18 Pages

Abject Identities and Fluid Performances: Theorizing the Leaking Body

Of course, it has become a contemporary commonplace in the arena of postmodern performance and/or live art, for the body to be used explicitly as the textual basis for the performance itself (consider Orlan, Franko B., Stelarc, Annie Sprinkle, Ron Athey et al - the body of work that should flesh out this list is too great to accommodate; these are perhaps the outer limbs, the extremities). For the purposes of this essay, I wish to focus upon the performances of Franko B} as the fluidity which characterises his work -a literal fluidity of blood, piss, spit, water and shit - marks it as particularly legible through the cultural and theoretical trope of the abject. However, in contemplating these performative materialisations of abjection, I do not wish to ascribe a decisive interpretation or reading, as to do so works in contradiction to the artist's own resistance to the rationalisation of his work through anyone critical schema; I rather intend to use them tangentially, precisely as a focus, but not necessarily as an object of analysis. Furthermore, I am overcome at this point in the performance of this text with a certain anxiety, a kind of critical aphasia, that develops from the knowledge that to write about a performance is necessarily to change that performance in and through the act of writing. As Peggy Phelan has argued, performance art, characterised by an ontological transience, "cannot be documented (when it is, it turns into that document -a photograph, a stage design, a video tape - and ceases to be performance art)". [Phelan, 1993: 31]. As such, how does one offer a critical analysis of the performance of (queer) abjection, without that analysis becoming a static, staid, repeated version of the unrepeatable transience and radical fluidity of these performances themselves?