Endangered Species: Performativity and the Displacement of Norms

Festivals: M:ST 2 Biennial | April 2 - 17, 2003.

Performativity can be seen as a process. The body is gendered through the repetitive enactment of societal markers. This repetitive enactment is not demonstrative of a preexisting identity, but rather is the mode of identity construction within a binary gender system. Judith Butler talks about the possibility of norms “actually materialis[ing] a body,” and “how we might understand the materiality of the body to be not only invested with a norm, but in some senses animated by a norm, or contoured by a norm” (Judith Butler in an interview by Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal, London, 1993.) When looking at performativity in the construct of gender identity it is interesting to question the role of performing the gaze within this concept. What role does looking–a performative act–play in the process of becoming/constructing identity/gender? Through performance the body can be the site for ‘dissonant inscription,’ or the locale for displacing the norm. If spectatorship can be seen to be a societal marker of gender, does the performance-based practice break down, or reinforce, the typical gender reads? How does the performance artist use their medium to challenge or rebuff the socially constructed constraints of gender identity?

Rozalinda Borcila (University of South Florida)
Joanne Bristol (Banff Centre)
Liss Platt (New York)
Anita Ponton (London, England)

Moderator: Mireille Perron (Calgary, AB)

Format: The discussion will open with each panelist doing a 5-10 minute performative presentation about their work. This presentation can be done in a variety of modes: a small excerpt of the work, recreation, spoken word, or work-shopping with the audience, etc. We would like to stay away from the traditional ‘artist talk’ format in order to ensure the audience members have a glimpse into each panelist’s performance work in M:ST2.