Presence as Technique: Joseph Chaikin and Authenticity
This presentation will attempt to place Joseph Chaikin’s notion of “presence” in relation to forms of radical humanism and personal “authenticity” that permeated the 1960s New York counterculture of which Chaikin was a part. Debates over theatrical “presence” often falter over a tension between aesthetic effect or technique, on the one hand, and reality or authentic “being present,” on the other. Because the latter sense of “presence” has been thoroughly critiqued by post-structuralism, the persistence of presence as a term of theatre and performance art continues to trouble theorists of these forms. I will attempt to argue that Chaikin’s concept of “presence” derives from his attempt to secularize and permanently complicate any stable concept of authentic subjectivity. By suggesting a relationship between what Chaikin calls “presence” and what Victor Shlovsky calls (in Benjamin Sher’s translation) “enstragement,” I hope to point toward a compatibility between Chaikin’s presence and a permanently problematized humanism. This argument represents the latest phase of my dissertation project, which relates experimental theatre aesthetics from the U.S. 1960s to countercultural notions of authentic humanism.
Jason Fitzgerald earned his MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama, and he is currently a PhD Candidate in Theatre at Columbia University. His book and performance reviews have been published in Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, PAJ, and Public Books. He is also a part-time theatre critic and dramaturg in NYC.