Themes and Topics

Cluster #1: Co-creative processes and performances

March 17th, 2015

Contemporary artists such as Mette Ingvartsen, Kris Verdonck, Andros Zins-Browne, Romeo Castellucci, William Forsythe and others, experiment with symmetrical constellations or assemblages in which “nonhuman actants” (Latour 1994) outspokenly stear and share the creation process. The resulting aesthetics is grounded in co-creation, de-centring the performer, but also the director or choreographer, and hence challenging the “tyranny of the myth” of the creator as “single coherent being” (Deborah Hay in Lepecki 2007). The human is as such but one of the elements in co-created performances. At the heart of the creative process lies a “distributed agency of vibrant matter” (Bennett), a “vitalist materialism” (Braidotti), a “structural coupling of the human and technics” (Stiegler 177) or a critical “profanation” of an apparatus (Agamben). This cluster proposes to explore such co-creation processes and performances and their implications for conceptions of performance, the human, the nonhuman and their world.

What co-creative networks are formed on and off stage? How do objects perform and how do objects co-create? What is the position and the function of the performer in these assemblages and composite bodies? Does the human body still matter as an agent? How do co-creative constellations perform authorship?

What are the political and philosophical implications of co-creative performances? How do co-creative constellations perform philosophy?

How does co-creativity change the way performance, theatre and dance can be studied? Are new forms of performance analysis needed that take into account the “vibrant matter” of objects and technology? What kind of genealogy is inaugurated by co-created work?

Cluster #2: Response-ability: Ethics and spectatorship

March 18th, 2015

The co-creative constellation of the performance also affects the spectator, as his/her body is assembled in the composite mesh of the performance context. Contemporary interactive performing arts experiment with the spectator as actant in interactive theatre, in performance installations or in immersive technological environments. The spectator, as assembled composite body, is in other words able to respond within the performance constellation.

This installs a new spatial and temporal alignment not only with spectatorship, but also with ethics. This ethical reflection is not a pedagogical or moral one, where the artist instructs the audience on how to think. Moralism shifts towards a shared response-ability (Pewny). The performance practice is a prototype, in the sense that its outcome is uncertain, as to whether it will actually achieve what is desired. Rancière pointed out the inegalitarian principle that resides in choreographers, directors and performers who “assume that what will be perceived, felt, understood, is what they have put into their dramatic art or performance” (Rancière 14). To consider a performance context as a prototype of composite bodies, is to accept the synergism of ambivalence, dissensus and undecidedness in spectatorship. It challenges the notion of the audience as a collective or communal body and values “the collectivation of capacities invested in scenes of dissensus “ (59). It inaugurates “hardly a knowledge” in Cartesian terms; it is rather (in Spinozist terms) “an experience in which one randomly encounters confused ideas of bodily mixtures”.

How is the spectator’s body assembled in a composite performance context? What kind of interactive art is inaugurated? How do composite bodies and posthuman prototypes on the contemporary stage challenge the notion of audience as a collective or communal body?

How do composite bodies inaugurate scenes of ambivalence, dissensus and undecidedness?  How do they entail a new sense of community, relationality and ethical awareness? How can spectating become an ethical act of response-ability, in the sense of cultivating the ability to respond?

Cluster #3: Prototypes for the transmission of performative knowledge

March 19th, 2015

A prominent feature of today’s contemporary performance practice and research is the search for ways to digitally transpose performative knowledge. These inquiries test a wide range of technologies, such as motion capture, gyroscopes, accelerometers, GPS, Kinect and physiological sensors, for their ability to compute performance features. Applications of these and other types of corporeal computation have been a topic of ongoing interest for artistic praxis in ‘digital performance’ since the emergence of these technologies. Long before the digital revolution, experiments with photography and film paved the way for a visual paradigm that allowed for the concept of ‘capturing movement’. This has been acknowledged by current revaluations of the work of pioneers such as Etienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge. James Leach analyzes contemporary digital creations, such as the digital scores that were created in William Forsythe’s Motion Bank project, as ‘prototype socio-technical essays’. He proposes that they are  ‘prototypes of new relational forms: experiments in building new groups, new constituencies and new audiences’ (2013). These and other prototypes in contemporary performance transpose the performing body to an interface that may operate via visual, auditory or haptic feedback, thus adding a digital layer to the composite body of knowledge of the performer.

Transmission: How do new evaluations of diverse established modes of performance transmission, such as scores, notations, texts, videos, oral and bodily communication, and various types of ‘tacit knowledge’ in performance inform emerging prototypes in this field?

Composite bodies: What are implications of the encounter with these digitally-enabled interfaces for our understanding of performance and the body of the performer?

Corporeal computation: Motion capture data of performance allow for complex quantitative analyses, but how to visualize and translate this data in a way that does justice to the singularity of artistic practices?

Works cited

Agamben, Giorgio. Profanations, New York: Zone Books, 2007. Braidotti, Rosi. Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming. Cambridge: Polity, 2002.
Latour, Bruno. ‘On technical mediation—philosophy, sociology, genealogy’. In: Common Knowledge 3 (2), pp. 29–64.
Lepecki, Andre, Banes, Sally. The Senses in Performance. Routledge, 2007.
Pewny, Katharina, ‘Precarious Responsivity. Ethics and/of Spectatorship in Contemporary Drama and (post-documentary) Film and Video’. In: Stalpaert, Christel, Katharina Pewny, Jeroen Coppens and Pieter Vermeulen. “Introduction”. in: Stalpaert, Christel, Katharina Pewny, Coppens, Jeroen and Vermeulen, Pieter (eds.). Unfolding Spectatorship. Ghent: Academia Press (Studies in Performing Arts and Film), 2014.
Rancière, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator. London, Verso, 2009.
Stiegler, Bernard, Technics and Time: The Fault of Epimetheus. Stanford University Press, 1998.