(Syn)aesthetics and disturbance : tracing a transgressive style
An examination and exploration of ‘the (syn)aesthetic style’, a particular sensate mode of performance and appreciation that has become prominent in recent years in contemporary arts practice. The (syn)aesthetic performance style fuses disciplines and techniques to create interdisciplinary and intersensual work with emphasis upon; the (syn)aesthetic hybrid; the prioritisation of the body in performance and the visceral-verbal ‘play-text’. ‘(Syn)aesthetics’ is adopted as an original discourse for the analysis of such work, appropriating certain quintessential features of the physiological condition of synaesthesia to clarify the impulse in performance and appreciation which affects a ‘disturbance’ within audience interpretation. Original terms employed attempt to elucidate the complex appreciation strategies integral to this performance experience. These include the double-edged semantic/somatic or making-sense/sense-making process of appreciation, which embraces the individual, immediate and innate, and the ‘corporeal memory’ of the perceiving body. Liveness and the live(d) moment are considered, alongside notions of ritual and transcendence and the primordial and technological. The argument surveys the inheritance that saw to this contemporary style emerging, in Britain in particular, considering female performance practice, intercultural and interdisciplinary ensemble performance and the ‘New Writing’ aesthetic. Critical and performance theorists referred to include Friedrich Nietzsche, the Russian Formalists, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Antonin Artaud, Valère Novarina, Howard Barker and Susan Broadhurst. Contemporary practitioners highlighted as case studies exemplary of (syn)aesthetic practice are Sara Giddens, Marisa Carnesky, Caryl Churchill and Sarah Kane. Furthermore, documentation of a series of original performance workshops explores the (syn)aesthetic impulse in performance and analysis from the perspectives of writer, performer and audience. (Syn)aesthetics as an interpretative device endeavours to enhance understanding of the intangible areas of performance which are increasingly difficult to articulate, thereby presenting a mode of analysis that extends performance theory for students and practitioners within the arts.