Reactor blog

Play in Performance Practices

Jan 18, 2013

'Play in Performance Practices' - A TaPRA Postgraduate Symposium
Saturday 19 January 2013, 10:10-17:45
2 Gower Street (Royal Holloway’s Bedford Square Residence)

Daniel Oliver will be presenting a paper on Reactor entitled: 'Pantomime Commi Despots, Fun‐mongering Reptilian Mascots, and Volatile Vegetative Deities: Fantastical Others and the efficacy of fun in Reactors post‐relational art projects' at this TaPRA Postgraduate Symposium.

Abstract: Reactor is a midlands-based art collective consisting of three members. In interactive and immersive projects such as ‘Ghaos’, ‘Big Lizard’s Big Idea’ and ‘The Green Man and Regular Fellows’ they confront participants with farcically sinister demands for participants to play, and to have fun doing so. In this paper I observe how, in each project, a playful personification of a Lacanian ‘big Other’ is positioned as the fictional originator and orator of these demands. Pantomime Commi despots, fun-mongering reptilian mascots, and volatile vegetative deities oversee participants as they play together to create fleeting microcosmic communities and personality cults, each with a unique tone of silly seriousness and serious silliness.

I will respond to Reactor’s playful experiments with the injunction ‘have fun’. This insistent invitation is compared and contrasted with the superegoic injunction ‘Enjoy!’, which Slavoj Zizek, following Lacan, describes as the dominant injunction of our ‘permissive’ society.  Through this reading, Reactor’s ‘fun’ is framed as a clumsily decontaminated version of Lacan’s jouissance (enjoyment). However, despite their convivial, ‘feel-good’ tone, there is, I argue, a sinister and cannily antagonistic nature to these projects and their playfulness. My particular interest is in the delegation of responsibility for the emergence of this sanitized playfulness onto a series of fantastical ‘leaders’. I propose that these characters divert attention away from the ambiguous intentions (and enjoyments) of the three real men who devise these projects and reside inside the costumes of their big Others. Therefore the central question of this paper is: how might the ‘playtime’ offered by Reactor contribute to our experience of the structures that facilitate and encourage enjoyment in the world outside of their projects?