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CONSIDERING ETHICS IN DANCE, THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE. By Fiona Bannon. Switzerland: Springer Nature (Palgrave Macmillan), 2018. 250 p.

We all try to find ways to facilitate positivity, satisfaction, fulfillment, happiness in our lives. "Considering Ethics in Dance, Theatre and Performance" by Fiona Bannon is an attempt to articulate these with the intermingling of our ethical, aesthetic and relational lives or engagement with one another as joint authorship towards an inclusive world view It is written with an ambition to consider practical ethics as the core of collaborative art making. It is important to consider what it means for each of us to live well and to persevere. With reference to the work of John Dewey, Baruch Spinoza, Gilles Deleuze, Gregory Bateson, etc., the author explores features of social integration in studio practice, our aesthetic sensibilities, ethics as a facet of our lived experience and the complex issues of our present time.

The aim of the book is an exploration to the nature of the interdependences through which practice is composed and the active possibilities that can increase by enhancing our competence to shared engagement through ethics. An engagement with aesthetics, ethics, and art making and knowledge generation brings in us a sense of mutuality to live our life better and better and to create and recreate ourselves anew. It is aspired to discover the nature of ethics and aesthetics in association with collaborative practices. She asks a general question to clarify the core of this book. Since we are staying in a society and not in isolation, we come across various types of personalities in our modes of working but how can we recognize a sense of mutuality and maintain the interrelationships among each other? It is our conscious engagement through what can be recognized as an ethic- aesthetic of practice, which is the only way for us to more fully appreciate and sustain the future benefit of our mutuality.

Any kind of performing art requires sensitivity, care, challenge, transmission and thus, it is important for us not to forget our ethical origination in the community and recognize ways of being-with one another. While working towards a new choreography in dance or a new production in theatre, we have to come across a number of challenges but it is important to keep calm to make our mind work peacefully and recognize and affirm values and behaviors that could be adopted for the process of creating the performance.

The processes involved in devising performance are sometimes differently framed as collaborative, collective or co-creative practice (1). This book also explores and contributes to a number of overlapping debates. The basic area it covers is the question of how to live well, what ought to do and not to do with the help of communication in and through art. This process along with artistic sensibilities also involves an engagement of ethics. In words of Bannon, "The purpose is to examine aspects of adopted approaches to creating performance in terms of the ethical, the aesthetic, and the lived experience of things that matter. The focus falls on the ways that we work, play, learns and interact with one another, and through which, shape artistic responses to our experience of the world" (5).

The author argues that the process of creating or making a performance is an opportunity to learn about ourselves, how we relate with others through various modes of social communication. She also intends to consider the ways by which we can utilize ethics as an interacting aspect of artistic performance practice.

A prominent question may arise regarding the role of ethics in performance. How is ethics really related to dance, theatre or any art form? It is important to note that when we consider ethics, we consider the attitudes towards ethics that inform our own behavior and practice. An ethical attitude developed while creating and making performance helps one to integrate with others and also to judge oneself. The ways by which we orient ourselves forms the ground for the nature of the ethics of practice. Our creative contribution is heightened by our ethico-aesthetic engagements and the way we cooperate with others while working. This has been explained by giving various examples of the writings and teachings of Spinoza.

A brilliant and pioneering work has been done by the author since she has explained the core concepts like ethics and aesthetic experience from the very fundamental point of view so that the readers get clarity of the overall concept and utilize the same practice in their day-to-day life. This book not only encourages the practitioners of performing arts how to work as a team with one vision and with collaboration, but also helps a laymen how to live better. It is these features that ultimately motivate us to initiate certain acts, within our gradually unfolding, fluid interrelatedness. Ethics comes from a Greek word ethos which means habitat or dwelling. Dwelling refers to our attitudes and behavior which constitutes our character. But we recognize ethics as an exacting and an integral part of performance making as ethics is about considering our stance towards ourselves and it is the presence of reflective self-consciousness that enables one to share a collective imagination for ourselves and others. The ideas of ethical relations as generated as practice are informed by an ethics that embraces being-with-others.

According to Spinoza, humans are not innately social but must persevere to become one for a number of reasons. It is for the purpose of developing the power of reason and justice which we learn from the experiences of practice of working together. While reviewing performance practice, we understand how we might relate with one another and appreciate about changing attitudes, to questioning communication and opinion. Towards ethical frameworks, the author quotes the work done by cultural theorist Sara Ahmed, Richard Sennett, David Bohm, Massumi, etc., which not only reflects what the author tries to convince but gives us a knowledge of the varied notions of ethics.

An alignment of aesthetics with social and educational experiences in the realms of lived experience has been also elucidated in this book. We can see a turn from the usual associations between aesthetics and art to the relation between aesthetics and ethics which shape our social integration. According to Bannon, considering both aesthetics and art together focuses on the ways that our sensations inform the dialogic relations that form our experiences. This integrates a sense of well-being, respect, sustainability, and individual capability. The term aesthetics has boon coined by Baumgarten in 1750 although the origins of the concept can be traced back to antiquity. Although the meaning of this term is a much debated one but there are some who believe that clear definition of the term is both possible and necessary and for some it is a problematic experience. Ye t the term pertains to all forms of artistic practice but an idea which is removed from lived experiences. It is critical reflection on art, culture and nature. But one point to keep in mind regarding the concept of aesthetics that it has no division between self and other, it is a fusion of features functioning as a cooperative environment.

The book provides the much needed solution of present times by which we can acknowledge the ways that aesthetics and ethics reside together as they are not something we acquire but they are the way we are. The intertwining of aesthetics and ethics offers a means towards cohesive understanding of experience that leads to collaborative, creative and improvisational practice and makes us realize the path in which we should lead our life.

The biggest challenge that comes across is the task of group performances, shared practice which is dominated by interpersonal energies, different point of views and operation. Working through the processes of art making puts us in the realms of learning how to handle material ideas. A pertinent question in terms of dissemination of methods is how to trace the transmission of collaborative co-creation and how do we share practice? It is observed that in the rhythm of a process, we find a sense of coherence in which individuals learn to think, to share experience and to challenge new opportunities with one another. In collaborative practice, there is a sense of shared responsibility within the practitioners in engaging with the challenges that we need to address concerning our social associations.

Ethics also plays an important role while realizing our ideas in the form of artworks. We must fulfill the responsibilities that are inherent while working as a participant contributor. Through improvising within our knowledge of what is known, we may realize progressive change. It is a venture filled with inequalities which we must emerge with. Bannon says that collaboration is an indispensable element of group activity which is a source of investigation, questions and exploration.

Thus, in this genuine, beautiful and lucid book, Fiona Bannon deals with the practice of joint authorship in dance, theatre and performance as an activity that interweaves aesthetical perceptual processes with an ethical practice of living an examined life in relation to others. Ethics and aesthetics can be understood as the norms that govern our social and personal conduct and we can shape our deepening knowledge of our humanity. It is important to reflect on our responsibilities and to learn and to act on what we know Conclusively, in the making of Dance, Theatre and Performance, there are social roles in the ways that we learn to interact through our attachments to other people and to the groups with whom we work along with the challenges that we encounter together. She lays emphasis on the fact that we can fulfill our potential in performing arts if we work guided by our ethics as practical ethics is a constitutive attribute of the attitudes inherent in the making and creation of collaborative performances.


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Article Details
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Author:Ghosh, Pragya
Publication:Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2019

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