Solitude and Loneliness: Significance of Affects in Reshaping of Private Places in Performance Art Practices

Kristýna Ilek | Dramaturg,  Theatre Maker, and Researcher, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

During the recent covid-19 pandemic, many live art and performance practices moved from public spaces of theatres and art venues via screens into spaces of spectators’ home. Alternatively, some performance groups, such as circus, moved to backyards, balconies, and hospital gardens. In this paper, I will look at affects and atmospheres which were produced when live art and performance were moved into more private spaces than they are originally designed for. I will focus specifically on solitude and loneliness and the way external factors and environments contribute to their emergence. I will suggest that notions of ‘private’ and ‘public’ spaces subsequently change and in times of externally imposed isolation have been experienced differently. This perspective will allow me to demonstrate the affective charge of personal spaces and the significance of bodies which are moving and acting within them and co-creating them. In this context, my understanding of affect follows Gernot Böhme’s spatial understanding of atmospheres, Walter Benjamin’s ‘aura’ and Sara Ahmed’s identification of affects as sticky and connective. These concepts allow me to access material manifestations of affects and navigate their forces between bodies and their environment.

In order to do this, I will look at specific examples of performance artforms which emerged or became predominant during covid-19 pandemic, such as online performances which spectators attended from their homes, other online but more participatory formats, audio walks and also real-life and often times small-scale event, such as music and circus street performances. Coming from the field of performance studies, I would like to use these examples of live art to show what affective landscapes were artists engaging with and producing during the time of lockdowns and isolations. As such, this paper is an analysis of affects which were produced and experienced in private spaces while they also reshaped them. It is a first step in analysing possible affective consequences of a healthcare crisis such as a pandemic on the nature of art production during such times.