- Encounters in Performance Philosophy ed. by Laura Cull and Alice Lagaay, and: Adorno and Performance ed. Will Daddario and Karoline Gritzner
In the shared preface that launches both Encounters in Performance Philosophy and Adorno and Performance, the Performance Philosophy series editors Laura Cull, Alice Lagaay, and Freddie Rokem announce that its volumes work to establish both the scope of the project and a self-reflexive space “to ask again and again: ‘What is Performance Philosophy?’ and ‘What might Performance Philosophy become?’” (vii in Encounters, ix in Adorno). It is possible to glean from these volumes a relatively clear sense of what constitutes Performance Philosophy today, at least in the terms laid out by those who identify their work under that heading. In part a professional association that boasts a robust website, an annual conference, a journal, and now a book series through Palgrave Macmillan, Performance Philosophy also positions itself as an emergent field of research, irreducible to either performance studies or philosophy. The extent to which the “performance philosophy” in these texts is distinct from more theory-driven forms of performance studies scholarship is not always clear. But, rather than measure the success of either text in the limited terms of academic novelty, it would be more productive to push the second line of inquiry, the one that asks what Performance Philosophy might yet become. (A third collection titled Žižek and Performance, edited by Broderick Chow and Alex Mangold , is also part of this launch, but it is not under review here.) Any answers to the question of what Performance Philosophy can become will have to consider what neither the editors nor the contributors consider very extensively in either volume: that is, the historical and material conditions that make such a project seem at once possible and necessary. And to understand that requires us to formulate some alternative questions. Here is one that is not broached in either volume but can tell us just as much about the objects and analytical protocols that orient such work: “What (and how) does Performance Philosophy desire?” I cannot exhaust this question, but I will comment on what I sense some of the answers to it might be (and can become).
Encounters in Performance Philosophy features 14 texts, in addition to a brief introduction by editors Laura Cull and Alice Lagaay, that range in form from standard scholarly essays to one transcript of an exchange between a theorist and an artist, a tract-like and aphoristic text, and a translated talk. The 14 essays are organized under 8 separate themes, but maintain a relatively consistent focus on and approach to what Laura Cull, in her overview essay, names the “reciprocal (in)determination or mutual transformation” that the pivot of performance-as-philosophy and philosophy-as-performance is designed to enact (22). Phenomenology is represented strongly throughout the collection, with several contributions that meditate on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s fleshy constitution of the visible, on Heidegger’s philosophy of the ground, or on this body of thought’s demolition and reassembly through figures like Jean-Luc Nancy and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. As the philosophical tradition that works through concepts that are most intimately related to the processual focus of theatrical performance and spectatorship, it seems appropriate that the languages of phenomenological thought make such a showing. Indeed, although it is not named directly, this focus discloses what is perhaps the essays’ primary concern: a clear interest in the various scales of the processes of performance and philosophy—from the embodiment of roles, to the raising of the stage, to the social collaborations of rehearsal and training. [End Page 166]
However, given that “performance” almost always means “theatre” in this collection, the ambitions of this emergent field tend to far outpace its current execution. If Performance Philosophy is to be more than the sum of its parts, if it seeks to...