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Quartet Symposium Keynote lecture: ‘Staging the People: Performance, presence and representation’ (Adrian Kear, TFTS)

Date September 29, 2016 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

This lecture will seek to set-up and investigate a key question at the heart of the inter-relation between politics and aesthetics: the inevitable gap and potential conflict between presence and representation made manifest in the internal contradictions and recurrent tensions of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ (Rancire 2004: 12). It will examine how the practice of ‘staging the people’ might be considered central to imaging and constituting ‘the people’ in an increasingly theatricalised social formation and to managing their ‘political claim’ (Rancière 1999: 87—88)

If the theatrical logic of democratic representation is dependent upon the exercise of a political claim to represent ‘the people’; coextensively, the performative construct of ‘the people’ is dependent on the aesthetic logic of representation and its capacity to frame, codify and remediate the presence of people per se.  Enacted through representation—recalling Marx’s dictum in the Eighteenth Brumaire that ‘they cannot represent themselves, they must be represented’—‘the people’ nonetheless remain different from, and in excess of, any particular representation or mode of representation. As Rancière insists, ‘the people’ are ‘always more or less than the people’; the locus of an ‘internal division’ and index of the unbridgeable gap between presence and representation that constitutes politics’ primary condition and site of operation (1999: 22, 87).
This gap, the lecture will argue, appears—and re-appears—as a tear in the very fabric of the visible; as a crisis of representation ‘in representation’ (Frank 2010: 35) that exceeds and undermines the normalising effects of politics as show. It thereby serves to re-open representation as the ground of the political as such, and as the site of its re-appearance within the otherwise bounded theatricality of the representational regime.

The argument will build on comparative analysis of two contemporary theatre works explicitly concerned with ‘staging the people’, performed in Manchester and Salford in the Spring of 2016: Quarantine’s Quartet and Rimini Protokoll’s 100% Salford. Both works examine how the lived experience of everyday lives might be brought to the stage through an apparent logic of presentation rather than representation: by ordinary people occupying the space of theatrical performance rather than seeing themselves and their lives represented by others (i.e. ‘actors’ – whether theatrical or political). Following the reading of these (pre-Brexit) works, the lecture seeks to question whether the aesthetic shift towards self-presentation might correlate with a broader critique of the structures of political representation, or whether the frame of representation anticipates, accommodates and appropriates the materiality of presence in advance.


September 29, 2016
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:


Performance and Politics International Research Centre


The Foundry Studio
Parry-Wlliams Building
Aberystwyth, SY23 3AJ United Kingdom
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PPi moves

From the end of June 2018, the Performance and Politics international (PPi) research centre will be moving. Professors Jenny Edkins and Adrian Kear are leaving Aberystwyth University, and are working to re-establish PPi...