Discipline and Perform pg 16 - 19 of 'Perform or else" by Jon McKenzie
Deconstructing the image
The introduction of Perform or Else presents an image appropriated from a front cover of a Forbes magazine dated from January 1994. The image presents a close up of a business mans head, neck and shoulders being wrapped by a cane or umbrella - apparently about to be pulled into action. The image that bears the title of the book is a compilation of annual business reports and McKenzie deconstructs the image in the opening chapters to introduce a contextual relevance to the reader for his argument. Not only does the image engage the reader with McKenzie’s three areas of research - "Performance Management, Performance Studies and Techno-Performance" It also represents an object of power and knowledge that can be further understood. McKenzie reflects on how image and text create a circuit of power (between the author and the viewer) by their normative forces, when separate objects are composed together to create narrative, this new knowledge in McKenzie’s analysis becomes an active formation of power. The very explicit message in the text (an audible command) and extreme visual close up of the subject create a demonstration and command visual formula that is often used in schools or warning signs. (Danger electrical shock). This explicit method for communicating new knowledge is very instructional and almost tongue in cheek within this context.
Discourse of elements of knowledge
McKenzie relates his analysis of the Forbes cover to Michel Foucault’s "This is not a pipe", writings illustrated by Reny Magritte that highlight how discursive or contradictory elements are joined and juxtaposed to produce knowledge. The non-relation between the elements is of interest because their forced cohabitation is the grammar of new knowledge. McKenzie references Foucault here to be able to further contextualize his book within the readings of Foucault's "Discipline and Punish". Foucault's 'Society of Discipline’ argues that throughout the 17th and 18th century the regime of power was enforced through time and space codes that primarily were noted as teaching and utilizing Justice and Discipline. Foucault uses the archechtrial schematics of Jeremy Bentham's panoptican - a design for a penitentiary that allows for mass hierarchical surveillance to normalize behavior - to demonstrate how space can be designed to enforce knowledge and create power ontology. McKenzie describes Discipline as a clear onto-historical formation of power that is created from the two elements - the guidance of the law and the mechanisms of surveillance combine to produce a formation of power through two sets of knowledge parameters. The analysis made in "Discipline and Punish" spreads further into all institutional spaces within 17th / 18th century, where a desired behavior is prescribed through the codes of the space (architecture, uniform) and the time (appointments). The conclusive analogy made by Foucault was that discipline was key to understanding the apparatus of power and knowledge in society.
Performance as the new Discipline
McKenzie declares that performance must be understood as an emergent stratum that is implemented onto disciplinary procedures that maintain and manage power and knowledge. McKenzie then correlates his argument with Foucault by making what he calls a 'speculative forecast’; "Performance will be in the twentieth and twenty first century what discipline was to the eighteenth and nineteenth, that is, an onto-historical formation of power and knowledge" He goes onto to say that this stratum creates a displacement of being that challenges our understanding of the past but is based on previous ontological formations of knowledge and power. Although the performance stratum is built upon previous knowledge and power forces McKenzie locates its cold war origins and its prominence in techno social post war ideology.
Like Discipline, performance produces a new subject of knowledge through its interactions with its coded systems. However this performing subject is a de-centred self, encountered through multiple online identities, the construction is fragmented and fractured opposed to the stable and centered self of the Discipline society. Although McKenzie does not mention it here this new defined subject is a response to the modulation of a disciplinary society to the Deleuze's society of control, where disciplinary mechanics are fractured over networked coded systems or interfaces. McKenzie also states that within this stratum performance objects are no longer 'a thing within itself’, instead there networked existence means that their very meaning is relational to various discourses and other socio-technic systems. These circuits of information that maintain power are programming the post industrial, post colonial world, that are an extensive of (and built upon) the disciplinary institutions and systems of the industrial age. McKenzie argues that these mechanics of the per formative circuit of power are more impactful than previous power structures because of the expanse of history and collapse of distance (due to networked tech and digital media) the discourse of impact is wider and more diverse. Although these power systems operate simultaneously there can be distinguished, one is sedimentary and rigid, based on physical space while the other is flexible, networked and its temporalities are polyrhythmic rather than non linear. Previous traditions and disciplines are all archived and can be played back to become a material basis of forming new ontologies of power in society.
"The geopolitical, economic, and technological transformations associated with the performance stratum give insight to the formation of its fractal subjects"
DESIRE instead of REPRESSION
McKenzie identifies that the engine that drives the subjects engagement with the performance stratum has changed to a repressive impulse to one of desire. While the disciplinary society operated through a system of repression, the power stratum in a performative society proliferates through desire. This desire modulates encounters with the thresholds and limits of competing systems of power at play. Essentially the performance power stratum flourishes and operates through the subjects pursuit of desire, while the subject is continuously evaluated according to different evaluative frameworks the performance stratum disciplines society through the subjects performance in society.