After Liveness: An e-interview

Phillip Auslander


Performance Paradigm: One of the most provocative and useful arguments you raise in your book Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Society (London: Routledge, 1999) is the view that the opposition of live and mediated performance is a ‘competitive opposition at the level of cultural economy’ and not at the level of intrinsic or ontological differences. (11) The case-studies you use are from pop music and legal contexts as well as staged art performance. Has there been any development in this latter area of practice since you wrote that book that for you underscores the notion that live and mediated forms of performance are mutually dependent? (This might include specific productions or genres of performance).

Philip Auslander : One of the most interesting works with which I have become familiar since writing Livenessis Matthew Barney’s Cremaster cycle. I consider Barney to be one of the most important performance artists working today. This may seem to be an odd statement, since Barney’s main activity is filmmaking and he never presents live performances. From my point of view, however, it is far more interesting to situate his work in the tradition of performance art than that of cinema or video art. This is particularly true with respect to the activities Barney himself performs in his pieces, which are rooted in task-based performance and endurance art, among other things. His work also reflects current trends in performance art, particularly in its engagement with fashion and design.

In Liveness , I talk a great deal about how various forms of live performance have become more and more like mediatised events. Barney represents the other side of that equation: a provocative example of work in a mediatised form that is most meaningful, at least for me, when understood as a version of live art.

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Schechner, Richard. The End of Humanism: Writings on Performance. (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982)


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