Hysterical aesthetics in contemporary performance: Theatre, dance, voice
ORCID : 0000-0001-5296-6075
Hysterical methodologies in the arts: Rising in revolt
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)
Joanna Townsend argues that the historic medical condition called hysteria can act as a structural metaphor to support the construction of a “hysterical performance text” which emphasizes the “splits and contradictions” within and between characters, their voices and their bodies. This aesthetic strategy was pioneered by the Surrealists and others who encountered hysterical patients at the Pitié-Salpêtrière. Artists today do not necessarily draw directly on these precedents, but the hysterical aesthetic is still with us. The most prominent strategy employed within hysterical performance is that of dialectical corporeal surrogation—or “hosting” (Laura González). In the phrasing of vocalist Sage Harlow, this constitutes a dangerous but necessary aesthetics of love, wherein that which arises from within or without the host body must be accepted with compassion, even as this challenges one’s own sense of subjectivity.