Performance Practice as Research

Conveners: Christine Greiner and Pablo Assumpção

We propose a workgroup with a twofold objective: (1) advance discussion on the concept of performance as episteme, the idea that performance as embodied knowledge constitutes a specific realm of language and reason; and (2) to create a space for artistic experimentation as a method of theoretical research. We depart from the belief that the body learns and explores the world through performance; in other words, we believe bodily movement and sensorial experience organize processes of signification that cannot be confined to closed notions of linguistic systems and that cannot be reduced to narrative description and traditional notions of scientific methodology. The understanding of performance as episteme – as a “way of knowing” reality – forces a questioning of the very nature of knowledge and of research, and suggests that artistic practice and creativity are central operators in so-called theoretical activity.

As we know, performance studies has articulated a critique of representation where systems of writing are considered inadequate for measuring the terms and meanings of the informational flux between social reality and its embodiment. All lived experience in the world is a messy organization of cultural, historical, political, and sensorial data happening at the limits of the body and society. Perception itself is constituted as performance, being always a specific event, in a specific space and time. Social knowledge, memory, and identity (gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation) all exceed the fixity and encapsulation that characterize categorical language. May it not be the case that the transformative possibilities of the real are perhaps made accessible through the in flux experience of performance? In other words, what researchers seek to grasp and know, while not fully confirmed within the field of the empirical, while unable to be contained in speech and writing, can it perhaps be embodied? And can it be performed? How can writing be thought of as performance, and vice versa? What is the relation between bodily senses and knowledge? How can does sensorial experience aesthetically bind the body to its material, social environment? And how does this aesthetics open the field of the political – political resistance and political intervention?

Ideally, the workgroup will be formed by less than 15 artists or artists-scholars who have a committed interest in blurring the “theory – practice” divide, in exploring the notion of performance as a way of knowing and artistic practice as a method of research. Previous experience in hybrid processes of artistic-theoretical processes of research and/or familiarity with concepts such as “performative writing,” “fictional theory,” “ethnographic surrealism,” and “hybrid genres,” would be helpful but not necessary.

Your proposal should include a description of what you intend to work on, a short statement of interest in the group that touches on your understanding of the relations between theory and practice, and a bio.

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