ISSN 2451-2966


Mateusz Chaberski

The (Syn)aesthetic Experience of Participants in Site-specific Performances in the Performance Scholar’s Laboratory


The aim of this paper is to formulate a new method of analysing the assemblage-based and affective experience of the recipient-participant of site-specific performance. Drawing on Josephine Machon’s concept of (syn)aesthetics, the author coins the term (syn)aesthete referring to the recipient-participant in order to indicate that his or her experience emerges as a dynamic fusion of sensual perception, intellectual experience as well as individual and collective memories. From this point of view, the article critically examines the traditional ontology of performance as being always “at the vanishing” point (Herbert Blau). Especially in the context of contemporary theatrical reenactment practices, performance can no longer be perceived as ephemeral and transient. As Rebecca Schneider succinctly points out, performance continues to exist in a series of affective transformations depending on the researcher/(syn)aesthete’s ‘mode of access’ to the archive. The author elucidates this process analysing the performance of H! (2004) staged by Jan Klata in the dilapidated space of Gdansk Shipyard and its documentation. Using Bruno Latour’s concept of experiment, the author scrutinises trials and changes occurring in his own performance scholar’s laboratory whereby the (syn)aesthetic experience is produced undergoing dramatic transformations. This allows the author to describe a trajectory of (syn)aesthetic experience ranging from the experience of unfettered exploration of the Shipyard’s space, through the experience of criticism towards the Polish post-1989 transformation to the experience of a compulsion to remember the lost greatness of the Gdańsk Shipyard as a symbol of the democratic transformation in Poland.


archive; experience; laboratory; performance theory;site-specific performance

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Mateusz Chaberski

PhD student at the Department for Performance Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. His academic interests range from performance studies to memory studies and translation studies. He published the book Doświadczenie (syn)estetyczne. Performatywne aspekty przedstawień site-specific [(Syn)aesthetic Experience: Performative Aspects of Site-Specific Performance] (2015). He also works as an acquisitions editor for the Jagiellonian University Press.