The articulation of concepts of identity in discourses of contemporary performance art
Thisthesis arose from a concern with the construction and manifestation of identity in
performance art, particularly the articulation ofconcepts of identity within the realm of
discourses, e.g. scripts, verbal and writtendiscourses by artists as wellas actual performances.
Identity in performance is understood mainly as an ideological construction which is
typical ofrecent political performances. The thrust of this research is that concepts of identity
in performance have other not so explicit articulations andin somecasesthey are unconscious
constructions. Theories and histories of performance haveneglected the occurrence of more
subtle processes of identity conception in performance discourses andare unable to explain
andinclude those constructions.
By means of discourse analysis, this thesis presents two interconnected strands. The
first is a review of early 20th century performative works as well as 1960's and 1970's
performance art works, in an attemptto showthat these workswere also engaged in identity
construction. The second approach is empirical and comprises interviews with performance
artists, as well as analyses ofpieces ofperformance.
The findings haverevealed that works of the past were engaged in identity
conceptualisation as much as current pieces. This conceptualisation is made throughpatterns
of specific conceptual frameworks and characterise political, carnivalesque, spontaneous,
unconscious, standardised, celebratory and educational identities. In the kernel ofidentity
conceptualisation in performance, liesconcepts that relateto an idea of essentiality,
authenticity, authority, access and revelations about the self.
Theunderstanding of performance's identity concepts presented here contribute to a
moreinclusive theoryand history of performance. It calls attention to the fact that in
performance art an intense exercise of identity construction is possible, because in this art
genrethe physicality of the artist.is more emphasised than in other art forms