Interweaving Performance Cultures
Fellow 2011/12, 2013/14, 2015/16, 2017/18
Central to my intellectual career has been the study of the interaction of rhetoric, politics, ethics and aesthetics, including thirty+ years of working on critical theory, feminism and post/neocolonialism, and over twenty years in the field of performance studies with a focus on the disunified aesthetics that newly enfranchised democracies necessarily mobilize (lynettehunteronline.com). Since 1994, I have created performance art in tandem with written essays and books on performance (lynettehunterperformance.com), and from 2005 to 2010 I acted as the Director of the University of California MultiCampus Research Group in International Performance and Culture. Since 1995, I have also trained in Lishi, a traditional Daoist whole-body breathing practice, and have consistently brought it into my own performance art (for example in Bodies in Trouble, 1997), and into my research and teaching. Recent publications include Negotiating Shakespeare’s Language in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (Ashgate 2009, co-written with Peter Lichtenfels) and ‘Being in-between: Performance studies and processes for sustaining interdisciplinarity’, Cogent Arts & Humanities (Taylor and Francis, 2015), 2: 1124481. My most recent book is Disunified Aesthetics: Situated Textuality, Performativity, Collaboration (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014).
An Engaged Ethics of Aesthetics: Daoist Breathing Practice and the Performer’s Presence
I am concerned about both the ethics of interweaving performance cultures and the practices that make value and take performance as a unique site for generating contemporary political and aesthetic possibilities. The project brings together Daoist performance practices from China and the use of breath in western performance, and sets it amidst a theoretical development of situated knowledge and engaged ethics. It contributes to new practices in theatre, a more intense focus on process as performative mode, ways of thinking about audience engagement that do not emphasize ‘interpretation,’ and the contribution these aspects can make to the disunified aesthetics needed by the disunified politics in many societies today.
Working on breath in culturally distinct performance crafts, the research initially addressed a traditional practice of breathing and moving, and began to develop acting workshops to apply Chinese Daoist breathing techniques to western acting. During the second part I researched four west coast USA art-makers (who also work in other places) and studied their application of breathing practices from Chinese Daoism and from Indigenous Peoples traditions. I continued to develop acting workshops to apply a variety of breathing techniques to western acting using some of these insights. During this third part of my fellowship I will be exploring how traditional breathing practices from a variety of locations can enable forms for making present (rather than representing) the relational engagements among both people and objects. I am particularly interested in bringing material from studies on the fascia and on varieties of energy to the continued development of the acting workshops. This will need some comparative research into the medical, physiological and biochemical aspects of traditional and modern sciences to more fully appreciate the performative and performance elements in western acting that are enhanced by traditional breathing practices. I hope to continue to develop the acting workshops as a kind of laboratory in which to sound out these suggestions.
- Myers, Natasha, Rendering Life Molecular. Duke University Press, 2015.
- Massumi, Brian. Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts (Technologies of Lived Abstraction), Cambridge (Mass.) / London: MIT Press, 2013.
- Cruikshank, J., Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005.
- Kulchyski, P., Like the Sound of a Drum: Aboriginal Cultural Politics in Denendeh and Nunavut, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2005.
- Stengers, Isabel, Introductory notes on an ecology of practices. Cultural Studies Review; 11, 1 (2005) : 183–196.
- Gatens, M. and Lloyd, G., Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present, London and New York: Routledge, 1999.