Text 17 – To Affirm Art’s Potential For Intimate Difference Under Digitisation : Re-Gathering Performing’s Relation To Medium


‘To Affirm…’ considers aspects of performing’s relation to its ‘medium’/‘media’ in the light of its permeation by and involvement with the endless mutation process characterising contemporary techno-representation: the conjunction of electronic power and digitisation constitutes the contextual demands faced by performing. But an essential element of the modernist legacy stands as a continuing challenge to performing:  to make patent and to push to their limits a medium’s specific defining qualities. To take on the implications of this legacy becomes even more pressing where the boundaries between and merging of media are continually volatilised through technoscientific innovation.

Indeed the question of medium-identity is precisely what is at stake in and for this legacy. The digital revolution in information-processing now sets the contextual terms for performing and the culture’s response to and positioning of it and its gests. Under the seismic shifts entailed in this mutation of representation performing becomes a ‘performing-in-between’. The focus here is on the ‘intimacy’ of the conjunction where performing’s gathering of ‘medium/media’ occurs at the thresholds between media. As each medium’s ‘boundary’ and ‘identity’ is now in question and undergoes unstoppable mutation and blurring so does performing’s medium-commitment begin to give way, fragment, and put itself on the line. As digital is substituted for analogue technology so does medium open itself up to collageing and re-combination.

Some of the consequences for performing of these revolutions in medium and process are explored with passing reference to the suggestions of Morris and Plant. The very different  concerns of Celan, Ashbery, Sebald, Debord, and Gaddis, highlight implications of digitisation for performing’s  relations to Language, mimesis, and Art’s ‘elsewhere’ Body.

‘Intimacy’ is proposed as a defining criterion for performing’s relations.  Lacoue-Labarthe’s and Olson’s contrasting remarks on poiesis and intimacy are set forth as tentative guides to the possible qualities and concerns of this ‘intimate relating’.