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UAL Research Online

Dancing with forks: A study of objects in contemporary performance

Margolies, Eleanor (2002) Dancing with forks: A study of objects in contemporary performance. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Margolies, Eleanor

Materiality has been neglected both in the study of performance and more widely in Western culture, revealing a preference for abstraction over embodiment, with serious, environmental and ethical implications. In this study I describe how the meanings attached to material objects are created, highlighted and transformed in performance. I discuss the sensory experiences of performers and spectators, considering the senses of proximity as well as the distance senses of sight and hearing.

The materiality of performance is examined through a series of case studies of objects (shoes, tables, chairs) and materials (food, smells, plastics, papier mache and sound). Two approaches are presented:
1) Accounts of material characteristics, their ‘meaning potential’, and how they have been previously employed, are extracted from historical, scientific, craft and literary .sources, and supported by interviews with theatre practitioners. Semiotic and phenomenological approaches to the object are explored, with particular reference to the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
2) Interactions with matter in specific performances are analysed. I focus on the work of three companies: Cricot 2 (directed by Tadeusz Kantor, 1955—1990), Theatre de Complicite (1983 to present) and Improbable Theatre (1996 to present).

I conclude that these companies present distinctive ‘attitudes’ towards materiality through specific modes of interaction with objects, including ‘play’ - the exploration of ‘secondary’ material qualities; ‘animation’ of objects, both as puppets and through narrative; and creative use of perceptual and material ‘vagueness’. These attitudes and interactions found in performance are not recognised in existing conceptualisations of human-object relations. Thus, this study contributes to an understanding of how humans construct the meaning of the non-human world and also to an appreciation of the ways in which specific theatre companies have transformed the resources of performance.

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Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Communication
Date: 2002
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2023 11:08
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2023 15:12
Item ID: 19696
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/19696

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