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The brief hope offered by nature: On art, theatre and aesthetics in the thought of John Berger

The brief hope offered by nature: On art, theatre and aesthetics in the thought of John Berger

Bowes, Neil Simon ORCID: 0000-0002-9189-0322 (2018) The brief hope offered by nature: On art, theatre and aesthetics in the thought of John Berger. Cultural Politics. ISSN 1743-2197 (Print), 1751-7435 (Online) (Submitted)

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The article explores the relevance of John Berger’s thought in the context of contemporary theatre. It takes a single exemplar: Domestica, by Sleepwalk Collective (2018). In its treatment of art, Domestica may be considered a response to the thematics of Ways of Seeing (1972), where Berger used the history of art for his own purposes, and encouraged us to be sceptical.

Ways of Seeing can be construed as an attempt to reclaim or redeem the history art in service of a progressive cultural politics; Domestica refuses this entirely. Written by a man in collaboration with three women, who are its principal performers, the performance is divided into eight ‘panels’, replete with 40 footnotes. The history of art is described as a ‘domestication of nature’: we keep looking, the performance suggests, because art is the only thing keeping what is outside from coming in. The article explores the generative tensions emerging through Domestica’s own ways of seeing, it is restatement of scepticism as a political necessity.

In making Domestica’s intellectual lineage explicit, the article develops a treatment of art, nature, and culture, drawing upon Nicholas Ridout’s Passionate Amateurs (2015) alongside Berger’s essay The Theatre of Indifference (1975) Elizabeth Grosz’s Chaos, Territory, Art (2008) alongside The White Bird (1985), placing Berger’s aesthetics in an immanentist tradition articulated by Deleuze, Bergson and Spinoza. The article argues that Berger’s conception of aesthetics — to make social the brief hope offered by nature —corresponds to emerging concerns in contemporary theatre and performance, a field in which art maybe understood as an inhuman, undomesticable force that outlives us, and where sensation and affect become the preconditions for the revitalisation of cultural politics.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Art, Theatre, Politics, John Berger, Aesthetics, Contemporary Performance, Sleepwalk Collective, Domestica
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Department of Literature, Language & Theatre
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2019 13:50
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: GREAT 2
Selected for REF2021: None

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