“The Broad Spectrum Approach”
La Performance dans son plus large spectre

Séminaire du 18 décembre 2008

What the book was, the performance has become: index and symbols, multiple truths and lies, arena of struggle. And what is performance? Behavior heightened, if ever so slightly, and publicly displayed; twice-behaved behavior.

Richard Schechner, The Future of Ritual. Writings on Culture and Performance, New York, Routledge, 1995, p.1

En 1988 Schechner formule pour la première fois l'idée qu'il existe quatre grandes sphères de performance au sens large, à savoir: les arts du spectacle, les pratiques de soins, l'éducation et toutes les activités de la vie quotidienne qui sont ritualisées. Dans chacune de ces sphères les fonctions qu'exerçaient autrefois le Livre et la lecture silencieuse sont reprises par la Performance et le spectacle sur une scène ou un écran.


Richard Schechner, Performance Studies: The Broad Spectrum Approach, TDR (1988-), Vol. 32, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988), pp.4-6.

As for the broad spectrum approach — treating performative behavior, not just the performing arts, as a subject for serious scholarly study — this idea is just beginning to make some headway among the academic establishment.

Performance — as distinct from any of its subgenres like theatre, dance, music, and performance art — is a broad spectrum of activities including at the very least the performing arts, rituals, healing, sports, popular entertainments, and performance in everyday life.

Performing arts curricula need to be broadened… What needs to be added is how performance is used in politics, medicine, religion, popular entertainments, and ordinary face-to-face interactions. The complex and various relationships among the players in the performance quadrilog—authors, performers, directors, and spectators—ought to be investigated using the methodological tools increasingly available from performance theorists, social scientists, and semioticians.

Cette proposition de recherche à large spectre est précisée en 1993 dans l'Introduction de The Future of Ritual dont je reprends ici quelques lignes.


Richard Schechner, The Future of Ritual: Writings on Culture and Performance, New york, Routledge, 1993, pp. 5–21; repris dans Michael Huxley and Noel Witts (Eds.), The Twentieth-Century Performance Reader, 2nd edition, New York, Routledge, 2002, pp. 342–358.

The four great spheres of performance — entertainment, healing, education, and ritualizing — are in play with each other. This playing (and it can be a very serious matter) is the subject of this book. What used to be a tightly boundaried, limited field has expanded exponentially. Each of the performance spheres can be called by other names. Entertainment includes aesthetics, the arrangement and display of actions in ways that are 'satisfying' or 'beautiful' (according to particular and local cultural canons). Education includes all kinds of political performances designed to exhort, convince, and move to action. Healing performances include shamanism, the ostensive display of hi-tech medical equipment, the bedside manner, and all kinds of interactive psychotherapies.

As the writings in this book show, I am of at least two minds regarding all this. I am enthusiastic about the expanding field of performance and its scholarly adjunct, performance studies. Performative analysis is not the only interpretation possible, but it is a very effective method for a time of charged rhetorics, simulations and scenarios, and games played on a global scale. It has always been a good method for looking at small-scale, face-to-face interactions. The public display of these 'for fun' may be taken as an operative definition of drama. But only a small number of artworks relate creatively and critically to the worlds around them. These are what used to be the avant-garde, but which today, as I've been saying, barely owns its name. A century from now the world may be running on new fuels, the automobile may have passed away, human settlements may exist on the moon and elsewhere — and on through a list of as yet barely imaginable changes and technological improvements. The basic tendency of all these changes has already been set. That tendency is to use without using up; to reserve the ability to repeat; to test through modeling, virtual experience, and other kinds of mathematical and analogical rehearsing.

The writings in this book all relate to aspects of what I have called the 'broad spectrum' of performance (see Schechner 1988, 1989b, 1990). The broad spectrum includes performative behavior, not just the performing arts, as a subject for serious scholarly study. This book is one contribution to this big project. How is performance used in politics, medicine, religion, popular entertainments, and ordinary face-to-face interactions? What are the similarities and differences between live and mediated performances? The various and complex relationships among players — spectators, performers, authors, and directors — can be pictured as a rectangle, a performance 'quadrilogue.' Studying the interactions, sometimes easy, sometimes tense, among the speakers in the quadrilogue is what performance studies people do. These studies are intensely interdisciplinary, intercultural, and intergenric. Performance studies builds on the emergence of a postcolonial world where cultures are colliding, interfering with, and fertilizing each other. Arts and academic disciplines alike are most alive at their ever-changing borders. The once distinct (in the West at least) genres of music, theatre, and dance are interacting with each other in ways undreamt-of just thirty-five years ago. These interactions are both expressive of and part of a larger movement culturally.

On notera l'accent mis sur les jeux sérieux et le «monde vécu virtuel» (virtual experience) dans ce programme de recherche ouvert aux technologies informatiques.