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Performance as Prefigurative Praxis - A Lab Proposal

a screaming performance

As a prospective Media Arts + Practice PhD candidate at the University of Southern California, I have an opportunity to start an experimental performance lab, which will begin in the spring semester of 2020. Below is an overview of the lab, which I hope will serve a shared context for research and the practice of praxis. If anyone else has experience with starting a lab, performance, praxis, or prefiguration, I'd love to hear from you!

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PPPLAY - Performance as Prefigurative Praxis Lab (And… Yes!)

Terms

performance: “a doing, something done”; “moves between the as if and the is, between pretend and new constructions of the ‘real’” (Diana Taylor)

prefiguration: “the embodiment, within the ongoing political practice of a movement, of those forms of social relations, decision-making, culture, and human experience that are the ultimate goal” (Carl Boggs)

praxis: “the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together”; “the only activity that goes on directly between men...corresponds to the human condition of plurality, to the fact that men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world” (Hannah Arendt)

Premise

There is something wrong. We have a sense that this ‘wrongness’, whatever it may be, could be addressed, but that it is too difficult to develop and deliver this address alone. Further, attempting to ‘do together’ is fraught with conflicting priorities and needs, with little sense of how to reconcile these differences to make togetherness possible. So it is typically preferable to think about doing ‘something’, to talk about doing ‘something’, but to ultimately do nothing (alone).

Performance as Prefigurative Praxis Lab (And… Yes!), also known as PPPLAY, is intended to serve as an experimental playground to imagine and enact ‘otherwise’ through praxis, or the process by which we organize ourselves socially through shared speech and action. Borrowing from traditions of performance, which allow for the possibility of ‘make believe’, we will engage directly with one another to wonder what ‘otherwise’ might be, to articulate ‘otherwise’ and then to literally and bodily perform otherwise with each other.

If we can prefigure this ‘otherwise’ in our own time and space, we may discover possibilities for sharing our process beyond and/or within PPPLAY. And… yes!

Precondition

Given the relative rarity of experience with prefiguration and praxis, we will leverage our greater familiarity of ‘performance’ to ground our experimental maneuvers; that is to say, we will proceed with the intention to develop a ‘performance’ to premiere at Asylum’s Studio C in Hollywood in late-April or early-May. All further details beyond this precondition will be determined through the process of PPPLAY.

Process

“Wrong and strong.”

-William Pope.L

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