The November/December 2015 issue (no. 96) of New Left Review contains my essay “Personafication.” Typo-prone though I am, the title is a deliberate attempt at a pun. The text investigates the crafting and deployment of a public persona as an aesthetic or political strategy. In addition to individual personae as as an externalized or objectified self, the text also discusses the persona ficta or juridical person, and artistic and activist versions of the persona dicta (which can at times take the form of doubly fictitious personae). Along the way, cases and practices are discussed that range from Fluxus artists to the Belgian Surrealist Marcel Mariën, Beuys and Schlingensief, the Invisible Committee and the Otolith Group—and, for good measure, Michael Serres’ revival of Auguste Comte’s notion of the Great Fetish, and Bruno Latour’s use of the conceptual persona of Gaia.
The text was triggered in part by my discussions with a student, Jesse van Winden, who wrote and excellent thesis on the artist’s persona and who recently co-edited an issue of the journal Kunstlicht (which is affiliated with the art & culture department of the Vrije Universiteit, where I teach) on the topic. In this issue, I discuss the V-Girls and introduce a section from one of their performance scripts, Academia in the Alps: In Search of the Swiss Mis(s).
Image: propaganda for Christoph Schlingensief’s political party, Chance 2000 (1998).