‘Ten Cents a Dance’
: Dramaturgies of Exchange and the Performance of Transaction

  • Alison E Matthews

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores dramaturgical tactics of exchange and transaction in contemporary performance practice, specifically examining the one-to-one performance format as a methodological catalyst for ‘making visible’ these relations of value and labour (after Mouffe 2013). The thesis uses literature from Marxist and post-Marxist theorists such as Harvey (1982) and Virno (2004; 2007) to examine the current post-Fordist shift in labour relations. It also uses literature around ‘relational aesthetics’ (Bourriaud 2002) and critical debates around the term from Bishop (2004; 2006; 2012), Jackson (2011), Kester (2004) and Downey (2007; 2009). Finally, it uses literature around practice-as-research (specifically Nelson 2013), the one-to-one performance format, ‘dramaturgy’ and ‘interruption’ to articulate its methodology. It then uses four case studies from the work of artists Jo Bannon, Brian Lobel, Hannah Hurtzig and Dries Verhoeven to explore how performance makers might employ mise en scène as a means of staging the ‘doubled’ anxiety fundamental to reification, and proposes the term ‘exchange proscenium’ as a means of visualizing this staging. Part 2 then uses a combination of practice-as-research investigations and apprenticeships firstly to interrogate Levinas’s notion of the face-to-face encounter and the application of its ethical framework to both Clare Thornton’s Material Matters and my first PAR project, Ten Cents a Dance. It moves on to examine relations of service (specifically those between sex worker and customer in Amsterdam’s Red Light District) and their corroboration with relations in performance (specifically using my second PAR investigation, SERVUS!). Finally, using my third PAR investigation What The Money Meant, it proposes ways in which spectatorial co-presence might be employed as a dramaturgical strategy, and how the interrupted transaction might subvert the ‘crystallization’ process (qua Marx) at work in immaterial labour exchanges. It also contains a Photobook appendix with an audiovisual DVD component, to which the reader will be directed.
Date of Award20 Feb 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorAdrian Kear (Supervisor) & Michael Pearson (Supervisor)

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