Philipp Schulte focuses on experimental forms of theatre that evade the concept of oeuvre and consider themselves as practices of investigation. His description of critique and style in contemporary performance arts in the mode of alternative genealogies presents the lecture-performance Product of Other Circumstances by the French choreographer and dancer Xavier Le Roy as well as the production Into the Skirt by Japanese performance artist Mamoru Iriguchi. In both cases, their scenic research questions the relationship between theory and practice, as well as that between scientific research and artistic creation. It is in direct reference to core concepts of the political that these performances develop their own resistant potential. Both artists, in spite of their considerable differences, develop pieces within the tension of integration and de-integration in the symbolic orders of a style of dance, an economic system of marketing, or of heteronormative practices. Combining Le Roy’s works with a reading of Foucault and Butler, Schulte emphasizes the usefulness of a concept of style in conceiving of these phenomena of a (not merely) artistic de-submission; meanwhile, the analysis of Iriguchi’s performances denotes a proximity to the philosophical textual form of critical genealogy.
“What is critique?” – Michel Foucault dedicated a lecture to this question in 1978.1 Twenty-two years later, Judith Butler did the same, and presented a detailed analysis and interpretation of Foucault’s text.2 “What is critique?” – to both theorists, this is the short form of a question that I would like to put this way: How can we develop a “reflected intractability [l’indocilité réfléchie]”3 in order to desubjugate ourselves and to escape reigning discourses – at least potentially or temporarily? Butler draws our attention to a fascinating aspect of Foucault’s lecture: She points out that it is highly performative. Foucault tries to do what he explains, he rehearses the act of desubjugation. When asked where the decision-making not to be governed comes from, he answers very artfully: “I was not referring to something that would be a fundamental anarchism, that would be like an originary freedom, absolutely and wholeheartedly resistant to any governmentalization. I did not say it, but this does not mean that I absolutely exclude it.”4
On the one hand, Foucault’s model does not utilize an originary freedom as its ontological driving force. On the other hand, it does not not do so. Judith Butler argues that we can only properly understand this and other parts of the lecture if we keep in mind how Foucault stages what he says. Butler believes that Foucault’s words are “artfully rendered” stagings rather than assertions:
The staging of the term is not its assertion, but we might say that the assertion is staged, rendered artfully, subjected to an ontological suspension, precisely so it might be spoken. And that it is this speech act, the one which for a time relieves the phrase, “originary freedom,” from the epistemic politics within which it lives which also performs a certain desubjugation of the subject within the politics of truth.5
Butler calls Foucault “oddly brave”6 because he gestures towards the originary freedom knowing that it is impossible to ground his claim. His artful, tongue-in-cheek utterance shows that he just accepts this epistemological groundlessness. “Critique begins with the presumption of governmentalization and then with its failure to totalize the subject it seeks to know and to subjugate.”7
According to Butler, Foucault’s lecture is all about artful stagings and experimental tryouts of alternative practices within the framework that the reigning discourses provide. This staging activity is considered creative because it can transcend and even partially defy the normativity of those discourses. Butler points out that for Foucault, “there can be no ethics, and no politics, without recourse to this singular sense of poiesis.”8 The subject appears once again as both created and creating, simultaneously and without any implied temporal priority. Foucault calls the singular poiesis, which emerges from the tension between forming and being formed, self-stylization. This is a well-coined term – especially from a theatre studies perspective, as I hope to show –, because the notions of style and stylization can help us grasp the exemplary subjectivating processes of subjugation and desubjugation performed on stage with the methods of performance analysis. In this context, I suggest distinguishing performative acts on stage as acts that either fit or do not fit certain given conventional frames. “Style” is then a preliminary proposal for a term that denotes this distinction, to be complemented by the idea of a critical genealogy as found in the philosophy of Nietzsche, Foucault and Butler.
The term “style” fits with the discussed model of subjectivation quite well, given its trajectory. Since the middle of the 18th century it has paradoxically denoted two conflicting aesthetic concepts. On the one hand, style is considered to be one of various perceivable, isolatable, normative elements that characterize a work of art. Here, style is committed to a principle of continuity, which is linked to and adheres to an artistic tradition. Style is understood as conformation to an already existing system of values, a submission to a given norm. Artistically, style primarily denotes workmanship, the style of production.9
According to Aleida Assmann, it was a revolution of style in 18th century England that introduced the second concept of style at least to the field of literature. The increasing alphabetization had given rise to new profane genres, which gradually superseded all kinds of religious literature and sparked literary criticism. Foucault argues similarly when he attributes the emergence of critique and the question of how not to be governed thus to the fact that the plurality of written interpretations weakened the pope’s exclusive oral power over the Christian creed. The second dimension of the notion of style, dominant today, enters the stage: style as individual deviation. It is a hybrid of the old concept of imitation and the more recent concept of creation.10 However, deviation is only possible within the norm, and desubjugation only at the cost of subjugation. Thus, style is the creative version of critique, looking out for individual alternatives to be governed thus.
Art, especially performative art, always oscillates between traditional stylistics and individual style. Contemporary theatre research therefore needs to pay attention to both: to the defining stylistics, theatrical formats, and genres of different epochs on the one hand, and to singular theatre phenomena on the other. Only in this way can the interdependence of gradually emerging stylistics and suddenly erupting individual styles be understood. The notion of stylistics alludes to a canon of rules to be observed, whereas style means to know the rules and to play with them. One of the artists who explore the artistic and subjective potential of style is the dancer and choreographer Xavier Le Roy; another is the London-based performance artist Mamoru Iriguchi, who works with certain performative elements in his performances orientated towards certain aspects of critical genealogies.
A black rehearsal stage. It is empty except for a projection screen upstage, a laptop on a small stool in the left downstage area, and, centerstage, the performer, a man in his late forties wearing a T-shirt and loose-fitting trousers. The man is Xavier Le Roy. He watches his audience taking their seats. From time to time he nods to someone. As soon as everybody is seated, he begins: “Let’s start.” He takes off his glasses and his shoes, then goes upstage and starts to dance. At first, Le Roy moves very slowly, his hands at a strange angle and his fingers cramped, as if he was trying to repel something. He mainly moves on the floor, spreading his arms wide, as if he was holding something invisible. Sometimes he appears to be mimicking an animal. His facial expression is striking, too: His eyes are closed most of the time, his mouth is distorted, then he opens it to make guttural, rattling, sucking sounds. The dance sequence is reminiscent of Butoh. After five minutes Le Roy stops abruptly, takes a sip of water and addresses the audience once again: “This dance is a part of a story I would like to tell you this evening. The story will be about two hours long.” This is the beginning of the lecture performance Product of Other Circumstances from 2009.
The development process of Product of Other Circumstances started with choreographer Boris Charmatz reminding his friend Le Roy of his own boisterous statement that he could learn how to dance Butoh in two hours, and asking him to do so during the festival “Re-Butoh”. In Product of Other Circumstances Le Roy humorously and charmingly presents the intermediate result of his work. He tells the audience how he approached Butoh with the help of his own experiences and memories – as well as with Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and additional textbooks. He explains how he did research in his free time and he even presents two short choreographies – a reenactment and a sequence of his own, inspired by the results of his research. By allowing us to observe a two-hour learning process (even though the actual research took more time) he indirectly keeps his promise to become a Butoh dancer in two hours. In Product of Other Circumstances, we observe the antagonism of subjugation and desubjugation on at least three levels: in relation to its “prequel” Product of Circumstances, and the “style” of the genre of lecture performance; in relation to the “styles” of Butoh; and finally in relation to the conditions of art institutions.
On a first level, Product of Other Circumstances deals with its own “prequel,” the widely noticed and academically much discussed performance Product of Circumstances from 1999. It is through this performance that the lecture performance became a very popular genre, especially among choreographers and dancers.11 What is more, Product of Circumstances initiated a certain style that by now has become mainstream in the contemporary performance context. The lecture performance as such plays with the rules and norms of mainstream academic presentations. The narration of Product of Circumstances, too, deals with conforming to norms and not conforming to norms, when Le Roy, who has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, describes his desire to dance and his physical inability to fulfil the requirements of certain dance styles, when he talks about his academic career and his scepticism towards the scientific community. Le Roy goes even further. The title Product of Other Circumstances already reveals that there is a strong connection to the first lecture performance that made him famous ten years before.
Le Roy thus undermines the expectations raised by a genre that he helped establishing. Instead of talking about how he has become what he is today, he talks about how his current performance has become the way it is. With Product of Other Circumstances Le Roy shows that style, in the sense of desubjugation, can withstand only temporarily, namely in rehearsal-like situations; and by citing Product of Circumstances he somewhat proves that style, once fully developed, tends to turn into stylistics – a fixed set of styles. To experience style as a momentary, imaginary, artful freedom is only possible in a rehearsal, understood as a situation of free play where everything can, but nothing has to be fixed.
Product of Other Circumstances approaches the subject of following the rules and not following the rules on a second level when Le Roy mentions his claim to be able to learn Butoh in two hours, the starting point of the work. The claim resembles those of the self-improvement industry: “Learn Chinese in two months,” “Lose ten pounds in two weeks,” “Understand Hegel in two days.” The fact that the “style” of Butoh is more than vague makes it clear just how presumptuous and unrealistic it is to try to learn it in two hours. Kazuo Ono coined the term Butoh more as a label for a certain attitude towards dance rather than as the name of a specific dance form. Hence, the internet provides only contradictory definitions of Butoh: “There is no set of style, and it may be purely conceptual, without any movement, with or without ordinance.”12 However, it is possible to rehearse this liminal dance practice. This is what Le Roy artfully shows on stage, maybe as artfully as Ono’s term presents itself. Le Roys individual approach to Butoh’s vague stylistics is the topic of Product of Other Circumstances.
At the beginning of the performance Le Roy clarifies what he did not do to learn Butoh. He did not travel to Japan, and he refused to participate in Butoh workshops because of a lack of time and a small production budget. In his performance, he looks into Butoh unsystematically and from a very personal point of view. He focuses on his memories and on the things that strike him in the Internet’s information pot-pourri: “You’ll never know with the Internet …” For instance, as he googles Butoh in two hours, an entry about himself appears which advertises the Re-Butoh festival. The anecdote reflects what the whole performance is about: We are unable to isolate the circumstances that shape us from ourselves. We are products of other circumstances but we also leave traces in the discourse that become circumstances for others and, again, for ourselves.
There is a discrepancy between the claim to be able to learn Butoh in two hours and the difficulty to identify a certain Butoh style. And there is a discrepancy between the claim to be able to learn Butoh in two hours and the actual factors of production such as time, money and the physical possibilities the choreographer has to work with. These discrepancies constitute the framework in which Le Roy is able to follow or violate rules: first, the rules of marketing in the performing arts, and second, the vague “rules” of Butoh stylistics that were developed by Ono, and adapted and distorted by other dancers. Le Roy recollects these stylistics in order to develop his own Butoh style, not to learn Butoh.
Three dance sequences structure the performance. They illustrate the processes at work when we try to appropriate something alien by the means of our own potential and desire. The above described early sequence prepares the audience for the two hours that follow. Some members of the audience may already sense that what they see is an approach to Butoh. However, the dance precedes any verbal contextualization. The opposite is the case with the second dance, which is performed one hour later. By then, the audience already knows what Le Roy’s performance is about, and this second dance is contextualized. The contextualization has a specific function. It is supposed to make the audience reflect on what they see and not just identify and evaluate it. In retrospect, Le Roy explains the first dance and its technique, that he imagined concrete pictures, a man, an animal, a tree, which inspired him to associatively create his movements. In his second dance, however, Le Roy re-enacts a Butoh choreography that he saw years before, relying only on his memory and on a video documentation. Here Le Roy does not experiment with specific stylistics but strictly plays by someone else’s rules, which is not what he actually planned to do: “You have to find your own Butoh and this was not really my Butoh, it was their Butoh … So I dropped the idea.” At the end of his performance, Le Roy finally presents the provisional outcome of his research that he has been explaining to the audience for almost two hours. These detailed explanations are important because they let the audience realize the context in which Le Roy choreographed himself. We now know that we are supposed to see Le Roy’s experimental setting and recognize Le Roy as a person who physically deals with the somehow given and at the same time vague stylistics of Butoh – sometimes conforming to them and sometimes transforming them creatively.
On a third level Le Roy demonstrates the processes of opting in and opting out of the contexts of institutionalized contemporary dance and its theatre and festival system. This has always been an important aspect of Le Roy’s work. What does it mean to describe a performance on stage during the performance itself? Instead of just presenting the outcome of his rehearsals, Le Roy incorporates the rehearsal process in his performance. As a choreographer he refuses to comply with the art market’s demand for a coherent and entertaining product. Thus, Le Roy undermines the administrative conventions of the performance art market. He even talks about this process in Product of Other Circumstances:
End of August I got this receipt from the production office. And that was somehow interesting: the proposal was 1,300 Euro. My first reaction was: “Wow. Two hours work and maybe ten or twenty minutes dance – that’s very well paid.” But of course at this time already I failed because I worked much more than two hours.
And at the end of the performance he becomes even more explicit:
The French administration sends me a letter every year telling me how much I earn by the hour, or what I should earn. And last year it was 29 Euros an hour. So I did this very fast calculation: 1,300 Euros, 12% for the administration and production, and the rest … counting the taxes and all this: I should have worked 26 hours. But of course I worked more. And then I thought, what does that mean? It was interesting for me to realize that I have done this, in a way, more in my free time than in my time where I am supposed to work. So the conclusion of this would be that this work is more like amateur work, a work that is done as a hobby piece. […] What the whole story produces is also a space for me to be detached from certain pressures or expectations. I was not at all in that situation where I had to look for a co-production to find the money and to pay the people, or to find the time to get the people together, the premiere and all that. This proposal somehow freed me from those conditions.
Le Roy enjoys working under such other circumstances – free from pressure and expectations. The “freedom” of the rehearsal allows him to escape the necessity of meeting the requirements of the professional art system at least temporarily, and it is a prerequisite of artistic creativity. And even though the final performance is subject to the pragmatic constraints of a festival or theatre, this freedom of the rehearsal remains as an artful staging and a subtle reference to the necessity of such a freedom, which the artist has to negotiate with the commissioning and sponsoring institutions again and again.
In Product of Other Circumstances, Le Roy lets the audience witness an enabling de-ontologisation of that “freedom,” of Butoh as a dance form, and also of Le Roy’s potential to act subversively. The performance meticulously explains its own process of creation and verbally contextualizes its artistic means and matters, thus disclosing that all the artistic decisions are not fixed but could be dismissed at any time. Le Roy learns something similar to Butoh; he experiences something similar to creative freedom given the requirements of the professional art market; and he is able to refer to this freedom in demonstrating something similar to a subversive attitude towards this system. The freedom Le Roy experiences while rehearsing Product of Other Circumstances is closely related to the originary freedom to which Foucault refers by “not referring” to it. This kind of freedom is always relational, a freedom from something, and Le Roy’s performance shows once again that it only exists in relation to circumstances. Le Roy is able to temporarily deviate from the norms of Butoh or the performance art market by pointing out these norms. His freedom emerges under restricting circumstances. His account of these restricting circumstances is simultaneously the account of his artful handling of these circumstances – “this dance is part of a story …”. Le Roy cannot plausibly explain the origin of this subversive self-stylization. Neither could Foucault, who instead developed a Nietzschean genealogical construction. Philosopher Martin Saar describes Nietzsche’s genealogical style as a “critically motivated art of drastic depiction.”13 Nietzsche’s stylization in On the Genealogy of Moral14 is, of course, different from Foucault’s stylization in “What is Critique?,” just as Foucault’s stylization is different from Le Roy’s in Product of Other Circumstances. All three positions stylize themselves and their (speech) acts by different means. However, there is one important similarity: they all narratively and performatively construct an unprovable “originary freedom” which is not an alternative to apparent certainties but a “critical questioning of the contemporary self-conception.”15
Only subjects who refuse to think of themselves as completely subjugated can rehearse the act of de-subjugation. They accept that the “originary freedom” cannot be proved and engage in an artful self-stylization. This is the claim that Le Roy’s performance suggests: philosophy and art allow types of utterances that create spaces that enable the development of style that opts in and opts out; spaces where subjects may look for “something similar” to the originary freedom and temporarily dismiss whatever it is that determines them.
London-based Japanese performance artist Mamoru Iriguchi works in such a space of de-subjugation. His project Into the Skirt allows me to expand my argument. The telling of alternative stories can be understood as an artistic strategy to reflect and opt out. Iriguchi’s performance begins like this:
Mamoru Iriguchi17 stands in the middle of a small black box stage and faces the audience. He wears wide pyjamas (strangely shaped at the hips) with a lot of pink fighter jets on them. “It’s me, seven years old,” he says. “I wish I’d be wearing something prettier than this. Fighter planes were not my cup of tea.”18 He talks about his neighbourhood friend Rita, whom he envied for her pink flowered pyjamas. However, since seven-year-old Mamoru considered himself a “pretty scientifically-minded person” who looked at the world through logic, this was no big deal to him. To prove his junior ego’s analytical skills, Iriguchi brought a huge scrapbook containing all kinds of alleged observations. He picks up the book from the floor and opens it. Iriguchi uses the actual book’s blank pages as a screen for a video projection in order to display the pictures in Mamoru’s scrapbook.
“Chapter One is on science. I was particularly interested in biology.” We see the silhouette of a hen and a rooster right behind her. This is a depiction of “Melting,” a procedure during which a male “hands over” a small amount of sperm to the female. However, young Mamoru failed to quite understand how that worked. After a lot of research he came to the “logical conclusion” that the hen must have an orifice on the nape of her neck.
Mamoru turns a page: “Chapter Two is on fairy tales.” Sleeping Beauty used to be his favourite tale. He especially liked the idea of being kissed awake by “Prince Charming.” The projection shows the princess in the same position as the hen with prince Charming behind her. The book’s appendix contains a picture of Judy Garland, whom Mamoru admires.
It is obvious how closely the three chapters of his book about biology, fairy tales and Judy Garland are connected when Mamoru, who has changed out of his pyjamas into a hoop skirt, ostentatiously struggles to lay four cardboard eggs while singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Into the Skirt deals with the tension between Mamoru’s infantile “scientific” interest in the inevitably heterosexual act of procreation, and his imaginary identification with the fairy tale princess and Judy Garland.19 Mamoru’s idiosyncratic story about the biological creation is set in contrast to what Iriguchi, the performer, has made of himself. All the funny, oneiric, and metaphoric pictures, actions, and stories which Iriguchi presents in Into the Skirt oscillate between normed expectations and subjective self-stylization. Iriguchi’s silly fictions turn out to be a tongue-in-cheek critique of what is considered normal in the process of individuation.
At the beginning of the second part of the performance, Mamoru shows his book once again. Seven years have passed since his first entries. He compiled the additional material at the age of fourteen. Mamoru still wears his pink pyjamas and he still adheres to the same structure: the two chapters and an appendix. However, even though his drawings remain naïve, he has learned many of the disillusioning biological facts about reproduction. He now knows about the penis and the vagina and the injection of sperm (although his infographics are still a little bit inaccurate). Mamoru knows more about fairy tales, too: “Sometimes original stories are much more grotesque.” Instead of romantically kissing her awake, the prince ordinarily rapes her. “He just has sex. That’s right! After the sex she is still sleeping, and Prince Charming runs away. How irresponsible is that?!” Mamoru still keeps Judy Garland’s photograph in the appendix, but it is almost covered by new, conventional hetero-pornographic pictures. These pictures are chaotically arranged and run counter to the diagrammatic order of the previous chapters.
There seems to be a structural similarity between Iriguchi’s artistic strategy, his obviously fictitious stories of the origin of the self, and the academic form of the critical genealogy. The latter is extensively used by philosophers such as Nietzsche, Foucault, and, to a lesser extent, Judith Butler. Artist as well as philosophers critically ask “where” certain phenomena come from in order to show that seemingly natural circumstances and assumptions are historical products, and that alternatives are possible. Iriguchi’s fictitious tales of reproduction hint in this direction. Saar believes that the familiar metaphor of birth is a common sign of the critical genealogies’ typical “obsession with the true and the false origins, ancestry, roots, and their power.”20 Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music is a well known example for the attempt to criticize a status quo by imagining its origin. Saar asserts that “[…] since Nietzsche, the notion of genealogy has promised to merge the critique of the present with the knowledge of the past by attributing a critical significance to historicity and the specific origin of its subject matters.”21
This “knowledge of the past,” however, is nothing that one can “reveal” or “discover” with the traditional methods of historical analysis. In a strict sense, it is no knowledge at all but the assumption of an often fictitious event that the author needs to make his point. Saar makes this clear: “True, possible, and fictitious stories can all function as an objection against current values and practices,”22 and flippancies and ways of getting off track in particular render this kind of resistance possible. Genealogical texts employ certain rhetorical techniques in their narration and their argument which make them oscillate between academic and aesthetic writing. Saar describes the most important features of this style, such as interest in stories of origin, direct addresses to the reader, a tendency to dramatize and hyperbolize the fictionalization of common knowledge and the aspect of the seemingly possible. Many of these structural features occur in Iriguchi’s work as well. Even though Iriguchi’s obsession with procreation and birth is singular, the following aspects of his work are typical for many recent performance art projects.23
On top of Iriguchi’s interest in birth, the performance Into the Skirt shares at least two more characteristic traits with critical-genealogical texts. The first one is the direct address to the audience, which is actually quite common in contemporary performance art. Nietzsche used the direct address as well as hyperboles and polemics to provide his readers with an entertaining read and hence to reach a broader audience than an academic essay would. By being addressed directly, the reader, as the agent of the concept of self in question, is supposed to develop self-doubts and to contemplate alternative concepts of self. Iriguchi does exactly the same when he directly addresses his audience. The “self” that is to be examined turns out to be at once the subject matter as well as the addressee of the critique. The reader and the audience are supposed to recognise themselves in this defamiliarized form because it is for their own sake that the story of subjectification is told.24 Iriguchi tells a (possible, fictitious) story about his own development (what he thought at age seven and age fourteen). The spectators, however, who are directly addressed, are implicitly invited to think about their own history, the steps of their own development that made them what they are.
A second characteristic of critical genealogies is the already mentioned tendency to dramatise and hyperbolize. Saar even calls Nietzsche’s technique “the art of exaggeration,”25 and it is due to this hyperbolic pretense that Nietzsche’s highly constructed and extremely simplified depictions of the origin have “a ‘reality effect’, seemingly describing or even explaining a real event or process.”26 However, this is not only a rhetoric trick to gain attention, but an illustration of how discursive powers create subjectivity. Philosopher David Owen even calls this technique “a form of affective performance which seeks to communicate particular affective dispositions to the reader” and not to argue in favour of a certain position.27
In Into the Skirt, Iriguchi uses pictures and symbols in a similarly simplifying, almost overly explicit way:
The audience is given to understand that Mamoru masturbates. The fruit of this act is a white foam pony called Snowwhite (which has been hidden under Mamoru’s pyjamas). On this pony Mamoru rides through a projected sky and fights a wicked witch with a cardboard-penis sword. The fighter planes from his pyjamas support Mamoru in the fight. The witch’s motherly curses, such as “It’s 7 am!” or “You wetted the bed again!,” are projected as well and accompanied by the sounds of Mamoru’s alarm clock. Mamoru shatters the curses with his unsubtle sword.28
This is how Iriguchi stages the contradictions between an as yet undirected libido and the organising norms of everyday life. His hoop skirt, the eggs, and his imitation of Judy Garland are colourful and humorous illustrations of the battle against heteronormativity.
The already mentioned scrapbook scenes contrast Mamoru’s private imaginary world and the symbolic normative order. If we compare the seven-year-old’s book to the fourteen-year-old’s, we see how drastically the experiences of the older Mamoru have overwritten the almost romantic world view of the younger Mamoru. The facts of procreation, the violent truth behind the fairy tale, and heterosexual pornography discredit Mamoru’s idea of a procreational bite and his soft spot for Prince Charming and the young Judy Garland as naive and unnecessary. Iriguchi fictionalizes this general conflict through a funny story about a particular subjective development, and at the same time, he hints at the possible but discursively rejected alternatives, as on the stage it is not unthinkable for a man to identify with Judy Garland instead of a male porn star. According to Saar, Nietzsche’s genealogical fictions point out that “social forms always demand some kind of adaptation, and that taxing the costs of this adaptation is the first step towards a re-evaluation of these forms.”29 Iriguchi breaks down the costs of growing up by showing us the incompatibility of some childhood desires with the norms of the grown up society.
Saar mentions yet another characteristic aspect of genealogy: being seemingly possible. Genealogies are always polemic counter-truths, “undocumented, hypothetic accounts that are supposed to change the self by telling a scandalising history of the self.”30 Foucault, too, believes that it is possible “to make fictions work within truth, to induce truth-effects within a fictional discourse, and in some way make the discourse of truth arouse, ‘fabricate’ something which does not as yet exist, thus ‘fiction’ [fictionne] something.”31 Even though Mamoru Iriguchi’s scrapbook and his stories about his junior ego’s preoccupation with Judy Garland might not be authentic, they never seem to be impossible fictions. Iriguchi’s performance “fictions” in a Foucauldian sense. The mere existence of Mamoru’s ideas, which obviously deviate from the dominant discourse, questions this very discourse at least for a moment.
However, while the philosophical genealogies mentioned above focus on certain cultural developments and concepts and try to point out alternatives to the dominant perspectives on these phenomena, Iriguchi only tells his own story. He seems to have no interest in revolution or ethical re-evaluations. But Iriguchi’s approach is not naïve. His performance challenges heteronormative standards of masculinity by drafting a homosexual genealogy and enforcing it on stage. Clearly he stands in the tradition of those performance artists who since the 1960s have used the stage to try out deviant forms of existence in front of an audience. Not being subject to economic and political interests completely, the field of performance art allows a testing of identities that would be scandalised elsewhere. Thus Iriguchi’s own private genealogy renders visible the power system that surrounds and shapes him and all of us.
Both genealogical texts and Iriguchi’s artistic work aim to criticize the way we are formed by a discursive system or a symbolic order. This is also true for an earlier lecture performance by Mamoru Iriguchi, Pregnant?!. Once again, Iriguchi combines a humorous fictionalisation with a genealogical critique when he uses a very detailed PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his (possible) development in his mother’s womb. At the same time he overlays this narrative with a fictional story of his own pregnancy and his giving birth to seven small rabbits. Iriguchi confronts his male body with aspects of motherhood (partly through projections onto his body) and tells a story of origin that differs from the conventional form. He raises doubts about the present form of power by examining which of his personal desires cannot be brought in line with the symbolic order with which he has to comply. Foucault says that “there is no ﬁrst or ﬁnal point of resistance to political power other than in the relationship one has to oneself.”32 Iriguchi experiments with precisely this relationship of the self to itself as a relationship between accepting what you are and rejecting the necessity to be that way. By such means he questions the allegedly predetermined development of “the subject” in a very similar way to Le Roy’s performing acts of subjugation and desubjugation on stage.
One of the prominent characteristics of Iriguchi’s genealogical technique is, as stated, the permanent direct address to the audience. In his case it also needs to be viewed as an appeal. The relationship of the performance artist on stage to himself – similar again to Le Roy’s not in its form but in its structure – makes the audience wonder about their own relationship to themselves, and at least temporarily allows them to think: not like this.
1 Compare Michel Foucault, “What is Critique?,” trans. Lysa Hochroth and Catherine Porter, The Political, ed. David Ingram (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 191–211.
2 Compare Judith Butler, “What is Critique? An Essay on Foucault’s Virtue,” The Political, ed. David Ingram (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 212–228.
3 Compare ibid., p. 220 and Foucault, “What is Critique,” p. 194. For Foucault and Butler this intractability implicitly derives from a state of self-reflection. The starting point of their (and my) investigation is the origin of the power to self-reflect.
4 Foucault, “What is Critique?,” p. 208.
5 Butler, “What is Critique?,” p. 224.
9 Compare Hans-Martin Gauger, Über Sprache und Stil (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1995).
10 Compare Aleida Assmann, “’Opting in’ und ‘opting out’. Konformität und Individualität in den poetologischen Debatten der englischen Aufklärung,” Stil. Geschichten und Funktionen eines kulturwissenschaftlichen Diskurselementes, ed. Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1986), pp. 127–143.
11 The term “lecture performance” refers to a genre in performance art that uses means of academic presentations, in particular those of the classic academic lecture.
12 All unreferenced quotations in this section are Xavier Le Roy’s and were drawn from the video recording of Product of Other Circumstances performed at the rehearsal stage of the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies on November 13, 2010 during the international double symposium “Dance, Politics and Co-Immunity” and “Thinking – Resisting – Reading the Political” at Justus-Liebig-University, Gießen.
13 Compare Martin Saar, Genealogie als Kritik. Geschichte und Theorie des Subjekts nach Nietzsche und Foucault (Frankfurt/M.: Campus, 2007), p. 139. Translation A. S.
14 Compare Friedrich Nietzsche, Zur Genealogie der Moral. Eine Streitschrift (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1988).
15 Saar, Genealogie als Kritik. p. 141. Translation A.S.
16 Parts of this paragraph are a translation based on an earlier article: Philipp Schulte, “Von der Wichtigkeit, nicht ernst zu sein. Die alternativen Genealogien in den Performances Mamuro Iriguchis,” Subjekt: Theater. Beiträge zur analytischen Theatralität. Festschrift für Helga Finter zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Gerald Siegmund and Petra Bolte-Picker (Frankfurt/M.: Peter Lang, 2011), pp. 259–271.
17 In the following I will refer to the performance artist Mamoru Iriguchi as “Iriguchi” and to his performed young alter ego as “Mamoru.”
18 All unreferenced quotations in this section are Mamoru Iriguchi’s and were drawn from the video recording of Into the Skirt performed during the Plateaux Festival at Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt/Main on May 1, 2010.
19 Concerning Judy Garland’s role as a gay icon compare: Charles Kaiser, The Gay Metropolis 1940 – 1996 (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997); John Loughery, The Other Side of Silence: Men’s Lives and Gay Identities. A Twentieth Century History (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998); Neil Miller, Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present (London: Vintage UK, 1995); The National Museum & Archive of Lesbian and Gay History, ed., The Gay Almanac (New York: Berkeley Books, 1996).
20 Saar, Genealogie als Kritik, p. 23. Translation A. S.
21 Ibid., p. 9. Translation A. S.
23 Besides Xavier Le Roy’s works there are for example lecture performances by Lebanese media artist Walid Raad and some works by Belgian choreographer/director Michael Laub, to name just three. Compare also Philipp Schulte, Identität als Experiment. Ich-Performanzen auf der Gegenwartsbühne (Frankfurt/M.: Peter Lang, 2011).
24 Compare Saar, Genealogie als Kritik, p. 140.
26 Ibid., pp. 140–141.
27 David Owen, Nietzsche, Politics and Modernity: A Critique of Liberal Reason (London: Sage, 1995), p. 47.
28 There is an obvious affinity between Iriguchi’s work and Freudian psychoanalytic theory, which itself shows characteristics of critical genealogy, such as questioning the mechanisms of subjectification and pointing out possible alternatives of living.
29 Saar, Genealogie als Kritik, p. 64. Translation A. S.
30 Ibid., p. 65. Translation A. S.
31 Michel Foucault, “Interview with Lucette Finas,” trans. Paul Foss and Meaghan Morris, Michel Foucault: Power, Truth, Strategy, ed. Meaghan Morris and Paul Patton (Sydney: Feral, 1979), pp. 298–309, p. 74. See also Foucaults formulation in his lecture “Von der Souveränität zur Disziplin”: “Die Reaktivierung lokaler, ‘unmündiger’ (wie Deleuze vielleicht sagen würde) Wissensarten gegen die wissenschaftliche Hierarchisierung der Erkenntnisse und ihrer eigentlichen Machteffekte ist das Projekt dieser ungeordneten und zerrissenen Genealogien. Kurz gesagt: Man könnte vielleicht sagen, dass die Archäologie die für die Analyse lokaler Diskursivitäten geeignete Methode und die Genealogie die Taktik wäre, die ausgehend von den so beschriebenen lokalen Diskursivitäten die sich davon ablösenden ‘ent-unterworfenen’ Wissensarten funktionieren lässt.” (Michel Foucault, “Von der Souveränität zur Disziplin,” lecture from January 7, 1976, Kritik des Regierens. Schriften zur Politik, selected and with an afterword by Ulrich Bröckling (Berlin: Suhrkamp 2010), pp. 9–39, p. 17.
32 Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France 1981–1982 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 251–252.
studied Applied Theatre Studies at Bergen University (Norway) and Gießen University. Since 2007, he has worked as contributor at the Hessian Theater Academy in Frankfurt, as a freelance author, and as a dramaturge. He is a researcher at the Institute for Applied Theater Studies in Gießen.
This volume contrasts a number of recently suggested concepts of the political – each of which connects to certain instances of art and literature in its discourse – with questions concerning the rigidity of those connections: How strongly do such claims to politics depend on their specific examples, what is the scope of their validity to understand art with regard to politics, and how can they help us grasp the political within other pieces of art? In each case, manners of thinking concepts of the political, the mutual resistance of such concepts and their academic treatment, and the turn towards specific readings informed by those concepts converge.
The essays collected in “Thinking Resistances. Current Perspectives on Politics, Community, and Art“ engage with political phenomena in their interrelations with arts as well as with recent theoretical and philosophical perspectives on the very meaning of politics, the political, and community.
With contributions by Armen Avanessian, Friedrich Balke, Judith Butler, Simon Critchley, Anneka Esch-van Kan, Josef Früchtl, Andreas Hetzel, Jon McKenzie, Dieter Mersch, Chantal Mouffe, Maria Muhle, Nikolaus Müller-Schöll, Stephan Packard, Wim Peeters, Jacques Rancière, Juliane Rebentisch, Gabriel Rockhill, Frank Ruda and Philipp Schulte.