Law as Performance: Presence and Simulation in the Theater/Courtroom

10 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2013

Date Written: January 14, 2013


Contemporary theatrical performances and courtroom performances are increasingly grappling with the same challenge, namely: how to respond to world loss, the steadily advancing process of dematerialization. A growing number of cultural productions, including law, oscillate between virtual reality effects (the screen-based sensorium of heightened baroque sensation) and bodily presence. We are torn between reflexive meaning construction, on the one hand, and the material recuperation of reference and perception, on the other. In this essay, I ask what lessons multi-media theater may hold for the contemporary performance of law? I conclude that the current neo-baroque condition of world loss, and the familiar baroque strategy of proliferating form to distract us from metaphysical anxiety, poses serious political and legal challenges. Absent an appropriate response, unchecked growth in ongoing processes of de-realization, dis-ownership, and de-responsification may ultimately threaten the continued legitimation of law’s claim to power in the digital age.

Keywords: performance, law, digital communication, cultural studies, media, theater, jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Sherwin, Richard Kenneth, Law as Performance: Presence and Simulation in the Theater/Courtroom (January 14, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Richard Kenneth Sherwin (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States

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