May 24, 2019 — Matt Hubbell

Please join us on Friday, May 24, 2019 from 11:00am-12:30pm in Cobb 311 for the final meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Spring Quarter. We are delighted to have Matt Hubbell, PhD Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. He will be presenting a chapter entitled “Spontaneity and Form: Political Action, Acting, and the Stakes of Improvisation.”

Matt’s text is available for download here.
Please do not circulate without permission.
Please email either Gary [gkafer@uchicago.edu] or Cooper [cooperlong@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshment will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper


Spontaneity and Form: Political Action, Acting, and the Stakes of Improvisation

From Raymond Aron’s famous condemnation of May ’68 in France as a “psychodrama,” to Marxist hopes that it constituted a “dress rehearsal” for a revolution to come, to praise of the uprising as a sort of liberatory street-theater, the events of May ’68 have often been described in theatrical terms. Arguing that theatre is a practice that itself interrogates, theorizes and experiments with the possibilities of human action, this chapter put questions of political action into conversation with modes of theatrical acting, in order to read that era’s political debates about the efficacy of spontaneity alongside simultaneous experiments with performance practices based on the principle of improvisation. Focusing in particular on Jacques Rivette’s improvised 13-hour film Out 1 (1971) and the work of the radical American theatrical troupe the Living Theatre, I explore the resonances and contradictions between their political and aesthetic aspirations, and ask whether these experiments, and their attempts to create new forms out of unplanned events or encounters, offer a productive model and inspiration for political action, or whether they become, instead, a substitute for it.

Matt Hubbell is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, “Acting After the New Wave: The Political Aesthetics of Performance in France, 1968-1981,” focuses on changes in performance style and the cinematic uses of the body in the post-68 period in order to explore the intersection of cinematic form, politics, and everyday experience.

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