Adorno, the Sublime and Live Performance

Karoline Gritzner

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The sublime is an operative concept in Theodor W. Adorno’s aesthetic theory as well as in his critical social theory. Drawing on critical theory and contemporary live art, the article suggests that the sublime experience enables a missed encounter with the other, which is structured around the promise of complete presence in the moment of ‘now’. For Adorno, authentic art becomes an expression of suffering when it achieves, through the medium of its style, its own self-negation, expressed in the ‘necessary failure of the passionate striving for identity’. This failure of identity is curtailed in the products of the culture industry which tends to classify and schematise our responses to artworks. Franko B’s performance may function as an example of the sublime in contemporary live performance due to its ability to coerce an audience’s participation (or immersion) in a live event which is constructed in such a way that its sensory impact cannot be adequately controlled for the duration of the performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-643
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Legacy
Issue number7
Early online date12 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2016


  • Adorno
  • Kant
  • Lyotard
  • the sublime
  • aesthetic theory
  • live performance
  • Franko B
  • body
  • nature
  • limit-experience


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