Between care and self-care: dramaturgies of mindfulness in the work of the vacuum cleaner
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Since 2009, the performance work of ‘art and activist collective of one’ James Leadbitter—better known as the vacuum cleaner—has repeatedly engaged with issues surrounding mental illness, ‘madness’ and mental health discrimination. This paper explores the relationship of that work to the discourse of ‘mindfulness’, a form of cognitive therapy centred on cultivating a non-judgmental and present-focused attentiveness to one’s own mental state. While an increasing body of evidence suggests the potential health benefits of mindfulness, its broader application has been challenged for invoking forms of self-critique which elide the social factors that undermine well-being. In response, this paper examines how Leadbitter’s staging of the relationships between care and self-care might challenge the imperatives of individuated responsibility that are characteristic of neoliberal discourses. Rather than reproducing existing social relations, Leadbitter’s dramaturgies of mindfulness suggest how an attentiveness to one’s own wellbeing may be extended outwards as a response to others in prefigurative encounters which allow us to imagine and rehearse alternatives.
Greer, S. (2018). Between care and self-care: dramaturgies of mindfulness in the work of the vacuum cleaner. Scottish Journal of Performance, 5(1), pp. 25–47
Scottish Journal of Performance
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