Mediatized Senses: Phenomenologies of the Post-Human Performer
French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work and ideas define phenomenology, the perhaps most useful branch of philosophy in analyzing contemporary performances that are marked by their use of digital media and electronic technologies — such as wearables and prosthetics. “Embodied experience,” the focus of Merleau-Ponty’s work in phenomenology, is at the core of live performance. So is “repetition,” deeply and broadly explored by another French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Since the 1990s, women theorists and practitioners such as Elizabeth Grosz, Susan Kozel, and Erin Manning have reconsidered the ideas of both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze in books they wrote in English. How do these feminist interventions help us reimagine the primacy of perception and repetition in live performances by artists who abundantly use digital technologies such as The Wooster Group? How do new findings in the cognitive sciences shape artistic works and their critiques? In this paper, I discuss how these changes affect our methodologies as I trace a genealogy of core ideas in phenomenology that had a significant effect in analyzing live performance.
Serap Erincin is the Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the Communication Department at the University of South Florida. She is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of London’s Institute for the Study of the Americas. Before moving to Florida, she lived and worked in Istanbul, London, and New York as a performer, director, and journalist. She got her Ph.D. from NYU’s Performance Studies. She published on performance and politics, especially human rights violations as well as experimental dance and theatre. She is the editor of Solum and Other Plays from Turkey and the writer and director of plays such as Inside “Out”, Connected, and Atrocity Boulevard. In her book manuscript on how The Wooster Group achieves what she calls “reperformability” using embodied media and technology, she also discusses theories of senses and affect, neuroscience, and phenomenology. She is also working on a project on transglobal performances of resistance called Affective Politics of Transnational Human Rights Performances, another on digital humanities and archives, and writing a new performance piece called Suppression of Absence. She is the recipient of various awards and fellowships including NCA Theatre, Film, and New Media Division Best Paper Award, First Place, which she received in November, 2013.