Performing Contagious Bodies: Ritual Participation in Contemporary Art

Braddock, Christopher (2013) Performing Contagious Bodies: Ritual Participation in Contemporary Art, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chris Braddock’s book explores live/performance art and installation practices through theories of magic ritual. It maps out a study of live art – together with its documentation and object/material traces – and uses the concepts of contagion, animism and ritual participation to open up a range of hotly debated questions about the temporal aspects of live art and their relation to ‘event’ and where ‘liveness’ lives. As such the book explores the intersections of performance studies, art history, anthropology and contemporary visual art practices. Performing Contagious Bodies dedicates full-length chapters to New Zealand artists Alicia Frankovich and Richard Maloy, and to Australian artists Laresa Kosloff and Alex Martinis Roe, together with discussion of a number of widely acknowledged Euro-American artists (Marcel Duchamp, Ann Hamilton, Bruce Nauman, Gabriel Orozco, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Hannah Wilke).

“While Performing Contagious Bodies specifically discusses artworks as material traces of various kinds of performance, I hope it does something larger than this. At its most ambitious it endeavours to portray artworks as profoundly live or spirited, where the sign that ‘represents’ dares to be the thing itself and therefore radically present in its material power. In getting to this point of view, the operations of deconstruction (Derrida in particular) are framed as spectacularly and marvellously ‘savage’ and magical. I propose, in fact, that there never were any savages, or, put another way, we are all savages. Along this journey, the book critiques and re-frames concepts such as ritual participation, animism and contagion.”

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