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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

The Explicit Body in Performance

Book: The Explicit Body in Performance
Written by: Rebecca Schneider
Published by: Routledge, 1997

‘The Explicit Body in Performance’ by Rebecca Schneider examines how commodity capitalism has shaped the ways of seeing the body and ways of structuring desire. The central focus of this book is the highly explicit nature of feminist performance art and performative actions. The term “explicit body” has been coined to describe the manner in which this type of work seeks to elucidate the ways in which bodies exist within social relationships.

The book begins with the chapter ‘Binary Terror and the Explicit Body’ examining the link between commodities and women that is evident in the modernist art fascination with prostitution/porn industry referring to the use of bodies of porn stars in the art field. She engages with the works of performing and visual artists including Veronica Vera, Carolee Schneemann, Shigeko Kubota, Lynda Benglis, and Annie Sprinkle to augment her arguments. The author then explores “the structural impossibility of women as “real” within the representational premises of commodity capitalism—an impossibility recently championed by queer theory as potentially empowering (p.7).”

In chapter 3, she explores Schneemann’s work to unpack the legacies of visual perspectivalism relative to the “scene” of the body made explicit in contemporary feminist performance. Taking up the issue of the secret of commodities, and linking that secret to economies of vision, chapter 4 ‘Secret’s Eye’ explores works by Karen Finley, Ann Magnuson, Sandra Bernhard and Annie Sprinkle. In chapter five, Schneider provides a troubled lineage from Jarry to Dada to Surrealism highlighting the complex relationship that contemporary feminist explicit body art has with its predecessors. By examining the historical use of racially and sexually marked primitivism in relation to explicit bodywork, she hopes to provide a starting place for deeper analysis.

“The terrain of my inquiry is representation because the battlefield of identity is inextricably wrapped up in the histories of the ways identities have been marked, imaged, reproduced in the realm of cultural imagery.”

The Explicit Body in Performance