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Philipp Schulte: Alternative Genealogies – Critique and Style in Contemporary Performance Art:
Alternative Genealogies – Critique and Style in Contemporary Performance Art:
(p. 275 – 290)

To Irritate What Is Taken for Granted

Philipp Schulte

Alternative Genealogies – Critique and Style in Contemporary Performance Art:
Xavier Le Roy and Mamoru Iriguchi

Translated by Anna Schewelew

PDF, 16 pages

Philipp Schulte focuses on experimental forms of theatre that evade the concept of oeuvre and consider themselves as practices of investigation. His description of critique and style in contemporary performance arts in the mode of alternative genealogies presents the lecture-performance Product of Other Circumstances by the French choreographer and dancer Xavier Le Roy as well as the production Into the Skirt by Japanese performance artist Mamoru Iriguchi. In both cases, their scenic research questions the relationship between theory and practice, as well as that between scientific research and artistic creation. It is in direct reference to core concepts of the political that these performances develop their own resistant potential. Both artists, in spite of their considerable differences, develop pieces within the tension of integration and de-integration in the symbolic orders of a style of dance, an economic system of marketing, or of heteronormative practices. Combining Le Roy’s works with a reading of Foucault and Butler, Schulte emphasizes the usefulness of a concept of style in conceiving of these phenomena of a (not merely) artistic de-submission; meanwhile, the analysis of Iriguchi’s performances denotes a proximity to the philosophical textual form of critical genealogy.

“What Is Critique?”

“What is critique?” – Michel Foucault dedicated a lecture to this question in 1978.1 Twenty-two years later, Judith Butler did the same, and presented a detailed analysis and interpretation of Foucault’s text.2 “What is critique?” – to both theorists, this is the short form of a question that I would like to put this way: How can we develop a “reflected intractability [l’indocilité réfléchie]”3 in order to desubjugate ourselves and to escape reigning discourses – at least potentially or temporarily? Butler draws our attention to a fascinating aspect of Foucault’s lecture: She points out that it is highly performative. Foucault tries to do what he explains, he rehearses the act of desubjugation. When asked where the decision-making not to be governed comes from, he answers very artfully: “I was not referring to something that would be a fundamental anarchism, that would be like an originary freedom, absolutely and wholeheartedly resistant to any governmentalization. I did not say it, but this does not mean that I absolutely exclude it.”4

On the one hand, Foucault’s model does not utilize an originary freedom as its ontological driving force. On the other hand, it does not not do so. Judith Butler argues that we can only properly understand this and other parts of the lecture if we keep in mind how Foucault stages what he says. Butler believes that Foucault’s words are “artfully rendered” stagings rather than assertions:

The staging of the term is not its assertion, but we might say that the assertion is staged, rendered artfully, subjected to an ontological suspension, precisely so it might be spoken. And that it is this speech act, the one which for a time relieves the phrase, “originary freedom,” from the epistemic politics within which it lives which also performs a certain desubjugation of the subject within the politics of truth.5

Butler calls Foucault “oddly brave”6 because he gestures towards the originary freedom knowing that it is impossible to ground his claim. His artful, tongue-in-cheek utterance shows that he just accepts this epistemological groundlessness. “Critique begins with the presumption of governmentalization and then with its failure to totalize the subject it seeks to know and to subjugate.”7

According to Butler, Foucault’s lecture is all about artful stagings...

  • criticism
  • Xavier Le Roy
  • activism
  • Michel Foucault
  • performance art
  • resistance
  • Judith Butler
  • social movements
  • politics
  • community
  • choreography

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Philipp Schulte

Philipp Schulte

studied Applied Theatre Studies at Bergen University (Norway) and Gießen University. Since 2007, he has worked as contributor at the Hessian Theater Academy in Frankfurt, as a freelance author, and as a dramaturge. He is a researcher at the Institute for Applied Theater Studies in Gießen.

Other texts by Philipp Schulte for DIAPHANES
Anneka Esch-van Kan (ed.), Stephan Packard (ed.), ...: Thinking – Resisting – Reading the Political

This volume contrasts a number of recently suggested concepts of the political – each of which connects to certain instances of art and literature in its discourse – with questions concerning the rigidity of those connections: How strongly do such claims to politics depend on their specific examples, what is the scope of their validity to understand art with regard to politics, and how can they help us grasp the political within other pieces of art? In each case, manners of thinking concepts of the political, the mutual resistance of such concepts and their academic treatment, and the turn towards specific readings informed by those concepts converge.

The essays collected in “Thinking Resistances. Current Perspectives on Politics, Community, and Art“ engage with political phenomena in their interrelations with arts as well as with recent theoretical and philosophical perspectives on the very meaning of politics, the political, and community.

With contributions by Armen Avanessian, Friedrich Balke, Judith Butler, Simon Critchley, Anneka Esch-van Kan, Josef Früchtl, Andreas Hetzel, Jon McKenzie, Dieter Mersch, Chantal Mouffe, Maria Muhle, Nikolaus Müller-Schöll, Stephan Packard, Wim Peeters, Jacques Rancière, Juliane Rebentisch, Gabriel Rockhill, Frank Ruda and Philipp Schulte.