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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

To All Appearances: Ideology and Performance.

Book: To All Appearances: Ideology and Performance.
Written by: Herbert Blau
Published by: Routledge, 1992

Herbert Blau in ‘To All Appearances: Ideology and Performance’ makes an engaged theoretical enquiry with regards to the questions of ideology and performance around his own experience with actors. Mentioning a wide range of examples from the puppet theatre of Kleist to Kantor’s theatre of the dead; and from the Kutiyattam temple dancers in Kerala to Womanhouse in Los Angeles, the author questions the very nature of performance, the social meaning of illusion and the cultural manifestation of power. Blau uses the rhetoric of Marxism, postmodernism and feminism while suggesting that he is only a subverter of ideologies. The author is concerned “with the instance of emergence or transformative moment at which any practice, in theatre or elsewhere, becomes like ideology itself” (p.37). Blau relinquishes his view of a decentralised popular theatre culture capable of producing a new civic culture and theatre going as a form of citizenship. 
Drawing from theories of Brecht, Meyerhold, Artaud, Grotwoski, Beckett and others, Blau in “The Surpassing Body” discusses how ideology is attached to the body in various contexts; how the body has its political history, its nature circumscribed by a set of historical practices and discourses. For him, the body is rather site, instrument, machine, process, or… a kind of ecosystem, invested by the regimen of power and identifiable as the body of specific historical thought (p.114). In the last chapter “The Struggle to Appear”, Blau discusses the powerful ghosting effect of theatre on him and speaks of the actor’s power, more phenomenology than ideology.

“Ideology negates the inverted character of social relations; it takes as an aspect of reality, the appearances, and gives them an autonomy and independence which they do not actually have. In this sense ideology fetishizes the world of appearances, separates it from real connections” (p.197).

To All Appearances- Ideology and Performance