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Jackson Cook
Jackson Cook

Avantgarde Extreme 44



Reviews JO BONNEY. ed. Extreme Exposure: An Anthology afSolo Performance Texts from the Twe1ltieth Century. New York: Theatre Communications Group. 2000. Pp. xviii + 424. $18.95 (Pb). LINDA MONTANO. ed. Pelfarmance Artists Talking in the Eighties. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2000. Pp. xvi + 537. illustrated. $24.95 (Pb). Reviewed by Judith Hamera. California State University. Los Angeles Theatre and performance historians and critics are increasingly concerned with tactical "haws" of the field. How is disciplinary history made and represented ? Is this history a linear narrative of texts, events, exemplary individuals ? Is it the sum of these or greater than such a sum? Della Pollock states this concern clearly in "Making History Go." the introduction to her edited volume Exceptional Spaces: Essays in Pelformance and History. She writes. "In recent years. history has faced a crisis in representation. f...] The flip side of this crisis is the challenge to fields traditionally concerned with issues of representation (fields such as art. literature. drama. and performance) to grasp their own historicity" (3-4). In the visual and performing arts. objects and reproductions. including texts. have facilitated the study and experience of these expressions. Their dissemination has been key to the formation of artistic canons and disciplinary histories. Perfonnance art presents special, vexing cases of the relationships between dissemination, reproduction, canon fonnation, and theatre history. To take only one example. unlike repertory theatre and dance. there may not be a fixed text or score from which to reconstruct an event; even when these exist, they may be only residual synecdoches of larger. and largely improvisatory. pieces. Yet such perfonnances are an integral part of theatre history and criticism, Modern Drama. 44:3 (2001) 362 Reviews both in and of themselves and as laboratories in which performers and directors hone their skills and articulate their visions. A number of recent books attest to performance art's historical and critical significance, including Holly Hughes and David Roman's a Solo Homo: The New Queer Performance (1998); Amelia Jones's Body Art: Performing the Subject (1998); Kathy O'Dell's Contract with the Skin: Masochism, Performance Art and the 1970S (1998); and Michael Peterson's Straight White Male: Performance Art Monologues (1997). Each of these texts directly or indirectly grapples with how techniques of reproduction and documentation shape the conversation about performance art, history, and historicity. The two edited volumes reviewed here feed this conversation as well. To be fair, they do not both do so explicitly. But as a pair, the heuristic value of the problems they raise, and the solutions they offer, is at least as significant a contribution to this larger critical conversation as any the editors themselves explicitly claim for their works. The more obviously useful in this regard is Jo Bonney's Extreme Exposure: An Anthology ofSolo Performance Texts from the Twentieth Century. Its utility was brought home to me in my graduate theatre seminar on the body in solo performance; virtually every student cited this volume, and, in some cases, these citations were the only published print sources of performance texts available. Media "stars" - Anna Deavere Smith, Spalding Gray, Tim Miller, and Lily Tomlin, for example - have their scripts published as selfcontained books. but. in many cases, texts by contemporary artists with lower media profiles, and artists who worked earlier in the century. are not accessible to students. I vividly remember scouring artists' specialty publications like The Act and Whitewalls, and dogging performers for copies of scripts, during my own work on solo performance in Chicago in the 1980s. At this most pragmatic level, Bonney's volume is extremely useful. Several of Bonney's editorial choices are especially interesting interventions in the history ofperformance art, which, depending on the source, is usually seen as "beginning" with the Italian Futurists or, in the United States, with the visual artS avant-garde in the 19505. Bonney - wisely, I think - begins her anthology with solo performers per se: Beatrice Herford at the turn of the century , Jackie "Moms" Mabley, Ruth Draper, and Lord Buckley, artists who encourage readers to broaden their definitions of solo performance and add nuance to discussions of the form's relationships to theatre and popular culture . (Also exemplary in...




Avantgarde Extreme 44



(3) Wolf-Dietrich Forster, for instance, stresses the importanceof "Themenbildung und Organisation des Materials nach Erfordernissen desWerkes vor dem eigentlichen Kompositionsvorgang" for both Mann'snovel and twelve-tone composition (700). He also claims that Doktor Faustusis "undynamisch" and "entwicklungslos," traits the novelsupposedly shares with Schonberg's method (700). The first claim is muchtoo general to support the connection Forster is looking for, while thesecond claim is plainly an expression of subjective bias. He also makes thebizarre claim that the extreme compositional constraints of the twelve-tonemethod ("keine freie Note") mirror constraints imposed on Mann("kein freies Wort") (710).


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