November 15 - Performing Art/Designing Dance


Pina Bausch

Gabrielle Cody, "Woman, Man, Dog, Tree," in Theatre and Performance Design p. 285-294 (reserve book)

Johannes Birringer, “Pina Bausch: Dancing across Borders,” The Drama Review: TDR 30, no. 2 (July 1, 1986): 85-97.

Susan Allene Manning, “An American Perspective on Tanztheater,” The Drama Review: TDR 30, no. 2 (July 1, 1986): 57-79.

Larie Anderson

Roselee Goldberg, Laurie Anderson "Introduction" (pp. 10-30) and "The 1980s" (pp. 82-145) (reserve book)

Herman Rapaport, “'Can You Say Hello?‘ Laurie Anderson’s ’United States',” Theatre Journal 38, no. 3 (October 1, 1986): 339-354.

Mel Gordon, “Laurie Anderson’s ‘United States Part II’,” The Drama Review: TDR 24, no. 4 (December 1, 1980): 112-115.

Performance Art

RoseLee Goldberg, in Chap 7: "The performance fringe," "The media generation," "Towards theatre," and "Dance theatre" in Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present pp. 184-207 (reserve book) (all in one PDF)

RoseLee Goldberg, "Theatre, Music, Opera" and "Dance," in Performance: Live Art since the 60s, pp. 62-94, 146-177 (reserve book)


Laurie Anderson

View on DML Media Viewing Station

  • Home of the Brave (1986)

Pina Bausch

View Rites of Spring (1975) on the course Prezi

View on DML Media Viewing Station

  • Bluebeard (1977)
  • Cafe Muller (1978)

Der Fensterputzer (1997)

(it's right after the Chinese commercials)

Motivator Post and Images

Motivator 1: Greg

I’d rather watch Pina Bausch, and discuss Laurie Anderson Greg james

Although markedly different in subject matter, content, style, delivery, and performance nature, both Pina Bausch and Laurie Anderson present an opportunity to explore the complex relationship between high and low or popular culture and art. Both are women (which makes it so much more loaded for me to pick “prick of the week!” Hint: I think it goes to Roselee Goldberg and her girl crush on Anderson). Beyond sharing gender, both were successful at integrating different disciplines in their work. Pina Bausch uses her highbrow medium of dance to focus on topics that were considered taboo—such as cross-dressing, sexual perversion, dominance, and subjugation—incorporating previously ignored, repressed, “distasteful” subject matter at the core of her performance. Laurie Anderson, on the other hand, managed to successfully bridge the gap between the exclusivity of highbrow art and its opposite, the lowbrow-accessible mainstream media. She comfortably finds her safe middle ground between the high and low and seems largely to satisfy, and most importantly entertain, both audiences.

I really don’t like Anderson’s work, but I can’t stop thinking about it!

Another notable comparison between the two is the self-conscious relation in their work to past performance artists and theorists, but again in quite different ways. Bausch is heavily influenced by a rich tradition in performance history. She has made major contributions to dance theater and her work is still relevant today, even after her passing. Her most important relation is perhaps to Brecht and his socially conscious works, which aimed at playing with relationships between performer, spectator, and subject matter. Blending the line between dance and theater, Bausch has managed to provide the foundation for a whole new generation of movement-based performance. By marrying, theatre dance and technology into a modern embodiment of Wagner’s total work of art, Bausch’s work focuses on more universal topics, blending intellectual rigor with a physical beauty that simultaneously teases and toys with our minds and our senses.

Anderson’s relationship with past performance and history is more as a consumer of popular culture. Studying and harvesting a rich performance history from vaudeville to stand-up greats, like Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, to experimental and popular music, Anderson puts these ingredients in her blender, so to speak, together with elements of high culture and seems to water it down to take the sting out. In this regard, she corresponds to what Frederick Jameson characterizes as the tendency toward “pastiche” in post-modernism, leaving audiences mesmerized, without a sense of either the contemporary or the historical (As cited in Aronson, 81-5). Bausch is undeniably post-modern but does not correspond to these tendencies. She is more accurately characterized as avant-garde, whereas Anderson no longer is, if she ever was. Anderson is not a risk taker; she’s an appeaser. She’s a great storyteller and can hold your attention. That is one reason why she has profoundly influenced contemporary performance in both art and culture. She is engaging and provides the audience with enough stimuli to keep them hooked for sometimes hours on end.

What Anderson does is ultimately ephemeral and superficial. Her work is very accessible to the masses, but maintains a veneer of high art— even going as far as to compose songs for Walter Benjamin. She has a wide appeal but could also be described as a kind of cartoon character. Anderson offers a layering to her work in much the same way that recent animated movies do, which provide separate points of contact for both kids and adults to enjoy. For Anderson, her target audiences are older, but the premise works in the same way giving separate means of entertaining a wide array of backgrounds and intellects; just as the kid watching Pixar is amazed at the physicality of the characters as well as the shapes and colors of the animation, the adults are amused by the more witty lines, and layered-in substance. Unfortunately, at the end of the day you are still watching a cartoon!

Ultimately, Anderson and Bausch are going to be remembered for different things. Bausch was multi-fascinated, her work was genuinely beautiful, and it remains “true” in an artistic sense. She critiqued without exploitation. Anderson is inter-disciplinary and fascinates me more in this comparison between the too, but perhaps she gave less to performance than she took from it. Anderson’s work seems to border on hypocrisy. She exploited the past and was exploited in turn. Roselee Goldberg treats Anderson as a timeless master, but is she? The most remarkable part of Goldberg’s account is that despite being Anderson’s friend and official biographer, reading her book in 2011, she ultimately reveals Anderson’s limitations in a historical context. Anderson was at her pinnacle in 2000, when she made her transition from mass media to a critique of technology in CD-ROM (1994), but less than a decade later, she is almost irrelevant to the contemporary scene. She’s historical in the worst sense: she’s history.

Jumping right back into my problems with technology: The problem with technology in performance is that it primarily appeals to our base instincts and the real challenge is how to enter the realm of intellect with the distraction of that technology. Joseph Svoboda can be seen to master this technique using technology to play high and low games with his audience in a Brechtian style. Anyone can grab our attention for a short period of time with action, color, change. Anderson exploits technology in a similar way to Lepage’s designs for the “the ring cycles” and “the damnation of faust” changing tempo and style in a frenetic way to keep us entranced. Does Anderson or Lepage allow for the play between low and high or are they simply disguised in a “highbrow” medium, a façade of intellectualism?

I guess I’m a little weary of Anderson’s legacy. How much credit should Laurie Anderson be given for her work and how much is it just the hype surrounding her? She is the predecessor to the contemporary celebrity (artist, or politician), who has simply become an exterior shell that is pushed on consumers by a skilled marketing and branding teams. For Goldberg, Anderson is one of the single most important people in performance art. Perhaps Anderson maintains this position today only because of Goldberg and the wide use of her text in the subject of performance art. Perhaps Goldberg was a little too soon to declare Anderson a god in the genre before Anderson’s pinnacle, as she is no longer registered on the contemporary scene. Personally I believe, Richard Pryor, a performer who predates Anderson, has had a greater influence on American performance and has recently and deservedly become topic for scholarly inquiry. Anderson’s cohabitation of the both high and lowbrow is perhaps why we know her best. She was a perfect subject for contemporary art historians, like Goldberg, to enter the realm of mass culture. Conversely, Pryor, with his foul language and lewd subject matter actually proved to be far more revolutionary to the American Psyche.

In the end, I’d rather watch Pina Bausch, and discuss Laurie Anderson