Extinction in Performing arts as a political practice

The importance of decolonizing Extinction within Performing arts is to raise a response-ability for different possibilities to envision futures, and to create an awareness of the audience to prevent the worst possibilities from being realized. In which circumstances is it necessary to speak of performing arts as political? In the following, I will trace a contemporary picture of performing arts and politics, combining with an idea of justice and responsibility towards the term neutrality and extinction.

Bojana Kunst in the paper “The troubles with temporality” argues that when questioning the politics of performance, one also pushes the limits of thinking about politics itself.[i] Kunst divides the temporal aspect of the performance from its materiality, resulting in an abstract and immaterial political potential. The political strength of the performance is closely related to the temporality of the present - which in her view, it is understood as a micro political rearrangement of different forces.


A particular problem she points is the consequences of generalization of the performance’s temporal gesture and the universalization of the performance’s political strength, which puts performance, or rather narrows it, to a macro political context.[ii] Kunst argues that the macro aspects of performance should exist as a result of the multiplicity of micropolitical aspects and not the other way around.

As reviewed along this paper, through Quantum Field Theory, we can reach beyond the understanding of micro as individuals, and macro as environment and the void, but rather including all infinite im/possibilities within its virtualities and indeterminate states of intra-actions. Nevertheless, the discourse of extinction is a threat in the traditional approach of both time and being - something that stops to exist (in time and space) and stops to be (matter and meaning).

Bojana`s understanding of performance’s temporal potential as a micropolitical scope is a subversive act.[iii] The potential exchange between the subject and the performance highlights its performativity exactly in the moment of its entanglements with the environment. What she calls ‘performance gesture’ is not only related to the geopolitical context, but rather to the contingency of different gestures in a particular temporal moment.[iv] In this way, performance must be understood within its dimensions of intra-actions of time, space, and subjectivity. She adds that:

“[p]erformance today is fighting against a chain of ghostly apprehensions that often transform the performance as a material practice into the continuous abstraction of procedures, dividing it from its spatial, situational, and micropolitical dynamic, and abstracting it from its contradictory and always partial embodiment.”[v]

How can we emancipate the politics of performance, to be understood within a global scale? For Kunst, that would be from “abstracting the performance from the singular conjunction of micropolitical forces,”[vi] in other words, letting go from its materiality and temporal rupture. When performance becomes a political act of emancipation it threatens the fundamentals of emancipatory achievements. Kunst argues that our society is continuously deprived of its substance, therefore “an act of undoing is at work and the Event…is retroactively denied.”[vii] Kunst`s understanding of performance brings its principles towards a constant active(ism) of ongoingness.

André Lepecki, in the introduction of his book “Dance: documents of contemporary art,” relate to the ongoingness of performance by arguing that together with the performative moment we are “figuring out how to move in this contemporaneity; and of understanding how, by moving (even if still) one may create a new choreography for the social.”[viii] By moving, social aspects are revealed, thus, as long as choreo-political questions remain relevant, dance will be a crucial system for critical thought within the aesthetic regime of contemporary art.[ix]

Under what he calls ‘political-aesthetic projects’, more than a metaphor for politics, one might understand it as activation of political practices through what he names as ‘social body’ and the ‘choreography for the social’.[x] For Lepecki and Kunst, the exchange among society and art highlights the ongoingness state of performance and its political dynamics.

The reproduction of aesthetics as a representation of society is at the same time a critical reflection of the present, a political understanding of the past, and a political projection of the future. Lepecki’s term ‘choreography for the social’, not only has the role of raising awareness and approaching questions about contemporary situations but indeed holds a value between individual and collective.

Contemporaneity, for Lepecki, is an understanding of the present as a way though to understand the past, with a danger of distancing Humankind out of guilt of its own actions, exposing how society distorts morals within a system of oppression and hegemony. What Lepecki acknowledges as an understanding of contemporaneity, is what Karen Barad would suggest exactly as a ‘noncontemporaneity’ of the present, as an attempt to make justice, to bring to the present the responsibility of revisiting the past and to assume the indeterminacy of its ongoing narratives:

“…The past is never closed, never finished once and for all, but there is no taking back, setting time aright, putting the world back on its axis. There is no erasure [of past violences] finally. The trace of all reconfigurings are written into the [iterative] enfolded materialisations of what was/is/to-come. Time can`t be fixed. To address the past (and the future), to speak with ghosts, is not to entertain or reconstruct some narrative of the way it was, but to respond, to be responsible, to take responsibility for that which we inherit (from the past and the future), for the entangled relationalities of inheritance that ‘we’ are, to acknowledge and be responsive to the noncontemporaneity of the present, to put oneself at risk, to risk oneself (which is never one or self), to open oneself up to indeterminacy in moving towards what is to come. …Only in this ongoing responsibility to the entangled other…is there the possibility of justice-to-come.”[xi]  - Karen Barad (emphasis by the author)

In theater, it is common to address the so-called ‘neutral mask’, or ‘neutral state’. Throughout the history of theater and performing arts, there is a hierarchy onto the techniques and aesthetics expected onstage. My suggestion is that performing arts entangles social-political struggles under the society it exists in. Therefore, neutrality as a state invoques Barad’s concern of renormalization in which settle the idea of the subtraction of infinities, read also, an attempt to control diversities and possibilities.[xii]

Justice, as Karen Barad suggests, is an “embodied practice of tracing the entanglements of violent histories…[i]n the face of colonial practices of erasure and a-void-ance…”[xiii] For her, colonialism finds its justification in terms of the void, and the consequent a-void-ance of responsibility.[xiv] Indeed, each individual, as Barad argues, is “made up of all possible histories of virtual intra-actions with all others…there is no such thing as a discrete individual with its own roster of properties.”[xv] By arguing that, she troubles the core of Western dependency on individualism, and capitalist modes of production and exploitation,[xvi] and in fact, it constitutively excludes the ‘other’ which is always, as Quantum field theory suggests, already within.[xvii]



[i] (Kunst, 2015, p. 1)

[ii] (Ibid., p. 2)


[iii] (Ibid., p. 3)


[iv] (Ibid., p. 8)


[v] (Ibid., p. 6)


[vi] (Ibid., p. 3)


[vii] (Ibid., p. 7)


[viii] (Lepecki, 2012, p. 22)


[ix] (Ibid., p. 21)


[x] (Ibid., p. 22)


[xi] (Barad, After the end of the world: Entangled nuclear colonialism, matters of force, and the material force of justice, 2020, p. 105) and (Barad, Quantum entanglements and hauntological relations of inheritance: Dis/continuities, SpaceTime enfoldings, and justice-to-come, 2010, pp. 264-265)


[xii] (Barad, After the end of the world: Entangled nuclear colonialism, matters of force, and the material force of justice, 2020, p. 95)


[xiii] (Ibid., p. 104)


[xiv] (Ibid., p. 106)


[xv] (Ibid., p. 107)


[xvi] (Ibid., p. 107)


[xvii] (Ibid., p. 108)