This presentation is part of a larger project that explores the sedentary figure as a critical problematic in theatre history since the Enlightenment. The project takes up three of the modern theatre’s signature sedentary figures – the performer, the spectator and the dramaturg – and situates them in the broader political context of two preeminent spaces designed for the seated activities of the bourgeoisie: the home and office. The talk itself will focus on my research on the sedentary performer and the history of the bourgeois sitting room by responding to a series of works by performance artist Marina Abramovic that have staged bodies sitting face-to-face. In perhaps the most famous of these, The Artist is Present, Abramovic sat opposite visitors to the Museum of Modern Art in New York during the museum’s opening hours from March to May in 2010. I examine these works in relation to the convention of the intimate sedentary face-to-face encounter of the domestic dramas of late 19th century bourgeois realism and ask: what connections might be drawn by placing a tête-à-tête between Nora and Torvald of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House alongside the spectacle of Marina Abramovic sitting tête-à-tête? By setting these seemingly disparate sedentary scenes in relation to each other I attempt apply pressure to received accounts of the history of performance art which have posited it as a practice developed in counterpoint to theatre. Instead I consider ways of thinking about performance art as the inheritor of the bourgeois realist theatre’s powerfully persuasive legacies and conventions.
Eleanor Skimin is a dramaturg and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown University. Prior to commencing the PhD she was Humanities Manager at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) from 2006 until 2008. Dramaturg credits at Classic Stage Company (CSC) in New York City include Brian Kulick’s Hamlet; Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Three Sisters and Kasimir and Karoline; Kristjian Thorgeirsson’s The Blind; and Kate Whoriskey’s Camille at the Bard Summerscape Festival. She was literary manager at the New Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. Eleanor has a law degree and is a graduate of the MFA program in Dramaturgy at Columbia University. She has taught at Brown University, the University of New South Wales and at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney where she has created courses on dramaturgy for directors and writers. Eleanor is currently an interdisciplinary graduate fellow at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown and is assistant editor at differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. In the summer of 2016 she will be undertaking a playwriting residency at the Ingmar Bergman estate on Fårö island, Sweden.