Dissertation

Durational Performance: Temporalities of the Untimely Body

Abstract

This project establishes durational performance as a cogent artistic medium by unearthing the work of under-researched female artists. Following Marina Abramović’s 2010 performance, The Artist is Present, at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, a trend toward “durational performance” erupted in the art world and the dance world. Its ripples penetrated popular music and were registered by Abramović’s rapidly skyrocketing celebrity status. More than an emergent fad however, the aesthetic turn to duration has a robust history and politics. By tracing the historical development of standardized time, I anchor durational performance to the specific way clock-time is used to discipline the body. Extending this history to the present, I describe how everyday untimely behaviors from the nineteenth century developed into a relevant artistic medium. This scholarship complicates dominant Western narratives about the development of performance art and contemporary dance. By the very nature of cultivating untimeliness, the untimely body revealed by durational performance is a body that resists being colonized by structures of time that make human activity predictable, profitable, and efficient. Asserting durational performance creates the conditions in which the body can escape capitalist and neoliberal choreographies of time, my focus on the untimely body attends to the physical toll of mastering and deploying silence, repetition, and suspension as artistic mechanisms and political strategies. It also compels an intimate look at durational performance as doing more than staging a body that endures toward its limit of exhaustion. The shift from endurance to sustained discomfort and from exhaustion to fatigue on which this dissertation focuses considers the body as a site of creative resistance that is able to wrest itself from neoliberal structures of control that permeate aesthetic consciousness and artistic production.