The Theatricality of the Punctum (2017)

The Theatricality of the Punctum: Re-Viewing Camera Lucida

Essay for the Performance Philosophy journal Vol 3: No 1 (2017). A link to the open source article can be found here


I first encountered Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida (1980) in 2012 when I was developing a performance on falling and photography. Since then I have re-encountered Barthes’s book annually as part of my practice-as-research PhD project on the relationships between performance and photography. This research project seeks to make performance work in response to Barthes’s book – to practice with Barthes in an exploration of theatricality, materiality and affect. This photo-essay weaves critical discourse with performance documentation to explore my relationship to Barthes’s book. Responding to Michael Fried’s claim that Barthes’s Camera Lucida is an exercise in “antitheatrical critical thought” (Fried 2008, 98) the essay seeks to re-view debates on theatricality and anti-theatricality in and around Camera Lucida. Specifically, by exploring Barthes’s conceptualisation of the pose I discuss how performance practice might re-theatricalise the punctum and challenge a supposed antitheatricalism in Barthes’s text. Additionally, I argue for Barthes’s book as an example of philosophy as performance and for my own work as an instance of performance philosophy.


roland barthes; camera lucida; performance; theatricality; practice-as-research