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Reflections after Performance Philosophy at Trinity Laban – March 2013

Jonathan Clark kindly invited me to give a talk on PP at Trinity Laban yesterday evening – a really welcome opportunity, for me at least, to think through my sense of where Performance Philosophy is at thus far and where it might go in future. In particular though it was great to meet so many researchers from across the disciplines, though particularly Music and Dance, who are concerned with a lot of the same issues that have been bugging me for years. We talked a lot, for instance, about some of the remaining issues around PaR – the continuing resistance to the notion that practice can speak for itself in terms of its research status, and indeed, the question of whether the predominant notion of “research” in UK HEIs (ie. the AHRC definition) is the most appropriate one for our practices. Jonathan raised some really interesting points around the conventional expectations often imposed on practitioners working in PaR contexts. For instance, the apparently unassailable requirement for practitioners to “have a process”, to be able to “articulate” and “critically interrogate” that process. A number of Music PhD students and I also talked afterwards about the extent to which the insistence on a textual dimension to the majority of PaR PhDs might be understood as a reflection of persistent anxieties around the judgment or evaluation of practice (or the supposedly subjective nature thereof). Of course, this has all been discussed before, but it did press me to think further about what Performance Philosophy might bring to the table of such conversations, to what extent PP might provide a site for developing alternative models of thinking practice alongside the PaR paradigm.

Nik Wakefield also asked some important questions about the architecture of PP – something, I must confess I have not thought a greal deal about until now. He was thinking of the sites Performance Philosophy might require or create for its practices – whether in terms of thinking through what a Performance Philosophy classroom might look like, or in terms of the flexibility of spaces required by an inter-discipline that potentially combines diverse performance practices including new performative forms of philosophy. The matter of site, as we went on to discuss, is also a socio-political consideration in terms of my own sense that Performance Philosophy must remain open to those who challenge our existing ideas of what constitutes [proper] ‘philosophy’ or ‘performance’. Rather than feeling we need to pin down definitions of what constitutes ‘philosophy’ or ‘performance’ – and hence Performance Philosophy – I feel more excited by the prospect of a field in which both terms can be reconceived on the basis of their encounter. Fixed definitions (based, for instance, on notions of what is ‘recognized’ as philosophy) seem to risk excluding not only the new, but also the outsider or unauthorized forms of thinking that go on outwith the academy. Likewise with performance.

So there are questions about how PP might relate to a public beyond academia and the art world. But  there were also questions around the forms of event Performance Philosophy might produce in future (beyond the University situated conference). It made me think back to a project I worked on with my colleagues in the SpRoUt collective called ‘Under Construction’. One idea here was to create a platform that would allow us to stage an event in perpetual process – http://underconstruction.wikidot.com/about-sprout/

Likewise, perhaps a future PP event could involve providing the tools, spaces, frameworks for researchers to produce their own forms of event rather than pre-empting the nature of those with the panel/workshop structure and the limits of the University architecture. Places like Conway Hall in London are also interesting for their in-between status, and have hosted interesting film philosophy events in the past that might also provide another potential model http://conwayhall.org.uk/looking-in-looking-out-2

Anyway, in case its of interest, my Powerpoint from the talk is available here. Looking forward to talking more at the conference – not long now!

Powerpoint from Trinity Laban talk 

By Laura Cull

Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca is Professor and Head of DAS Graduate School at the Academy of Theatre and Dance, Amsterdam University of the Arts in the Netherlands. She also holds a fractional position as Reader in Theatre and Performance and Director of the Centre for Performance Philosophy, at the University of Surrey, UK. She is currently an AHRC Leadership Fellow for the project, Performance Philosophy & Animals: Towards a Radical Equality (2019-2022). Her books include: The Routledge Companion to Performance Philosophy (Routledge, 2020) and Encounters in Performance Philosophy (Palgrave, 2014), both co-edited with Alice Lagaay; Theatres of Immanence: Deleuze and the Ethics of Performance (Palgrave, 2012); Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics (Intellect, 2013), co-edited with Will Daddario; and Deleuze and Performance (Edinburgh, 2009). She is a founding core convener of the international research network, Performance Philosophy, joint series editor of the Performance Philosophy book series with Rowman & Littlefield, and an editor of the Performance Philosophy journal.

One Comment

  • Thanks again for the talk Laura. I think the issues raised above deserve more discussion, especially what you call the ‘unassailable’ PaR requirements in our HEI’s. I’ve just joined this forum, and hope to contribute on this, and other matters, in future.

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