Viral Performance

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3715-8

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3716-5

E-book – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3717-2
Publication Date
May 2018
Page Count
256 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Viral Performance

Contagious Theaters from Modernism to the Digital Age
Miriam Felton-Dansky

Digital culture has occasioned a seismic shift in the discourse around contagion, transmission, and viral circulation. Yet theater, in the cultural imagination, has always been contagious. Viral Performance proposes the concept of the viral as an essential means of understanding socially engaged and transmedial performance practices since the mid-twentieth century. Its chapters rethink the Living Theatre’s Artaudian revolution through the lens of affect theory, bring fresh attention to General Idea’s media-savvy performances of the 1970s, explore the digital-age provocations of Franco and Eva Mattes and Critical Art Ensemble, and survey the dramaturgies and political stakes of global theatrical networks.

Viral performance practices testify to the age-old—and ever renewed—instinct that when people gather, something spreads. Performance, an art form requiring and relying on live contact, renders such spreading visible, raises its stakes, and encodes it in theatrical form. The artists explored here rarely disseminate their ideas or gestures as directly as a viral marketer or a political movement would; rather, they undermine simplified forms of contagion while holding dialogue with the philosophical and popular discourses, old and new, that have surrounded viral culture.

Viral Performance argues that the concept of the viral is historically deeper than immediate associations with the contemporary digital landscape might suggest, and far more intimately linked to live performance
About the Author

MIRIAM FELTON-DANSKY is an assistant professor of theater and performance at Bard College.

"...for a book on virality, one could hardly ask for a better approach than the one found here: a sharp shot in the arm of ideas and questions, open-ended and bound for vast transmission." —Theatre Journal

"Viral Performance is a stimulating and intelligently formulated piece of scholarship. The connections between theatre and virality, which may not be immediately or intuitively obvious to all readers, are shown to be logical and intellectually productive. Spread the word about this book. It is well worth reading." —Modern Drama

“Felton-Dansky makes a compelling case for the term ‘viral performance’ . . . providing a clear historical lineage from Artaud to today that rethinks the ways in which experimental theaters have engaged their audiences and what this suggests about how contemporary theaters interact with spectators.” —Sarah Bay-Cheng, coeditor of Mapping Intermediality in Performance

"Like the term “viral” itself, with its simultaneous connotations of ancient plagues and the latest internet meme, Felton-Dansky’s book animates the
deep history and networked future of political avant-garde theater making. Her thoughtful analyses of notable 20th century and early 21st century political theater makers will offer students and scholars of theater history a vital resource for remapping genealogies (and germs) of avant garde performance, while her keen eye for the development and mutation of “virus” as form will provide an invaluable guidebook for future generations of political artists." —Elise Morrison, author of Discipline and Desire: Surveillance Technologies in Performance

"Viral Performance is an imaginative and timely book, capturing the ethos of an age of transmission and prompting future thinking. As culture becomes increasingly more viral, Felton-Dansky’s book will be one to read and re-read. It will shape the next generation of performance scholars and makers as they create and understand this infectious medium." —Jennifer Parker-Starbuck, author of Cyborg Theatre: Corporeal/Technological Intersections in Multimedia Performance