Masochism, Spectacle, and the “Broken Mirror” Clown Entrée: A Note on the Anthropology of Performance in Postmodern Culture

Essay Excerpt

Most modem interpretations of spectacle performance are reflectionist and, as such, accept the role of vision as a natural and unproblematic part of "discovering" the truth of a performance. It is precisely the role of vision, what I will go on to describe in this article (after Jay 1988) as the scopic regime of perspectival order, and its effects on the analysis of spectacle performance, reception, and production that I want to describe. My ethnographic example will be the "broken mirror" entree, a circus clown routine that is performed throughout Europe these days by a circus clown duo called "The Chickys." I will argue that in the entree performance, and in our reception and the Chickys' production of it, the scopic regime of perspectival order collapses, and so with it goes official order and authority. This collapse, however, is not the result of some urge for ritual or carivalesque transgression. Rather, it is the result of a hyper-conformism of the clown characters, spectators, and clown artists to the order of the gaze. Moreover, it is in the manner of meticulously applying the law of perspectival order, using it to excess as a normalizing act, that its oppressiveness as a disciplinary power in all aspects of human life is demonstrated to be chaotic and absurd (117).

Little, Kenneth. "Masochism, Spectacle, and the “Broken Mirror” Clown Entrée: A Note on the Anthropology of Performance in Postmodern Culture." Cultural Anthropology 8.1(1993): 117–129.

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