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Palgrave Macmillan

Disability, Public Space Performance and Spectatorship

Unconscious Performers

ISBN 9781137396075
Publication Date March 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Why would disabled people want to re-engage, re-enact and re-envisage the everyday encounters in public spaces and places that cast them as ugly, strange, stare-worthy? In Disability, Public Space Performance and Spectatorship: Unconscious Performers, Bree Hadley examines the performance practices of disabled artists in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Australasia who do exactly this. Operating in a live or performance art paradigm, artists like James Cunningham (Australia), Noemi Lakmaier (UK/Austria), Alison Jones (UK), Aaron Williamson (UK), Katherine Araniello (UK), Bill Shannon (US), Back to Back Theatre (Australia), Rita Marcalo (UK), Liz Crow (UK) and Mat Fraser (UK) all use installation and public space performance practices to restage their disabled identities in risky, guerrilla-style works that remind passers-by of their own complicity in the daily social drama of disability. In doing so, they draw spectators' attention to their own role in constructing Western concepts of disability. This book investigates the way each of us can become unconscious performers in a daily social drama that positions people with disabilities as figures of tragedy, stigma or pity, and the aesthetics, politics and ethics of performance practices that intervene very directly in this drama. It constructs a framework for understanding the way spectators are positioned in these practices, and how they contribute to public sphere debates about disability today.

Bree Hadley is Senior Lecturer in Performance Studies in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Her research investigates the construction of identity in contemporary, pop cultural and public space performance practices, concentrating particularly on the way spectators are positioned as co-performers in these practices.

Introduction – Disability, Performance and the Public Sphere
1. Weebles, Mirages and Living Mirrors: The Ethics of Embarrassed Laughter
2. Drug Deals, Samaritans and Suicides: Bodies on the Brink of the Visible
3. 'That You Would Post Such a Thing…': Staging Spectatorship Online
4. Same Difference?: Disability, Presence, Performance and Ethics
Conclusion – (Dia)logics of Difference


"Bree Hadley's study of disability performance and spectatorship marks a maturing of the field, a moment which takes stock of the interventions disabled performance artists make in public - and, more specifically, how they can help us redefine and rethink notions of the 'public sphere'. Through grounded and exciting case studies of installation, live art, public space interventions and online public arenas, Hadley shows the challenges disabled artists offer to a mainstream that still wishes to keep disability contained. This book will offer indispensable insights to social practice artists who create encounters as the basis of their art practice, to their critics and their involved observers." - Petra Kuppers, University of Michigan, USA
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