PhD Thesis

My doctoral dissertation examines what absence is and how it works in a performance. I study the paradox of representation, whereby absence is never absent and presence is not present. I have named this using the oxymoron present absence.

In my research I question the dualistic philosophy which defines a sign as a relationship between a signifier (a thing) and a certain signified (its meaning), and I look for another interpretation of absence in performance. I use Jacques Derrida’s philosophy and survey various theories in theatre studies, which define limits of presence and absence. I do not agree with all of them, but they provide important and different perspectives on the question of absence.

These theoretical perspectives on presence and absence are applied to a number of examples of visual culture drawn from theatre, performance and art. A structure of visual representation is studied as writing. I refer to Derrida’s theory of arche-writing, which is a non-linear form of writing that does not rely on defining being as presence. Present absence is studied through linguistic theory and tested in the three-dimensional space of performance. My research provides an alternative account of the mode of reading the notion of absence in performance.