Performativity

Performativity is defined as being  “an interdisciplinary term often used to name the capacity of speech and language in particular, as well as other non-verbal forms of expressive action, to perform a type of being.”  In the social sciences performativity includes the daily behavior (or performance) of individuals based on social norms or habits.

It can be further explained as “The concept that places emphasis on the manners in which identity is passed or brought to life through discourse. Performative acts are types of authoritative speech. This can only happen and be enforced through the law or norms of the society though. These statements, just by speaking them, carry out a certain action and exhibit a certain level of power. Examples of these types of statements are declarations of ownership, baptisms, inaugurations, and legal sentences. Something that is key to performativity is repetition. The statements are not singular in nature or use and must be used consistently in order to exert power.”

This concept has been on my mind today as I attended a lecture, gave a talk myself and went to a performance.

Performance is a challenging art form for me, both as a performer and as a spectator. Art performances usually look nothing at all like what we think of as theatrical performances.  Performance art is whole different animal. Today, I had the good fortune to witness an Irish Artist named Regan O’Brien. Regan is a performing artist who uses song, action, dance, photography, text and projection montage for composition.

Today, during a forum called Age-ism: Between-Worlds, which focused on how we travel between cultures and economies. Regan did a performance piece where she literally articulated every single joint in her body while using her entire range of sound.  Her body was truly being used as an instrument for communication and it was quite an extraordinary performance in light of the topic “The Car of the Future

Later in the day, I gave a talk discussing my work, which is also body related in subject, and then discussed performances that I had given. Giving a talk is also a performance, of course, and I performed as artist, as was expected.

After my talk, I attended a lecture being given by another artist who also includes performative events in her work, Carey Young.  Carey’s work is actually titled Speech Acts, Body Techniques and Speechcraft.

As I walked to the tram this evening after a busy day, I began to think of everyday performative acts and performances and how expected behavior plays into our everyday activities, creating our identities. Today, I performed as spectator, as artist, and as American exchange student. I wondered as I walked up the stairs to my apartment, where was “Terry” in all of this.

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