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Déjà vu, watch out Jew! confronting prejudice through the performative persona
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posted on 21.02.2017by Korman, Jane
This exegesis documents the research I have carried out as a political performance artist, including my studio practice and its accompanying theoretical component. My work is informed by my family history, being the child of Holocaust survivors, and the impact of my parents' repeated stories of their war time experiences. My research focuses on two primary, interconnected elements. The first is the inheritance of my parents' trauma; the second is my perception of, and concern about the continuing presence of anti-Semitism in the world.
My practice involves dressing up and performing as a variety of characters. My works include Miss World Peace, Missed World Peace, Lady Gaza, Just an Ordinary Peasant, Those Scary Ones, Whistle While You Work, Dad and Primo Levi and Dance Before the Storm. Some of these pieces have been created as a response to the stories my parents have told me, others as an interruption of political ideologies that I perceive as displaying dangerous racial biases, and all of them are interconnected. Together, they remind the viewer of what my parents went through, and serve as a visual caution on the dangers of prejudice.
I contextualise my practice by examining the tradition of political performance through the historical works of Charlie Chaplin and Bertolt Brecht, and the contemporary works of the performance artists Boaz Arad and Tamy Ben-Tor. This research is informed by philosophers including Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin and Slavoj Zitek. Adorno's analysis of the concept 'working-through' provides a justification for a strong aesthetic response to historical trauma. Zizek 's explication of Lacan's concepts of the Symbolic Order and big Other provides a framework through which to understand, and ultimately to inform an effective intervention in the social-unconscious mechanisms of anti-Semitism. Benjamin 's reading of the 'Alienation Effect' in Brecht's epic theatre provides practical insight into the interaction of affect and ideas in performance.