Occupy Citizenry: Participatory Performance in New York City: 2009-2015

Kenn Dixon Watt, City University of New York, Graduate Center

Abstract

Occupying Citizenry: Participatory Performances in New York City, 2009

'2015

Kenn Watt

Advisor: Prof. Jean Graham-Jones

This dissertation examines participatory aesthetics and their realization in various examples of contemporary performance. I examine a range of performance modalities, and discuss examples from military, civic, and environmentally themed work by the following New York City'based artists: International WOW Company, Aaron Landsman, and Natalie Jeremijenko and the Environmental Health Clinic. The performances took place throughout 2009'13 and involved my immersive research as both audience member and as a member of the team documenting each performance. The study examines the implicit performance 'contracts' established between artists and audiences, current theories of participation (Claire Bishop, Jacques Rancière, Shannon Jackson, and Bruno Latour) and proposes that such performances operate via a consciously adopted form of performative failure to fully represent the utopian worlds insinuated by the performance contracts. Such failure to represent draws on the recent theoretical writings of Nicholas Ridout, Sara Jane Bailes, Baz Kershaw, and others. Through such performative failure, it is argued, the existence of networks of social association is revealed'leading to the emancipatory promise of the performance worlds and to avenues of progressive resistance to military ideologies, civic lack of democratic participation, and ecological crisis'all characteristic of contemporary life in the United States.