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Intensified Bodies from the Performing Arts in Portugal

Edited By Gustavo Vicente

The way the body is considered and explored in the performing arts has assumed a growing importance, introducing new questions and cross-cutting perspectives on our understanding of the political, sociological and philosophical relevance of the body today.

This book is a meeting point for these questions, bringing together a set of contributors experienced in examining the body’s presence in live performances. It interweaves several disciplinary outlooks, addressing current theoretical debates on the body relating to the theory of affects, ethics, gender, age, discourse and representation.

Looking at recent practice in Portugal, the volume examines several cases where the body and issues of corporeality raise questions of memory, identity, experience and existence. It opens a rare window onto the distinctive Portuguese post-colonial legacy, which has given rise to an intensified search for new forms of bodily affirmation in the world. In so doing, the book conjures up the transformative power of performing arts today: from body into Being.

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8 Looking for the expressive body through images: The infinite struggle against insignificance (Maria João Brilhante)


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8 Looking for the expressive body through images: The infinite struggle against insignificance


This chapter discusses images that, in the realm of the performing arts, picture bodies in a way that raises questions as to how we look at them and how they act on us. The ephemerality of live arts will not be a central issue in the discussion, but it will be there backstage for the understanding of the work of picturing performing bodies. Our quest for expressivity in ‘frozen’ performing bodies possibly meets the call to transform a body into something significant by picturing it. As we know, images are not mere representations or manifestations of an absence through a presence: they belong to representational systems and relate to other images. Taking the discussion by Kulvicki (2006) and Bredekamp (2010) on images and depiction as a starting point, what interests us here is the analysis of some pictures of recent Portuguese performances in order to understand what makes these images of performing bodies so special in the permanent process of figuring human bodies. How they play the transparency game with us and why they present themselves as incomplete pictures reinforcing the expressiveness of the actor’s body.

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