Live art as political intervention
: bare life, refugees and the law

  • Janina Moninska

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis consists of an investigation of Live Art practice as political intervention through an engagement with refugees and refugee law. Its starting point is my refugee father’s narrative set against the issue of rights, belonging and citizenship, as these questions were addressed by Hannah Arendt in the wake of the Second World War, and the Holocaust, and in the face of the plight of countless persons and refugees in the post-war period and early 21st century. The theoretical foundation for the research was provided by the insights and approach of radical democracy, as informed by the work of Giorgio Agamben and Jacques Rancière, and also by the reconceptualisation of the art-politics relation in the work of Rancière, Clare Bishop and Nicholas Bourriaud. Those who work under/with/through Live Art determine its form, and for this research, Live Art was developed as an immersive experience for participants, creating paradoxical situations with the intention of disrupting the distribution of the sensible. The core of the research was the development of three Live Art interventions and their various iterations. These were 1) Margarita X v Secretary of State for the Home Department, 2) Mustafa Y v Secretary of State for the Home Department, and 3) Jabal al Baba v the Israeli State. Each demonstrates how such events can reveal aspects of the political process of the law to participants, and tests the nature and potential of Live Art as a political practice. The interventions were based on actual cases, but they were not designed to persuade the audience to a particular point of view. Rather, the distinctions and definitions that were central to them were allowed to emerge (to become visible) and thus to function to unsettle (or not) the participants. An immersive method of reenacting legal case studies was developed and tested in the UK, and then adapted to the context of Palestinian encounters with Israeli law. The intensity of experience created by the Live Art form made palpable the precarious and, according to Arendt, paradoxical position of the stateless, thereby also showing this artform to be effective in challenging binary perceptions of identity, belonging and entitlements to rights. Each intervention was, in effect, a Rancièrian process of dissensus in action.
    Date of Award2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorAmy Cunningham (Supervisor), Tom Hickey (Supervisor) & Claudia Kappenberg (Supervisor)

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