Hopeful Acts in Troubled Times: Thinking as Interruption and the Poetics of Nonconforming Criticism

Damian Martin, Diana (2019) Hopeful Acts in Troubled Times: Thinking as Interruption and the Poetics of Nonconforming Criticism. Performance Philosophy Journal, 5 (1). ISSN 2057-7176


In his work titled ‘Dance Curves: On the Dances of Palucca’ (1926), Wassily Kandisky translates two postures of the German Expressionist choreographer Gret Palucca from photographs into line drawings. The drawings are a study, but they are neither pictorial, nor straightforwardly representational. Staging an encounter between Dance Curves and Hannah Arendt’s investigation into thinking as both an interrupted and interruptive activity, this essay argues for a poetics of appearance as it is constituted by nonconforming acts of critique.

Negotiating conflicts that shape a politics of recognition for criticism which deliberately or implicitly refutes utility, I articulate a process of appearance of meaning with differential relation to modernist concerns for interpretation, dissenting from rationalist and objectivist traditions that have dominated theatre and performance criticism since the Enlightenment. What happens when I disavow the drawings from the images, remove them from the source? Perhaps in such a place, we might find critique as a process of deliberately mishandled translation, as an occupation of an idea shifted elsewhere, as a displacement of meaning. Appearance shapes itself around slippages of attention that depart from the work of performance.

In this essay, I turn to how these slippages fold outwards from the encounter, to the political nexus between performance and its world. In Arendt, I locate a means through which forms of thinking rendered as criticism constitute a resistant poetics to normative modes of paying attention, operating beyond what Bojana Kunst calls ‘the ready-made possibilities of discourse’ (2015, 13) under neoliberalism, that is, the ‘pre-established models of criticality and reflexivity’ to which art and artistic subjectivity often partake (ibid.)


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