Performing Political: Precarious Aesthetics of Digital Video in Capturing Activist Performance Art

Date created: 
Precarious aesthetics
Digital video
Video distribution

This thesis raises the question of the fundamental relationship between image legibility and the generation of viewer’s embodied reception and involvement in the context of activist performance art. The documentation of politically-engaged performance sets outto capture the body acting in a real, non-theatrical settings. The significance of the body’s corporeality, especially its representation on the screen and operation on the viewer is central to understanding how that actor’s body intervening in a public space functions to elicit corporeal response from the viewer. I argue that the limitations of technology particularly the imperfections present in networked digital video such as glitch, interruptions and blurred images, elicit active participation of the viewer based on their familiarity with these digital aesthetics of video poverty. I reflect upon the complexities behind the electronic images that in media aesthetics are referred to as precarious aesthetics. Based upon my proposition I selected and analyzed two video artworks documenting activist performance. My analysis was guided by the understanding that the low-fi quality of networked digital video activates the viewer’s sensory responses to video poverty building a sensory embodied bridge to the video performer.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
This is one of the videos I analyzed in my thesis. It is mentioned in the appendices and approved for use (see copyright memo
This is the second video I analyzed in my thesis. It is mentioned in the appendices and approved for use (see copyright memo
Senior supervisor: 
Thecla Schiphorst
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.