Johanna Bruckner

The lecture performer's body

The Lecture Performer’s Body

Thoughts on my recent work Johanna Bruckner

The lecture performer is a worker on the stage; he/she is the producer of content but also the producer of affectivity. The mediation of the content depends on the performance of affect; the capability to address and impress the other, the potential to attract and catch audiences - the love he or she performs with. The body’s engagement is a measure of evaluation. Performance, as we know, has surpassed the art genre and determines the contemporary subject: the market demands a body, which is continuously performing to optimise his/her desires and pleasures. Today, the discipline of human affect is central in anyone’s performance of daily life and work.

I am interested in the lecture performance as it may challenge how language can be passed from one to the other (the articulation of language, for example, is completely open to the artist); more significantly, though, I approach the lecture performer’s body as a site in which the production of affects is integral to his/her work. My work “Body Conference II”, a collective lecture performance, features participants in personified emotions and symptoms. The feelings of the body (a performer) debate on how they are put to work today. In fact, they resist being an “emotional motor“ of the market and consider their cooperation as a means of resistance.

A lecture performance’ s method of transmission may be affective mediation from one to the other. So is the self a constantly mediating force today: the body serves the subject, and the other way round, back and forth; continuously evaluating the affective outputs in order to affirm or change direction. The mediation between body and subject is economic - the “fuel” is affect.

In my work “Generous Bodies”, which is commissioned by Stromereien, Performance Festival Zurich, 2014, I work with contemporary dancers, asking them how the performance of pleasure, desire and affect is a point of control for admission to a company: the performers’ s performance of their anthropological bodies is the starting point for developing choreographies, in which emotionality as a technology is put into question. The dancers decide to perform machines (for a example a phone; how they imagine themselves being machines), yet in their movements they deconstruct the machinic. Their argument is that emotionality is detached, too undisciplined and unstructured: an “emotional motor“ can only destruct a machine but not feed it. They consider ways of using the “fuel“ which is freed by the “subject of pleasure“. On stage they perform their arguments, which they build in response to three sentences: “What makes me as a dancer a machine; what makes me as a dancer a

human; how makes the machine a dancer of me?“

Their reflections are presented in the form of sentences which acoustically overlap; the choir is getting louder, changing dynamics; the spoken word is rather abstract. Word and movement interact without clear structure or plan. The presentation of their arguments reminds of a rehearsal itself. Their performance affirms how a machine (their body) is destructed in the live performance in front of an audience.

In the second part of “Generous Bodies” I question the formation of the body in response to how new technologies (with emphasis on the phone) operate on the basis of affect, impression and attentiveness. Performers investigate body conceptions between self-assertion and self-exploitation in relation to their (smart)phone, and build short choreographies. The performers elaborate their work on the streets and integrate statements from the public in the formation of their movements. As an artist I am present in the piece and interview passersby while the dancers perform in the background close to the talks; public opinion is integrated in the performers’ movements. The questions I put forward to the public audience focus on how technologies influence people’ s imagination of subjectivity today: how they perceive their phone as an affective body, which determines their lives and working agendas and how the public may imagine the phone as a subject, and a part of themselves. Questioning the subject in relation to how technology operates on the body, language becomes significant.

Published by Andey Shental in "Penomenology of Lecture Performance".