Exercising Freedom: An Arendtian clown training utopia

Saner, Göze. 2020. Exercising Freedom: An Arendtian clown training utopia. Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, 25(8), pp. 146-154. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Göze Saner’s ‘Exercising Freedom: An Arendtian clown training utopia’ proposes a performance pedagogy that consists in exercises of/for freedom. Steering clear of approaches to training that claim to free a performer’s body or voice, Saner instead offers a close reading of political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s theatrical understanding of freedom and political action (particularly ‘Action’ in The Human Condition and “What is Freedom?” in Between Past and Future) to extract the skills and qualities required of an actor to publicly perform an action that is ‘wholly unexpected and unforeseen’ (Arendt 1960: 43), make a new beginning, reveal who they are as well as the cracks in systems that appear unchangeable and bring about the experience of freedom, not only for themselves, but also, and more importantly, for the witnesses. How does one train to perform the event of freedom in the Arendtian sense? Following the image of Greta Thunberg on her first school strike, the article investigates how a personal action can resonate historically and incite collective activism. Given the unique relationship between a single performer and multiple spectators, the solo genre resonates with Arendt’s description of freedom; however, it also raises specific challenges—particularly with respect to the neoliberalist celebration of a different kind of individual freedom and its influence on solo performance as a paradigm. Touching briefly upon solo documentary performance and solo autobiographical performance, the article arrives at clowning, as a solo form of training, acting and relating. Analysing Avner Eisenberg’s clown pedagogy as well as Alison Hodge’s core training, viewed here as clown training insofar as the ensemble becomes a space for solo emergence, the article formulates a training utopia that exercises—that is, rehearses, practises, educates, keeps working—an Arendtian freedom in action and thereby extends an invitation for all to be a Greta Thunberg.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


13 May 2021Accepted
31 August 2021Published Online

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Date Deposited:

07 Sep 2021 09:15

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2021 09:15

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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