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Conciliations: Witness and Spectator

Rabih Mroué, On Three Posters: Reflections on a video-performance by Rabih Mroué, 2004, video-lecture, still. Courtesy the artist
Juan A. Gaitán analyses the place of the spectator in Rabih Mroué’s performances, putting forward an expanded notion of theatre where the classical dramaturgical distinction between active and contemplative positions has been surpassed. In this essay I will put forward the argument that the spectator is the contemporary incarnation of the witness of history. By ‘witness of history’ I mean the figure who authenticates the narrative by presenting him or herself as both narrator and eyewitness. There are fictional versions of this figure, most famously Robinson Crusoe. There are actual ones, such as Francisco Goya with Los desastres de la guerra (The Disasters of War, 1810-15). More marginal is a short tale by Maurice Blanchot, L’Instant de ma mort (The Instant of My Death, 1994), from which Jacques Derrida extrapolated a brilliant discussion on fiction and testimony.