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Deconstructing the Spectacle: Aerial Performance as Critical Practice

Murphy, Laura (2018) Deconstructing the Spectacle: Aerial Performance as Critical Practice. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This doctoral thesis has aspired to find new critical contexts, frameworks and methodologies for creating, presenting and performing aerial work. This project has both enabled and required me to combine my two previously mutually exclusive practices as a live artist and as an aerial rope artist, and to examine the conflicts, contrasts and similarities of these practices. Aerial work as a historically spectacular performance form comes with a plethora of expectations and associations, such as virtuosity, risk, spectacle, freedom and weightlessness, that have been passed on through traditional and contemporary circus genres. These associations have, I argue, thus far limited the potential of aerial practice in terms of the contribution it has been able to make as critical and/or socially engaged performance. As I also argue, aerial work has long been used as a vehicle for social and political propaganda, most recently in its alignment with spectacularized, neoliberal representations of lived experience, emulating and implicitly endorsing notions of freedom, perfection and high achievement. This thesis and research project overall aims to challenge normative ideas attached to and embedded in aerial work, and importantly to present innovative methods for employing and utilizing it in wider performance practice. My research has throughout drawn on methodologies from established creative-critical disciplines, chiefly live art and contemporary performance, which have supported both my practical and theoretical investigations. Such approaches have been useful in considering how aerial work can be used as a means to interrogate politically charged subject matter, issues and debates, by subverting, deviating from, and engaging with its historical associations of ‘showmanship’ and virtuosity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.794193
Depositing User: Laura Murphy
Date Deposited: 24 Dec 2019 10:04
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2020 10:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25557

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