Works and performances in the performing arts

Philosophy Compass 4 (5):744-755 (2009)
The primary purpose of the performing arts is to prepare and present 'artistic performances', performances that either are themselves the appreciative focuses of works of art or are instances of other things that are works of art. In the latter case, we have performances of what may be termed 'performed works', as is generally taken to be so with performances of classical music and traditional theatrical performances. In the former case, we have what may be termed 'performance-works', as, for example, in free improvisations. Where we have performances of performed works, a number of distinctive philosophical questions arise: What kind of thing is a performed work? How is it appreciated through its performances? Is 'authenticity' an artistically relevant quality of performances of performed works, and, if so, why? How much of what goes on in the performing arts is rightly viewed as the performance of performed works? Artistic performances, whether or not they are of performed works, raise philosophical questions of their own. Can a performance itself be rightly viewed as a work of art? How do improvisation and rehearsal enter into the performing arts, and how do they bear on the appreciation of artistic performances? What role does the audience play in such performances? Does the performer's use of her own body as an artistic medium, as for example in dance performance, generate special constraints on appreciation? How, finally, does what is usually classified as 'performance art' relate to activities in the performing arts more generally construed? I critically survey the ways in which these questions have been addressed by principal theorists in the field.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2009.00235.x
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