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  • A Home Unfound:The Political Modeling of the Domestic Performance
  • Daphna Ben-Shaul (bio)

This essay engages with domestic performances—that is, works performed in private homes—to explore the notion of domesticity within a political context, specifically in Israel. As a form of site-specific performance, domestic performance usually shifts among different modes of realization, which may include situating performance in a hosting house (whether authorized or unauthorized); pointing to biographical, historical, cultural, and political analogies between the house as "host" and the situation as "ghost"; or actively creating a home space.1 Site-specific performance made its appearance on the Israeli art scene in the late 1960s, but it is only since the early 2000s that it has become a widespread phenomenon,2 with domestic site-specific works becoming prevalent in the second decade of the 2000s.3 Such works were prominent, for instance, in the In-Home Festival in Jerusalem, which has taken place annually since 2011,4 while domestic performances have also been created as independent ventures [End Page 235] by Israeli theatres and ensembles, as well as being presented at festivals like the Site-Dependent Festival in Tel Aviv (2010-14). The form's unique actual and potential aesthetic features, deeply related to the complex psychological, social, and political significance connected with the notion of a home, require much further exploration. Within the Israeli context I analyze The Peacock of Silwan by Alma Ganihar and directed by Chen Alon and Sinai Peter; The Apartment, an adaptation of Franz Xaver Kroetz's Request Concert staged by Michael Ronen; and Eternal Sukkah by the Sala-Manca Group to examine performance that engages with domestic locations as found space.5 Unlike scenographic representations of a fictive dramatic home onstage, suited to the architectural space in conventional theatres, domestic space is a kind of ready-made found object (objet trouvé); it can be called a deliberately found space, not one that was "found" accidentally; it can involve a creative transformation, whose traits and their belonging to the domestic space take an active part in modeling the domestic environment and a new frame of reference. Yet, beyond being a venue of site-specific performance, this concept serves me essentially by way of negation: while the site of the domestic performance is a found space, it also manifests a lack of domesticity and is often presented as a home unfound.

The lack of home is a prominent and complex phenomenon in modern theatre, where the tendency is to create homes onstage whose ideal construction is threatened with the exposure and collapse of social, political, and economic norms and dictates. In domestic performance, however, this construction becomes an active negotiation between the situation's belonging to the aesthetic or concrete realm, and the extent of the viewers' belonging and responsibility in that space. Domestic performance is a social-community situation whereby interrelations emerge among the found home, the performative situation, and the viewer-participants. Through such interrelations, the performance expresses the idea that a home is not only comprised of individual needs, longings, and memories, but is also a collective representation of a community or a nation. This is a means of turning the home and what it represents into a phenomenological and ideological issue by literally and metonymically breaking the binary rift between an actual and private home and the public space.6 Thus the lack of home is expanded: into the host or analogical home, the new social context within which the situation is given, and the participants that constitute a public. [End Page 236]

My premise is that domestic performance, which involves making a private space (or at least what appears to be or is composed as one) public, is a political act.7 A key aspect of this political function is pursuing the literal and symbolic absence or negation of the home by exploring and externalizing the ways by which the home represents the public sphere, to which it already belongs. The significance of such a performance's political function is in the connection between the individual existence related to the home and social power relations (which may be related to gender, ethnicity, or any other aspect of...


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pp. 235-257
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