Intimacy in Performance

Peter Franks states that intermedia is “all the areas of adventure and experiment lying in, among, and between” (Barton, 2008, p. 78) theatre as we know it. Therefore, intimacy in performance allows performers to reach out to the audience and become one, whilst creating an intensified experience. During Week Six, we explored the notions of intimacy in performance, and the effects on an audience-performer relationship. Intimacy in performances can occur where “technologically determined practices become sensuous and effective, and where the visceral is no more a purist fantasy but a contemporary reality” (Chatzichchristodoulou and Zerihan, 2012, p. 217), enabling the technological and the visceral to bond. For example, in our performance of 33 Minutes, we will manipulate the audience’s sense of time, as videos will be played of us in boxes, making it unclear whether this is live/non-live footage. Our performance will heighten the senses, as the sounds are to be played through headphones, which will clash or blend accordingly with what they see in the performance space. The very style of the performance, with the audience wearing headphones, means that the audience will individually feel that they are experiencing the performance on their own, rather than collectively. The intimacy that is created for the audience, through wearing the headphones, will also intensify the situation, and enables us to manipulate their emotions further.

The audience is also invited into the performance space, and can choose where to sit or stand. 33 Minutes is not a one-to-one experience, but can evoke unique understanding, dependent on where an audience member chooses to be, in the space. Thus, more senses are at play if an audience member was to sit on a box, as we can tap from inside the boxes, heightening what they feel physically.

The idea of the boundaries between art and life being intensified in intimate performances is directly explored in 33 Minutes, as the performance space will represent a museum. Furthermore, the glass casings and roped off spaces that protect pieces of art or artefacts in exhibitions symbolise this very division of art and life. In our performance, we are in effect inviting the audience to break those boundaries, and even become a ‘work of art’ in their own right. For example, the audience member that chooses to sit on one of the white ‘exhibitions stands’ will be aware of their significance to the performance, since we will display a plaque stating that the ‘artefact’ is a precious piece of art and must not be touched.

Intimacy in performance also questions the notion of generosity. For example, in order for the audience to feel more involved in the performance, they may sacrifice something or respond more actively. At the beginning of 33 Minutes, we will ask each audience member to donate a piece of clothing/jewellery, which will then be displayed as another exhibition piece, in a clear box. The audience will receive their items at the end of the performance, yet the fact that they are giving something up as part of experience will help to intensify their connection with the performance. It is important to note that this sacrificial element of the performance also ties in with our theme of imprisonment. During rehearsals, we discussed how the Jews had to hand over all of their possessions when entering the concentration camps, and how these artifacts are now displayed to the public, in a memorial museum at Auschwitz.

By Sophie Bullivant


Works Cited:

Barton, Bruce (2008) Subjectivity, Culture, Communications, Intermedia: A Meditation on the ‘Impure Interactions’ of Performance and the ‘in-between’ Space of Intimacy in a Wired World. Theatre Research in Canada, 29 (1) pp. 51-92.

Chatzichristodoulou, M. and Zerihan, R. (eds.) (2012) ‘A Discussion on the Subject of Intimacy in Performance, and an Afterword’ in Intimacy across Visceral and Digital Performance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 213-221.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>