“That you would post such a thing implies that you are a despicable human being”: spectatorship, social media, & the struggle for meaning in disability performance

Hadley, Bree J. (2011) “That you would post such a thing implies that you are a despicable human being”: spectatorship, social media, & the struggle for meaning in disability performance. In Performance Studies International (PSi) Conference 2011, 25-29 May 2011, Utrecht University, Utrecht. (Unpublished)

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Artists with disabilities working in Live Art paradigms often present performances which replay the social attitudes they are subject to in daily life as guerilla theatre in public spaces – including online spaces. In doing so, these artists draw spectators’ attention to the way their responses to disabled people contribute to the social construction of disability. They provide different theatrical, architectural or technological devices to encourage spectators to articulate their response to themselves and others. But – the use of exaggeration, comedy and confrontation in these practices notwithstanding – their blurry boundaries mean some spectators experience confusion as to whether they are responding to real life or a representation of it. This results in conflicted responses which reveal as much about the politics of disability as the performances themselves. In this paper, I examine how these conflicted responses play out in online forums. I discuss diverse examples, from blog comments on Liz Crow’s Resistance on the Plinth on YouTube, to Aaron Williamson and Katherine Araneillo’s Disabled Avant-Garde clips on YouTube, to Ju Gosling’s Letter Writing Project on her website, to segments of UK Channel 4’s mock reality show Cast Offs on YouTube. I demonstrate how online forums become a place not just for recording memories of an original performance (which posters may not have seen), but for a new performance, which goes well beyond re-membering/remediating the original. I identify trends in the way experience, memory and meaningmaking play out in these performative forums – moving from clarification of the original act’s parameters, to claims of disgust, insult or offense, to counter-claims confirming the comic or political efficacy of the act, often linked disclosure of personal memory or experience of disability. I examine the way these encounters at the interstices of live and/or online performance, memory, technology and public/private history negotiate ideas about disability, and what they tell us about the ethics and efficacy of the specific modes of performance and spectatorship these artists with disabilities are invoking.

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ID Code: 50294
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Drama Theatre and Performance Studies (190404)
Divisions: Past > Schools > Drama
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 (please consult the author).
Deposited On: 15 May 2012 02:31
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2013 20:43

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