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From Homo Performans to Interspecies Collaboration: Broadening the Spectrum to include Nonhuman Performance

Cull, Laura (2015) From Homo Performans to Interspecies Collaboration: Broadening the Spectrum to include Nonhuman Performance In: Performing Animality: Animals in Performance Practices. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 19-36. ISBN 978-1-137-37312-0

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The primary aim of this chapter is to look at how we relate to nonhuman behavior and to what extent we are willing or able to include it in our concept of performance. Given this aim, the chapter begins by focussing on the ambivalent way in which nonhuman animals figure in one of the prominent theories of performance: namely, Richard Schechner’s ‘broad-spectrum’ account. Here, I draw from the definition of performance and its relation to the nonhuman as outlined by in his influential work Performance Theory (1977/2003). Schechner’s landmark book was first published in 1977, though Schechner recalls that he had been working on its contents from the late 1960’s onwards. Of particular relevance to our own concerns is that during this time, Schechner was reading Darwin’s book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, and engaged with the work of ethologists such as Huxley, Lorenz and Eibl-Eibesfeldt – influences that can be felt throughout the final text. In what follows, I also make some brief, preliminary links between the broad-spectrum and the work of the contemporary French theorist François Laruelle, whose insistence on the need to expand our understanding of what counts as thought (from a non-standard philosophical perspective) has been recently shown to extend to a demand to rethink the relation between the human and nonhuman. Next, the chapter examines the emerging, interdisciplinary field of artistic practice known as ‘interspecies collaboration’, suggesting a link between these and what John Mullarkey calls ‘complete anthropomorphism’ (where anthropomorphism is no longer a pejorative term). Here, our interest lies in the notion of performance not only as a way of seeing – which would be to reassert the human tendency to focus on vision – but as a mode of existence or lived stance that can give the ‘benefit of the doubt’ to nonhuman life as we do, every day, in our relations with humans (Mullarkey 2012: 53). Can performance operate as a site in which those currently defined as human and nonhuman can open themselves to the affects of the other and develop a felt understanding of their continuity and difference? Can interspecies collaboration in particular open us up to new understandings of performance and, as such, to new concepts of the human as well? In summary, then, this chapter shows how the broad-spectrum thesis goes so far as to extend the definition of performance to allows animals in as performers – according to an openness or inclusivity that Schechner and others have retreated from in order to maintain an identity for the spectrum (ie. that the spectrum does not extend to infinity at both ends). As we shall see, that retreat comprises an exclusive gesture whereby the spectrum is re-centred on the human in an anthropocentrism that simultaneously serves to protect the broad-spectrum thesis. For Schechner, to allow the animal onto the spectrum whole-heartedly is to risk anthropomorphism. However, for us, following ideas from Laruelle and others, I argue that seeing the animal as performer is not necessarily a species of projective fantasy but can act on the very definition of performance and performer in a manner akin to gestures within recent non-standard philosophy. Just as such work aims at a complete or two-way anthropomorphism which expands the meaning of philosophical thought - not merely by projecting the human onto the nonhuman, but by mutating the meaning of both philosophy and the human – this chapter constitutes a preliminary step towards a complete anthropomorphism of performance.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Guildford School of Acting
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Editors :
Parker-Starbuck, J
Orozco, L
Date : 1 January 2015
DOI : 10.1057/9781137373137_2
Uncontrolled Keywords : animals, nonhuman, performance, philosophy, Richard Schechner, interspecies collaboration, art, music, François Laruelle, anthropomorphism
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 07 Jul 2017 08:56
Last Modified : 05 Mar 2019 14:08

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