Popular forms and the new sensibility: the mingling of high and low culture in postmodern performance

Price, Jason (2016) Popular forms and the new sensibility: the mingling of high and low culture in postmodern performance. In: Theatre and the Popular, 11-13 March 2016, University of Iceland.

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Abstract

Writing in 1965, Susan Sontag identified what she considered to be the ‘new sensibility’ of modern culture. Rooted in the experiences of contemporary life brought on by new technologies, the accelerated production of commodities, and the speed of everything from travel to image production, she recognized that this sensibility was increasingly rendering the ‘Matthew Arnold idea of culture’ obsolete and weakening the very idea of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art categories (p. 302). Since the 1960s this shift in aesthetic and political perspective has become more pronounced; and the acknowledgement of this shift would, from the 1970s, come to form part of what is understood to be post-modern. While it was once unheard of for artists working in elite aesthetic modes to draw upon popular sources, under the more relaxed cultural attitude of postmodernism, this has become more commonplace and now constitutes a core element of many contemporary performances.

In this paper, I consider the uses and influences of popular forms in two examples of postmodern theatre making: the Australian feminist arts collective Brown Council and the British theatre company Forced Entertainment. My argument considers connections to the popular beyond representation, and takes into account risk to the human body, issues of appropriation and human agency, and the ways these practices often elect to distort the popular forms they draw upon as a mode of capitalist critique. As well as demonstrating the fundamental role the popular now plays in such practices, the paper aims to highlight some of the wider possibilities – social, political and aesthetic – of postmodernism’s embracing of popular culture.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: popular entertainment, Brown Council, Forced Entertainment, comedy, postmodernism
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater > PN2100 History > PN2131 By period > PN2181 Modern > PN2193 Special topics, A-Z > PN2193.E86 Experimental theatre
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Depositing User: Jason Price
Date Deposited: 10 May 2016 13:41
Last Modified: 10 May 2016 13:41
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/60858

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