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For the poetics of dispossession - a study on the autobiographical as negativity and abjection in "acts of disobedience" and "acts of resistance against death", by angelica Liddell

Grant number: 17/18374-5
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): January 01, 2018
Effective date (End): April 30, 2020
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Arts
Principal Investigator:Felisberto Sabino da Costa
Grantee:Janaina Fontes Leite
Home Institution: Escola de Comunicações e Artes (ECA). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The proposal herein is the result of a research done on a master´s degree level, which attempted to examine some themes that are valuable to the contemporary theater concerning the different (and controversial) concepts of "real". Within these ideas, it is possible to identify the ones that aim to distinguish what is real as "subject" from what is real as an occurrence or irruption on the scene. Within the latter, we can include concepts such as Hal Foster´s and Maryvone Saison´s with the "Theaters of the Real", as well as the many strands of the so-called "documentary theater" which work with documents, archival material and non-actors. Outlining the research around the idea of self-representation in the contemporary scene, the work found support in concepts such as the autobiographical pact and bond, the psychoanalytical idea of a fabling memory, Oscar Cornago´s concept of "presence technologies", the discussion about ethics and truth, inherited from cinematic documentaries, among other concerning issues. In the resulting master degree´s thesis the main focus still fell on a notion (as well as artistic experiences) of self-representation, which takes place mainly in the planes of narrative, memory and the attempt to symbolize the intermittence of life and of one´s self. To deepen and extend the outlines of the research on a doctorate level, we propose to explore self-representation on the grounds of "un-identity". For that purpose, we shall take as main source the work of one of the most important artists of contemporary scene, Spanish playwright, director and performer Angélica Liddell, in order to verify how the autobiographical is articulated in her work, resulting in what we are calling "the poetics of dispossession". Throughout a career spanning more than 20 years, we proposed as a cutout two pieces of her work entitled "Acts of Disobedience" and "Acts of Resistance Against Death". Notwithstanding, our choice falls on the phase Angelica herself denominates "Acts", pointing to a curve in her trajectory in which performativity and what she calls "confessional" are more evidenced. Liddell´s work, especially the cutout we are proposing, is of great interest above all because it seems to offer a peculiar combination between theatricality and performativity, whose terms we are very interested in investigating.Liddell seems to push "illusionism to the point of real" (FOSTER) through her excessive and almost baroque theatricality, full of ostensive signs. At the same time she rejects illusionism, "in an attempt to evoke the real while such" (id) through the emergence of the body, the confession and the sacrifice, which denies mediation when offering literalism as the only way to approach horror.It seems to us that in Liddell´s theater the excess of confession, in a pornographic (or abject?) self-exposure of the body, of life itself, ends up dissolving the "me" (the subject of memory, anchored in the imaginary) in a zone of difficult symbolization (if not impossible to capture). It´s what seems to happen as well in the works in which Liddell operates with fictions, such as in "Richard III", part of the trilogy "Acts of Resistance Against Death". Fiction, in her case, seems to be "another" for a personal experience, through which the "me" can also be "dispossessed".To reflect on the articulation between life and work as well as performativity and theatricality, in Liddell´s work, our thesis is that the concepts of negativity (argued by Lacan in his theory of pulses) and abjection (as proposed by Júlia Kristeva on "The Powers of Horror") can be important tools to analyze Liddell´s theater - and, by extension, the contemporary scene as a whole - avoiding the unsurmountable predicaments of the dichotomy of real and fictional. These are also the fundamental concepts to think the work of self-representation as a dispossession experience (referring here to Judith Butler when she thinks of the "self-account").