What Althusser Can Teach Us about Street Theater – and Vice Versa
The defining trait of street performances is that they catch their audience members unawares, while they are walking on the streets minding their own business. They recruit unsuspecting pedestrians and transform them into active participants in a street performance. This is what enables us to compare the transformative operation of street theater to what philosopher Louis Althusser described as the operation of ideological interpellation. In the first part of the paper the author discusses several ways of separating these two interpellations, drawing from examples by Robert Pfaller, Mladen Dolar, Slavoj Žižek and Blaise Pascal. In the second part of the paper, the author discusses examples of the Slovenian group Laibach, interventions by the Rebel Clown Army and the “Standing Man” protests in Turkey, arguing that artistic practices can be subversive with respect to the dominant ideology, when they are able to occupy the position of ideology’s blind spot.
Althusser, Louis (1971). Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays. Trans. B. Brewster. New York & London: NLB.
Bakhtin, Mikhail (2009). Rabelais and His World. Trans. Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Dolar, Mladen (2012). “Mimezis in komedija.” Problemi. Vol. 50, No. 5–6: 63–80.
Kowsar, Mohammad (1983). “Althusser on Theatre.” Theatre Journal, Vol. 35, No. 4: 461–474.
Mannoni, Octave (2003). “I Know Well, but All the Same…” Trans. G.M. Goshgarian. In Perversion and the Social Relation, ed. Molly Anne Rothenberg, Dennis A. Foster, and Slavoj Žižek, 68–92. Durham: Duke University Press.
Pascal, Blaise (1958). Pensées. Trans. W.F. Trotter. New York: Dutton. Pfaller, Robert (2009). Die Illusionen der anderen. Über das Lustprinzip in der Kultur. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Rancière, Jacques (2011). Althusser’s Lesson. Transl. Emiliano Battista. London & New York: Continuum.
Žižek, Slavoj (1993a). “Why Are Laibach and NSK Not Fascists?” M’ARS—Časopis Mo- derne galerije, Vol. 5, No. 3/4: 3–4.
Žižek, Slavoj (1993b). Tarrying with the Negative. Kant, Hegel and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke University Press.
Žižek, Slavoj (2008). The Sublime Object of Ideology. London & New York: Verso.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.