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Liminal Aesthetics

Liminal Acts (1999), a description of a range of experimental performative types which I have assembled under this heading, is an emerging genre which has surfaced only in the past few decades. The term limen (Latin, threshold) or 'liminal', from Arnold van Gennep's second of three stages in rites of passage is a no-man's-land betwixt-and-between and was used by Victor Turner in his seminal work on anthropology and performance.

Turner was ingenious in linking performance to this marginalized space which holds a possibility of potential forms, structures, conjectures, and desires, a space in which the performance works of my study can also be said to occupy. Turner, writes of a 'fructile chaos ... a storehouse of possibilities, not by any means a random assemblage but a striving after new forms ... a gestation process.' (1990: 11-12) Turner subsequently refers to the 'liminoid', which succeeds 'the liminal in complex large-scale societies' where individuality in art supplanted collective ritualistic performance (1988: 29).

My own use of the term liminal includes the above but puts greater emphasis on the corporeal, technological, and chthonic. Other quasi-generic features are heterogeneity, the experimental, and the marginalized. Therefore, firstly and most importantly, liminal performance can be described as being located at the edge of what is possible.

In order to be able to give a thorough description of what is indicated by these practices, I believe it is necessary to undertake a selective review of aesthetic theorization for reasons of which I discuss below.

Kant's work primarily, is central to this issue largely because we cannot escape the structure of complex judgements. Following on from Kant, writers as diverse as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, Baudrillard, and Lyotard have responded to and continued in a certain Kantian tradition. Of special importance is Nietzsche, due to his concern with the 'Dionysian' impulse (1956), the 'will to art' (1924a), and 'perspectival attitudes' (1990). Additional aesthetic writings include; Heidegger's theorization on the 'work of art' as the 'becoming' or 'happening' of 'truth', by means of the 'hermeneutic circle' (1971: 17-87); Foucault's focus on énonciation, that is, the positioning of the subject, and 'discursive formations', which demonstrate how objects of discourse surface and are delimited and specified (1972); Derrida's 'deconstructive' analysis of pure origin and identity generated by such prelogical, strategic devices as the 'undecidables', (1) his problematization of aesthetic 'framing' (1987: 15-147) and his speculation on metaphor and metaphoricity (1982: 209-271); Baudrillard's 'seductive', 'simulated' universe of the 'spectacle' (1979;1983); and Lyotard's theorization on phrasal 'differends' (1988).

Typical liminal acts are; in theatre, the hybridized performances of Robert Wilson's operatic 'theatre of images' and Pina Bausch's Tanztheater; the 'synthetic fragments' of Heiner Müller's Hamletmachine (1984) and the 'social sculptures' of the Viennese Actionists; in film, the 'painterly' aesthetics of Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books (1991), transgressing borders with Wim Wenders' and Peter Handke's Der Himmel über Berlin/Wings of Desire (1987); the liminal politics of Derek Jarman's Edward II (1991), and the limits of fragmentation in Lars Von Trier's Europa/Zentropa (1991); and in music, the digitized performance of sampled music and the neo-gothic sound of Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

An important trait of the liminal is the centrality of non-linguistic modes of signification. In much of the liminal, significatory modes are visual, kinetic, gravitational, proximic, aural and so on. Since there is an absence of any effective critical tools with which to interpret such modes of non-verbal signification, an 'intersemiotic' significatory practice is indicated, that is, one which includes but also goes beyond language.(2) It is only by such an intersemiotic significatory practice, that a satisfactory description and interpretation of such practices as the liminal can be achieved.

Other traits which are central to the liminal are indeterminacy, fragmentation, a loss of the auratic, and the collapse of the hierarchical distinction between high and mass/popular culture. For instance, central to many of the works is a mixing of popular knowledge with 'elitist' knowledge, this is amply demonstrated by Robert Wilson's Einstein On The Beach. Again, there is a definite blurring of set boundaries, in other words a certain hybridization is evident, an example of this among others, would be Pina Bausch's Tanztheater where dance and theatre can be seen to co-exist.

Liminal performance can be said to emphasize a certain 'shift-shape' style, content is pointed to only indirectly. A certain sense of excitement is generated in many of the works, a feeling almost of awe somewhat akin to discomfort is created, analogous to the feelings of 'negative pleasure' produced by the Kantian sublime (Kant, 1978a: 91). There is an accentuation on recent technologies for instance, the 'paintbox' employment of digitized 'high definition television' creates a kaleidoscope of colour and a montage of imagery. The utilization of such technology is also apparent in some forms of liminal music where these forms are created from digitized 'samples' of sound. In much liminal performance, there is evidence of certain Dionysian qualities, such as, 'disruption', 'immediacy' and 'excess', creating the sense of a pursuit of the almost chthonic. Turner could be describing liminal performance when he claims that, 'true theatre is an experience of heightened vitality, and at its height signifies complete interpenetration of self and the world of objects and events.' (1990: 13)

Further characteristics of liminal performance include a stylistic promiscuity favouring eclecticism and the mixing of codes (especially the juxtaposition of nostalgia with novelty), pastiche, parody, (3) immanence (Hassan, 1978: 51-85), cynicism, irony, playfulness and the celebration of the surface 'depthlessness of culture',(4) the decline in the genius and authority of the artistic producer and the assumption that art can only be repetitious, a repetitiveness which foregrounds not sameness but difference (Jameson,1984: 60). Additional traits are self-consciousness and reflexiveness, montage and collage, an exploration of the paradoxical, ambiguous and open-ended nature of reality, and a rejection of the notion of an integrated personality in favour the destructured, dehumanized subject.

The above qualities appear in different ways in liminal theatre, music and film. In her hybridized Tanztheater, Pina Bausch combines a visually rich production style with techniques drawn from both Brecht's 'epic theatre' (Brecht: 1964) and Artaud's 'theatre of cruelty' (Artaud: 1958). Her performers employ 'method' principles, complete with emotional intensity, at the same time applying 'defamiliarizing' techniques, which undermine the spectator's empathetic identification by presenting their role-playing as self-consciously theatrical, to the point of parody. The result is a performance that simultaneously distances and engages the spectator. Especially unresolved are the images of gender roles and sexual relations. Bausch shows men and women locked into power plays and obsessive patterns of physical and emotional violence with no sense of resolution.

Bausch's Tanztheater cannot be seen in isolation as an aesthetically, avant-garde event. The cultural antecedents of dance theatre are in the German dance and theatrical traditions of the Weimar Republic years, to which postwar Germany restored fragile and isolated links despite the discontinuities of the Nazi period. In the late 1950s, Bausch studied under Kurt Jooss at the Folkwang School in Essen. Jooss had choreographed in and later taught the modern expressionist style known as Ausdruckstanz (literally form of expression, expressiveness).

In Bausch's work, Café Müller (1978), one of the male performers spends the entire performance moving tables and chairs out of the path of the other performers. This role was initially played by the theatre's stage and costume designer, who in perpetually clearing the stage, literally creates a continually changing set, translating his behind-the-scenes preparation into performed, physical action. Therefore, this choreographed realization of his function contradicts the traditional belief that the physical setting for theatre and dance is essentially only decorative and points to a total integration of sets and properties, Thus, creating alternate 'institutional sites' (Foucault, 1972: 51) in the performance itself.

Several dramatic threads parallel one another throughout the piece. Loneliness, compulsive behaviour and the search for contact, determine one level; the examination of the dance medium, another. There is a degeneration of traditional theatrical barriers between various genres demonstrated by the blurring within the performance of the 'stage designer'. Within its composition, Café Müller, contains the essential instruments of Bausch's dance theatre; the fragmented gestures, defamiliarization techniques, repetition at varying speeds and the disjunction of processes into separate sequences. Bausch's theatre proceeds from internalised norms and conventions. Like Brecht's theatre, her performance derives everything from the gestus. However, in this instance, the gestus is strongly related to the actions of the body. It neither 'supports nor contrasts something spoken'; rather, it speaks itself (Servos, 1981: 440).

In liminal film, there is an emphasis on the use of new technologies that can produce both a visual and oral multiplicity of special effects. For instance, Peter Greenaway's work Prospero's Books, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Tempest, is almost operatic in its use of visual imagery, music, and song. The spectacle is further enhanced by the density of the images. Greenaway uses both conventional film techniques and the resources of digitized high definition television to layer image upon image, superimposing a further frame within his frame. At the same time the text of the film is highly literary and self-referential in its constant reminders that The Tempest is the text.

The film, throughout, continues to draw attention to its own artifice. The twenty-four books which punctuate the narrative and create the structure of the film, include books of architecture with buildings that spring out fully formed and anatomy texts with organs that throb and bleed and even illustrate graphically the processes of giving birth. Underlying all this is the translation whereby Prospero becomes Shakespeare and Gielgud becomes Prospero with Greenaway taking the role of 'master artist' or 'auteur'. Greenaway explains, 'The Tempest is extremely self-referential ... I very much like the idea that when somebody sits in the cinema and watches a film of mine, it's not a slice of life, it's not a window on the world. It's a constant concern of mine to bring the audience back to this realization.' (Rodman, 1991: 38)

For Greenaway, The Tempest is an ideal medium for this 'hyperrealization' (Baudrillard, 1983: 147) or 'happening' (Heidegger, 1971: 57). Underpinning these interpretations is the Nietzschean 'perspectival attitude' which displaces the truth falsity opposition (Nietzsche, 1924b: 16), together with the Heideggerian Auslegung, a term which means explanation as well as interpretation (Heidegger, 1978: 188). By correctly entering into the 'hermeneutic helix' of the work (Ruthrof, 1992: 141), fresh insights are 'disclosed' with each turn of the spiral (Heidegger, 1978: 192-193). Prospero's Books is a self-consciously filmic film that paradoxically wants to challenge the outer peripheries of film. At the same time it questions both subject and identity formation. For any 'past' can only be known in the present through its 'traces' (Derrida, 1981: 25), that is, through its texts or in this case, through 'Prospero's books'.

Showing the formation process, not just of subjectivity but also of narrativity and visual representation, has become fundamental to contemporary metacinema. This self-reflexivity calls attention to the acts of production and reception of the film itself. In Prospero's Books the audience is placed in the same position as Prospero, as the conventions of movie-making are bared in a self-conscious way. This focus on énonciation is typical of contemporary art and liminal performance in general, with its overt awareness of both the production and reception of art within a social, ideological and aesthetic context (Hutcheon, 1990: 127).

An example of liminal music in its neo-gothic form is provided by a group of Berlin based performers who collectively form Einstürzende Neubauten (Collapsing New Buildings). Blixa Bargeld, frontsman and self-styled visionary, creates lyrics abounding with the sort of dreamscapes associated with the German painter Albrecht Dürer, whose woodcuts and canvases are peopled with goat gods, apocalyptic horsemen, and crucified messiahs. On stage or in the studio, Einstürzende Neubauten, is equal parts 'Teutonic ritual, Gothic rock, medieval flagellation and noise pollution' (Dery, 1990: 10).

Einstürzende Neubauten's early performances were highly evocative of the ritualistic aspects of the 'Viennese Actionist' movement. These performances, involving ritual and blood were described as an 'aesthetic way of praying'. Actionism was not only a form of art, but it was above all an existential attitude. Not surprisingly psychology, especially the studies of Freud and Wilhelm Reich, featured heavily in this movement and led to performances dealing specifically with art as therapy. From the moment of its inception, Viennese Actionism developed in a particularly intricate and complex way. At its centre was an almost chthonic longing for the unity of spirit and the material. An attempt was made to retrieve or 'disclose' such an identity by direct corporeal insertion in the creative act by way of a 'happening'. Each turn of interpretative spiral revealing new insights (Heidegger, 1978: 192-193). Neubauten claim to have been heavily influenced by this particular hardcore art group and traces can be seen in the disruption and destruction demonstrated their performances, for instance, the rhythm track on the band's 'Durstiges Tier' ('Thirsty Animal') (1982), was created by punching Bargeld's amplified chest then looping the resultant smacks and gasps. On another track, pork bones, hearts and meat were used as percussion instruments, the resultant sound 'leaves you with an undeniably weird, queasy feeling.' (Maeck, 1989: 87)

Originally labelled an 'industrial band' (now preferring the generic description of 'Crossover' or even 'Hardcore New Age'), Neubauten used unconventional instruments to create their sound. Their performances include destroying their surroundings with power drills, sledgehammers and molotov cocktails in an attempt to literally break down the barriers separating music from life. Einstürzende Neubauten have never seen music as an end in itself and from their inception have searched for ways of breaking with traditional rock music, gaining a reputation for providing apocalyptic yet affirmative endings, seemingly gleeful in their destructive character. It would seem that the central idea behind the 'collapsing of new buildings' is to destroy what has been newly created in order to continually disrupt expectations of their music: 'Neubau means "new built" - the official designation for postwar.' (Laddish and Dippé, 1993: 94). According to Bargeld, following the 'interruption of the Third Reich', writing German songs is analogous to 'planting trees without roots'. Therefore, he argues that songs are not necessarily the first choice in sounds when creating German contemporary music (Maeck and Schenkel, 1993).

Bargeld claims that he writes with 'the strange systematics of form'. The creation of this form takes up most of the time. He continues, 'I make up lists of words ... metaphors or structures ... I put all this stuff together and get a complete form ... For me it is just a provocation against the individualism and the romantic notion of writing. As a person, I always wanted to vanish behind the words, to disintegrate.' (Maeck and Schenkel, 1993) This can be seen to analogous to the Kantian concept of the 'purposiveness without purpose' of art (1978a: 69), together with a problematization of the authority and activity of the author (Foucault, 1972: 50). It also questions the origin of the 'work of art', since as is apparent from the above quote, this particular work is merely another signifier in an endless game of signification and 'dissemination' (Derrida, 1981: 25), being 'unconcealed', in the Heideggerian sense, by its 'happening' (1971: 72-73). Moreover, this focus on a certain 'shift-shape' form, pointing only indirectly to content, is a central feature of liminal performance.

Bargeld has stated that although Neubauten started off outside pop culture, they came to realize that it is more effective to play from inside 'even if you play to the edge of what is possible' (Watson, 1985: 34). Therefore, he maintains that the band is now working in the discipline of pop music, 'we're now trying to work with song structures in order to dissolve them.' (Owen, 1985: 37)

Craig Owens could almost be describing this impulse of liminal performance when he considers 'allegory' to be not representation but a deconstructive rhetorical trope which involves an 'impossible complicity' with what it seeks to deconstruct (1980: 79-80). This critique is bound up with a complicity with power and domination, one that acknowledges that it cannot escape implication in that which it nevertheless still wants to analyse and undermine. As Derrida writes, 'we cannot give up this metaphysical complicity without also giving up the critique we are directing against this complicity.' (1978b: 281) The ambiguities of this position are translated into the 'shift-shape' style of liminal art which therefore, self-consciously, at one and the same time provides and challenges ideology.

In undertaking a review of aesthetic theorization, it is important to state that although aestheticism usually denotes an enclosed space and separation of aesthetic objects and sensations from the 'real-world' of the non-aesthetic, I am using it to refer to almost the opposite, that is, I am using it rather as an attempt to expand the aesthetic perspective to encompass the whole of actuality. In other words, I am using it to refer to a tendency to see 'art' as constituting the primary realm of human experience.

When Nietzsche refers to 'the world' as a 'as a self-generating work of art' (1924b: 239), or when Heidegger writes 'towering up within itself, the work opens up a world and keeps it abidingly in force' (1971: 44) when Foucault concludes the History of Madness, with from now on 'the world ... becomes culpable (for the first time in the Western world) in relation to the work' (1965: 228) or when Derrida argues that 'there is nothing outside of the text' (1976: 158), they are delineating an aestheticist position and they are also responding to Kant, or more specifically to a certain Kantian tradition, yet at the same time using Kant's intellectual resources. Nietzsche, of course, stands as the founder of what became the aesthetic metacritique of 'truth' wherein 'the work of art' or 'text' is seen as establishing the grounds for truth's possibility.

Kant, in his Critique of Judgement, has been read by many as maintaining the autonomy of aesthetic judgement, appearing to suggest there is a rigorously independent realm of the aesthetic, a realm distinct from the realms of morality and nature, and is therefore crucial to a study of the aesthetic. In one sense this is the case, the emphasis is on Kant's conceptualization of the 'finality apart from an end' of art, but in another sense this needs to be qualified from two perspectives. Firstly, Kant's own warning as to a falsely assumed stability of conceptualization and secondly, the other perspective comes from Lyotard's recent reading of the third Critique in which the 'aesthetic' takes on a broader scope (1991).

Lyotard has premised a revision of the Kantian sublime primarily on a linguistic perspective (1988; 1991). For Lyotard, the 'silence' that 'Auschwitz' imposes is a sign for everyone. Signs are not, in their reference and signification, validatable by cognition; instead, they imply that something which should be put into phrases, cannot be phrased (1993: 56). Given the limitation of and in presentation, Lyotard believes that the task of a critical politics is nevertheless, to present the unpresentable, to present the fact that the unpresentable exists and that it concerns our future. Therefore, '"our" destination ... is to supply a presentation for the unpresentable, and therefore, in regard to Ideas, to exceed everything that can be presented.' (1988: 166)

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant critiques any notion of a fixed and closed concept when he states that 'the concept never stands within safe limits' (1911: 584-585). This of course has consequences when applied to the accepted reading of Kant which claims that the aesthetic sphere is autonomous, for since no concept can stand within safe limits and the completeness of an analysis must always remain doubtful, it is difficult to argue that the aesthetic concept is some closed finality, or that any other concept is for that matter, in any rigorous sense.

Nevertheless, on the one hand, Kant seems to oppose any assimilation between aesthetic and moral judgements, in other words, denying that they are matters of sentiment or feeling, and on the other hand he opposes any tendency to assimilate art to physiology or psychology thereby also denying sensual pleasure in aesthetic judgement. This is reflected in his definition of aesthetic pleasure as 'disinterested delight' and in his conception of form in art as 'purposiveness without purpose' (1978a: 42-69).

Kant contends that aesthetic judgements make a claim to universal validity, therefore a beautiful object is one that excites delight that is not only disinterested but also necessary and universal (1978a: 60). By establishing this point, Kant touches on issues of morality. He argues that underlying the judgement of aesthetic taste is the concept of the purposiveness of nature. He writes,'the judgement of taste does depend upon a concept ... its determining ground lies perhaps in the concept of that which may be regarded as the supersensible substrate of humanity.' Beauty is viewed as 'the symbol of the morally good' (1978a: 207-223), there lies its claim to universal acceptance. Beauty therefore, points toward the sphere of morality of which it gives sensual intimations.

However, it is my belief that certain of these aesthetic features need to be rephrased with regard to liminal performance. For instance, here the 'beautiful' is now no longer an appropriate description of an aesthetic feature, it has been replaced by the 'exciting', 'the edge of what can be said', and 'delight' is certainly not, in this instance, a 'universal' issue, neither is it a symbol of the 'morally good', in so much as it lacks any purposiveness of nature; rather, it can be seen only in a localized context as I will discuss below. As for the question of ethics and morality, I would argue that liminal forms of aesthetics can affect, though indirectly, the ethical and political.

Although the Kantian apparatus cannot be used as it stands in an aesthetic theorization of liminal performance, there is certainly much of it that can be reviewed with considerable amendment. A further reassessment of Kant would be indicated in his analysis of teleological judgement where he distinguishes between 'determining' and 'reflective' reason. Art and nature, according to Kant, belong to reflective reason. This has exciting repercussions for constituting aesthetic judgements, especially in the study of liminal performance, and by implication this applies to all complex judgements in which neither the ingredients to be judged nor the tool-kit of analyis are given from the outset but rather elaborate one another in a progressive dynamic. 'Determinant judgement', according to Kant, is not an 'autonomy'; it 'subsumes merely under given laws', as principles. 'But the reflective judgement has to subsume under a law that is not yet given ... Now as there is no permissible employment of the cognitive faculties apart from principles, the reflective judgement must in such cases be a principle to itself.' (1978b: 35)

In other words, when it comes to making aesthetic judgements every example must precede the rule, that is rules are created on each occasion, which can in no way be determined beforehand. The consequences of this for liminal performance is that judgements need to be revised on every occasion and no set judgement can exist and following this, the universal, in that instant, is negated and replaced by the local. Although Kant, still retaining the universal as an overall structure, is aware of this when he writes: 'The particular cannot be derived from the universal alone. Yet ... this particular has to accord with the universal in order to be capable of being subsumed under it ... this accord must be very contingent and must exist without any determinate principle to guide our judgement.' (1978a: 62-63)

Therefore, although Kant's reflective teleology is important for an analyis of liminal aesthetics, his emphasis on universality proves untenable in the face of liminal performance. For how is it possible to reconcile the Kantian universality with the heterogeneity and local so characteristic of liminal performance? However, it is not possible to discard all features of universality since even the stipulation of an 'open genre' makes demands which neither heterogeneity nor the emphasis on the local are able to meet.

In discussing Kant's aesthetic theory in the context of performance, it is important to compare this to Brecht's performance theory since both theories contain important aesthetic criteria but in themselves fall short of a sustained practice. Since Kant believed that aesthetic judgement is a practical activity and has no hidden agenda or other self-interest when applied to performance, this too, can only be described as being essentially clear or transparent, that is, a 'finality without end'. However, for Brecht, aesthetic activity is located at a second remove, his performance takes a political detour. In other words, a certain polarity exists between Kant and Brecht, with Kant concentrating on the purely aesthetic and Brecht accentuating the political.

It would seem that Brecht believed that he could achieve what amounts to a double political strategy, that is, he intended that his intertextual, political theatre would replace the Aristotelian 'theatre of illusion' (Aristotle: 1947) on the one hand, and on the other and more importantly, his theatre would have an immediate social and political effect. However, no matter how well Brecht incorporated his theory into his performances, when performed before a non-Brechtian audience, that is, an audience which has little or no prior realization of Brecht's theory or is unfamiliar with his Little Organon for the Theatre, his performances fail to work in one important way, that is, the audience misses the ideological structure that underlies the play and therefore Brecht's plays can only be understood, in the sense he intended, by the theoretically informed. Furthermore, for the minority that are theoretically aware, Brecht's performances can only work for a limited time and locality which is certainly not what Brecht intended when he devised his epic-dialectic theatre. Moreover, as to Brecht's intertextual politics, he has failed to replace the 'theatre of illusion', in fact, it thrives as never before.

In examining Kant and Brecht's theorization, it is clear that neither can adequately encompass the (syn)aesthetics of liminal performance,(5) certainly not on a narrow reading of Kant. As I have already stated, Kant's theory presents a 'disinterested' aesthetics in contrast to Brecht, who stresses the political, neither are adequate in phrasing the aesthetics of liminal performance. Nor is Artaud's concept of the 'theatre of cruelty' any closer to the mark, for while he does list aesthetic features which seem close to the liminal, he differs in an important way, namely in his pursuit of an 'essentialism' which he believed could be realized through performance.

Artaud claimed that theatre is 'a kind of organized anarchy'. He writes, the object of theatre is, 'to express objectively certain secret truths.' Artaud's stage was a theatre of dreams crowded with objects and bodies seen as signs, open to interpretation and without a narrative text. Artaud's actors were 'animated hieroglyphs', bodies that moved about like living ciphers in a type of choreographed cryptography (1958: 51-90). As Derrida writes, Artaud's theatrical writing is a 'writing of the body itself' (1978a: 191) and also a critique of the logocentrism of Western society.

Therefore, although Artaud's theory can in many ways relate to liminal performance, his theory too, ultimately proves to be deficient. When he writes, 'we are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us this first of all,' (1958: 79) he emphasizes a certain essentialism together with an unchanging, fixed nature of relations which is not compatible with the aesthetic features of liminal performance.

In formulating a theorization that can address liminal performance, I believe that traditional critical equipment is inadequate in its present form. Kant's concept of a 'pure' aesthetic judgement is now no longer valid (as he, himself, would seem to indicate), neither is Brecht's political theatre, borne out by the fact that the Brechtian project has largely been discarded, nor is Artaud's 'theatre of cruelty'. In addition, unlike Brecht, I would argue that every work of art constitutes a scene of intervention, though not as Artaud believed, to present certain secret truths. Rather, I believe the experimental, intertextual nature of liminal performance produces an immediate effect which has indirect results on the political, though perhaps a redefinition of this term, and the social in as much it questions the very nature of our accepted ideas and belief systems. In this sense, liminal performance does what all avant-garde art does, it is an experimental extension of the socio-political and cultural of an epoch.

My main purpose in reviewing aesthetic theorization is not to provide a critique of Kant or any aesthetic writer for that matter; rather, it is an attempt, by selecting certain criteria from their work, to provide a new aesthetic form of theorization which would be capable of addressing such performances as the liminal. Although much traditional and current aesthetic theorization cannot be used as it stands, with considerable amendment and review and as part of a more sophisticated theoretical apparatus, it can still have value. For instance, as I have argued, the 'beautiful' is not an appropriate description of a liminal feature nor is it of the aesthetic; rather, the 'exciting' would be more appropriate, and any 'delight' in such a performance is certainly not a universal issue (Kant: 1978a), neither is it necessarily a symbol of the 'morally good' (1978a). Given the importance of corporeality in liminal performance, Lyotard's phrasal 'differend' needs to be rethought. From the perspective of liminal performance, the 'linguistic turn' needs to be adjusted to allow for an intersemiotic analysis and hence for the prominence of the 'body'.

My intention in reviewing aesthetic thought is an attempt to provide a new aesthetic form of theorization which as Baudrillard writes of postmodernism, would be able to survive 'among the remnants' and play 'with the pieces' (1984: 24-25).


1. See Derrida (1977: 162-254; 1978b: 278-293; 1980: 202-232; 1981).

2. For Horst Ruthrof, 'language cannot mean by itself but can do so only semiotically i.e., in relation to and through corroboration by non-verbal systems' (1992: 6) and 'far from language constituting a replacement of non-verbal forms of signification, language and non-linguistic sign systems develop side by side toward ever more complex formations. Moreover ... they interact with one another to constitute "reality".' (1992: 102) See especially Chapter 6, 'The Limits of Langue' (102-119), for a more detailed discussion on the constraints of language. Also his more recent account of intersemiotic semantics in 'Meaning: An intersemiotic perspective', Semiotica (1995:23-43) and Semantics and The Body: Meaning from Frege to the Postmodern (1997).

3. Jochen Schulte-Sasse argues that the historical avant-garde was the first movement to understand fully the modern differentiation of art, it responded to that discovery with its unsuccessful attempt to lead art back to life (See Peter Bürger, 1984). Postmodernism, according to Schulte-Sasse, does not attempt to overcome this separation, it accepts the fact that this functional differentiation of society is irreversible by allowing this insight to shape art's contents. Schulte-Sasse argues that this may well be the reason why parody has become such a characteristic feature of postmodernism (1986/87: 5-22). Although I believe that Schulte-Sasse is correct in his analysis of parody to a certain extent, I would argue that liminal performance, in particular, does still strive to overcome this separation, and parody seems to be a useful tool in this attempt.

4. According to Frederic Jameson, 'the first and most evident [postmodern feature] is the emergence of a new kind of flatness or depthlessness, a new kind of superficiality in the literal sense.' (1984: 60)

5. 'Synaesthesia' is the subjective sensation of a sense other than the one being stimulated. For example, a sound may invoke sensations of colour.


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