From the Theatrical to the Performative in Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy
Between 1936-42, in the wake of his frustration with the failure of Being and Time to escape the language and thinking of metaphysics, Martin Heidegger embarked on a series of performative writing experiments. His aim was to perform a mode of writing which he termed “being-historical thinking”, which “does not describe or explain, does not proclaim or teach…does not stand over against what is said…rather the saying itself is the ‘to be said’”. He forbade the publication of these writings in his lifetime but gave instructions as to their posthumous presentation in his Gesamtausgabe. This began in 1989 with Beiträge zur Philosophie: (Vom Ereignis), translated into English as Contributions to Philosophy, and continues, most recently with Ereignis (The Event) in 2012.
This paper proposes 1) that the collapse of signifier and action in being-historical thinking enacts a latent performative aspect all through Heidegger’s thinking; 2) that this is a movement from a fundamentally theatrical-metaphysical notion of the human as spectator of the world, to a performative-evental conception of the human as a ‘turning’ which performs the world to which it belongs through its belonging to it; and consequently, 3) that this offers previously unattainable nuance and clarity to definitions of performativity and theatricality, affording new understandings for such areas as performance ecology, immersive spectatorship, temporality of performance and other problematic conceptions in performance studies.
Stuart Grant is a lecturer at the Centre for Theatre and Performance at Monash. He specialises in phenomenology of performance and site-specific performance.