Perform or Else – From Discipline to Performance
Book: Perform or Else – From Discipline to Performance
Written by: Jon Mckenzie
Published by: Routledge (2001)
Jon Mckenzie’s Perform or Else re-orients the category of performance by linking the disparate fields of productivity in workplace, experimental art or rapid functionality in technological systems with the notion: to perform. By exploring the relationship between cultural, organizational and technological performance, this book makes a critical intervention in the field of performance studies and initiates a challenge that links performances by artists and activists with those of workers and executives, as well as computers and missile systems (p.3).
The author analyses the connections between the challenges posed by performance management (organisational performance), performance studies (cultural performance) and techno-performance (technological performance). Mckenzie talks about a “challenge” of efficacy in these categories of performances. For example, if one fails to perform results in an organisation, the result is being fired; if a missile or a technology fails to perform, becomes obsolete, and one always has to perform the cultural norms to be part of a society. Hence, Mckenzie suggests that “performance and challenging are intimately connected” and beyond them there is “challenging forth” the world to perform — or else. He argues that performance is the stratum of power/knowledge that emerged in the US in the late twentieth century. Mckenzie further argues that “performance will be to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries what discipline was to the eighteenth and nineteenth, that is, an onto-historical formation of power and knowledge (p.18).”
“Like discipline, performance produces a new subject of knowledge, though one quite different from that produced under the regime of panoptic surveillance. Hyphenated identities, transgendered bodies, digital avatars, the Human Genome Project—these suggest that the performative subject is constructed as fragmented rather than unified, decentered rather than centered, virtual as well as actual.” (p.18)