This essay proposes an enactive approach to spectatorship. This enactive approach involves a shift in focus from what is (re)presented onstage towards the relationship between what is staged and the modes of perceiving of the audience. Staging and spectator are mutually implicated, and modes of staging (willingly or unwillingly) imply positions, both in concrete embodied space and with regard to the ways in which our perceptions of things include attitudes toward them: assumptions, expectations, beliefs, desires, fears. Starting from two theatre performances that position their audiences in ways that self-consciously destabilize habitual modes of perceiving (Dries Verhoeven’s Funerals and Alexandra Broeder’s NATURE or NURTURE), the essay demonstrates the potential of an enactive approach for understanding the political and ethical implications of theatre. It shows how Lakoff and Johnson’s theory of conceptual metaphor helps to explain the confusing experiences caused by these performances in terms of how they confront us with what they describe as the “metaphors we live by”: the systems of metaphors that structure our bodily perceptual-cognitive encounter with what we find ourselves confronted with. The essay also shows how theories of embodied simulation help us to understand the uncomfortable experiences evoked by this performance as a result of how the performance mediates in multiple, sometimes contradictory identifications and subverts our sense of self as observers of a world that exists independently from our perception of it.


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pp. 363-383
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