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Exploring agonism with mischief: participatory performance in the public realm

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posted on 21.01.2019, 11:27 by Antoinette Burchill
This thesis explores how agonism can emerge through participatory art practice. The practice-based research is contextualised by Chantal Mouffe s political theory of agonism, and the instances in which she applies agonism to art practice (2001-2013). The research highlights the intrinsic and substantial value Mouffe s agonism holds for understanding conflict as an adversarial relation. The problem I identify is that when Mouffe applies agonism to art practice, she locates her examples within the frame of political theory, rather than in or through art practice. Consequently, this research questions agonism from the perspectives of participatory art practice, mischievous performance, and politicised dissent as relational conflict. I employ a methodology of theory and practice. Chapters One and Two expand upon Mouffe s theory of agonism, and her application of agonism to art practice. Chapters Three and Four situate the research within art theory, art history, art practice, and within mischief as a method of explaining relations of power. I expand upon the importance of participation, and I investigate how mischievous performance can facilitate the emergence of agonistic relations. In the final chapter I analyse video recordings of my practice of guerrilla street theatre. The outcome of the research is reflective analysis of evidence, and an understanding of the circumstances in which an art practice does, or does not, become agonistic. The research output is a two-fold analytical framework, and a set of criteria that can be used to clarify when and how an art practice becomes agonistic. I argue that to explore agonism through mischief facilitates (some) participants in performing their politicised dissent in the public realm. Thus, agonism as adversarial political conflict contributes to the vibrancy of the public sphere. However, by focusing on agonism and participatory art practice, I attend to the difficulties and complexities of agonistic art practices. As a result, I develop and extend Mouffe s theory of agonism through my exploration of agonism in mischievous and participatory art practice.


Loughborough University (studentship).



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • Arts


© Antoinette Elizabeth Burchill

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University. This thesis has been redacted for reasons relating to the law of copyright. For more information please contact the author.