About

Feminist performance theorist Diana Taylor defines performance as an ‘embodied practice’, which also has an epistemological function because, as she goes on to argue, performance is not only something that we do, it is additionally a ‘way of knowing’ (2016: 3). Similarly, it is through the caring encounter that the givers and receivers of care learn what caring is and how it feels. Like live performance that is presented to an audience, the caring encounter is determined both by the repeated, practised gestures of the caregiver, but also, crucially, by the kinds of responses this elicits in the care receiver. In this sense, caring practice is not simply concerned with caring actions but with how these actions are experienced by another person.

— Amanda Stuart Fisher & James Thompson, Performing care: New perspectives on socially engaged performance (2020)


What is “The Intimate Critic”?

Hello, I’m Corrie. Welcome to The Intimate Critic.

I started writing about performance in 2010, first in a more conventional sense as a print journalist for Singapore’s mainstream media, then as a freelance writer and editor moving between online media platforms – and now as an early-career researcher and sometime dramaturg. Throughout the past decade I’ve had a storied relationship with performance. I’ve sat quietly in theatre stalls, scratching away at the pages of my notebook in the dark and typing up these notes for publication early the next morning. I’ve also come very, very close to the labour of performance-making, sitting on sprung floors and in the corners of studio spaces while performers tested out gestures and words. I’ve been the distant critic and the intimate one, playing with proximities around the critic and performance.

In English, we often imagine the critic as an angular word. It is all consonants, the insistent “k” inherited from the Greek kritēs: ‘a judge’. I desire to be hard-edged, to resist systemic injustice, as much as I desire to be soft with you. I take Joan Tronto’s four ethical elements of care as a guide, doing my best to incorporate ‘attentiveness, responsibility, competence, and responsiveness’ into the work that I do.

  • This may involve being attentive to what is often impossible to capture – that moment an image or a movement or a sound or a voice on stage falls into place for you and moves through your body and crawls through the pit of your stomach or lodges in your throat. This may mean listening and observing before I write or speak.

  • My responsibility is to both the artist who makes the work as much as it is to you who read my work, which may take the form of deep research to understand how the work is framed and the context within which it is performed, or to be truthful in conveying my experience of it.

  • Competence may be cultivated from the discipline of regular spectatorship and writing - as much as it may come from exposure to new ideas and art forms and practising this by articulating my encounters with them. Competence will likely involve learning from failure, and it may also involve what Julietta Singh calls “unthinking mastery” and its colonial entanglements.

  • Finally, my heart lies with responsiveness, which is one of my guiding principles as a dramaturg, educator and facilitator – that when you turn to me I commit to turning to you, and to communicate with you when I am unable to be fully present with you where you are.

The Intimate Critic is my way of materialising how care work might be communicated through critique. The Intimate Critic is also the title of my Ph.D. project, a part of which is dedicated to exploring how these care ethics inform performance criticism on a broader scale across Southeast Asia.

Why read this?

You’ll get little love letters about performance delivered straight to your inbox. These might be reflections in response to performances I’ve experienced, or excerpts from articles and books that I’m excited about, or little tangents about projects I’m working on. I hope to send out newsletters once every two months. You’re welcome to subscribe to them, or to check this site occasionally and revisit the archive.

The Intimate Critic began a place for me to write performance up close — informal, unedited, and often immediate. Much of the writing posted here has emerged from correspondences with the artist(s) whose performances and encounters and experiences I have had the joy of opening myself up to. It’s also a place for my words to recover from the smothering influences of what I call ficus academicus, the strangling fig of academic writing, and I do hope that as you read my writing you will be transported to where I have been. I believe that there is a place for meandering, thoughtful writing about performance that may act as an antidote to what I resist most about social media and how pithy and loud it can be. After six years as a public-facing journalist, it’s been a relief for my introvert self to occupy a space that is something other than the equivalent of typing with the caps lock key.

This is a place for us to stumble through performance together, and I welcome your letters and messages and questions and concerns – as well as your joys. If you enjoy this newsletter, do share it with your friends :)

warmly,
Corrie


Acknowledgements

I am grateful to those whose work has influenced and inspired me in many ways, and who have pointed me towards many of the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that inform my practice(s). These include my fellow early-career scholars and practitioner-researchers in the arts and humanities (Elizabeth Chan, Soultari Amin Farid, Nurul Huda Rashid, Najwa Abdullah, Kat Rahmat, Loo Zihan, Phoebe Pua, Carol Chan), as well as my collaborators on the long-term project Tactility Studies (Chong Gua Khee, Bernice Lee, Nabilah Said). The Southeast Asian arts platform ArtsEquator and its pioneering Asian Arts Media Roundtable (AAMR) have housed me and nurtured my growth, as have performance incubation space Centre 42 and the Asian Dramaturgs’ Network. I am indebted to my students on the TS3240 Theatre Criticism module at the National University of Singapore, who teach me more than I have taught them. One of my first experiments in embedded writing was thanks to the generosity of Emergency Stairs and its artistic director Liu Xiaoyi. Thank you all.