Books, 2000, 128 pp., illustrated. $24.95 paper.

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In Sharon Grady's review of Performance: A Critical Introduction by Marvin Carlson (1996) and The Twentieth Century Performance Reader edited by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts (1996), she comments "What is needed by those of us seeking to change the pedagogy of theatre and dance departments [...] is a mixture and re-framing of a theoretical work like Carlson's with Huxley and Witt's attention to the voices of practitioners" (Grady 1998:164). Each of the two recent British anthologies reviewed here attempts to respond to this challenge, but Roberta Mock's book is the far more successful endeavor.

Nicky Childs and Jeni Walwin work for the London-based Artsadmin, an organization that manages and promotes artists, and their book is published under its aegis. A Split Second of Paradise targets a broad audience, performing a somewhat promotional purpose, while Mock's book is theoretically constructed. The [End Page 191] views of performance espoused by the editors of these books are diametrically opposed. The authors in Performing Processes explore live performance as a process composed of cyclically intertwined processes, with performance as the critical juncture of interrelated vectors. The authors in Walwin and Childs's anthology write more conventional close readings of performed events, explicating minute details of particular performances.

Mock attempts to rethink the classic Schechnerian model of performance (1977), as represented by static concentric circles, in the context of the ongoing debate over liveness between Peggy Phelan and Philip Auslander. By positing performance as process, rather than the fixed residue of process, and by insisting on the differentiation between performance and live performance, she contends that the ontology of live performance does not necessarily produce a space resistant to the reproductive economy. Contending that it is not mediatization that oppositionally defines the category of liveness but rather presence and the potential for bidirectional mutability, she asserts: "in non-live performances the processes of preparation, presentation, and reception can only move (or influence) in a clockwise direction [from performance to receiver]; in live performance the potential always exists for the processes to be influenced either way" (6). In examples like this Mock explores the importance of understanding the liveness of performance as a processual dynamic between spectators and performers.

Mock's cycle of five processes for understanding performance—Conception, Development, Presentation, Reception, and Reflection—draws heavily from reception theory. Although the book cites only once either of the two major applications of reception theory to theatre/performance studies—Susan Bennett's Theatre Audiences (1990) and Marvin Carlson's "Theatre Audiences and the Reading of Performance" (1989)—Mock recognizes these processes are not independent and must be examined as a dynamic interplay between performers and spectators. Mock proposes the overarching process of performance creation/development as bidirectional and without a true origin, attempting to demonstrate this through the structuring of the chapters. Each of the 10 chapters focuses on a facet of performance related to one of these processes, with only the final chapter exploring in any depth the interplay among the processes. Taken individually, the contributions to this book are fairly strong with a few exceptions. Mock has chosen to exemplify her argument through the interaction among the 10 chapters, providing a brief rationale for how each of the chapters fits into her pentad of processes and asking the reader to perform the process of reception, drawing the connecting vectors between the disparate chapters in order to understand the ontology of liveness: "the authors show how process is embedded into the product itself and how this dynamic always potentially embodies an exchange between those who make performance and their intended audiences" (10).

In "Desperate Acts," Christine Roberts contends that playwrights must address...


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pp. 191-194
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