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The misfit

Illness, disability and ‘improper’ subjects

Stephen Greer

Drawing on ‘queer-crip’ theories which expose the normative conditions of social participation, this chapter examines a range of works concerning illness, impairment and disability to examine the relationship between bodily propriety and neoliberalism’s preference for self-sufficient, ‘immune’ citizens. First exploring notions of responsibility which surround the representation of illness and disability, discussion examines the tension between care and self-care, and the cultural narratives which link charity, responsibility and individual agency. By challenging narrow and prejudicial notions of atypical bodies and neurologies, solo performance suggests new ways of understanding the ethics of intersubjective exposure.

Featured practitioners: Brian Lobel, Robert Softley, Katherine Araniello, Bobby Baker, the vacuum cleaner, Martin O’Brien.

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The martyr

Dramaturgies of endurance, exhaustion and confession

Stephen Greer

Drawing on the cultural tradition of the martyr as a figure whose suffering confirms the truth of his testimony to a cause, this chapter examines the precarious terms on which singular individuals are allowed – or called upon – to speak for themselves and others. Moving from live art practices of self-injury where blood is really flowing through performative renditions of endurance to works which invoke the logic of the confessional, it examines the narratives of self-sacrifice and redemption which surround martyrdom – and the contemporary works which challenge their logic.

Featured practitioners: Ron Athey, Kira O’Reilly, Franko B, Eddie Ladd, Adrian Howells, Scottee.

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Stephen Greer

Since the late 1990s, the figure of the creative entrepreneur has played an increasingly significant role in the working life of performers and theatre-makers across the UK and Europe. Focusing on the burgeoning economy and ecology of contemporary arts festivals as a key environment for the creation and staging of solo work, this chapter explores the increasing demand for self-employed artists to pursue individualised risk and reward, and to self-exploit. While unjuried events like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe emphasise that they are ‘open to all’, participation requires artists to take on the risk of significant personal debt and embrace often narrowly drawn industry standards. In this context, ‘free’ fringe festivals – and the work of artist-led groups like Forest Fringe and BUZZCUT – suggest alternative modes of practice in resistance of neoliberal economies.

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The killjoy

Public unhappiness and theatrical scapegoats

Stephen Greer

Framed by an examination of neoliberalism’s emphasis on individual agency – and claims that feminism is no longer needed or relevant – this chapter animates the figure of the killjoy to explore solo works in which public displays of unhappiness, dysphoria and ingratitude force a re-examination of the relationship between gender, individual responsibility and the social. If the killjoy is imagined to spoil everyone else’s good time, it is only because they draw attention to the bad faith social contracts – exemplified and exaggerated by the politics of austerity – which oblige some but not all to practice self-sacrifice in the name of a greater social good.

Featured practitioners: Bridget Christie, Ursula Martinez, Adrienne Truscott, La Ribot, Cristian Ceresoli and Silvia Gallerano, Gary Owen.

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Stephen Greer

This short chapter provides an overview of Queer exceptions: solo performance in neoliberal times, and locates the study in relation to debates concerning solo performance, individuality, neoliberalism and the politics of exceptionality.

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Jared Pappas-Kelley

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Jared Pappas-Kelley

Chapter one surveys examples from news articles, books, and exhibitions that take the destruction of art as their starting point, and attempts to gather these approaches and accounts as a framework for the book. Solvent form looks to recent examples such as critic Jonathan Jones’s concept of a Museum of Lost Art—a place where all the destroyed and lost artworks might hang—poet Henri Lefebvre’s book The Missing Pieces, the Tate Modern’s recent virtual exhibition Gallery of Lost Art, as well as literary parallels taken from Tom McCarthy’s Remainder and Georges Perec’s character Bartlebooth in Life A User’s Manual. From here, it considers Georges Bataille’s concept of the negative miracle from The Accursed Share in relation to thoughts from Giorgio Agamben and Paul Virilio, while providing examples such as Rachel Whiteread’s House, Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing, and Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York.

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Stephen Greer

Drawing together the key features of post-millennial solo works preoccupied with identity, individuality and subjectivity in neoliberal times, this short chapter theorises the potential of queer exceptionality as characterised by the generative powers of complicity, misrecognition, uncertainty and vulnerability.

Featured practitioner: Chris Goode.

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Jared Pappas-Kelley

Chapter two endeavours to define art amid a portmanteau—starting with Jean-Luc Nancy’s understanding of art and the image in The Ground of the Image, Bataille’s ideas concerning art as a rupture or fissure, Jean Baudrillard’s Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, and Paul Virilio’s The Accident of Art—to understand better the accident, disappearance, and destruction that art courts. Next, it proposes that through this art houses a solvency—in a sense undoing, yet at the same time securing or making fixed—as conflicting and resistant tendencies within the object formed. This chapter also puts forward a correlation between Bataille and Virilio and their ideas regarding the negative or reverse miracle (that they suggest gives art its form), which is similarly made visible through loss or destruction.

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Series:

Edited by: John Baker, Marion Leclair and Allan Ingram

This volume of twelve essays, preceded by an introduction that succinctly frames the problematic and history of the notion of the ‘self’, examines the various ways the ‘self’ was perceived, fashioned and written in the course of the long eighteenth century in Great Britain. It highlights, in particular, the interface between literature and philosophy. The chapters include discussion of philosophers such as Locke, Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Hume, Hutcheson and Smith, churchmen such as Isaac Barrow and John Tillotson, the novelists Eliza Haywood, Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne, the poets Anne Killigrew, Alexander Pope, William Blake and William Wordsworth, the writers and sometime diarists Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, and the radical writer Sampson Perry.

The originality of the studies lies in their focus on the varied ways of seeing and saying the self, and what Locke called personal identity. They foreground the advent of a recognisably modern, individualistic and ‘sustainable’ self, which, still today, remains plural and enigmatic. The book should appeal to a wide public, both undergraduate and graduate students working in Literature and the Humanities, in particular those interested in the Enlightenment period, as well as researchers and the general public interested in questions related to identity and consciousness and their formulation in the past and present.

The volume follows a chronological narrative which surveys the intriguing and protean nature of the ‘self’ from varied perspectives and as expressed in different genres. It assembles contributions from both confirmed and young researchers from Britain, Europe and the United States.