How Are (were) Things Done, Produced or Effected with Performance?

Our Research Day on 8 November  How Are  Things Done, Produced or Effected with Performance? was inspiring and challenging. Although the idea was to organise a bilingual event, we decided to keep it in English in order to be able to share the conversation with our international guests. The program for the day as well as the abstracts of the presenters are available on the Uniarts website and on the Research Catalogue, for those interested. Here below only a few lines as a summary of sorts.

After an opening by Pilvi Porkola and a welcome by Annette Arlander the moderator Tero Nauha introduced our key note speaker Bojana Cvejić, whose lectureImagining and Feigning” set the tone for the discussions during the day.  

Cvejić began with the suggestion that poetics can be distinguished from other kinds of thought exercised in art by the capacity of pondering the question: “What is the art I would like to see before I can see it?” To muse on a poetical principle, she noted, is different from creation by posing (or choreographing) a problem or devising a technical procedure within a received theoretical framework. While problems are posed in order to be resolved in composition and procedures are applied to technically shape a process, poetical principles direct the thought of creation toward imagination into futurity often leading to a poetic usage of language, she added. In her talk she explored elements of contemporary performance poetics in which imagination gains ground. “Rather than a faculty of forming images, imagination here accounts for the ability to think of something not presently perceived, for thoughts without experiential content. It involves feigning, as in Spinoza’s sense of knowingly entertaining fictions, and abductive reason, as in Charles Sanders Peirce’s notion of conjecturing a hypothesis without firm evidence.” And she related these ideas  to examples of contemporary dance.

The first panel consisted of an open rehearsal with students from MA in Comparative Dramaturgy and Performance Research led by professor Katariina Numminen and a paper presentation by performance artist Natalie Waerden, titled  Transition and Transformation” discussing the potentiality of performative actions to transform our sense of self.

The second panel combined issues related to dance and ethnography, with Hanna Järvinen speaking of “Democratic Bodies in Contemporary Dance”, Elina Seye describing “Practices of Performing at Senegalese Sabar Dance Events” and Lea Kantonen exploring “Performance as a Methodology in Indigenous Studies”.

The third panel was centered on various approaches in music. Mieko Kanno argued for  a close connection betweenMusical Performance and Algorithmic Thinking”,  Elisabeth Belgrano described her poetic project “An Orna/Mentor’s Performance”, and  Susanna Hast discussed her experiences ofMusistance” or musical resistance in combining political science and a lived feminist politics.

In the fourth and last panel, the members of the research group presented their ideas, with Hanna Järvinen as moderator. Tero Nauha gave a philosophical and poetical presentation on “Fictioning and Performance Thinking”, Annette Arlander showed the video essay “The Cliff Revisited”, based on material from Year of the Monkey (2005) and Pilvi Porkola discussed  her experiences of sharing Live Art methods with teachers in Tools for Teaching – Perspectives of Performance Pedagogy and Live Art”.

We ended the day with a brief general discussion, pondering the possible risks and dangers of a notion of performance that is too broad, for instance to be able to distinguish artistic performances from other types of practices. Personally I am biased as a reporter of the discussion, since I am all for an extended understanding of performance as action, process and becoming, and thus something that cannot be limited to humans only.  In order to continue the discussion I here quote physicist and queer theorist Karen Barad:

“To assume that meaning is a property of individual words or groups of words is to stay within a linguistic frame of meaning making. Discourse is not a synonym for language. Discursive practices are the material conditions for making meaning. In my posthumanist account, meaning is not a human-based notion; rather, meaning is an ongoing performance of the world in its differential intelligibility. Intelligibility is usually framed as a matter of intellection and therefore a specifically human capacity. But in my agential realist account, intelligibility is a matter of differential responsiveness, as performatively articulated and accountable, to what matters. Intelligibility is not an inherent characteristic of humans but a feature of the world in its differential becoming. The world articulates itself differently.” (Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway, Duke University Press 2007, 335)