Performance and Absence in the Heterotopian City
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The performance of poetry implies a location and a particular site of encounter with an audience, whether in real or virtual space. The relationship between this site and the city beyond it can be seen variously; the rarefied atmosphere of some poetry readings might occasionally suggest that there is little connection between the two, while others, for example those in which poetry asserts a strong regional identity, might be viewed as continuations of structures and norms that extend beyond the venue and into everyday urban life. In the following discussion I am concerned with approaches to poetry and performance in which such continuities are challenged, and with the ways in which performance can act as, in Michel Foucault’s terms, a critical ‘counter-site,’ outside of everyday spaces yet related to them (Foucault, 1967, pp. 22–7). The performance of a written text unfixes the poem by bringing it into conjunction with lived spaces; the poem at the moment of performance enters into relationships with its surroundings, material and social. However, these relationships are all mediated by the poem; they are changed by a text that is both present, because it is embodied, and absent, because it is contingent, momentary, and never heard in the same way twice. In addressing these contradictions, I will discuss the work of the Scottish poet and performance artist Fiona Templeton, Hazel Smith (from the UK but living in Australia), Laura Elrick and Kaia Sand (both from the United States), all of whom have engaged with the idea of the city through performances that imply a range of relationships with city space.
KeywordsPublic Space Urban Space Virtual Space Artistic Practice Textual Space
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