Bodies that matter: How does a performer make himself/herself a dilated body?

Tsu Chung Su*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


What is a "body"? The entire material or physical structure of a human organism? The flesh as opposed to the spirit/mind/soul? An endless weaving together of singular tissues, organs, or states, each of which is an integration of one or more impulses? A relation of forces? The reservoir of language? The inscribed surface of events? The discursive site of poststructuralism? What then is a dilated body? How does a performer make himself/herself a dilated body? Why does the dilation of the body put the body at risk? For Eugenio Barba, director, theorist, and founder of the Odin Teatret, the body is a network of energy. To act is to dilate the body and engage the entire body's energy. The secret of the performer's body technique is to dilate "the body's dynamics." Barba not only gives us an insight into the performer's secret art but also provides us with a poetics of the dilated body. The dilated body is a site which expands itself and encompasses the whole field of energy. Only under the circumstances that a performer can dilate his/her body can he/she "consequently also dilate the spectator's perception." The purpose of this paper is to explore Barba's theoretical formulation bearing on the making of a dilated body. This project gains its insights from Artaud's notion of the "Body without Organs" and is further inspired by Deleuze and Guattari's interpretation of the notion. Thus, before anything else, it purports to discuss the potential meanings and significance of the "Body without Organs" in Artaud's as well as Deleuze and Guattari's discourse. Then, it will examine Barba's theorization of "the dilated body" and its related ideas, such as the notion of energy, the craft of the actor, and the discipline of theatre anthropology. Meanwhile, this paper proposes to analyze Barba's theory of the dilated body along with other critical thinkers of the body such as Spinoza, Butler, Foucault, Nietzsche, Grotowski, etc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-126
Number of pages24
JournalTamkang Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Dec


  • Antonin Artaud
  • Body
  • Body without organs
  • Dilated body
  • Energy
  • Eugenio Barba
  • Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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