Animating Everyday Objects in Performance

  • Jungmin Song

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis concerns how everyday objects produce meaning in the apparatus of
performance. The arrangement of the apparatus—including the performer, space,
time, objects, audience, and the choreography of these elements—acts to shift the
meaning of objects and materials from the everyday. Meaning is determined by an object’s material properties—its flexibility and weight, the sound it makes—but
these properties take on significance depending on what happens around and in
relation to the object. This is a lesson that is familiar to observers and practitioners of puppet theatre. Puppets do not acquire meaning solely based on their outside characteristics. They also signify based on the material properties (such as malleability) that emerge when they are manipulated.

My practice-based research, grounded in both puppetry and live art practices,
displaces objects from the places they are customarily used in order to highlight or subvert the ways that objects are used in everyday life. I focus attention on the flux of objects in action. Animation emerges from my manipulation of such simple
objects as paper, balloons, biscuits, glasses, thread and pencils. Animation in
puppetry and object theatre is sometimes conceived as a means to give the
appearance of life to dead objects, often by anthropomorphizing them. My
understanding of animation is not mimetic, but involves a focus on emergent
phenomena. I thereby interrogate the binary opposition of life and death. I also
challenge the tendency to read objects and phenomena such as rainbows
symbolically by dissociating them from their normal contexts and associated
sentiments. Stripping objects of their accreted layers of meaning, I attend to the
emergence of the here and now. Bridging concerns with the body and an objectii
oriented ontology, I bring new theoretical understandings of the vibrancy of matter
to live art and object performance.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorAdrian Heathfield (Supervisor) & Ioana Szeman (Supervisor)

Cite this

Animating Everyday Objects in Performance
Song, J. (Author). 2014

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis