The Performer as Philosopher and Diplomat of Dissensus: Thinking and Drinking Tea with Benjamin Verdonck in Bara/ke (2000)
Ecology and activism is a burning issue in theatre and performance studies. However, following the French philosopher Bruno Latour, a radically new encounter with ecology is needed today, if eco-activism still wants to have a future. It seems that, in order to survive, eco-activism and eco-art have to move beyond their narrow and limited anthropocentric perspective. In this paradigm shift, the performer as philosopher – in the sense of a diplomat of dissensus – might play an important role. The Flemish artist and performer Benjamin Verdonck picks up this role of a performer as philosopher. In his artistic tree houses, Verdonck invites passers-by for coffee or tea and gently raises ecological issues. He performs protest as what I call “a diplomat of dissensus”, combining Latour’s writings on contemporary ecology and the function of the diplomat therein, and Jacques Rancière’s writings on dissensus and art in public space. Ecology, for its part, moves into the direction of what Félix Guattari in The Three Ecologies refers to as “the ethico-aesthetic aegis of an ecosophy” (Guattari 2000, 41), a contraction of ecology and philosophy that connects the environmental with a reflection on the psychic production of subjectivity and social relations.
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