Performance Philosophy 2nd Biennial Conference
SATURDAY, APRIL 11
Conditions that make possible…
"sensing repetition: an interactive laboratory”: 2:00-4:00
"Performing Creative Indifference (Part Two)”: 2:00-4:00
SUNDAY, APRIL 12
FRIDAY, APRIL 10
PLENARY: TIME, BECKETT, AND PERFORMANCE AS PHILOSOPHY
Matthew Wagner, Loren Kruger, and John Muse
Friday, 9:00-11:00, Performance Hall
Bench, Harmony, The Ohio State University
“Improvisation and Philosophy: Being-with, Being-in-common"
Frequently deployed in philosophical texts as the unknown, the fleeting ephemeral, or that which cannot be spoken, the thought in motion that is dance improvisation has been muted in philosophical conversations for far too long. While neuroscience has begun to rescue dance knowledge from its silence, rendering intelligible what an alternate logic of sense had rendered inscrutable, this paper proposes to examine the relationship of dance improvisation and philosophy. This presentation is based on the collective explorations of a university class that brought together philosophical texts and improvisatory methods to bear on the question of living together. Posited as a life practice as well as a physical discipline, dance improvisation offers a productive site for imagining and reimagining how we engage the work of living together.
Taking 'private,' 'public,' and 'collective' improvisation sessions as the substance of our investigation, we explored the possibilities and impossibilities of togetherness as both movement and social experiment. Reframing these investigations in the language of the common via Nancy, Ranciere, and Hardt and Negri, among others, this presentation will offer a pedagogical approach to performance philosophy, an approach that values the performance of philosophy. In this course and in this presentation, philosophical texts act as scores that structure movement investigations, which, in turn, create new spaces for philosophical thought.
Rutgeerts, Jonas, University of Leuven
“Thinking Through Choreography: On the Concept of Rhythm in Choreographical Practices”
This presentation explores the potential of rhythm as a tool to understand the processes of thinking and creating within a ‘choreographical practice’. It takes as a starting point the observation that choreography is no longer understood as a means to an end, a mechanism to create a performance, but as durational practice that surpasses the scope of the (next) performance. Consequentially the traditional division between choreography (the making of a performance), performance (the actual action) and reflection (the post-hoc interpretation of the performance) dissolves. Instead choreography is now understood as a ‘choreographical practice’, an assemblage of different parallel processes of creating, experiencing and thinking that affect each other and constantly form new constellations. This presentation aims to advance “rhythm” as a crucial concept to understand this choreographical practice and the new relations between doing and thinking that it installs.
In order to elaborate on this I will focus particularly on the work of philosopher Henri Maldiney. In his book Regard, Parole, Espace Maldiney defines rhythm as “form in the process of formation”, understanding it at the same time as a structuring principle and a force of change. As such Maldiney states that ‘rhythm’ is constitutive for both art and (philosophical) thinking. Building on this Maldineyan definition I want to explore the potential of rhythm as a concept to understand the choreographic practice as a practice where thinking and doing are inextricably connected, thus bridging the traditional gap between creation and reflection in the field of dance.
Sabee, Olivia, Johns Hopkins University
Invisible Steps examines the tumultuous relationship between virtuosity, expression, and notation in dance. Using 18th through 20th century French, Italian, Russian, and British primary source texts (including unpublished archival materials) and movement based in multiple traditions, it traces the historical debates around danced narrative and pure dance, leaving the interpretation open to the spectator with the goal of provoking discussion about dance today. In a non-linear manner, it asks, What should dance look like? How should we talk and write about dance? What is important, the replication of a choreographic text, or the essence of the movement? In this fashion, the piece performs a series of long-standing debates about dance and text which are, after all, based in the physical movement of the body. More broadly, combining thinking and doing, it asks audience members to consider how knowledge about performance is constructed, and how the answers to certain of these questions may be dependent on national, political, and cultural contexts and individual particularities of the work. Performers: Beth Griffin and Melissa Lineburg.
Schmidt, Theron, King’s College London/University of New South Wales (Australia)
“Blackout: Thinking with Darkness”
Amongst the conditions that make theatre possible, where might we rank the capacity for darkness? That state that enables illumination to be a deliberate act, the darkness from which appearances are manufactured, no less a piece of technology than the other mechanisms and materials of the theatrical apparatus. But what about the darkness itself? If, as Martin Puchner has suggested, theatre and philosophy might share certain problems, like the problem of ‘the ground’, then darkness, too, is such a problem. It is a representational black-hole: how does one make darkness appear except as a lighting effect? And it is a limit case for phenomenology; as Husserl wrote, in a dark room ‘things no longer “appear” in the authentic sense’ but are there only ‘in bodily emptiness’. For Levinas, the darkness of the night makes present the idea of a world without beings, the nothingness that is not nothing but the insistent ‘there is’, his ‘il y a’. Let us spend some time here, in the dark, where the audience customarily sits. A collective that breathes together, thinks together, but emptied of our bodies, held in alterity. What can we see in this insomniac state?
Nauha, Tero, University of the Arts Helsinki
"Doing schizoproduction together"
My research develops a critical approach to schizoanalysis in artistic practice in the context of post-industrial semiocapitalism. Schizoproduction is a tool for exploration and of production. It works with conjunctions, disjunctions, modulations, variations, and transversality.
Zamir, Tzachi, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Giving focus on stage requires understanding what the audience currently attends. It calls for actively contributing to what they experience, and doing so without drawing attention to oneself. All actors are sometimes required to give focus. Many (perhaps most), will never actually be focalized throughout their career, and will always be pushing attention away from themselves. In fact, giving focus is only one of several forms of self-deemphasizing that actors practice (actors talk of "giving in" to the role, to the text, to the director, to fellow performers).
The generosity of lessening one's visibility in order to spotlight another's is a virtue that does not conform to the actor-as-narcissist stereotype. The talk will examine whether, beyond this observation, the actor's self-marginalization influences acting's characterization as art. Such art's uneasy relationship with a favored paradigm of selfhood will be articulated and assessed. The tension arises from how it is the solitary artists—the poets, the painters, the composers—who routinely serve as the paradigm for the artist. It is they who fit so well with liberal subjectivity: the ideal of authentic, assertive, confident, autonomous selves who actualize their particularity. The actor's art meshes less neatly with this paradigm. While actors, too, strive for values such as originality, thoughtfulness and expressive precision, theirs is an art form which also calls for withdrawal, for partial control, for willingly serving something else, for allowing oneself to be reactive, following rather than leading, merging rather than standing out. Can (should) such thoughts modify how actors understand the creative process? Can (should) such thoughts modify our understanding of spectatorship?
Preston, VK, McGill University
“Brief Thoughts on Ontological Pockets”
This no-paper (using slides) looks at stages as ontological pockets. I share blueprints and designs for machines and disguises, mainly baroque, that disclose surprising, rather funny, and sometimes sublime stagings of metamorphoses. I examine some of my favorites among these drawings, exploring philosophical and theological premises that circumscribe mechanisms, enact political machineries, and/or undo performatives as false beliefs or illusions. These offer insights into the early proscenium, I suggest–pressing on the idea that bodies and movements might be contained and rendered no-things. Why might words do things that movements cannot? Where do conventions recur in these premises, revealing perhaps unexpected epistemologies that shed light on this slippery terrain? This “no-paper paper” speculates with images about violent premises behind chalk circles, frames, and other shapings, examining ideas of the performative that conventionally get undone.
Müller-Schöll, Nikolaus, Goethe-University in Frankfurt/Main
“The problem and potential of the singular"
Performance and philosophy share today the encounter with a general crisis which concerns their fundaments. The trigger of this crisis was the discovery of the singular. As question and problem the singular can be found in the center of different theoretical as well as artistic practices of the dissolution of ontological claims. Throughout the last 100 years it was discussed under names like ontic- ontological difference (Heidegger), dialectics in a standstill (Benjamin), difference (Derrida), trace (Lévinas), comparution or struction (Nancy). In contemporary explorations of the singular artists as well as theoreticians were interested in what one might call a de-ontology of co-existence (in German: Koexistenzial(de)ontologie), which allows to think the each time singular reference of each singularity to all other singularities without presupposition of a common preceding this reference. In theatre and performance the singular might be best described departing from different scenes of contemporary theatre which work on its dis-covery and make appear that which enables appearance as such – as bearer, material, gesture, posture, roughness of the voice or body – but which at the same time – at least partially – works against the intention or telos pursued with it. The thus discovered singular de-posits nolens volens the positing it helped to perform, deforms the performance, defers the action and interrupts it. After a short theoretical introduction I would like to exemplify this by discussing recent works by the choreographer Tino Sehgal, the performance artist Antonia Baehr and the stage director and choreographer Laurent Chétouane.
Bentin, Sebastian Calderón, New York University
“Playing with oneself”
This performance lecture explores the subject’s capacity to lose itself in play, not with a work of art or with others, but with oneself. More specifically it begins with a kind of vertiginous form of play that Caillois terms illinx (Greek for “whirlpool”) which can “momentarily destroy the stability of perception and inflict a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind.” For Caillois dance involves illinx since the actual physical act of dancing can induce vertigo and alterations in perception. This losing of oneself through play as dance (“dancing with oneself”) speaks to a critique of subjectivism where rather than the primacy of an object-subject relation “the structure of play absorbs the player into itself” (Gadamer). This losing of the self through play can also be read as part of the expérience-limite (“limit-experience”) identified by Bataille and Foucault, which helps us think further not only about the role of subjectivity in play but also about the political work inherent in such activities.
King, Devin, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
“Every house has a door’s Testimonium: Editing the Strike”
This performance lecture investigates three levels of striking, or editing, in Every house has a door’s Testimonium: 1) the poet Charles Reznikoff’s original edits in his creation of Testimony, his long poem made up of edited legal testimonies, 2) Matthew Goulish’s editing of Reznikoff’s text for their performance of the poem as Testimonium—required when Reznikoff’s estate did not give EHHAD performance rights, and 3) Stephen Fiehn’s slow, continual strike of Testimonium’s set during the performance. This performance lecture will expand on Michael Davidson’s reading of Reznikoff “not as witness but as editor—a witness of witnesses”, and how the poem becomes “[an] objectification [that] does not escape empathy but rather provides a series of surfaces upon which identification can be built.” By extending Davidson’s understanding of Reznikoff’s edits to Goulish and then, finally, Fiehn’s edits, this lecture will show how Testimonium proposes and investigates the possibility of non-human witness through constant elimination thereby extending the questions of performance philosophy from human to non-human actions. How might tables, trains, wet shoes, and socks witness, inscribe, or be inscribed by our act of witnessing? The performative action of this lecture will be extremely simple—able to be staged in all manner of places. What begins as a site for a lecture is slowly and respectfully dismantled, moved, and edited as the lecture is read, until all that is left are a few pages with a few words printed on them.
Florêncio, João, University of Exeter (UK)
“Performing Traces: On Letting the Evidence Speak”
In 2013, Chicago-based performance company Every House Has a Door (EHHAD) premiered Testimonium, a multilayered work comprising recitation, actions and live music inspired by Testimony: The United States 1885–1915, an unfinished work made of found courtroom transcripts put together in the form of a poem by American Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff. In their bringing together of text, live music, and movement sequences meticulously—quasi-scientifically—activating objects on stage, EHHAD reenacted one of the many possible afterlives of Reznikoff’s text, itself an attempt to foreground the poetics of reenactment inherent in the testimony, in the bringing-forth of a past one has witnessed, in the act of giving a new voice to something or someone that is no longer able to speak for itself.
Inspired by Reznikoff’s attention to the poetics of bringing-forth of that which was witnessed, this conference presentation, part-philosophical speculation, part-crime scene investigation, will reflect on the role of objects as material traces, on the ability they have to tell stories about times and places we’ve never had the chance to encounter. As such, this performance lecture will place itself in the aftermath of Testimonium and, through a staged forensic investigation, reconstruct the scenes of EHHAD’s work, provide them with an afterlife and, in doing so, highlight the power objects have to perform as evidence, as well as their ability to deceive us when we least expect.
Picard, Caroline, The Green Lantern Press (Chicago) & Sector 2337 (Chicago)
“The Many Other Witnesses: Accessing Foreign Worlds in Testimonium”
Two iterations of Every house has a door’s Testimonium currently exist — a primary form that debuted in Chicago last winter, and a “Quiet Form” that occurred in Bourges, France in May of 2014. The primary form incorporates three translations of Charles Reznikoff’s original poem Testimony: The United States (1885-1915), featuring Brian Saner as the text embodied by the voice, Stephen Fein as the text embodied by action, and Joan of Arc as the text translated and refracted through a musical score. Unlike that first version, the second, French iteration is staged entirely in silence. Joan of Arc is absent, and while most of the same movements occur between Fein and Saner, they take place in silence. Rather than consider these two iterations as distinct from one another, this talk proposes instead that each iteration emphasizes a different, subjective perspective on Every house has a door’s originating project — the first version privileges a more traditional human set of aural concerns. In “Quiet Form,” however the choreography of objects emerges as a fourth, translated embodiment of Reznikoff’s text. The human audience can momentarily suspend its usual experience of the work, stepping outside of its “umwelt” or worldview. Through these two iterations, Every house has a door effectively creates, through the embodied experience of performers and audience alike, parallel but distinct experiences of the same work. While discussing these different forms of Testimonium, I will present a changing sequence of Jakob von Uexküll’s umwelt diagrams redrawn by myself on white cards of uniform size.
Gluzman, Yelena, University of California, San Diego
[Gray Center Lab] "Performing Neuroscience"
At the 2014 conference at the Sorbonne, I proposed that performance philosophy can be understood as performance structures undertaken as scholarly methodology, a move justified implicitly by some feminist theory (Haraway), new materialism (Barad), science and technology studies (Law, Callon, Mol) and, of course, performance studies (Conquergood). For the Sorbonne conference, I structured my scholarly presentation as a performance featuring the entangled voices of the audience who “read” my talk, with the goal of opening alternative modes of reflection that did not bracket the conditions that allowed for the presentation itself.
For the next conference, with it’s focus on what Performance Philosophy does, I would like to turn to my ongoing dissertation work, which looks at neuroscientists’ research on the human mirror neuron system, an area of cognitive science that is noteworthy for its use of concepts from the humanities while however neglecting humanistic methodologies in their data analyses and interpretations. In parallel to working as a participant-observer in the lab, I developed certain participatory performance structures to allow novice participants to undergo embodied experiences of social phenomena that mirror neuron research hopes to explain, including multimodal understanding of an other’s intentions, mimicry, sense-of-self and identification. These performances are not illustrations of ideas from neuroscience; rather, they reclaim a space for multiperspectival, humanistic, philosophical and/or phenomenological inquiry into the complex flow of social cognition.
Concretely, I propose to cycle pairs of conference participants through one such performance while simultaneously turning to these pairs and their spectators as “experts” qualified to interpret the basic questions driving mirror neuron research from the empirical (experiential) data being gathered during their experience of the performance.
Elswit, Kate, University of Bristol; Nicely, Megan, University of San Francisco
[Performance Penthouse] "Animating Thinking: A Workshop in Sustainable Performance Environments"
What kinds of motors set events in motion? How do the properties of objects help to bring forth “vital materialities” (Bennett) that change the course of physical action or help us to conceptualize that action beyond the moving body itself in terms of what might be called “choreographic objects” (Forsythe)? How can we create the circumstances under which such objects (including our own bodies), once set in motion, reveal kinetic properties that manifest in unpredictable ways? And how do these animations exceed the present situation by proposing alternate worlds composed in performance?
These are some of the questions of “The Animation Project,” a collaboration that from 2011-12 existed as a series of workshops and performances in San Francisco, Ann Arbor, London, and Leeds. As artist/scholars and educators with an interest in curiously focused attention, hidden energetic properties of the body, and elements of sublime humor, we continue to ask how these animations work between conceptually understanding what it means to exceed the boundaries of the human body and putting that into practice, in embodied form.
Our workshop for the Performance Philosophy conference asks participants to engage a set of animating circumstances through physical exercises and compositional thought processes. Using a limited performance arena demarcated by tape, a series of objects, and conceptual dance approaches, participants will devise and perform small exercises to explore what happens in the choreographic logic that accumulates. We will also spend time addressing how such approaches help us rethink spectatorship, scholarship, participation, philosophy, and performance, both within and outside the academy.
Hulkko, Pauliina, University of the Arts Helsinki
[Logan 014 (Projection Lab)] "Ways to perform without performance"
This workshop begins with a presumption that, in order to avoid a total and definitive ecological catastrophe we, humans must rethink and rebuild our relation to performance. If, as I argue, it is precisely the efficient and competitive performance of the human being that has brought us to the edge then how are we to perform? More sustainable, sharable and responsible performances are needed – especially if the argument of “the age of global performance” (McKenzie 2001) is seen as the one we must challenge.
In this workshop, the participants are invited to investigate the possibilities of performing without performance and reflect on it together with others. The investigation is carried out by means of psychophysical exercises that have a special focus on materiality. The exercises are both suggested by the facilitator and concocted together.
Materiality and matter – that of our own bodies or those of the others; human or non-human; animate or inanimate – are viewpoints that help us become attuned to sensations, experiences and perceptions that we might not have thought of before. In this workshop, we attempt to make sense of them together. This, I believe, should help us come up with some unexpected, maybe even novel ways of performing, both at the level of one’s own materiality and with relation to other materials. This might lead us to perform more, i.e. provide us with more meaningful and equal techniques and practices – and save us from the consuming, destructive and self-evident apocalypse of the global performance.
Kirkkopelto, Esa, University of the Arts Helsinki
This workshop (conference format 4) provides an example of what performance philosophy can do as far as it takes performing techniques as its basis – and vice versa. The workshop tests the ideas that its facilitator has presented in his Manifesto for post-humanist and non-anthropocentric performance, entitled “Provisional Absolutes: The Second Manifesto for
Generalized Anthropomorphism” (in Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics, 2013). According to it, what had to be “generalized” was not only our recognizable human shape but also the very structures of our experience. One of the main consequences of this turn was the radical bracketing of the world, which went far beyond any phenomenological mind game. Every time our experience takes the form of a provisional absolute (as it often does, either deliberately or as unnoticed) it annihilates the “world” in the sense we are used to knowing it, i.e. as a totality of meaning. What is encountered, instead?
This is exactly what this workshop studies. The experiment takes place in open air, in urban or semi-urban setting and it consists of a collective bodily exercise that alternates the experience of the participants. During the workshop, the participants undergo a provisional but total estrangement in relation to their environment. The entire workshop – including introduction, transitions, exercise and feedback – will take 90 minutes. The participants are asked to dress according to weather conditions. No preliminary skills or experience needed.
Sack, Daniel, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
[Terrace Seminar Room] "Imagined Theatres #4 (or #5): Staged Readings from a Provisional Universe"
A group of theatre artists and theorists of the stage offer a staged reading of a series of conceptual performances that address questions of the nature of the theatre. They take seriously the theatre as a site of “theory,” where the theoretical performs and makes the scene. Like hypothetical thought experiments, dreams, and manifestos, these Imagined Theatres make ideas sensory even while they suggest the sensory as a basis for thinking. Each presenter reads a selection of fragments or prose poems (some as short as a single sentence) along with brief reflections on what the propositions might open for our thinking about the theatre. Taken together, a universe of possible worlds and their theoretical consequences emerge, all circling around a constellation of related questions: In what way might the description or conception of a performance amount to an authentic theatrical event? Does an event need to take place in order to be a performance? As theorists of the stage, writing about events we have witnessed or only imagined having witnessed, are we not always operating in such Imagined Theatres? How do we understand the relationship between real performances that engender imaginary reflections and imaginary conceptions that form the basis for real theatrical productions?
Shapiro, Carolyn, Falmouth University
“Performing Objects/Performance Philosophy”
Last year, upon organising the “Performing Objects” conference for Falmouth University, I was not expecting that in addition to responses from puppeteers, proposals about Object-Oriented Ontology would also arrive. Julie Taymor was not unable to deliver the Keynote Address as I had hoped for. However, Timothy Morton delightedly accepted my invitation. Falmouth has a history of automata makers, and Tim responded to this site specificity with an exciting talk entitled, “Automatic Nothingness.” But how to reconcile Morton’s removal of teleology—what he characterised as “the Aristotelian piece of code”—from the virtuosic manipulation of the puppeteer? The material domain of performing objects celebrates the causal role of manipulator. OOO relegates the puppeteer’s directive hand to the status of the (mindless) object. I would like to explore in a 20-minute presentation what Performance Philosophy might do to help theorise the encounter which happened at the conference between the two camps. I propose that the key to both modes of object performance lies in the philosophical gloss of the automaton, from Aristotle to Diderot to Bentham to Lacan, to Joan Copjec and Catherine Liu. The automaton always brings forth the question of the felicitous performativity of the object. Does the performing object hold an internal machine logic that makes it work? Or is there a man underneath the chess player, a master manipulator, assuring its audience that we humans are in control after all? Further, is The Uncanny a site of performance philosophy? I look forward to contextualising these questions of performing objects within Performance Philosophy.
Goto-Jones, Chris, Leiden University
“Mentalism and Magical Thinking: Performance Philosophy as the Overcoming of Reason”
The performance of secular magic on the stage, at a table, or on the street has been deeply controversial at various points in history. In particular, magic has been criticized as supporting the perpetuation of a form of ‘magical thinking’ that approaches an endorsement of irrationality and superstition. It has been seen as an affliction associated with a societal pathology that would be familiar to Freud, contributing to the arresting of society in a regressed and juvenile condition. Indeed, it was on this basis that Houdini first decided to draw a clear distinction between magic and spiritualism, and to embark on a crusade of pitting one against the other as a means to support the triumph of reason in American society during the so-called Golden Age of magic.
However, the relationship between magic and rationality in the period after Houdini has been complex and intricate. To some extent this is precisely because of the way in which Houdini himself reinvented and deployed magic as a champion of modernity and reason. Magic became an ambiguous and liminal craft, located between the thrill of deceit and the service of exposure, between enchantment and reason. Indeed, the ‘performance’ of magic has, to a large extent, meant navigating a position between these conditions. In no field of magic is this tension more evident than in the contemporary performance of ‘mentalism’ (the name given to magic tricks that resemble psychic effects). Focusing on the innovative work of Derren Brown, this brief presentation will explore the ways in which the performance of mentalism today is simultaneously a performance of debates about the scope of reason and rationality; rather than acting as a regression from reason (as Houdini feared in the early twentieth century), this paper concludes that modern mentalism seeks to enable its audience to overcome rationality at the start of the twenty-first century.
Beitiks, Meghan Moe, Artist
“Discourse: Projector: Plant: Filter”
A performance lecture/conversation between a performer, projector and houseplant with a nod to the respiration systems they share. Beitiks will re-perform human/plant interactions from films displayed by the projector as well as perform respirations from the projector at the plant, among other actions. Drawing on Gabriella Giannachi's definition of presence as “the inter- relational tool through which the subject networks (and is networked by) the external world," the lecture will attempt to engage with respiration between performer, plant and projector as a means of common intentionality. This is in reference to theories in cognitive science, like those of Giuseppe Riva, which Giannachi develops: Specifically we suggest that humans develop intentionality and Self by evaluating agency in relation to the constraints imposed by the environment (Presence): they are “present” if they are able to enact their intentions in an external space . . . others are “present” to us if we are able to recognize them as enacting beings. How is the act of breathing a common intention between human, plant and projector? How can performance, supported by research on the participants, frame this respiration as a dialogue, creating connections between disparate entities, and revealing commonalities?
Denmann-Cleaver, Tess, Tender Buttons Theatre and Performance Company/Newcastle University
“Project R-hythm: The role of landscape in informing experiences of temporality in performance research”
This presentation will share elements from Project R-hythm, a 12-month landscape performance project that culminated in August 2014 with a walking performance on Holy Island in the North East of England.
Project R-hythm is an on-going collaboration between performance maker and practice-based researcher Tess Denman-Cleaver and Martine Vrieling van Tuijl, artist and resident of Holy Island. This presentation will focus on the first year of activity, in which an attempt was made to use performance to understand the significance of rhythm and duration in experiences of the island.
Tess will share moments of understanding and failure from the experimental process carried out and describe the ways in which we attempted to measure, perform with and heighten our awareness of environment rhythms. In doing so Tess will suggest that Project R-hythm’ process enabled Bergsonian experiences of duration on the island. In response to the question “what can Performance Philosophy do?” she will also share some of the ways that the project constructed coping strategies for the ontological outcomes of the performative activity.
In sharing this process Tess will query the role that the specific site of performance - a tidal island; this is a place of waiting - had in the emergence of an ontological framework in which perpetual motion necessarily dominated conceptions of space. Furthermore, the presentation will invite speculation upon how other performance processes have been informed by their specific environmental context, and how the context of performance influences the philosophical enquiry carried out therein.
Fu, Cissie, Leiden University
“Undoing Performance: An Exercise in Articulation and Retreat”
This 20-minute performance lecture will invite the audience to reflect on the critical point between articulation and retreat in the context of our politics of attachment and detachment. How can we commit to—that is, embrace or resist—any position in the world without instantiating or initiating a political or philosophical stance which extends beyond its subversive and revolutionary moment and exemplifies the hegemonic impulse which it seeks to question or counter? The performance lecture will demonstrate strategies for a conscientious enactment of intellectual and physical interventions without recreating loci of priority and privilege, through which the lecture, as an authoritative genre for information dissemination and academic disputation, functions artistically and performs the paradoxical tension and liminality between articulation (of a point) and retreat (from argument), capture (of meaning) and withdrawal (from hegemony), connection (of ideas) and dissolution (of ideology), doing (performance, philosophy, performance philosophy) and undoing. Drawing inspiration from the dual status of art objects in Arendt’s political theory, where artistic production straddles the domains of work and action in her vita activa and artwork oscillates between attachment (as the most permanent and durable of human artifice, residing solely in the space of appearance) and detachment (in its non-utilitarian and unnecessary quality, thus also transcending the worldliness of fabrication), this performance lecture will test the threshold of appearance and disappearance in the liminal aesthetics of performance and digital art as well as ponder the ephemeral, unique, and perishable instances of intervention by artist collectives such as the Situationist International.
Fry, Karin, Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
“Jean-François Lyotard’s Performance Philosophy: Philosophy is a Doing”
In a “no paper” PowerPoint presentation, I will discuss Jean-François Lyotard’s recently published Why Philosophize? and his view of the purpose of philosophy as it relates to action and performance. Why Philosophize? is a series of lectures given in the autumn of 1964 that were not published in French until 2012 and in English until 2013. In these lectures, Lyotard rejects the idea that philosophy involves producing systems of theoretical knowledge that take place in an ivory tower, far removed from practical political problems. Whereas philosophy is typically understood in a non-performative sense, with a deep division between theory and practice, Lyotard justifies philosophy differently. For Lyotard, the purpose of philosophy is to comment upon the real problems that exist, but have not yet been articulated. As such, he claims that philosophers may contribute more to political action than politicians, as pragmatic politicians often maintain the status quo through their actions (111-12). Lyotard thinks that true transformation seeks to destroy false consciousness, and articulates something in the present that beckons the future (111-12). For Lyotard, political action requires theoreticians who can avoid falling into the trap of what has already been thought (121). He states “only if reality comes to thought, if the world comes to speech, can thought and speech be true” (114). In closing, I will make connections between these lectures and Lyotard’s later work concerning philosophy and the arts, to underscore his understanding of philosophy as performance.
Micu, Andreea S., Northwestern University
"Protest, Performance and the Virtual: A Discussion of Deleuzian Politics in Southern European Social Movements"
Since the eruption of the recent European economic crisis, increasing grassroots protest movements and activist groups have spread throughout Southern Europe to oppose austerity as a suitable solution to recessive national economies, point to national governments’ incapability to protect their peoples’ rights against the contingencies of global markets, and question the uneven leverage among European countries in the Union’s decision-making processes. This plethora of occupations and mobilizations has brought about a series of recurring questions in the realm of politics and social movement scholarship about the efficacy of grassroots political organizing and the sustainability of capitalism.
In this paper, I discuss the possibilities that performance offers for thinking about efficacy in terms of political intervention by helping us circumvent the need to equate efficacy with effects. Drawing on affect theory, Deluzian philosophy, and my own fieldwork in Rome, Madrid, and Athens, I argue that the political efficacy of performance lies in the possibilities it opens affectively, whether that implies examining our subject positioning within the existing neoliberal economic order or just finding new ways of being together collectively. I discuss the virtual-actual relation that is a key question in Deleuze’s work as it applies to anti-capitalist social movements in my research sites and argue that performance might constitute and bring about moments of what Deleuze calls “resistance to the present.”
Cooperman, Hilary, Northwestern University
"Embodying Philosophy: A Palestinian Case Study"
This paper presents research that took place with young, middle-class Palestinians in the West Bank town of Beit Jala during a three month theater workshop in the summer of 2012. It looks at the way embodied performance and discourse poke holes in one another by demonstrating that what one believes or says may be completely contradicted by the other. In order to bridge the gap between corporeality and text, embodied knowledge and discourse, philosophy plays a vital role. Yet, most of philosophy exists through discourse. How do we then use philosophy to understand corporeal projects? This study argues that philosophy is enriched by adding a performance analytic to its arguments and frameworks and that one way of doing so is to perform philosophy through embodied representations of somatic experience. Norman Denzin writes, “Experience as lived consciousness cannot be studied directly. It can be studied only through performance, a form of representation”. This study attempts to show how representations of lived consciousness may be created and the way performance philosophy bridges the gap between lived experience and the production of knowledge.
Hollingshaus, Wade, Brigham Young University
“The Atmosphere of Peter Gabriel: Music, Theatre, Theory”
Two common touchstones in discussions of Peter Gabriel’s artistic work are “atmosphere” and “theatre.” Characterizations of his music often summon the former, and the latter is regularly employed when talking about his live stage performances. Absent from the discussions of his work, however, is the recognition that the former depends upon the latter—that while “theatricality” is indeed characteristic of Gabriel’s concerts, it is also fundamental to the manifestations of atmosphere experienced through his music. This absence is likely due to the fact that those discussing Gabriel’s theatricality are resigned to a definition that refers only to the representational conventions of traditional theatre, a definition that does not lend itself well to thinking about music. If we think, however, of theatricality not as something attendant to an artistic medium, but as a medium itself (Sam Weber), then we can begin to think about Gabriel’s music as extending a certain spatiotemporality that manifests a here and now that is also an elsewhere and when, a theatre. And to think of Gabriel’s music working theatrically is also to think of it as extending a gesture that presents sets of possibilities for beingness, a climate for existence, an “atmosphere.” Another way of saying this is to suggest: to think of Gabriel’s music as theatrical is to think of Gabriel’s music as theory (Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe), as something that itself is thinking (performance philosophy).
Rosenberg, Martin E., Independent Scholar
“From Projective Apprehension to Proprio-Sentience: Top-Down and Bottom-Up Processes Involved in Jazz Improvisation”
I wish to demonstrate top-down cognitive processes that I call "Projective Apprehension" involved in preparation for the performance of improvised music, and bottom-up cognitive processes that I call "Proprio-Sentience" involved in actual improvised performance. The aim is to inquire into the black box where individual, embodied cognition becomes distributed amongst the collective of embodied improvisers during performance.
By "projective apprehension," I refer to the mapping and then internal spatial visualization of routes across the instrument. To improvise in response to the musical resources of a song, as well as in response to the improvisation of the other musicians performing that song, a musician must anticipate conceptually, find visually, and master proprioceptively any number of routes that may be taken at any moment during the course of a performance. Embedded in proprioceptive memory through long practice, those routes remain contingently available “beneath the fingers,” and become enacted immediately “in the moment” of performance.
"Proprio-sentience" refers to the extent by which the enaction of proprioceptive memories remain contingent and flexible enough so that, in the process of performing, the hands and fingers make micro-decisions by grasping one or another of a myriad of pathways unfolding during improvisation from one instant to the next. These micro-decisions are, necessarily, both precipitous and beneath the threshold of conscious awareness. The crucial feature of this moment revolves around the intimate connection between the cochlea and the motor regions that enable responses to the sound contributed by the other musicians which surround the embodied musician, responses that lie beneath conscious awareness. This complicates our understanding of intentionality in the performance of improvised music.
Details from recent cognitive neuroscience research may help us to understand what the great saxophonist Sonny Rollins means, empirically, when he says to aspiring jazz musicians, "Don't play the music, man, let the music play you." The immediacy of performance, involving the intentionality of the performing improviser, involves as well the ears of the performing musician registering and then responding, proprioceptively, to the immediate stimuli of the other contributing musicians’ performance while continuing to play at the same time.
Woo, Naomi, Cambridge University
"‘The practicality of the impossible’: difficulty in musical performance”
John Cage, writing about his piano etudes, offers the following explanation for difficult music: “These are intentionally as difficult as I can make them, because I think we’re now surrounded by very serious problems in the society, and we tend to think that the situation is hopeless . . .. So I think that this music, which is almost impossible, gives an instance of the practicality of the impossible.” This lecture-performance will examine the philosophical value of physically difficult actions, and the way that physical difficulty can blur the boundary between thought and action. In particular, difficult and impossible actions make present certain concepts of imagination and idealism that may only be accessible via the performing body. Drawing on a range of theoretical apparati from Audrey Lorde’s concept of the erotic to Knut Guettler’s work on musical acoustics, the relationship between thought and difficulty is discussed in terms of its implications for performance, philosophy, and critical music pedagogy. The discussion will include performances of three short Concert Etudes by Chopin, Debussy and Cage. Designed specifically to expand the technical facility of the performer and impress the audience, these etudes will offer insight into the kind of thinking embodied in the practice and performance of difficult works.
Gritten, Anthony, Royal Academy of Music
“Is distraction bad for performing?”
This paper argues that knowing how to control, or at least to work through and negotiate distraction is a key factor in creative performance, is a skill that goes beyond mere attentiveness, interpretive insight and technical fluency, and is central to the idea that knowledge production continues on stage during live performance.
Distraction is commonly identified as a problem in productive task performance, both within artistic discourse (particularly in practical pedagogy, where many problems around performance anxiety can be traced back to a fear of distraction) and in the broader commercial world (in which distraction while e.g. driving could be fatal). Distraction is commonly held to result in errors, malfunctioning, and sub-standard performance, and an inverse correlation is often claimed to exist between task performance and the level, persistence and intensity of distraction. Distraction is often ignored in discourse about performance because of prior assumptions about the importance of attention, absorption, and concentration.
These three concepts, however, are in fact, this paper argues, related to distraction as the flipside of a coin – not as its opposites. At issue is the impact of distraction on performance, and the focus is specifically on auditory / sonic distraction. Based on recent multidisciplinary research in auditory perception, this paper rescues auditory distraction from the fate indicated above and shows how it plays not just a peripheral role in creative performance (e.g. as a marker of liveness and subjectivity in play) but a central role in affording performers the possibility of being creative.
Gastineau, Emily, Independent Artist; Mullaney, Billy, Independent Artist
“Exhausting Philosophy: An Embodiment”
“Exhausting Philosophy” is a performance lecture designed to test the ontological boundaries of choreography and theory. The content of the lecture interacts with its choreographic form, in that the two lecturers continuously employ physical techniques designed to exhaust themselves, attempting yet failing to embody the kinetic impulse of modernity, and in so doing selfsabotaging their lecture.
The piece is framed by Andre Lepecki’s critique of the ontology of dance as “flow and a continuum of movement” in his work Exhausting Dance, corresponding with Peter Sloterdijk’s concept of the kinetic impulse or beingtowardmovement as the political ontology of capitalist modernity. The choreographic examples that Lepecki cites attempt to interrupt, pause, hiccup, or topple the kinetic imperative. This lecture employs a different tactic: As we lecture on Lepecki’s theory visavis our own body of work, our choreographic score will be to push the kinetic impulse to its grotesque conclusion, beyond the point of exhaustion.
Methodologically, this work draws on the concept of choreography as expanded practice, as theorized by Swedish choreographer Marten Spangberg among others, in which choreography is not so much a technique for making dances as it is a method of analysis and knowledge production. Fire Drill’s body of work draws on Ranciere’s notion of efficacy, paying attention to how choreography asks to be watched and how the embodied theory of each work asks to be understood. In this work, philosophy serves to articulate the theoretical ground and cultural stakes of the performance, while the choreography uses philosophy as a performance score ultimately both are implicated in modernity’s kinetic impulse.
Briddick, Erin M., University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Hubble’s Law and the Panic-verse: Navigating the Event Horizon in the Academy”
"In performed autoethnography, the research artist is the existential nexus upon which the research rotates, deviates, and gyrates presenting through performance critical self-reflexive analysis of her own experiences of dissonance and discovery with others. . . The embodied autoethnographic text is a story reflecting the research artist's collaboration with people, culture, and time. It is generated in the liminal spaces between experience and language, between the known and the unknown, between the somatic and the semantic." –Tami Spry, "Performing Autoethnography: An Embodied Methodological Praxis" Qualitative Inquiry 7.6, 2001
Like autoethnography, performance philosophy has the power to combine research and performance, and to elicit thoughtful, significant conversation on the topic of, and theories behind, the performance. Hubble’s Law and the Panic-verse is a performance I have written as an example of performance philosophy. It centers on my lived experience as a woman with panic disorder preparing to navigate the terrain of the academic job search. This autoethnographic performance is framed by an examination of major discoveries in modern astronomy. Using my own panic trigger of Edwin Hubble’s cosmological watersheds as a trope, this performance examines the role of anxiety in my life intimately and professionally. It is designed to combine personal and professional concerns with performance and philosophical trends, and to stimulate conversations on how anxiety shapes our field. My hope is that discussions following the performance will not only provoke conversations on anxiety in the academy, but also how the action of performing with a strong philosophical foundation is a legitimate academic endeavor, one that perhaps produces richer discussions than philosophy or performance alone.
Jones, Simon, University of Bristol
“THEATRE IS NOT LIFE: AGAINST EXPERIENCE”
Heidegger’s Mindfulness ( 2006) attempts to locate Being in its being-historical without compromising what is ownmost to Being in the machinations of everydayness: to do this, Heidegger painstakingly opens up a void between Being and what he labels “living” and “experience”, and so elaborates a challenge to what we would commonsensically (and also phenomenologically) understand as our embodied immersion in the world around us. I believe this analysis offers us profound insights into the contemporary turn towards participatory works, immersive theatre and the impact of so-called convergent, smart and smartly sync’d technologies, with their illusion of immediacy and the promise of instant gratification made in the “response” to the “call of desire”. Indeed, in Heidegger’s idea of “producibility”, I will argue that the seductiveness of the technological encounter, its velocity and ubiquity, its infinite capacity to capture and archive, is far from a realization of each individual’s potential, and much closer to a becoming-machine of the human. I will use Mindfulness, amongst Heidegger’s other writing on what he calls “the decisive priority” of the art-work, to propose that performance, rather than at the vanguard of the rush towards “the experience economy” in its connectivity, plasticity, site-sensitivity and -specificity, its very performativity, offers us a space-time of resistance to the economic and technological assemblages of contemporary Western societies with their reduction of Being down to “living in the now” and “Life” as a “bucket list” of experiences.
Saper, Craig, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore;
McKenzie, Jon, University of Wisconsin, Madison;
Kavaloski, Alainya, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Continental philosophy and theory has now entered the organizational world, and increasingly "critical management" mixes with what Jon McKenzie describes as "design thinking" that he explains "optimizes around three constraints—human desirability, economic viability, and technical feasibility—which bear a striking resemblance to cultural efficacy, organizational efficiency, and technological effectiveness, values central to a certain general theory of performance."
My studies of “intimate bureaucracies” build on McKenzie's "general theory of performance" to look at what some might consider the mundane facts of running alternative organizations like the FluxHouse artists co-ops, Occupy Wall Street, Punctum Books, new alternative non-corporate universities like The Global Center for Advanced Studies, or the micro- or intimate bureaucracies being formed with an alternative to instrumentalist logic as the driving force of knowledge production.
The alternative is to start a DIY development corporation with cooperative and "social capitalists" motivations to increase symbolic value. George Maciunas, the founder of Fluxus, referred to it as entrepreneurial communism, but now the phrase social entrepreneurs describes similar projects like Kiva or Kickstarter. The apparent oxymoron, intimate bureaucracies, is a set of strategically subversive maneuvers and also the very basis for the new productive mythology surrounding the World Wide Web. Electronic networks combine a bureaucracy with its codes, passwords, links, and so on with niche marketing, intimate personal contacts, and the like, creating a hybrid situation or performance. It’s a mix of cold impersonal systems and intimate social connections; it scales up whispering down the lane games.
These new forms are not merely business or governmental performance masquerading as performance art. It is not even performance art mocking business and government procedures, but the emergence of an alternative politics. Intimate bureaucracies may exist on a different scale than the large systems that determine ideologies. One view of the conflict involving the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) might suggest a conflict against the large- ideological fossil fuel-burning car (and the socio-political industry) as well as the rapid transport system’s corollaries in the instant flows of capital among investment banks. The endless rapid cartel system (pun intended) involves a series of objectionable results, including the flows of capital away from slowly declining red-lined areas. In response to the OWS protests, the society of the instant produces 24/7 news flashes, rapid summaries and counter-arguments, all clamoring for an instantly available definitive set of “demands” or a “program.” The system does not merely demand the attention of the viewers as in the society of the spectacle, but now also demands instant response. OWS’s most profound politics may have less to do with the injustices of the current tax codes, wealth disparity, or even, economic collapse, and more to do with its systems and practices of organization and communication. Social organization may involve finding your own groove, learning to spin, and following a niche cultural rhythm.
Every House Has a Door presents, “Three Matadors”
Friday, 7:30-9:00pm, Performance Hall
SATURDAY, APRIL 11
PLENARY: FROM ONE MEANING TO ANOTHER
Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish
Saturday, 9:00-10:30, Columbus Auditorium
The poet Jay Wright has defined polysemous as “capable of translating from one meaning to another.” This collaboratively composed and delivered lecture thinks through problems encountered in the attempt by Every house has a door to stage a passage of Wright’s writing, with the promise to “present all the words exactly as written.” How does one present a word drawn out of a complex polysemous poetic? In thoughts provoked by the question of what performance philosophy can do, the lecture considers problems of meaning, the written word and the paraphrase, giving way to performance’s task of preserving the ecology of poetry housed in a brutal and unfriendly theatrical forum.
The Image Moving: Saturday, 11:00-1, SAIC Perf. St.
Rautzenberg, Markus, Freie Universität Berlin
“A Writing (a Philosophy) of the Moment. Roland Barthes and Andrej Tarkowskij on ‘Language-Photographs’”
Only in recent times has the performativity of the photographic act become the subject of theoretical inquiry (Richard Shusterman), while the camera and the photographic artifact (the photograph itself) have always been at the center of attention. This is astounding because looking at the performativity of photography opens up a world of theoretical possibilities at the very heart of performance philosophy even beyond the mere act of taking photographs. In two seminal efforts the Russian film-director Andrej Tarkwoskij (in: Sculpting in Time) and the French philosopher Roland Barthes (in: The Preparation of the Novel) independently try to come to terms with iconicity (Bildlichkeit). While Tarkowskij argues from the perspective of a filmmaker who tries to understand what an image/picture is, Barthes asks himself and his audience at the Collège de France how aesthetic presence can be transformed into language, and thus how it is possible to write a novel. From those seemingly different starting points both thinkers eventually arrive at the ›small form‹ of the Japanese Haiku as a kind of hybrid between iconicity and language. The proposed talk will argue that they both discover what will be tentatively called a ›language-photograph‹, a photograph ›made of language‹ and vice versa: a use of language that works like photography. In an attempt to develop a theory of the novel Roland Barthes discovers a theory of photography (his groundbreaking book on the subject – Camera Lucida – was written immediately after the lecture series in question), and it will be argued that along the way Barthes as well as Tarkowskij are hinting at a theory of transmedial iconicity that treats the performativity of photography as performance philosophy.
Wilson, Harry, University of Glasgow and DJCAD, Dundee
"Staging the Punctum: Reflections on Performance and Photography”
This lecture performance reflects on a series of performative photographs and photographic performances through the lens of Roland Barthes’s theories of photography. In Camera Lucida (1980) Barthes outlines his concept of the punctum as the accidental but emotionally piercing detail in a photograph that is difficult to focus on or articulate, due to its traumatic content.
This piece explores the idea that the bruising power of the punctum lies in its ability to mess up time and that this can be extended to affective readings of theatre and performance. These ideas will be teased out through an exploration of Rebecca Schneider’s notion of ‘cross-temporal slippage’ from Performing Remains (2011) as well as Adrian Heathfield (2000) and Boris Groys’s (2009) reflections on time in relation to performance.
Barthes’s grief over his mother’s death pervades Camera Lucida and through his search for her ‘essential being’ in a pile of old photographs he painfully explores the nature of trauma, grief and mourning in relation to the photographic image. This lecture performance similarly attempts to explore the ways in which notions of loss and trauma might be represented as aesthetic/dramaturgical structures in my own performance practice.
Rennebohm, Katherine (“Kate”), Harvard University
“Anna (1975) and Cinema's Ethical Performance”
Addressing the relationship between performance and philosophy, this paper will consider ethical philosophy and film. The medium of film offers a particularly useful entrée to the questions of performance and philosophy, exampled by those writing within the emerging interdisciplinary space of ‘film-philosophy,’ who concern themselves broadly with the question of whether film, in its iterative, time-based ontology, might be performing concepts rightfully belonging to a – distinct – philosophical realm, or whether cinema might be, in its performances, building its own particular philosophies. Closer to the latter approach, this non-paper will argue for the consolidation of cinema’s particular mediatic configuration as having altered the ground for thought in the twentieth century, and thus affected philosophy’s (possible) conception of the ethical.
The performing object here will be Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli’s recently rediscovered film Anna (1975). A non-fiction film filled with performances, re-enactments, flashbacks and replays, Anna follows the filmmakers’ interactions with 16-year old Anna, pregnant and homeless. Situating itself explicitly within the ethical questions of what it means to view Anna, Anna expresses, paradigmatically, the ethical mode cinema has made possible (a mode also worked out philosophically by [late] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stanley Cavell and others). This piece will put both the film and the philosophies into motion in order to describe the nature of this ethical mode: as cinema has provided to us the notions of ‘life’ as segment-able, as always potentially available to be reviewed, and as open to being placed in and alongside new contexts, so has it created a correlated conceptual space for a valuation of a particular mode of response. Here, we will see how this mode, called an ‘improvisation of vision’ by Cavell, is both performed and made performable by this film.
Saltz, David, University of Georgia
“Infiction and outfiction”
I take as my point of departure the theory of theatrical representation I develop in my essay "Infiction and Outfiction" (in Staging Philosophy), where I define the "infiction" as "a cognitive template that informs an audience’s perception of the reality onstage, which we can distinguish from the fictional propositions an audience extracts from a performance, or what I call the 'outfiction.'" Assuming, for the time being, that we accept this distinction between infiction and outfiction in theatre, the question is whether the distinction also applies to film, and if so, does it apply in the same way? There is an obvious difference in ontology between theatre and film: film does not place audiences in the presence of actual people and objects, but only of photographic representations of people and objects. But to what extent does that ontological difference really matter to audience reception? I will argue that there is, in fact, a fundamental difference in the way the infiction (typically) relates to the outfiction in film, and this difference underlies the radically different way audiences engage with and experience theatre and film.
Pop, Piper, Creative Indifference: Saturday 11:00 - 1:00 CCC 1G
Rosenthal, Tracy Jeanne, Los Angeles City College
“Ri Ri (Re)Vision: a lecture-performance and Rihanna’s ‘S&M’”
I will present an excerpt of my CalArts Master's thesis, "Ri Ri (Re)Vision," an experiment in scholarship that merges performance and philosophy to theorize "pop" through a narrating viewing of Rihanna's 2011 music video, "S&M." Collapsing the academic and poetic, critical and creative, the piece straddles genres as well as theoretical disciplines, using play and performance as methodologies to imagine the queer scholarship of the future.
Ri Ri (Re)Vision draws on and re-mixes queer, feminist, and critical race theory, introducing innovative, metaphorical concepts for analyzing culture, particularly the notion of “gloss” as the evidence of fetishization. In content, it dissects the mutually reinforcing logic of feminine representation and the commodity, navigating the pleasures and dangers attendant to the consumption of visual culture and the doubly-Othered masochist, and exploring what it means for Rihanna to perform BDSM. In form, it collides registers of language, mapping high theory onto “low” culture to produce a tense, tenuous union of the two.
The presentation of the piece uses “neo-benshi” techniques to capture interaction with media as a phenomenologically relational event. Each selection of the video is associated with multiple poetic translations: descriptions of the visual landscape, renderings of both Rihanna’s voice (the producer/commodity) and mine (the viewer/voyeur’s), as well as attempts at analysis. Answering the question, “what can performance philosophy do?” the work engages cultural critique and artistic production to demonstrate the powerful affective interstices of race, gender, and pornography at work in the surfaces of pop.
Trist, Richard, Columbia University
“Piper on Kant, new perspectives on performance”
How can performance inform and contribute to philosophy in a relationship that is truly reciprocal? Can performance offer an alternative methodology for thinking though philosophical problems? In this presentation I hope to position Adrian Piper's performances as an alternative entry point into philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Through a series of related performances during the 60's and 70's Piper adopts Kant's notion of noumena and phenomena as a methodology to interrogate the relationship between spectator and performer.
Piper classifies her inner thoughts and motivations as noumena, knowable only to herself. By comparison, phenomena is categorized as the physical manifestation of her inner motivations. This is expressed through dance and movement. Ultimately Piper eliminates the presence of the external spectator and begins performing alone. In place of the spectator she observes the phenomena of her own body in dance and movement, allowing for the 'transcendental unity of self- consciousness’.
Piper's performances initially present themselves as an idea, but are only fully realized when embodied. By that I mean we can be told about the performance rather than experience it through documentation. Inhabiting the idea allows the individual to experience their own phenomenal existence, as Piper did through dance. By synthesizing the idea and our own physical existence, we participate in something akin to Piper's own 'transcendental unity of self-consciousness'.This offers us an opportunity to experience Kantian philosophy rather than contemplate it.
Lagaay, Alice, Universität Bremen
“Creative Indifference - and the Politics of the In-Between” (Part One)
The concept of Creative Indifference put forward by Salomo Friedlaender in his 1918 magnum opus, Schöpferische Indifferenz, provides much food for thought from a Performance Philosophy perspective. This work, which has been largely overlooked by academic philosophers until now, was in fact hugely influential in expressionist Dada circles at the time of its publication. It also contributed to shaping Gestalt Therapy theories and practice, thereby relating to a number of bodywork movements that continue to inform performance practice and Performance Philosophy alike. My talk will explore the manner in which Friedlaender can be seen as a Performance Philosopher “avant la lettre”, and how the notion of Creative Indifference can be interpreted as a call to self-determined life – and is, as such, intrinsically political. The research presented in this talk was carried out alongside a sustained collaboration with the Bremen based theatre collective “Theater der Versammlung” (Theatre Assemblage). There are interesting overlaps in content and form between my “philosophical” discourse and the interactive performance that members of the theatre will present in a workshop (“Creative Indifference Part Two”) later on today. The talk thus leads to the workshop although both parts can also be enjoyed independently of each other.
You know, the Classics: Saturday, 11:00-1:00, SAIC 2M
Eksen, Kerem, Istanbul Technical University
“When Thinking Is Performing: 'Spiritual Exercises' and the Question of Transformation"
It is a commonplace that the philosopher is the one who chooses to stay within the confines of a purely theoretical universe and does not even attempt to lead to any kind of “practical” change in the existing state of affairs. Today, many philosophers respond to this charge of passivity by focusing their intellectual activities on concrete, “down-to-earth” problems, thereby making philosophy an “applied” discipline. In a sense, however, this effort to render philosophy “applicable” reproduces the very mentality that is criticized for its passivity, since it is based on a conception of philosophy that takes theory and practice as two radically separate spheres to be bridged, the former causally preceding the latter. The stimulating work of the French philosopher and historian Pierre Hadot constitutes probably the most articulate attempt to criticize this conception through a penetrating study of Classical Greek and Hellenistic philosophers. My presentation will be an attempt to analyze Hadot’s highly inspiring (but sometimes inefficiently vague) conception of philosophy as “spiritual exercise,” and to see the extent to which this notion incorporates an alternative way of articulating the fields of theory and practice. By means of various examples from the works of late Stoic philosophers, I would like to show that the idea of performativity -which is absent from Hadot’s analysis- may be the key to comprehend Hadot’s theory and the new approach to philosophy that it encourages. Throughout my discussion, therefore, I will investigate the possibility of treating philosophy as a thinking activity that is meant to transform the agent through a series of performative effects.
Daddario, Will, Illinois State University; Jucan, Ioana, Brown University
“The Cynic Moves. An Address to the Audience (You).”
We want you to promise: Never use the word “cynic” unless you mean it.
The ancient cynics are arguably among the first performance artists in Western history. Self-declared ‘dogs’ and ‘citizens of the world,’ embracing simplicity in the face of poverty and communal property in the face of slavery, keen practitioners of endurance, committed to matter-of-factness, the cynics developed an embodied philosophy (μήτις, metis, and philosophy as a way of life) that foregrounds thinking as a way of doing.
Drawing on Diogenes Laertius’s account of the lives and deaths of the ancient cynics, we and you will move through pedagogical moments and σπουδογέλοια (spoudogeloia, “seriously funny” — Beware the octopus from hell!) situations doing thinking in the spirit of cynicism.
Etzold, Jörn, Northwestern University
“Endland: Hegel and Hölderlin on stage”
Hölderlin’s Empedocles fragments play a crucial role in the dialogue between
philosophy and theatre. In my presentation I want to focus on the third draft that
completely takes place in the Gegend am Ätna (“area around the Aetna”) – Gegend
being, in Hölderlin’s translation of some passages of Oedipus at Colonos, the
German word he chooses for the Greek chôra. It is in this chôra that Empedocles,
decided to commit suicide in the Aetna, faces his teacher, the Egypt sage Manes.
Their dialogue can be understood as a resume of the discussions between Hölderlin
and his friend Hegel and therefore as a keystone passage for the relation between
philosophy and poetry or theatre in modernity, especially considering their different
attitude towards finitude and death.
Whereas Manes speaks of the figure of a redeemer that closely resembles the Christ
in Hegel’s early works on the Spirit of Christianity, Empedocles describes himself as
a figure of transition: As a voice that is able to sing the “swan song” of a dying
country (Land) and of a time that has come to its end. And whereas Hegel’s
philosophy aims to overcome tragedy for (Christian) religion and philosophy,
Empedocles remains on stage – but on a stage that is an unstable and transitory
place. The dialogue is followed by a chorus that Hölderlin did not finish before he
abandoned the whole project.
In my presentation I want to use this confrontation as a spring board for asking what
performance philosophy can do.
Whaling, Richard, Emerging Technologies Developer, ARTFL Project/Computation Institute/ITServices, University of Chicago; Stebbins, Amy, University of Chicago
“The Death of Orpheus: gendered voices in Ovid's Metamorphoses.”
The “Death of Orpheus” is a work-in-progress, an electronic monodrama adapting Book X of Ovid’s Metamorphoses using notions of gender and performativity as elaborated by Judith Butler. We propose not a performance of “The Death of Orpheus,” but a musical lecture about its origin and its problems. This is not a work of philosophy necessarily, but instead a performance both driven and troubled by philosophical ideas, a way of working through the concepts in a more sensual fashion.
At first, we conceived of “Orpheus” as a 45-minute live performance that would interpret Ovid’s version of the Orpheus myth using recently developed signal-processing techniques. Through Ovid’s gnarled and recursive narration, the text traces a network of voices, male and female, human and divine, and a few intermediate cases. “Orpheus” inflects this structure by decomposing the audio stream into pitch, articulation, and breath components to more precisely modify the significations of gendered utterance. But as the unwieldiness of the technology became more clear in rehearsal, it evolved from a performance into a recording project.
Our lecture will be a pedagogical dialogue, a transparent demonstration of our initial ideas and materials that have become obscured by the veil of recorded audio. In particular, we will call attention to the performative and inherently gendered qualities of all speech acts.
Conditions That Make Possible...:
Saturday, 11:00 - 1:00, Found Space and in the city
Madison Performance Philosophy Collective (University of Wisconsin, Madison): Tom Armbrecht, James Burling, K. Frances Lieder, Tomislav Longinović, Dijana Mitrović, Mark Nelson, Andrew Salyer, Katie Schaag
"Relational Aesthetics and Psychogeography: Encountering the City"
Engaging tactics of psychogeography and relational aesthetics, this performance experiments with defamiliarizing participants’ experience of moving within urban terrain. As performance guides, we will compose a series of maps and instructions to structure participants’ navigation of Chicago’s urban landscape. The performance aims to take participants out of their habitual state of mind and their automated relationship to the urban space – crosswalks, train stations, sidewalks, cafes – to open space for attention to affective and relational ties among bodies and spaces. The walk will involve a collage of aesthetic moments, both chance encounters “found” by the participants in the moment, and planned encounters devised by us in advance. Participants may be asked to approach a stranger and ask a question, or to find a performance occurring on the street, or to stand and listen to the surrounding sounds for several moments, or to take an image of a particular place, or to write a response to an encounter. The participant may be asked to listen to a particular audio track in a particular locale, or to ask a stranger for directions to a place from her/his hometown. A phone call may interrupt and redirect the path undertaken. An unexpected tableau may blur the sense of found and crafted performance.
We will provide skeletal maps on transparent tracing paper with ghosted outlines for participants to fill out during their wanderings, making notes, markings, and drawings of their embodied, relational, affective experiences in each locale. Back at the conference we will have a large map upon which participants can tape their individual maps, layering the transparent paper into a palimpsest of affects and embodied experiences. Once the large map is posted, throughout the rest of the conference those who did not participate in the original performance can choose one of the participants’ maps to experience that person’s navigation, and then add this new layer to the larger map.
Saturday, 11:00-1:00, SAIC Columbus Auditorium
Arjomand, Minou, Boston University; Castro, Andrés Fabián Henao, University of Massachusetts, Boston
"Performing Critique: Five Obstructions"
How is critique performed? And how do performance practices intersect with philosophical theories of political critique? Our workshop begins with a foundational rupture in the history of Western philosophy, performance, and politics: the trial of Socrates. The workshop asks participants to develop a series of performances based on this scenario, each according to one philosophical theory of critique and politics. The workshop is inspired by Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth’s film The Five Obstructions, in which Leth remakes the same film five times, each time limited by one “obstruction.” These obstructions, the film shows, are as generative as they are limiting. By distilling five approaches to political critique into “obstacles,” our workshop seeks to generate five conceptions of how philosophy, performance, and politics might come together.
Upon entering the workshop, participants will be divided into five groups and provided with the following scenario.
399 BC. Meletus, Anytus and Licon, members of the Athenian democracy, bring two charges against Socrates: impiety and corrupting the youth. Socrates had been practicing philosophy for more than twenty years and they considered that his public dialogues had become too much of a threat for a political regime founded on the basis of equality and freedom. Five years before the trial, Athens had been defeated by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War and the pro-Spartan Thirty Tyrants took control of the city-state. They were responsible for the massacre of one thousand and five hundred democrats, according to Aristotle, and the torture and exile of many more during its nine months of rule. For the democrats, the corrupting influence of Socrates was evident in the cases of Alcibiades, who defected to Sparta after desecrating the Mysteries, and probably even more in the case of Critias (the cousin of Plato’s mother), who became the leading member of the Thirty. Critias and Alcibiades were already dead by the time of Socrates’ trial. Because of the amnesty granted to crimes committed before 403, Meletus could not have presented other cases as evidence of Socrates’ corrupting power, yet this recent reign of terror loomed over the trial.
Each group will also be given an obstructions through which to develop a performance.
Every day, Everday: Saturday, 2-4, SAIC 2M
Meerzon, Yana, University of Ottawa
"Staging the Ordinary - Constructing History and Philosophy in Olivier Kemeid’s Theatre of Exile"
Paul Ricouer proposes to rethink the methodologies of measuring historical condition by focusing on “Historie of life” as it is experienced by an ordinary person (2004:289). To Ricouer, a written account of the events and actions that took place in the past, history, is a product of the narrative effort of a historian (142); whereas the act of writing - characterized by the act of playfulness and invention - is a form of remembering and forgetting (141-143). This intermediate position of the act of writing turns a historian – the chronicler of the past, the writer of the living memory – into a philosopher, the maker of a performative narrative, in which “the opposition between living memory and dead deposit becomes secondary”(144). In this process, a historical account is transformed into the narrative of philosophy or the act of performative re-contextualization, in which “history remains a hindrance to memory” (145). To Ricouer, the act of philosophical elevation remains a problem, since, it is opened to a reading subject: it “cut its ties to its speaker”, and through “the interminable work of contextualization and recontextualization that make up reading” (143), it performs the act of remembering and forgetting. I discuss the work of a Quebecois writer, director and public speaker, Olivier Kemeid, in similar to Ricouer’s terms. Much like Ricouer’s act of philosophy, I argue, Kemeid’s theatre of exile originates between the act of historiography and the act of performance. By constructing the multi-dimensionality of fictional time on stage – such as mythological, historical, and personal time of exile – Kemeid`s work accounts for the truth of a historian and for that of a philosopher.
McKenzie, Jon, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“How to Queer a War Machine: Design Thinking, Intimate Bureaucracies, and the Vita Performativa”
What can performance philosophy do? Much depends on how we define “performance” (and of course “philosophy”). “Theater” and “theory” share a common root, so a certain cultural
performance seems tied to Plato’s hip. What can other†performances bring to the displacement of Western philosophy, specifically, post/modern forms of managerial and technological performance? This multimedia presentation explores this last question through the relation of performance studies and design thinking.
Design thinking is an human-centered approach to design that addresses complex problems
such as organizational innovation and social change through iterative processes involving
empathy, interdisciplinarity, and creative problem-solving. Its institutionalization at Stanford’s
Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (aka, the d.school) has included courses in “Redesigning
Theater: Interactive Art and Performance Design,” raising eyebrows across campus in a renown Department of Theater & Performance Studies. What’s a theater scholar to do?
Significantly, design thinking also optimizes around three constraints—human desirability,
economic viability, and technical feasibility—which bear a striking resemblance to cultural
efficacy, organizational efficiency, and technological effectiveness, values central to a certain
general theory of performance. What’s a performance theorist to do?
Given the mission to queer the war machine, I will report on recent experiments in courses and with the media consultancy DesignLab—itself a technocultural organization—to mix elements of performance studies and design thinking. Particularly important have been explorations in what media theorist Craig Sapir calls “intimate bureaucracies,” practices of participatory decentralization modeled on Fluxus art and Occupy Wall Street, as well as Peter Sloterdijk’s cross-cultural genealogy of vita performativa.
Moore, Joseph City College of New York; Vella, Stephanie, City University of New York
“Constellations Over Playas”
In 2013, we visited the town of Playas in the New Mexican desert. A company town turned ghost town, Playas was purchased in 2003 by New Mexico Tech with funds from the Department of Homeland Security. Playas was transformed into a theatre for law enforcement officials to stage domestic terrorism attacks. Working with a military contractor, an Afghan village was also constructed inside of Playas where performers and US soldiers are brought together to rehearse for deployment.
As we began to wonder what mechanisms might make Playas possible, the ostensible specificity of these performances, the war on terror’s domestic and foreign fronts, began to dissolve. Interwoven trails of warfare, colonialism, anthropology, and Hollywood production throughout the region emerged. This investigation took the form of a nonlinear road trip where we collected photographs, videos, artifacts, forgotten dramas, and spectacular fallacies. We discovered patterns of erasure and reenactment mapped like star systems in the sand of the southwestern desert.
The project’s methodology draws on Michael Taussig’s theorizations of Sympathetic Magic, a system of belief based on resemblance, and the work of art historian Aby Warburg, whose Mnemosyne Project collaged images of disparate origin together based on visual association in order to bring out latent content. Although the power of resemblance has often been wielded by the military industrial complex in the creation of its various self justifying wars, Constellations Over Playas uses resemblance as a modality for thinking outside the neoliberal paradigm of constant war and limitless expansion. The town of Playas forms a central node in a series of constellations of visual association assembled as a spell to exorcise the specters of the American west.
Bayly, Simon, University of Roehampton
“Flat Batteries in a Fog of Becoming: philosophizing performance in non-evental times”
What happens when the proliferation of the performance paradigm comes, as it surely must, to a halt - not because it has encountered its own limit, but because it has effectively saturated all the available psychic and social space/time? What is to be done when the forward momentum of what seemed most specific and valuable in performance as a critical concept or creative practice (be that, for example, the philosophical primacy of the event or the brute fact of physical endurance) dissipates into a strangely energetic yet entirely unexceptional inertia, wheels spinning ever more furiously but without traction? As the world that performance studies sought to study, critique and change perpetuates itself through the massively successful adoption of the techniques of performance, what other kinds of doing or being beyond (or within) those of performance might exist? Are they to be invented through acts of radical intentionality or rediscovered through other, less willful, ways of paying attention? How might they be sensed, experienced and even represented, before coagulating into forms that are put back to performative work? Taking the form of a slide/text performance lecture and picking up on recent work in the humanities on de-dramatized forms of social life (by Laurent Berlant and Elizabeth Povinelli in particular) that make do without the futural horizon of the event, this presentation attempts to think what it might possibly mean to live and think without the alibi of performance.
Here, Now, I Think: Saturday, 2-4, SAIC Performance Studio
Sherman, Jon Foley, Independent Scholar and Performer
“Doing Time with the Neo-Futurists”
Cognitive scientists have a joke that the most accurate clock in the world is one whose display reads simply, “Now.” Similarly, “live” performances (are supposed to) tell us that the time is now, whether or not anyone is broadcast from far away. But performance is not a clock and during performance odd things happen to time.
In this paper I turn to the work of the Chicago and New York Neo-Futurists, a company whose endurance owes much to their management, abuse, and submission to the pressures and liberations of temporal awareness. Starting with reflections on Neo-Futurist style, I examine a three-minute pause during the production of The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill, Volume 1: Early/Lost Plays. This particular pause deserves scrutiny because it must be performed by the attendants in an act I describe as “performance philosophy.” Through its execution, this pause tests and expands an idea of Merleau-Ponty’s: “I do not think the passage of one present to the next, nor do I see it as an onlooker, I do it [je l’effectue].” Tellingly, this last phrase has been rendered differently in the two major translated publications of this text: “I perform it,” and “I accomplish it.” I propose that for this pause, the movement between performing, accomplishing, and doing can be understood as a philosophical interrogation of what it means to tell time in a room with other people.
Reid, Tim, California Institute of the Arts
“Think Like Clown”
I propose a thing called clown thought, thinking recognizable as clown. I want to show this in tracing the arguments of Emerson, in particular his essay Experience, which deals with profound, personal loss. Among the few non-controversially true things said of clown is that it is impossible to define. It is also clown to attempt this definition, as if it was a circus stunt. We find clown playing with the slipperiness of meaning. Emerson wrote and thought in this slipperiness with earnestness and a bold belief in ideas. His lectures were their own peculiar brand of American theater that put their whole text in question. Emerson is not particularly funny. He does not pun or play word games; yet, this lack of self-consciousness makes him a wonderful candidate, a sincere example of forces which unravel thought in ever more determined attempts to hold it together. Because he takes thought so seriously, he ultimately cannot trust his own:
“It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the discovery we have made, that we exist. That discovery is called the Fall of Man.”
“The world is all outside: it has no inside.”
The end of clown thinking is opening the possibility to say anything. This may be speaking truth to power; making statements about the nature of things, true in the provisional context they are uttered; or leading speech to places where suddenly all things are meaningful, and even stray utterance shines in full significance.
Husel, Stefanie, Gutenberg University, Mainz
“Perceive / Explore / Perform / Examine”
“The question ’what can performance philosophy do’] prompts explorations of the present or future value of examining performance and philosophy in relation to one another[.]”
As this quotation from the CfP shows, reflections on theatre tend to evoke polarization – performance and philosophy, theorist and practitioner, active and passive, stage and auditorium, actor and spectator only too often seem to exist in mutually exclusive ways. It is exactly this bias, ‘Performance Philosophy’ aims to overcome.
What I am particularly drawn to in this regard are the terms “examining” and “exploring” that can also be found in the sentence quoted above. They point in the direction I would like to go with my “no-paper”-presentation, using a wide range of material (video, sound, sketches, transcripts) from an ethnographic study I did with and about British performance group Forced Entertainment.
I would like to show the fascinating complexity of performative and perceptive practices I encountered during my research: As soon as we take a close look at empirical theatre practices, it becomes apparent, that being an audience means performing vividly and that, in turn, producing performances means carefully watching and reflecting. Both practical fields – perceiving a performance as well as producing a performance – proved to assemble highly social and explorative activities, just like the ethnographic methods I used during my study.
This is why, I would like to suggest that Performance Philosophy could adopt ethnographical practices and become a practical theory of theatre.
Bennett, Emma, Queen Mary University, London
“Exemplary Bodies and Unruly Figures: speaking between Stewart Lee and Paul de Man”
In this “no paper” presentation, I will ‘speak through’ the theoretical work of Paul de Man, using strategies developed via a close reading of the stand-up comedy of Stewart Lee. This distinctive approach emerges from my PhD project, which playfully (and stubbornly) explores the potential of stand-up comedy as the paradigmatic mode of speech performance, on the basis of its ability to play on – and with – the multiple meanings of the phrase ‘a figure of speech’.
Consider the following joke by the comedian Michael Redmond, which Lee repeated, with full citation in his 2005 show 90’s Comedian: ‘People always say to me… “Get out of my garden”. As I argue, this is a complex moment in which, through an act of speech, the comedian’s body is made to appear as figure for a body in general, as well as as this specific body. The fact that Lee performs this joke as a citation further complicates the scene, as will my performance of the citation of Lee’s citation.
Building on such moments, in which the embodied and situated nature of the academic presentation can no longer be ignored, I will demonstrate the productive confusion that occurs between concepts of the figure, the body and the example in the texts of de Man. Drawing on Cathy Caruth’s influential reading of his work in Unclaimed Experience (1996), I argue that de Man stages the unruly potential of figural language by allowing his figures to take on a life (and, by extension, a death) of their own.
Conditions That Make Possible…
Saturday, 2:00-4:00: Chicago Loop
Wood, Becca, The Auckland University
"Choreoauratically Wired - A Theatrical Loop"
How do we listen philosophically? How might site perform our listening?
These two questions intersect around the conference thematic of What Can Performance Philosophy Do? A collective sonic community materiallizes political and philosophical agency through doing, becoming place as figured by the spatial concept of chora (J. Kristeva via E. Grosz 1995, 116). Place is activated through this listening event, which I term choreoauratic performance: A listening to Chicago’s lost theatres located specifically within Chicago’s Loop district. As an ‘outsider’ my aim is to recover performative historical traces of Chicago’s theatrical life through listening and signing place with the ear of the other. Participants wearing headphones and MP3 players (some provided) are guided on a ‘Theatre-Loop’ tour via multiple choreoauratic scores that act as sonic maps. Sound files will be available to download from Soundcloud for an unlimited number of participants. Participants are instructed to add writing, photographs, audio marking and other recordings and traces, activating their own responsive ear-of-otherness encouraged by the ‘silent-scape’ performatively conducted by headphone wearing. Walter Benjamin’s ‘now-time of recognition’ appeals to my choreoauratic position, whereby a nomadic performance of archiving activates Chicago’s disused and demolished theatres, politically juxtaposing (and opposing) State capital ‘victories’. Through tuning in choreoauratically we wire community through listening, producing a nomadic critical spatial practice where doing is further documented for future recognition (and materializable for the Performance Philosophy network).
Lucero, Jorge, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign ;Shy, Daviel, University of Chicago
"Unearthing The Latent Pedagogy in Every house has a door," Found Space
Lucero and Shy will present a “living monument” built by present and past collaborators, students, and audiences of Every house has a door’s core members and Performance Philosophy conference keynotes, Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish. They will solicit material from sources based on the prompts and restrictions outlined below.
Prompts: What role does duration play to produce pedagogical affects within the work of Every house has a door? What are the reverberations from having been near to this group (Matthew and Lin) either as a collaborator, student, or audience member? How does EHHAD live with the performance pedagogy of Chicago's artists, educators, activists, writers, and other cultural workers?
1. Written responses are limited to one page.
2. Performative, audio or visual responses are welcome but are limited to a single image or ninety seconds of time-based content.
As part of the invitation to participate, responders will receive one-page examples from each facilitator with their initial responses to these prompts. Upon compiling the source material, Lucero and Shy will synthesize the results and compose the “living monument” in the form of a ninety minute presentational performance devised by extracting instructions found within five works by Every house has a door; Let us think of these things always. Let us speak of them never, They’re Mending the Great Forest Highway, 9 beginnings, Testimonium, and Caesar’s Bridge.
The School of Making Thinking: Korta, Benjamin; Traub, Sophie; Bentsman, Michelle;
"sensing repetition: an interactive laboratory," Columbus Auditorium
In many philosophic, artistic, and religious schools of thought, understanding is not attained by any single instantiation. Instead, a brush stroke, a prayer, or an idea is performed over and over in order to generate meaning. Eventually, however, these repetitive articulations may lose their generative luster, leading to the deadening of signification or, even, its complete opposite – the negation of meaning altogether.
What is repetition? To what extent can an expression or movement change and yet repeat itself? Above all, how does repetition both generate and deconstruct meaning?
In this workshop, The School of Making Thinking will guide participants through a series of interactive exercises and structured dialogues in order to investigate these questions. Concepts and actions drawn from Hans-George Gadamer, Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, Frits Staal, and Sanford Meisner, among others, will be put into conversation with experiential exploration. In this way, performance – or, more accurately, the performative enactment of a given problem – will be employed as a means toward philosophical insight.
Theater der Versammlung (Carolin Bebek, Anna Heintz-Buschart, Simon Makhali, Manfred Palm, Tom Schröpfer, Jörg Holkenbrink (Artistic Director) - with Alice Lagaay)
"Performing Creative Indifference (Part Two)," CCC 1G
Residing at the heart of the Centre for Performance Studies at Bremen University, Theater der Versammlung (Theatre Assemblage) is one of the very first research theatres in Germany.
Here they will present fragments of their much acclaimed (and not uncontroversial) interactive Click-Performance, “C COPY A, ENCRYPTED” whereby the audience is invited to direct the ensemble through the use of computer commands such as “encrypt”, “cut” or “copy”. The performers draw on snippets of movement and text from roles they have played in other pieces. Over multiple rounds and at a rapid pace these fragments give way to new patterns of relation and meaning which are collectively composed. The goal is to allow islands of meaning to emerge from the ensuing chaos. The audience soon learns to handle the commands and their instructions end up mirroring themselves, as through their perpetual calls confusion is created or the roles, if allowed to evolve, take on lives of their own.
“C COPY A, ENCRYPTED” is directed by Jörg Holkenbrink (Artistic Director of the Centre for Performance Studies at Bremen University). The performance involves snippets of text in both English and German.
The workshop can be read as a performative commentary on the theory presented in Alice Lagaay’s talk earlier in the conference, “Creative Indifference – and the Politics of the In-between (Part One)”. Part One is no prerequisite for Part Two.
Saturday, 4:30-6:00, Columbus Auditorium
Looking closely at examples from a variety of practices, including Warhol's, Reagan's, and Bausch's, Phelan suggests that the philosophical and epistemological implications of some major artists have been little considered or even noticed. There are many motivations for this sanctioned ignorance, but the results have served to imperil the status of art as a radical philosophical practice. Phelan will sketch some ways we might begin to address this violent bias.
Launch of Performance Philosophy
Saturday, 6:00-7:30, Nieman Center
SUNDAY, APRIL 12
“hearing transmissions and active transitions,” Sunday, 9:00-11:00, CCC 1G
Leemann, Judith, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Opening wide the moment after an explanation has been requested, responding with a firm yes/no. Yes I will give a full faith effort to tell you what I know, but no I will not do it in language. Derailing the regular course of explanation in order to surface new forms of knowing. Replacing gallery didactics with carefully researched and crafted videos; attempting through choreographed hands moving objects to simultaneously indulge and thwart the desire to be-explained-to; a very specific kind of no.
Working inside a group of seasoned anti-violence activists wanting to trouble the ready-made explanations within which the young activists in their care are operating; I bring in a set of objects and ask the young people to explain how that violence erupts, but using only hands moving objects on a tabletop stage. No words. What emerges when we see only dynamics and can no longer know what stands for what with any certainty? What is lost, and more importantly what becomes visible only in the wake of that loss?
Providing accompaniment to a colleague’s prestigious lecture about his own practice; on the screen where bragging powerpoint should play, there lives instead a live projected theatre of hands moving objects through a narrative carefully removed from the one he speaks. We make a folded space that forces active construction by each listener, the only way to demonstrate that which cannot be told.
Offering a brief lecture about this practice, punctuated by the practice itself.
Acosta, Stephanie, Artist
“The Horizon Follows”
The Horizon Follows, focusing attention, spurning orientation, requiring translation, it creates a looking at. We will work to confuse and conflate, with poetics and directives, to arrive at sustained, energized realities. Transplanting image into the body, into motion, the motion into structure. Engaging research and in consideration of transcontinental railroad, the sublime, glacial time and oceanic bodies, we attempt a turning over. An engaging of semantics into the sensorial, energizing silence and expanding borders. Presenting a practice based research, a lecture through and of its forms, The Horizon Follows is part of the ongoing series Process/Progress. Process/Progress is a hope to understand better the complexities of monument through an act of creation. The lecture will combine research, reflection and fiction, accompanied by video and audio playback, exploring permanence, awe and hubris. Process/Progress is an ongoing multi-media project created by Stephanie Acosta and collaborator Rory Murphy (NO ONE IS ANYWHERE, 2014-Present).
Charter, Amelia, Artist
“Gather the subtleties of performance”
This lecture bookends a performance. The attempt is to widen and slow the transitions into and out of performance by demonstrating and challenging perceptions of a performance event. Physical movement and dramatic examination makes accountable the senses and perceptions in action that delineate performative behavior and shape performatics.
Performance Studies, Performativity, Performatics, and Performance Philosophy are realms of discourse that strive to articulate cultural and social agencies of performance. Performance Research published On Performatics in 2008 in response to an international conference hosted by the Grotowski Center titled, Performance Studies and Beyond, celebrating Richard Schechner’s book, Performance Studies: An Introduction. Tomasz Kubikowski, the translator of Schechner’s book, proposed the term Performatyka to imply Performance Studies. The literal translation of Performatyka is rendered back to English as Performatics. Kubikowki’s text, My Performatics, questions the relationship between performative human behavior and the performative character of consciousness. Kubikowski proposes, “the attitude the mind adopts in front of the world is not of a cognitive nature but of a dramatic one.” With Performance Philosophy emerging as a field of study, the collective endeavor to gather the subtleties of performance continues.
But how and why does philosophy differentiate itself as studying performance, an art form, and not an entire ontology? What are the performatic tools that nearly and suddenly imbue each detail with imaginative significance? This lecture and performance asks these questions through dance, voice, and guided audienceship.
Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein: Sunday, 9:00-11:00, CCC 5W
Stein, Alex, Archer Ballroom; Mackedanz, Courtney, Archer Ballroom
Ludwig Wittgenstein stands to rotate his chair. He turns from the Vienna Circle and the room of Logical Positivists that surround him. He replaces his chair and sits facing the wall. Calmly evading their questions about the Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus, he looks to the ceiling and begins to recite the verse of Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.
Departing from this actual event, we propose to stage a movement-based performance art piece that reanimates this encounter by A.) forming a narrative structure based on Wittgenstein's deflective gesture while B.) interpolating a body of choreography derived from the logical diagrams in the Tractatus, and finally C.) appropriating text from Tagore's Song Offerings.
Our specific questions: what is the function of Wittgenstein's gesture of ideological evasion in the face of philosophical inquiry? How might our investigation parallel his generative deflection to consider the pivotal role of performance in completing a thought and actualizing philosophy?
Egan, David, University of Chicago
"Transformation and Improvisation in Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy"
“I don’t try to make you believe something you don’t believe, but to make you do something you won’t do,” Wittgenstein remarked to his student Rush Rhees. One distinctive feature of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy is its disavowal of philosophical theses—Wittgenstein is not trying to make us believe something we don’t believe—in favor of a wholesale reorientation of our understanding of the philosophical project. In trying to reconceive the aim of philosophy, one of Wittgenstein’s challenges is a challenge of style: if he thinks traditional methods of premises, argument, and conclusion lead us down a blind alley, he can hardly persuade us of this fact by means of premises, arguments, and conclusions. Instead, Wittgenstein develops a rich array of language-games and parables, striking images and gnomic aphorisms, which not only act upon his readers, but prompt them to action—he wants to make us do something we won’t do.
Wittgenstein is hardly the only philosopher who seeks words not only of persuasion but also of transformation—this paper considers Heidegger as a revealing contemporary point of contrast—but this paper highlights two respects in which Wittgenstein’s later philosophy is unusually performative. First, where Heidegger describes phenomenological states like anxiety that are crucial to the existential analytic of Being and Time, Wittgenstein enacts these states, exploring in both monologue and dialogue the experience of undergoing the philosophical transformation he pursues. And second, Wittgenstein’s explorations are unusually open-ended and improvisatory: to learn from his language-games and other parables, his readers must enact them themselves, and explore them by improvising on the themes he sets.
Savickey, Beth, University of Winnipeg
“Wittgenstein and Slapstick”
In his book Harlequin’s stick, Charlie’s cane, David Madden compares commedia dell’arte and silent slapstick films. He notes that ‘academic comparisons are often odious, and contrasts are often irrelevant, but they can instruct and delight, though one always risks seeming to make a hysterical discovery of the obvious’ (Madden 1975: 1). To Madden’s comparison, I would like to add the opening remarks of the Philosophical Investigations. The comparison of Wittgenstein’s language games to commedia and slapstick is, I hope, one that delights and instructs by making what is hidden (in all of its simplicity and familiarity) obvious, striking, and powerful (PI 129). Wittgenstein’s move from the Tractatus to the Investigations is the story of a gesture. It is a moment of slapstick that ushers in the shift from logical analysis to grammatical investigation. Grammatical investigation is rooted in Austrian commedia dell’arte (particularly the works of Johann Nestroy and Karl Kraus). Like commedia dell’arte and slapstick, Wittgenstein’s language games involve improvisation based on general scenes, stock characters, and linguistic play. Through a technique Brecht identifies as Verfremdung (alienation or estrangement), language games deprive events of their matter-of-factness and their familiarity; rendering them objects of surprise and curiosity. Through humour and imagination, Wittgenstein’s remarks encourage a state of philosophical discovery and play. In a world in which imagination is being destroyed because nothing is left to it, philosophy enacted as commedia dell’arte or slapstick is an important bequest.
Diagrams, Time Travels, Minute Perceptions: Sunday, 9:00-11:00, CCC 5G
Ward, Nigel, Anglia Ruskin University
"Jarry Re-membered: an experiment in time travel. A performance lecture by Alfred Jarry, assisted by Nigel Ward"
This lecture will involve the conclusion of a time travelling experiment begun by Alfred Jarry in 1906. His ideas on time travel were theorised in his essay ‘How to Construct a Time Machine’; but their practical consequences have not been fully understood until now. Arriving in the future, Jarry will speak to a contemporary audience about the role pataphysics might play in relating performance and philosophy, as well as revealing his ambivalence about the influence his ideas have had, on figures such as Antonin Artaud, Jean Baudrillard, Acid Mothers Temple and The League of Imaginary Scientists.
For Jarry the question is not ‘what can performance philosophy do?’, but ‘when can performance philosophy do’? The issue is not quantitative but temporal, an issue that can only be addressed by a time travelling, continent crossing, Symbolist playwright.
Degani-Raz, Irit, Tel Aviv University
“Theatrical Philosophy: Theater as an arena of diagrammatic reasoning"
In his The Drama of Ideas Martin Puchner approaches the conjunction of drama and philosophy from both the drama and the philosophy sides, respectively. In the latter he distinguishes between two principal interests: the first emphasizes theater as a place of seeing and visual representation; the second emphasizes the dramatic impulse that goes back to the tradition of "Platonic drama". Puchner devotes much of his discussion to the latter.
In this paper I suggest a new approach to the conjunction of drama and philosophy from the side of theater as a place of seeing; not, however, from the Platonist metaphysics (which is based on a two-level philosophical architecture: appearance and essence) but, rather, from an analytical point of view that approaches theater as an arena of diagrammatic reasoning. Recently, the role of diagrams in human reasoning have been the focus of much research as part of a more general awareness that human reasoning involves information obtained through more than one medium (i.e. not only information in the form of sentences but, rather, through different modes of reasoning). The recognition of the importance of multi-modal reasoning at large, and of reasoning made with diagrammatic representations in particular, has led to a rapid increase in research in such diverse areas of thought as philosophy, psychology, logic, mathematics, computer science, and visual art. Little attention, however, has been given to diagrammatic reasoning in theater studies. Theater, I suggest, is a most interesting case as far as diagrammatic reasoning is concerned, since we have here both the (external) observation of spatial configurations during the performance in the "here and now" of the actual world of the spectator; and, at the same time, the internal (in the mind's eye) observation of spatial arrangements in the fictional possible world that is created during the performance. Philosophical performance, when approached from this perspective, I contend, might promote the understanding of human reasoning at large and philosophical reasoning in theater in particular. Samuel Beckett's use of diagrams in his dramatic works will serve here as a case study.
Loo, Stephen and Undine, Selbach, University of Tasmania
“The Symphony of Nature, the Exhausted Voice, and other Minute Performances in Deleuze's Baroque House”
In The Exhausted, Gilles Deleuze’s essay on the playwright Samuel Beckett, the philosopher points out that the exhausted is not just one who is tired, but one who can no longer realize the possibilities that still exist for them. To Hélène Cixous, the voice of exhaustion is breathless and she is at the mercy of their inspiration [insufflement]. It can happen when she runs out of breath [souffle], or when something loses steam [s’essouffle].
This performance lecture ruminates on a phantasmagorical scene for the exhausted voice, namely an allegorical Baroque House which opens Deleuze’s treatise on Leibnizian philosophy, The Fold. In this 17th Century house, strains of the Symphony of Nature can be heard resulting from the movement of air and bodies in the theatre of visible downstairs, triggering harmonies in the ‘pleats of matter’ that travel upstairs to the cerebral souls in the theatre of the voice. The lecture reflects on the exhausted voice and gestural bodies in relation to the “minute perceptions” – cogitations below the threshold of recognition – correlated to “insensible movements” of matter in Leibniz’s monadology. The performativity of minute perceptions devalorises ‘affect’ in Deleuze’s ethological philosophy, namely the capacity of bodies to affect and be affected. What are the implications of moving from the Spinozist question ‘what the body can do?’ to ‘what is the body when it does not yet do?’ for the politics and ethics of a new materialism in art and performance?
The lecture will have an in-built performance of It’s curtains for the insects!
a new work-in-progress based on a picture book tale of a three insects in the Baroque House, which Deleuze mentions but not does not elaborate on his allegory. The butterfly, the fly and the tic have escaped from Jakob von Uexküll’s laboratory – and thus from another part of Deleuze’s oeuvre – into the house of The Fold, to be captivated by the symphony of nature while hiding in the pleats of the curtain. The story ends by the curtains betting eaten, throwing the ecological symphony into discordance and irrigating the folds of the soul with the dimmest of new light.
Kappenberg, Claudia, University of Brighton
"All Human Beings are Born Useless and Equal in Uselessness"
This no-paper is an artist’s response to the fact that much of today’s doing is contaminated by an ubiquitous credo of productivity and outcome, be that within the academy or elsewhere. Much ‘doing’ has become problematic, even if underpinned by well-conceived, critical frameworks. Taking on the idea of the use of uselessness, my intervention will suggest that there is nevertheless something which Art can ‘do’. The no-paper is delivered as a speech and performed in costume. The speech draws on a publication by Nuccio Ordine (2013), which traces the history of the debates on use and uselessness through a selection of quotes from philosophy and literature. The speaker, an orator in the guise of a garden gnome, reflects on this history and, borrowing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, makes a claim for the human right to uselessness. In 1963 Heidegger wrote: “That which is most useful, is the useless. But to experience the useless is today for man the most difficult thing.” Nuccio Ordine argued further that uselessness is that which renders us more human. These arguments provide clues for what performance philosophy can do, that is to offer a space which is useless and which reminds us of all that which makes us human.
Ends, Means, In-Betweens: Sunday, 9:00-11:00 CCC MPR
“Roles of Consciousness”
Theatre represents consciousness in the metaphor of the mind as a stage that thoughts traverse (as Hume uses) as well as in the metaphor of the world as a stage where we are all actors (as Shakespeare says.). In both of these, a sense of stoic detachment arises in considering the nature of life: first in the awareness of one being on a stage, as even the most committed method actor will have some sense of that; and second in including the audience as part of the whole. We act, and watch ourselves act: we become two at once.
“All the world’s a stage…” because we are self-conscious beings, and become the audience to our own roles. This leads to questions like: are these roles spontaneously improvised, culturally expected, genetically provided, God-given or otherwise mapped? The role of gender, e.g., can create disagreement between groups regarding how preconditioned it is; transgender, feminist and drag performing individuals who would usually share perspectives instead find they are offended at each other.
This internal relationship of the self to the self—the player to the audience, and the player to their script or director as it were—is a fundamental concern of philosophy. While written philosophy focuses on looking at this externally, the experiment of Performance Philosophy encourages exploration of the relation between roles and selves. As an investigation both of the performance of life and of philosophical inquiry, this presentation will consider the ways life is and isn’t like a performance, and then how this performance is and isn’t like philosophy.
Ke, Shi, China Art Academy
"The reverberation and the 'telos' in performance"
From a phenomenological point of view, perception is not a mono-directional motion but a performative dynamic. But what exactly is the possibility of this dynamic being entailed in its aesthetic unfolding and actualization? There have been different models trying to articulate such a dynamic in terms of the relationship between the subjects and the world. Conventionally the dynamic was investigated in terms of the relationship between the mind and the body. Taking theatrical techniques for example, the inside reflecting and represent the outside correctly (Stanislavsky), or the authentic psychological status being brought up by the outside (Meyerhold, Grotowski), or the mutual impact in turn between the inside and the outside demonstrated in Rasa Box (Richard Schechner), are all prevailed in the broader contexts of art performance making.
However, the relationship between the embodied mind and its lebenswelt does not function in that way. Body is not the bridge between the mind and the world. Instead, perception changes or constitutes the bodied space that the subject exists with its embodiment. The ever-changing poetic performative space as such constitutes the subjects in terms of perceptive dynamic. Thus I argue that such performative mutual constitution between the subjects and the world is not a subject-object one round game but an infinite feedloop. Gaston Bachelard rightly named such feedloop as “reverberation” and one can further explore a phenomenal relationship within this “mental” structure. Bachelard also alleged that between the new poetic image and the deep unconsciousness related to this image, there is no relationship of “causality”. With this understanding and with my own performance examples, I would try to further depict the sense of “telos” and efficacy in performance.
Boyer, Amalia, Universidad del Rosario; Gontovnik, Monica, Universidad del Norte
Our proposal stems from a collaborative work based on philosophical and performance practices but, most essentially, from practices of friendship. These have involved the construction of personal and collective archives, co-relationality and the opening of spaces for new possible feminine experiences. This time we seek to reassess in an experimental fashion the question of the significance of Antigone for women today. We will give a new form to Antigone by turning our attention to that part of the play which is unwritten by Sophocles in order to interrogate what has been left invisible, secret and inaudible in relation to woman and the fate she seems to choose for herself. What is at stake for us is to question what happens to Antigone during the lapse of time that starts when she enters the cave and the moment she decides to commit suicide. What could have been her possible courses of action and thought in the cave? In our account, Antigone meets several specters, those of Hegel, Lacan, Irigaray and Butler, that she will confront as so many different versions of her multiple self. We thus propose a new interpretation of this figure, one that involves the move from philosophy towards performance. In other words, the performance lecture proposed sets on stage the transformation of the conference dispositif into a new diagram where the forces of texts, words, gestures and actions can be combined anew in order to produce a heterogeneous assemblage that draws from the practices of both philosophy and performance.
Doing Phenomenologies, Alien and Otherwise: Sunday, 9:00-11:00, SAIC Performance Studio
Whitehead, Stephen, University of Dundee
“Beyond the Proposition”
A standard format for presenting philosophical work is to rely on the persuasive nature of one’s arguments; however, the strength of an argument is no guarantee of its acceptance. In this presentation I shall argue that, in opposition to a line of thought influenced by thinkers such as Quine, in which logical argument and analytic rigour is central, philosophy is best presented as a performance designed to ensure a particularly receptive response from its audience. To do so, I will first show that an element of performance has always been implicit in philosophy – from the dialogues presented by Plato, through Descartes’s meditations, to what might be termed the “philosophical surrealism” of Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘schizoanalysis’. The question as to why logic alone is not enough to ensure the success of an argument will then be examined, showing that the manner in which one receives and so processes an argument is influenced by one’s emotional state-of-mind or one’s opinion of the presenter of the argument and thus biased. Finally, I will show that these potential biases may be mitigated through the use of a philosophical performance. To do this, I will draw upon a phenomenological model of emotions based upon Heidegger and Solomon which suggests that, by considering particular techniques, the presenter may affect the audience at an emotional level so as to ensure a mood of receptivity to the consideration of arguments.
“Stanislavsky and Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology: Time and the Power to Reckon With the Possible”
“The normal man and the actor do not mistake imaginary situations for reality, but extricate their real bodies from the living situation to make them breath, speak and if need be, weep in the realm of imagination.” Merleau-Ponty
It is my contention that although Stanislavsky had no knowledge of the field of phenomenology (in fact he went so far as to state that “Experience can be known but not described”) aspects of his later/ultimate theories of actor training can perhaps be best illuminated via Merleau-Ponty’s notions of time and “the power to reckon with the possible.”
This “No Paper” presentation will explore both how Merleau-Ponty may inform Stanislavsky’s concept of perezhivanie, or the actor’s lived experience of performance, as well as how Stanislavsky’s later work may explain and illuminate Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Experience. In that perezhivanie accounts for the thickness, depth, and complexity, as well as the persistence of lived experience. The technique to access it is the actor’s mastery of the generation of moment to moment reality. A thoughtless, improvisatory state of mind that allows the continuous flow of present content into the now within the context of the theatrical event.
Anstey, Josephine, University at Buffalo
The Improvising Consciousness performance lecture purports to be a scholarly account of human cognition from 2.5M BCE – 3,000 CE. The lecturer is Jennifer Årnstay, Professor of Material and Analogical Eco-Cognition and recipient of the Zen Dyson Award for InterZonal Exploration, visiting from an unspecified time and place. Professor Årnstay says, “Do you ever feel you can’t put the true richness of your thoughts into words? Do you ever wake up and find the solution to a nagging problem is suddenly in your head? What is really going on in our minds: hiding in there behind language? My lecture will explain!”
Improvising Consciousness critiques existing theories that equate human intelligence with language, men, and rationality. Instead it focuses on analogical- and visually-based cognitive processes. With conscious paradox the lecture uses dramatic story-telling to make an argument that language and narrative distort and limit our cognitive capacities. The performance lecture format has allowed the author/performer, Josephine Anstey, to conceptualize radically different possible configurations of consciousness informed by scientific, creative non-fiction, and science fiction explorations of cognition. The lecture in its entirety runs for ninety minutes, however Anstey is in the process of adapting a twenty minute version that she proposes to present at The 2nd biennial Performance Philosophy conference. In response to the question, “What Can Performance Philosophy Do?” – this performance is an argument that alternate thinking-spaces and methods add important convention-breaking and radicalizing perspective to philosophical, scientific, and popular discourses on the mind. The performance takes the form of a scientific lecture with power point slides.
Sunday, 9:00-11:00, SAIC 2M
Koubova, Alice, Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic
"Dialogical acting: Ludic attitude between theory and practice"
One of the central issues that Performance Philosophy deals with is the traditionally established and rather artificial gap between theory and practice. To bridge this gap, I propose the so called “ludic theater”, an approach which does not diminish the chasm but plays with it, takes profit from it, and transforms it creatively. Originating in the works of e.g. F. Dürrenmatt, F. Kafka, or B. Brecht, ludic theatre is unique in combining the necessary distance from the situation (gained through laughter, estrangement effects and critic) with full engagement (established through acceptance of personal interest, narratives and embodiment).
This workshop presents one particular ludic practice called Dialogical acting. Developed by the Czech playwright and philosopher Ivan Vyskočil, this practice consists in a very attentive, embodied, enactive and at the same time critical investigation of the so called “public solitude” (inspired by Stanislavsky and Brecht). Dialogical acting invites the participants to develop ludic capacities (playful in adult sense of the term), generosity, awareness of social conventions in everyday behavior, and possibilities to take a stance towards oneself.. As such the workshop intends to contribute to answering the question of what Performance Philosophy can do in the domain of intertwining of theory and practice and what benefits it can bring into performance, philosophy and, most of all, everyday life.
The program will combine practical experimentation of Dialogical acting and interactive reflection of the practice. The practical part will take up approximately 80% of the workshop time and does not require any special skills except of curiosity and openness.
“Betwixt and Between: Performance Art and the Liminal Moment”: Sunday, 11:30-1:00 CCC 1G
The panel will consider the writings of anthropologist Victor Turner and his view on social drama as eruptive, disharmonious, leading to a break with past norms and offering the possibility of a changed world-view in the process. Most specifically, the panel will examine the specificity of performance art in relationship to time and audience, focusing on Turner’s notion of the liminal, a temporary space where a break with past understanding occurs, offering emergent perspectives that can be individual and collective. The panel will question the possibilities of performance art—for both performers and audience members—to enact a temporal space that can effectively alter and transform individual and collective consciousness: past, present, and future.
Albrecht, Thomas, State University of New York, New Paltz
“The Stones We Carry: Performance Art and the Fluidity of Memory”
Can moments of witness shift understanding of past experience as well as shape future knowledge? Thomas Albrecht will explore the relationship between performance art and the field of memory, how constructed histories can be recalled through performative action/s to contemplate the present moment and help define future experience. Albrecht will examine performance art projects from his oeuvre, considering works in diverse contexts from city streets to museums, asking what witnessing a single moment in time can do to alter the trajectory of understanding between self and other, between real and fictive.
Ravens, Joseph, DEFIBRILLATOR Performance Art Gallery
“The Collision of Experience: Mediating Experience Through Curating Time- Based Art”
Can performance art mediate collective experience? Joseph Ravens will reflect on his work curating for DEFIBRILLATOR Performance Art Gallery, his internationally recognized venue in the city of Chicago, Illinois. He will consider the work of numerous artists that have performed in the space, focusing specifically on how a particular site can effectively mediate individual and collective experience of time through the gathering of people in a singe location to experience moments in time together.
Schaefer, Sandrine, Present Tense
“Stillness as Strategy: Performance and the Perception of Time”
Can stillness be used as a strategy to create the tension that results from the collision of varied perceptions of time? Presenting both personal works and the works of others, Sandrine Schaefer will explore stillness as a liminal space and tool for (re)positioning perceptions of time. Through this collection of performance-based works that site non-art designated contexts across the world, Schaefer investigates how stillness inspires a shift of paradigm in places where both social order and notions of time are enforced by an unspoken cultural agreement.
From Anthropophagy to Natality: Food for Thought: Sunday, 11:30-1:00, CCC 5G
Steuernagel, Marcos, NYU Abu Dhabi
"What can cannibalism (still) do? The relevance of anthropophagy for contemporary Brazilian performance studies"
The concept of anthropophagy, or cultural cannibalism, has been central to Brazilian critical theory and art practice since Oswald de Andrade introduced it in his famous 1928 manifesto. Building on a well-known trope of the European avant-gardes—the cannibal—, the anthropophagic movement was burdened with simultaneously proving its relevance (by demonstrating similarities to its counterparts) and its uniqueness (by defending its difference from these same trends). Following a recovery of the concept in 1967 across multiple art forms—in Glauber Rocha’s Terra em Transe, Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark’s Nova Objetividade Brasileira exhibition, in the early expressions of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil’s Tropicalia movement, and Teatro Oficina’s production of Oswald de Andrade’s O Rei da Vela—anthropophagy has come to occupy a prominent space in the practice and theorization of performance in Brazil. Yet, there is a risk of confusing the work this concept performed in the modernist environment, as well as its countercultural appropriation in the 60s, with the mandate of consumption of cultural capitalism, especially in the context of the rapid spread of neoliberalism throughout Latin America that marked the last decades of the twentieth century. Is, then, anthropophagy still a relevant conceptual tool to engage with Brazilian performance practice and theory today? By historicizing the uses of this concept, this paper investigates its contemporary relevance as an analytical and productive device that has allowed Brazilian artists and theorists to navigate the anxieties of influence and the relationships between aesthetics and politics throughout changing political environments.
Formis, Barbara, University Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne, Institute A.C.T.E. (Arts, Creations, Theories, Aesthetics, UMR 8218, C.N.R.S. & Laboratoire du Geste
“Food for thought: sexual politics of milk”
‘Food for thought’ names the idea that a philosophical investigation can be characterized by its drive to reach a plane of immanence that disrupts some of the most persistent dualisms of the western philosophical tradition: contemplation versus action, theory versus practice, facts versus values, mind versus body, art versus life. On this plane of immanence, eating appears not only as an aesthetic experience, subject to the rules of judgement and appreciation, but more profoundly as the unreflective experience at the origins of any other type of experience, thus unveiling its political potential. The experience of eating would testify to the possibility of constructing a background to life, the condition sine qua non for thinking, perceiving and judging. Philosophy has traditionally preferred to extract the subject from the concrete continuum of life, in order to familiarize us with abstractions, flights of fancy and theoretical investigations. Food for thought? is a way to go back to the reality of bodily impressions and needs.
In contrast to the dualist tradition, the real investigation, the one that sows the threads of our existence, happens often unmarked under our eyes, or hidden in our stomachs. Coming back to the philosophical analysis of the basic activity of alimentation allows us to build a philosophy of necessity, an ethics of needs and a materialistic aesthetics. To begin with we can define the experience of eating as non-visual embodiment. This definition allows us to grasp the continuity between art and life in that eating involves a complex ritual of gestures and behaviours that discloses the aesthetic qualities of everyday activity. One aliment that enjoys a special place in the continuities between everyday life, art and thinking is milk. Within the interweaving between eating and thinking, milk has a very special place. Milk is the primary food, the element that nourishes and quenches thirst before any other type of food could be assimilated by the body. Milk is a symbol of pleasure and ecstasy and because of its primary function it has been used both as a political and sexual performative tool.
Senior, Adele, Leeds Beckett University
"Natality: An Ontology of Performance?"
Theatre and Performance scholarship has long been concerned with mortality. Peggy Phelan’s much-cited ontology of performance as ‘becoming itself through disappearance’ (1993) reinforces the priority given to death in theatre and performance studies and has been taken up by others to claim that the ephemeral qualities of performance often signal loss (Schneider 2001). However, an ontology of performance that privileges death, loss and disappearance arguably overlooks the potential of birth, remains and (re)appearance to philosophically reimagine performance’s ontological status. In dialogue with contemporary performance practice in the UK, this paper considers the way in which natality, a concept closely related to birth, invites us to conceive of performance as beginning anew. In particular, I draw on works such as Zoo Indigo’s Under the Covers (2013), and Vincent Dance Theatre’s (VDT) Motherland (2014), where the appearance of children onstage resonates with this connection that performance shares with birth. For Hannah Arendt (1958) natality is ‘the new beginning inherent in birth [that] can make itself felt in the world only because the newcomer possesses the capacity of beginning something anew, that is, of acting’. Whilst Arendt puts the concept of natality to work in the field of political philosophy, I suggest that her idea of natality can offer a vocabulary for articulating why the appearance of children in contemporary performance practice has the capacity to illuminate performance’s relation to the notion of ‘beginning’ and prompt a rethinking of the ontology of performance beyond its attendant associations with death and mortality.
Performance, Idea, Being: Sunday, 11:30-1:00, CCC 5W
Feltham, Oliver, American University of Paris
“Aesthetics of action: theatre and arche-theatre in Badiou”
In Eloge du théâtre Badiou offers a definition of theatre: ‘true theatre is the incarnation of an idea’, “theater, when it takes place, is the representation of the idea” (ET,63). However, this definition does not emerge from the careful philosophical reading of a play, a sequence of plays, a performance, a series of performances, or the delimitation of a specific ‘theatrical configuration’. Of course, Badiou speaks of particular plays – of Corneille’s Le Cid, and Koltès’ Dans les champs de coton – and he mentions Antoine Vitez’ productions at the Théâtre Chaillot, but there is no sustained detailed investigation of a theatrical work of art. Given the long detailed analyses devoted to poetry (Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Pessoa, Celan) or to novels by Rousseau and Julien Gracq in Logics of Worlds, this absence is significant, the dyssymetry is flagrant. At this point, one could have recourse to a biographical answer: Badiou does not analyze plays because he writes them, he is a playwright – Ahmed se fâche, Les Citrouilles. However, I suspect something more complicated is at stake behind this dyssymetry in the inaesthetic treatment of theatre.
Grant, Stuart, Monash University
When, faced with the withdrawal of Being, Martin Heidegger proposes the necessity of finding a way of “ transforming our orientation of questioning, which entails our entering into this fundamental occurrence” (1995, 361), he announces the need for a new way to do philosophy. Heidegger calls this new way, “being-historical-thinking”, where the thinking-writing instantiates the evental moment of the coming-forth of world history. Daniela Vallega-Neu has termed it a “performative” philosophy, and David Wood has characterised it as the apotheosis of a “performative imperative” in Heidegger’s work.
Heidegger’s problem was that Being is neither a thing, nor a quality, nor a specific being of any sort, but occurrence itself, pure verb. In order to formulate a mode of approach appropriate to Being, it is necessary to enact it, to enjoin with it, to “enter into the fundamental occurrence”. To do being philosophically. However, the question immediately arises as to how this enactment, this enjoining, might be possible. How might it be possible to philosophically perform the doing of Being in a way which truly escapes metaphysics?
For Heidegger, it needs to occur as a “leap” in which our contemporary ideas of spatial and temporal presence and subjective/objective knowing would have to be completely transformed in unforeseen ways which would only become possible through the leap. Heidegger takes this leap through a series of what would now be termed performative writings. In this he establishes new ways of relating to world, truth, thinking, history, earth, time, space and other key philosophical moments, in his key aim: to think, act, and be differently to save the earth from the devastation of human calculation.
Marciano, Maïté, Northwestern University
“Tragedy as Philosophy: the Athenaeum group and Nietzsche”
The relationship between tragedy and philosophy is often overlooked in the Post Kantian period, during which tragedy was perceived as a solution to philosophical problems. According to Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, Kant’s critical undertaking opened a crisis leading to the emergence of Literature or of the ‘Literary Absolute’ with the Athenaeum group, i.e. the first romantics of Jena. The Athenaeum group wanted to reunite poetry and philosophy together, not by creating a theory of literature but by presenting “theory itself as literature.” In their work, "philosophy must effectuate itself - complete, fulfill, and realize itself - as poetry.” Poetry refers here, not to the literary genre, but rather to poïesie, a “production, absolutely speaking”, which is in fact an autopoïesie and has a metaphysical stance. At first, works of the Athenaeum group may seem far removed, both temporally and conceptually, from issues at stake in Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy; but this paper will show that these works share a common ground, from which a third perspective can emerge. By exploring the relationship between the two and following Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy’s analysis of the Athenaeum group, the paper will embrace a philosophical approach to tragedy. If tragedy can be thought of beyond its narrative character, and beyond mere illustrations of philosophical concepts, Performance Philosophy can help us transform our thinking about tragedy as philosophy.
What Can Performance Philosophy Do With/For Genre? A Dialogue: Sunday, 11:30-1:00, CCC MPR
Mosse, Ramona, Free University Berlin
Exploring the ways in which tragedy provides a helpful paradigm for understanding the rise of Performance Philosophy, I will discuss how “the enigma of genre”, as Derrida calls it (“The Law of Genre”), lies in its fundamental impurity, its doubling in the realms of physis and nomos. Impurity is implicit in every act of transfer since it ultimately remains conventional. Tragedy, so prominent in philosophical discourse as well as dramatic history, often has appeared as definitive in terms of nobility and clarity (e.g. Hegel). Instead, I will argue, impurity is a term much more apt to describe the diverse conceptual and performative frames that cluster under its name.
What is at stake in the act of naming tragedy, and what future potential – instead of mere historical curiosity – does tragedy have in the face of Performance Philosophy? One definition of tragic conflict contends that the necessity in the act of naming is destructive to the vitality and changeability of the bodies that inhabit these names. But we could turn this on its head: the impurity of embodied performance then becomes a desired breech, a horizon of alterity that offers genre a mode of becoming. Maybe that is what genre can offer us in Performance Philosophy: not an interdiction but a chance to colour our acts of thinking, to give flavor to our intellectual inquiry and to evoke the dead that haunt our futures. Tragedy, and with it genre per se, turns into a memory machine that evokes the emotional stakes involved in the act of thinking.
Street, Anna, University of Paris - Sorbonne/University of Kent
As an alternative to tragedy, I will explore, on my end, the ways in which comedy provides a helpful paradigm for understanding the rise of Performance Philosophy. As Freud discovered with what he considered to be the failure of psychoanalytic therapy, knowledge is not always liberating. Indeed, in an alarming number of cases, consciously articulating unconscious forces rather has the undesired effect of encouraging pathologies to flourish uninhibited. Interesting corollaries can be drawn among almost all forms of knowledge practices. Vice and oppression do not necessarily germinate in the dark recess of irrationality but are often chanted as clever slogans in the public square. The application of the principles of reason is no longer seen as a fool-proof method for obtaining peace and prosperity. To what, then, should we aspire?
Recently, more and more scholars are suggesting that it is the generic categories which underlie our knowledge practices that are responsible for reason’s inefficacy to effect real transformation. In lock-step with the rise of Philosophy’s use of dramatic techniques, innovative theories of comedy as an alternative mode of thought have gained momentum. Are the two related? Can a generic shift in our approach to thinking lead to a transformation of our knowledge practices?
I propose to explore the performative efficacy of comedy in its characteristics, techniques, and perspectives, suggesting that a comic approach to the world requires a conceptual shift in which that which is normally excluded from our logical, aesthetical or socially acceptable categories is exceptionally included.
Gorgias, pre-Socratic philosopher in the tradition of early-generation Sophists
Using my signature style, I will navigate between the above perspectives, revisiting the old debate about the distinction between philosophy and rhetoric at the origin of my reputation. Questioning whether philosophy should appeal only to one’s intellect, I challenge the assumption and value of so-called objective instruction and defend the oratorical uses of persuasion and seduction. What importance can style have for the practice of philosophy? To what extent are our enunciations linked to our generic categories? Supposing that the conditions for thinking or the articulation of truths must comply with the principle of non-contradiction pays tribute to a logic that is itself contradictory. Far from providing a safe or level playing ground, logos is a drug that, left unbridled, leads to all sorts of hallucinations – be they oppressive or alluring.
Are there alternative ways of practicing or performing philosophy, ones that account for contradiction and non-essentialist modes of thinking? Once philosophy becomes performative, genre may arise as a necessary tool with which to shape thought. From embodying emotional impurity to staging subversive parody, are the genres of tragedy and comedy in particular and their signature performative techniques useful ways of engaging in a different kind of philosophical reflection?
Practice, Change, Transform: Sunday, 11:30-1:00, SAIC 2M
O Maoilearca, John, Kingston University
“Laruelle’s ‘Criminally Performative’ Thought: On Doing and Saying in Non-Philosophy”
François Laruelle’s ‘non-philosophical’ practice is connected to its performative language, such that to the question
what is it to think?, non-philosophy responds that thinking is not “thought”, but performing, and that to perform is to clone the world “in-Real”.
(‘What is non-Philosophy?’ in From Decision to Heresy, 233)
Non-philosophy is equally described by Laruelle as ‘transcendental practice’, an ‘immanent pragmatics’, or a ‘universal pragmatics’ that is ‘valid for ordinary language as well as for philosophy:’ He insists that we look at ‘that-which-I-do-in-saying and not just what I say’ – for the latter is simply what happens when thought is ‘taken hold of again by philosophy.’ Resisting this hold, non-philosophy performs re-descriptions of philosophy that, in doing so, produce effects on how philosophical texts are seen. Of course, whether these effects are always desired or are merely nominally considered ‘effects’ such as any description might create (misunderstanding, disbelief, dismay, boredom) is entirely debatable (and a matter for this paper). In accordance with this, however, it is notable that Laruelle objects to the focus on activity within the concept of a speech act, and instead emphasizes the ‘descriptive passivity’ that an immanent pragmatics obliges. Laruelle calls this a ‘Performed-Without-Performation’ which would be an action of the Real: philosophical language seen as a performed, but without a ‘we’ – or any others – performing (or ‘cloning’) it. It is this notion of the performative without either active human or philosophical adumbration, which is the topic of this paper.
Rosenfeld, Elske, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna
“She turns her head, she lifts the pen”
A woman refuses to go back inside the factory after the end of a strike in 1968 in France. A woman is trying to make a proposition at a revolutionary meeting in 1989 in East Berlin. Two women circle Tahrir Square in their car after the end of a last bout of protests in 2012.
The performance functions as an intervention into three documents of political events that are held together by the physicalities contained in the material. It plays with components of the material itself (images and sounds; the constellations, movements, postures, and gestures of the figures, the camera, and places in the footage). Gestures of Circling, Interrupting, Repeating, Stopping, Speeding Up/Slowing down, link up to philosophical concepts of the Political/ Revolution, and, simultaneously, suggest a number of possible formal interventions for reworking, rescreening, montaging the three sequences.
The performance is a part of the ongoing project “A Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures”. Within this project, the format of performance functions as a space, revisited and reworked periodically, to re-organise the materials in its formal and philosophical dimensions and to open my work-process to an audience.
Boon, Marcus, York University; Levine, Gabriel, Concordia University
“Theses on Theses (a short lecture on Practice)”
The writing of a set of “theses” is a gesture that is both textual and performative: it condenses a set of philosophical ideas into a script that seeks to alter practical reality. From Luther to Marx to Benjamin to Rancière, “theses” have proved an irresistible form in what might be called performance philosophy avant la lettre. More speculative than manifestos, philosophical theses work telegraphically in an interzone between theory and practice. They oppose themselves, often theatrically, to previous thinkers or schools of thought, and offer a challenge in the imperative voice: not simply to interpret the world, as Marx writes, but to change it.
The aim of this co-authored performance lecture is twofold. First, it worms its way into the thesis-form, echoing, answering, and commenting on existing theses (on Feuerbach, on the concept of History). Second, in response, it offers its own provisional theses on what lies at the core of these other theses: the question of practice. This term – it seems wrong to call it a concept – is at once ubiquitous and obscure, burdened by a contradictory philosophical heritage. Praxis, with its Aristotelian origins and Marxist elaborations, tends to overwhelm the more banal connotations of the English word practice. What does it mean to practice? What might a set of theses on practice look and sound like? What can performance philosophy offer these debates?
Being Otherwise: Sunday, 11:30-1:00, SAIC Performance Studio
Brewer, Scott, Harvard University
Digressionism is a zetetic practice for tracing through connections among works and concepts (think of Ken Nordine's "Word Jazz," here, among many other sources), tracing through those connections with my interlocutors (audiences) in a way that is sensitive to etymologies, seized random connections of sounds and concepts (think of Duchamp's deep pun-ishing word plays, and of Tzara-Dada's refusist-absurdist practice in the "Jewel Net of Indra" theorized in the Mahayana Hua-Yen Buddhist tradition, in whichever node of understanding is understood as a jewel that reflects every other in the universe, and the proper understanding of which has a liberating soteriological power -- see F. Cook, trans., The Jewel Net of Indra). This is the zetetic practice I develop, and play in, and teach. And that I would like to "manifest" at your symposium.
Rose, Adam, Director of Antibody Corporation
“The Language of Being”
My performance lecture will utilize speaking and dancing alternately to talk about the value of E-Prime as it relates to thinking about dance and body-based performance. E-Prime, defined as a prescriptive version of the English language that excludes all forms of the verb ‘to be,’ grew out of the work of Alfred Korzybski and the field of General Semantics. D. David Bourland, Jr. developed E-Prime as a way to avoid “is of identity” and “is of predication” statements, and thus promote a form of thinking that more readily takes into account change and perspective. The language of Being or “to be” creates a barrier to understanding the body in motion.
Alfred Korzybski founded the Institute of General Semantics in Chicago in 1938. Korzybski famously said, “The map is not the territory,” and similarly, we can say that choreography is not the dance. Korzybski described humans as the ‘time-binding class of life.’ Many problems of choreography may have an origin in viewing dance as a visual art form, rather than as a time-based form. By trying to fit fourth-dimensional movement into a two-dimensional box, choreography blocks off awareness of its basic materials.
Krueger, Anton, Rhodes University (South Africa)
“Performing for Others”
Alan Watts once described different spiritual conceptions of the world as being either “world as ceramic” (designed) or “world as drama” (performed). Buddhist philosophy and practice very clearly conceives of world as performance – as an ongoing drama in which all beings participate. One of the key differences between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism is an increasing emphasis on the praxis of “performing the truth,” and the bodhisattva vow is one way of defining a role performed in relation to others within an imagined cosmic order. I was heartened to read Meredith Monk recently saying in an interview that now that she is in her seventies she no longer feels any embarrassment in stating that her motivation for performing includes the bodhisattva ideal of wanting her work “to be of benefit to all sentient beings.”
I was curious to explore what effect performances arising from this motivation have had on Monk’s ongoing experiments in form, experience and event. While exploring these engagements, I’d like to also take into consideration Hume’s description of the mind as “a kind of theatre” as well as the development of Mudra Space Awareness by Chögyam Trungpa (Meredith Monk’s teacher), who saw artistic practice as a “vehicle for continuous awareness.”
PLENARY: Tragedy’s Philosophy
Sunday, 2:00-3:30, Columbus Auditorium