“The categorization of knowledge into arts and sciences is reproduced in the faculty system which houses different disciplines in different buildings, and most colleges maintain the traditional divisions by devoting a separate floor to each subject. Moreover, the hierarchical relationship between teacher and taught is inscribed in the very lay-out of the lecture theatre where the seating arrangements – benches rising in tiers before a raised lectern – dictate the flow of information and serve to ‘naturalize’ professorial authority.

Thus, a whole range of decisions about what is and what is not possible within education have been made, however unconsciously, before content of individual courses is even decided”.

-Dick Hebdige, “Culture to Hegemony”

Think of the whole range of decisions about what is and what is not possible within a concert hall. These have already been decided before we even to decide to perform or listen there.

Naturalizing the performance space mean normalizing it to such an extent that one cannot imagine the structure any different. The seats become like the trees they were made of: natural and more or less a given.

It is tough to think about ridding ourselves of naturalization. It can be useful. In naturalizing something we push it to the background. That creates room for other matters to come to the front.  We can put all our time preparing for our concert rather than the nature of the space. The problem of how to sell the concert tickets will not be burdened by whether or not a concert is a hierarchical power struggle.

Anyone can flip this script though. Even the process of critiquing the naturalization of performance spaces includes naturalization. Multitudes of givens are working on a subconscious level in order to spend more time taking note of the politics of performance spaces.

If one cannot avoid naturalization it would do well to know how it works for us. What is in the foreground and what is pushed to the background of assumed knowledge? How does the relationship between the two work?


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