Dario Tomasello

Panel Theories and Philosophies of Transcodification/2
Session 3 – July 2, 11:00 – 13:00

 The Impossible Transcodification. What If Performance Does Not Deal with Mediascape?

The aim of this paper is to critically debate the notion of Performance in terms of its plausible transcodification. On the one hand, there is no doubt that, starting from some assumpions of Richard Schechner himself, the theory of Performance has become viral, up to the point that many scholars, not just orthodox followers of Performance Studies, are working on what to some extent can be considered a privileged application of the so-called broad spectrum of Performance (which is what Arjun Appadurai called Mediascape). It is the case for instance of Philip Auslander and his well known paradox («whereas mediatized performance derives its authority from its reference to the live or the real, the live now derives its authority from its reference to the mediatized, which derives its authority from its reference to the live, etc. The paradigm that best describes the current relationship between the live and the mediatized is the Baudriallardian paradigm of simulation», Liveness, 1999, pp. 38-39). On the other hand, Peggy Phelan’s perspective provides us with a much more drastic vision (maybe with an uncanny intellectual honesty?): «Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance. To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology. Performance’s being […] becomes itself through disappearance» (The Ontology of Performance, 1993, p. 146).

Emphasizing, even in the terms of Diana Taylor’s distinction between Archive and Repertoire, the distance between what remains and what is irretrievably lost in the Performance’s space and time, this paper tries to problematize such a seemingly unbridgeable gap in a way not too far from the idea of an impossible transcodification.


Dario Tomasello is Associate Professor at the University of Messina where he founded the International Center for Performing Arts (UNIVERSITEATRALI) and he is the President of DAMS.  He directed a Master in Euro-Mediterranean Theatre at the University of Messina (2007-2009).  His current interests concern the field of Performance Studies, regarding Ritual in the contemporary age.  His Italian translation and curatorship of Richard Schechner’s Performance Studies. An Introduction has been recently published by CUE Press.  Since 2010, he directs «Mantichora. Italian Journal of Performance Studies»