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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

In Front of Our Eyes: Presence and the Cognitive Audience

Connolly, Roy (2010) In Front of Our Eyes: Presence and the Cognitive Audience. About Performance, 10. pp. 51-66. ISSN ISSN 1324-6089

Item Type: Article


In this paper, we explore the cognitive processes that are invoked when theatre practitioners talk about 'presence' or 'live' experience, or allude to representation and unconscious communication, and consider whether areas of experience which are often explained through reference to informal or mystical ideas might be otherwise developed. We attempt to ground these matters by considering the processing capacities that the theatre event may draw upon and refer to recent scientific evidence that reveals an embodied basis for intersubjective experience, action, emotion and thought. Applying an embodied approach accommodates the shared nature of mind, allowing human experience to be located cognitively rather than only socially or culturally. We outline areas in which the approach contributes and meets practical and critical challenges, including presence, empathy, mystery, awareness and manipulations of reality, and develop an account that foregrounds emotion, direct contact with the external world, and the exploratory rather than constructive nature of the mind. We argue that the embodied view makes a new cognitive account of the audience timely, that theatre in particular has a reciprocal contribution to make, and that the basis of audience experience is that which is in front of our eyes rather than representation. According to this account, the organization and purposes of cognition constrain both performance and audience.

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Depositing User: Roy Connolly


Item ID: 1158
ISSN: ISSN 1324-6089
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Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2011 16:01
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 09:04


Author: Roy Connolly

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Art and Design


Performing Arts > Drama

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