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23.11.2006 |

Or How to Do Things with Performative Actions
A thematic issue of the Maska performing arts journal

When analysing the methods used in direct political actions carried out in/at public places, we should draw attention to the risk of linking these phenomena with ritual, theatre or performance unless these terms are used critically and/or metaphorically. Many direct actions, however, are reminiscent of agitprop and guerrilla performance. Both methods are part of the history of 20th century theatre practices whose goal is to raise awareness of the public about a specific political or social situation as well as the struggle for liberation of discriminated social groups. Another theoretical framework frequently used in analysis of performative aspect of activistic practices is Bakhtin’s concept of “carnivalisation”. Rather than looking for universal patterns and the, presumably common, roots of these events, analysis of specific social and political circumstances of a concrete historical moment might be reconsidered as a more productive point of departure.

The activists that take part in direct actions usually are not trained actors, because the basic motive behind those actions is not to create an aesthetic, but a political effect. An activist is an artist as much as is inevitable, no more and no less; the artisanship is a side effect of a political act. The absence of concerns about aesthetics and a disrespectful attitude towards grand narratives (political, legal, social, perhaps even philosophical), relegates an activist to the structural place of an amateur actor, that is to say, an actor who appears strange to the “silent majority,” but precisely because of this he/she is in a position to pose simple, naïve and hence important questions. Actors, performers, activists, theorists and so on, are “amateurs” because they pose questions about issues that are not challenged otherwise, since they are somehow taken for granted.

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Slovene-English edition.

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