In the early nineteenth century, German architects used a brief enthusiasm for technical research on theater acoustics as an occasion to consider the experiential aesthetics of bourgeois collectivity. When the designer Carl Ferdinand Langhans rejected as sonically problematic the classic French model of the elliptical theater — with the performer stationed at one focus and the royal box at the other — he effectively overturned the assumption that each performance had one “correct” instance of perception, defined as whatever reached the privileged sensorium of the enlightened despot. His challenge to the old optical model and his new theorization of building sound as an immersive medium paved the way for aesthetic theories of empathy later in the century.
My paper is propelled by a series of interrelated questions concerning the uses of Camp—and its relationship to queer community formation—in the work of Jack Smith and Charles Ludlam, both of whom have been lauded by various admirers as the “father” of (contemporary) queer theatre. If Smith’s influence is so strongly felt in the work of artists as diverse as John Waters, Robert Wilson, John Vaccaro, and Andy Warhol, then why has his name largely dropped out of popular consciousness? If Camp is a performance style marked by “excess” and aimed at producing queer social visibility, then why and how does Smith use it to stage his own disappearance? If Smith is a notoriously antipathetic (and antipersonal) performer, then how does Ludlam’s performance style, which owes much to Smith, become indistinguishable from his affability and personableness in the reception surrounding his performances? How do Smith and Ludlam negotiate their relationships to the “objects of refuse” that litter their stages and their scripts, and how do those relationships alter the affective resonances of their performances? How does the relationship Smith and Ludlam establish with their audiences affect our understanding of their relationship to their communities? By framing my analysis in terms of the way Smith and Ludlam have been variously received by their successors, it is ultimately my goal to complicate our understanding of queer performance as a genealogy.
Elizabeth Wiet is a doctoral candidate in English working at the nexus of performance studies, queer theory, and affect theory.
John Cooper, a phd candidate in the Art History department, co-convenor of the PSWG and Graduate Research Assistant at the Yale Center for British Art, will workshop a part of his dissertation Imperial Balls: the Arts of Sex, War and Dancing in India, England and the Caribbean, 1800-1850.
This session will present a body of colonial images drawn from India, England and the Caribbean which show dancers dancing from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. These medium-sized graphic works on paper broadly represent: nautch dancing in India, ballet in England and social dancing in the Caribbean. Being the remains of both art works and performances, what particular status do they have in the history of art and empire? How might the disciplines of Art History and Performance Studies collaborate to produce readings of such interdisciplinary documents?
The starting point for addressing an answer to these questions will be the practice of ‘adornment’ which lies nested and as yet unclaimed in the etymology of the word ‘performance’. Close visual analysis of key images in the history of art, dance and empire will investigate how context adorns the dancing figure with the complexity and contradictions of colonial history.
Elise Morrison, the newest IPSY postdoctoral fellow, will present work from her current book project on ‘surveillance art’.The presentation will focus on several contemporary performance art pieces that stage critical artistic interventions into quotidian scenes of contemporary sociopolitical surveillance. These ‘surveillance art’ works strategically redeploy mainstream surveillance technologies in order to defamiliarize and disrupt the normalized operations of surveillance within public space and everyday life. In doing so, they seem to ‘arrest’ subjects of everyday surveillance in the habitual action of ‘passing by’ publicly installed surveillance cameras, and, within the arrested moment, foreground and reimagine aspects of surveillance society that have become so routine and normalized as to be invisible. Works by contemporary artists Jill Magid and the Surveillance Camera Players serve as particularly effective examples of this process, as these artists utilize theatrical methods to draw attention to normalized blindspots in the surveillant interface and to explore the range of possibilities for affective expression and human interaction available through publicly installed surveillance cameras.