Destabilising Critique: Personae in between self and enactment

This research master dissertation discusses the use of personae in performance as critique. My three case studies, Christoph Schlingensief’s Bitte liebt Österreich (2000), Renzo Martens’ Episode III: Enjoy Poverty (2008), and Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), all feature one or more personae: ambiguous figures in between naturalness and modes of performing. They are staged in their common site of signification, of which the spectator receives a sometimes heavily mediated documentation. These personae can be understood as performing figures that an artist uses to implicitly embody the themes that are discussed explicitly in a performance itself.




The cases I analyse, actualise three different meanings of performance simultaneously, up to the point where they become indistinguishable. A persona is performed in the theatrical sense of enactment, a staged rendering traditionally belonging to the domain of art. At the same time, the persona embodies a role or social function. Using plot, presentation, rhetoric and mise-en-scène, the critical persona takes shape in such a manner that both social environment and spectator may believe it to be natural, while it actively reflects codified norms and conventions. It is at this intersection of theatrical performance, embodiment, and scriptedness, as the distinct meanings of ‘performance’ conflate, that the persona is enabled.
Further questioning the distinction between performance and naturalness is the fact that people, objects and phenomena that are not intrinsically part of the performance are rendered accomplices: inadvertently or involuntary, the artist makes them instruments of his/her project. At this point it not only becomes difficult to tell what is ‘real’ and what is ‘staged’, but the direction of the social commentary becomes ambiguous as well, as it is unclear what is intended and what is corollary, what is straightforward and what is hypocritical: the critique – understood as praxis questioning governance – destabilises the experience of invested truths.


Prologue. Jane Castleton: Embodying, redirecting and destabilising social relations


Theoretical framework: Persona, Performance, method

Performing in a space-time allegory: The persona as public image
Christoph Schlingensief | Bitte liebt Österreich. Erste europäische Koalitionswoche (2000)

Renzo the Great Emancipator: The persona as vehicle of personifications
Renzo Martens | Episode III: Enjoy Poverty (2008)

Enter the Performance Street Art: The staged and constructed persona
Banksy | Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)



Appendix: Figures

Or download the full pdf (does not include appendix with figures)





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