This chapter examines the durational live art performance bit-u-men-at-work. Created and performed as part of Performing Mobilities 2017, a city-wide festival in Melbourne, the work was the embodiment of a performance-as-research process with an agenda informed by post-human, new materialist and ecofeminist notions of material ecologies. Though the performance set out to investigate, question and possibly reconcile the abhorrent physical and cultural qualities of bitumen as a fossil fuel material, the industries invested in it and the social labour practices surrounding it, gestures of intimacy and care associated with repair emerged as significant transferable values towards developing an ethical material practice. The performance, as an artistic work, also attempted to extend theories, notions and practices of care to an earthly, exploited and assumed inert material, expanding socially driven conversations around care to ecological caring as a world-making activity. Affective labours of material care were enacted through strategies of becoming-other, intimate proximity and engrossment, seeking to cultivate ‘response-ability’ to the material other and beginning to generate a material-led aesthetics of care.
Syrian displacement and care in contemporary Beirut
Ella Parry- Davies
This chapter discusses an artistic project devised amidst conditions of transnational displacement in the Middle East, and through it reflects on the role played by care and cooperation in the politics of art making. Dima el Mabsout’s Fleeing and Forgetting (2015) addressed the transformation of urban spaces in Lebanon by new populations of Syrian refugees, and resulted in a collection of almost two hundred photographs taken of and by refugee children in Beirut. The chapter explores the photographs in order to think through the performances of care that subtended this project, and the broader questions that these pose about art and scholarship on migration. While a visual analysis of the images may celebrate their qualities as art objects, the perceptual coordinates offered by performance emphasise the social and aesthetic care that the images perform and depend upon. The chapter thus problematises a historical tendency in some performance theory to associate migration with positively valenced notions of transgression and liminality and conversely stillness with stasis and unfreedom. The chapter proposes instead to perform scholarship ‘care-fully’, in recognising struggles for continuity and interdependence within specific experiences of transnational displacement.
This chapter argues that the care of objects could form an important part of care ethics because the performance of the processes involved in their maintenance and repair can be an important vehicle for caring for the self and other people. Applying Fisher and Tronto’s (1990) definition of ‘caring about’ and ‘caregiving’ to processes of caring for objects, it considers how relationships with everyday objects and certain acts of domestic labour become meaningful acts of self-care. The author reflects on her arts practice with care home residents living with dementia, to explore how the everyday act of doing the laundry can be reimagined in arts sessions. She proposes that artists’ performative engagements with processes of caring for objects can have an important role to play in reimagining everyday acts and establishing new models of relational care with and for older people in institutionalised care.
This chapter is an enquiry into the possible shape of an aesthetics of care drawn from the experience of looking after a Congolese colleague after he was injured in a massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mix of different professional and personal circumstances directs the writing towards concerns with the ethics and aesthetics of caring for others and how these relationships might provide a productive orientation for work in the field of community-based performance or applied theatre. The chapter explores debates within feminist care ethics to argue that the relations that emerge in many arts projects can be understood as forms of affective solidarity and mutual regard that, in turn, could be powerful counterweights to the exclusions and disregard in a careless society.
This chapter reflects on an interdisciplinary practice research project, The Verbatim Formula (TVF), based at Queen Mary University of London, consisting of a series of residential workshops with care-experienced young people using verbatim theatre practices. Drawing on feminist care ethicist Nel Noddings’ analogy between aesthetic engagement and the art of caring, the authors reflect on the shared values and aesthetics of acts of care and participatory practices, and how these inhere in the attentiveneness, attunement and receptivity involved in performing and receiving verbatim material using headphone theatre technique. The chapter incorporates testimonies from its care-experienced co-researchers and draws on Joan Tronto’s argument that there is a radical need for an intervention into the dynamics of power in society that ensure that those for whom the structures of care are least effective are heard and attended to. In acknowledging the ‘ugliness’ of caring and the ongoing labour of attunement, listening emerges in TVF both as an aesthetic but also as a care-based participatory and political practice, that aims to empower care-experienced young people to intervene in the structures that represent them and to support adults to honour their experiences and needs.
The approach to nothing that is to be produced in performance operates not by the simple removal of things but by their interaction, their 'busy life', even by their addition. This chapter explores these twin headings, of schematic purity that may seem to point towards philosophy, and the clutter of incident and speech that is conventionally the province of literature, and ultimately explains how the two are related in Samuel Beckett's Footfalls. Ruby Cohn refers to the plays of the 1970s as the 'post-death plays'. The text of Footfalls seems to authorise this identification by introducing a thoroughly anecdotal ghost in May's little tale of her 'semblance' Amy. For, as in the example of 'lacrosse', a poise between the glamour of the transcendental, and the derisory materiality of rags and wicker rackets, is what Footfalls cultivates.
Nothing' has been at the centre of Samuel Beckett's reception and scholarship from its inception. This book explains how the Beckett oeuvre, through its paradoxical fidelity to nothing, produces critical approaches which aspire to putting an end to interpretation: in this instance, the issues of authority, intertextuality and context, which this book tackles via 'nothing'. By retracing the history of Beckett studies through 'nothing', it theorises a future for the study of Beckett's legacies and is interested in the constant problem of value in the oeuvre. Through the relation between Beckett and nothing, the relation between voice and stone in Jean-Paul Sartre and Beckett, we are reminded precisely of the importance of the history of an idea, even the ideas of context, influence, and history. The book looks at something that has remained a 'nothing' within the Beckett canon so far: his doodles as they appear in the Human Wishes manuscript. It also looks at the material history of televisual production and places the aesthetic concerns of Beckett's television plays. The book then discusses the nexus between nothing and silence in order to analyse the specific relations between music, sound, and hearing. It talks about the history of materiality through that of neurology and brings the two into a dialogue sustained by Beckett texts, letters and notebooks. The book investigates the role of nothing through three works called neither and Neither: Beckett's short text, Morton Feldman's opera, and Doris Salcedo's sculptural installation.
As Carla Locatelli perceives, silence becomes integral to Samuel Beckett's radical interrogation of language. His voices move beyond the Western cultural and philosophical positing of silence only as a lack, breaking through 'this farrago of silence and words of silence that is not silence'. In Beckett's early positing of Beethoven's ruptured music as a possible model for his own work, silence is composed in, defined still in terms of the cessation of sound, objectified for cognition, and evoked only by the act of listening for it. In some of Beckett's later texts, the picking away at the relationship between sound and silence leads to an alternative proposition: unheard sound. In late Beckett texts, silence is neither produced or banished intentionally; 'no sound' is not necessarily indicative of silence and meaninglessness, and the relationship between the presence of sound and its perception is uncertain.
This chapter situates its enquiry between the poles of negation, exploring the interstices between both by way of neither. Drawing together prose, music and sculpture, it investigates the role of nothing through three works called neither and Neither: Samuel Beckett's short text, Morton Feldman's opera, and Doris Salcedo's sculptural installation. Beckett, Feldman, Salcedo are each concerned with our response to silence, and the ways in which we can make audible, or visible that which cannot be expressed. Feldman's and Salcedo's formal responses to Beckett's text, each work echoing and reiterating the gridlike structure of his prose, provide a way to think about the negation inherent in these works. Through two works called Neither, each of them poised between alternatives about which a negative statement is made, Feldman and Salcedo respond to the challenge of a Beckettian aesthetic that situates itself between Malrauxian estrangement and Geulincxian negation.
The no-thing that knows no name and the Beckett envelope, blissfully reconsidered
With so many parallels to Dada composition, echoes of James Joyce, and resonances to the 'midget grammar' of Gertrude Stein, it has always been difficult to know where to place Samuel Beckett on the great modernist/postmodernist divide. Somewhere beyond minimalism, his work explores the vast terrain that separates nothing from nothingness, and both from the far more intriguing nothing in particular. Richard Begam describes how Beckett's fiction anticipates many of the defining themes and ideas of Barthes, Foucault and Derrida in moving us toward 'the end of modernity'. In the early 1970s 'The empty can' proposed looking elsewhere, outside of literature perhaps, for the appropriate artistic climate of spontaneity that seemed so central to Beckett's relentless 'work-inregress'. The void never looked quite so promising before, especially so for a young scholar who was beginning to find his way through so much 'mental thuggee'.