Theory and Criticism



PERFORMANCE FORUM QUINQUENNIAL is a 12-day conference October 8-25, 2015:

conference = a situation during which persons confer
conferance = a “con” like “comicon” for makers and fans
conference = a culmination of a period of labor
conference = states of being and becoming together


Thursday, October 8: N/A PARTAY
Saturday, October 10: FEELING TOGETHER
Grace Exhibition Space

Thursday, October 15: IN COMPLEXITY OF
Panoply Performance Laboratory

Thursday, October 22: TRAUMA SALON
Friday, October 23: CORRUPTING FLESH
Grace Exhibition Space

╳╳open to the public every day╳╳
╳╳sugg. donation $10-30/day, no one turned away╳╳
Beverages lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery


Adriana Disman, A Feminist Collective, Alex Romania, Alice Vogler and Jessica Gath, Angela Freiberger, ANGELI, Anja Morell, Anya Liftig, Baxton Alexander, Ben Bennett, Bobby English Jr, Britta Wheeler, Butch Merigoni, Chloe Bass, Chun Hua Catherine Dong, Daniel Larkin, David Ian Griess, Dolly Dharma, Édgar Javier Ulloa Luján & Laura Blüer, Emily Oliviera, Emma-Kate Guimon, Esther Neff, Florence Nasar, Grace Exhibition Space (Jill McDermid and Erik Hokanson), Hiroshi Shafer, Hoesy Corona, Honey McMoney, Hrag Vartanian (Hyperallergic), Ian DeLeon + Tif Robinette (aka AGROFEMME), Ivy Castellanos, Jenna Kline, Jon Konkol, Julia Croft/Future Husband, Kaia Gilje, Kerry Cox, Kikuko Tanaka, Leili Huzaibah, Lital Dotan and Eyal Perry (Glasshouse Life Art Lab), LJ Leach, Lorene Bouboushian, Marcelline Mandeng, Matthew Gantt, Meli Sanfiorenzo, Michael Newton, Naked Roots Conducive, Nathanial Sullivan, Nicole Brydson, Panoply Lab, Quinn Dukes, Rae Goodwin, Raki Malhotra, Rebecca Beauchamp, DIVERSITY FELLOWS, Robert Lisek, Shawn Escarciga, Social Health Performance Club, Soufïa Bensaïd, Sura Hertzberg, Thomas Albrecht, Valerie Kuehne/The Super Coda, Fauziya Sani, Zhenesse Heinemann, Alex Romania, Tatyana Tenenbaum, Tsedaye Makonnen 


PERFORMANCY FORUM QUINQUENNIAL marks 5 years of the platform PERFORMANCY FORUM, a project supporting and debating performance practices since 2009, organized by Panoply Performance Laboratory’s Esther Neff and the anonymous, flexible entity known as “Brooklyn International Performance Art Foundation (BIPAF)”


Performance of organizing the conference is in three layers, beginning as a series of diagrammatic interviews 
12 AGENDAS were synthesized from these diagrams.
Presenters made responsive abstracts to these agendas, which can be found HERE.
Finally, from October 8-25, 60+ responsive presenters self-organize and produce three weekends of a public conference.

Please e-mail or with any questions or inquiries.


“Embarrassed of the Whole (EotW)” is an opera of operations.


(above: project overview diagram)

Each process has its own context-specific form, researching, generating, and designing forms of social engineering and social construction via methodological practicing. Throughout “Embarrassed of the Whole,” PPL are researching and practicing HOW “social constructions” are consciously and intentionally engineered through interfacings, communications, and embodied relationships. We are interested in conflicts between the online and the in-person, the ontological and the epistemic, the physicalist and the affective. Tentatively, we posit embarrassment as the only sure symptom of a moment of social agency (if not “free action”), of being somehow “outside the whole.”

EotW is a hole, a cut, or sort of tunnel burrowing across three categories:  ONE:  PPL publically gather groups of individuals to collectively philosophize and research “social engineering and social construction” in workshops and focus groups. TWO: PPL gather, chart and index input online through a website of surveys and quizzes, and THREE: PPL form interpretation-schemas to turn “data” from both the publically-gathered groups and the online interfaces into scores, using these scores to engineer live, public, performances.


Coming up:

#9 Workshop 2: Methodologies between the OntoEpic @ PPL space, 04/19/2015. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, RSVP to

#10: Theories of the Anti-Sight, during PPL-organized exhibition “sounding the alarm: theories of the anti-sight” @ Liebig12 and Meinblau e.V. during Month of Performance Art Berlin (MPA-B), Berlin, DE. 05/03/2015 and 05/05/2015

#11: Curating as Performance Conference presentation, during Month of Performance Art Berlin (MPA-B), Berlin, DE, 05/24-26/2015

#12: Workshop 3/Performance/MART, Dublin, UK 05/30/2015

Also (un-numbered): Resistance & Resilience: Do I Do? Collaboration as performance through a series of durational acts, initiated by Grüntaler9 & Panoply Performance Laboratory @ Grüntaler9, Month of Performance Art Berlin (MPA-B), Berlin, DE, 05/07-11/2015

265546255-eotw_boston(above: #2)


#1 Embarazo of/with ya @ PPL and participants in person and online during Bushwick Open Studios (June 2014)

#2 Assess your Performance Art Practice FREE Online Generator during Petrichor Exchange, online and @ School of the Museum of Fine Arts (November 2014)

#3 Workshop: The Anti-Sight @ Massachusetts College of Art and Design (December 2014)

#4 Critical Eye Contact @ New Museum in response to Anya Liftig’s A Very Something or Other during the AUNTS for Camera exhibition (January 2015)

#5 The Violence of 5: 1-10, sequence of performances @ Brooklyn Fireproof during Quid Pro Quo @ Eden’s Expressway, and @ Tandem Bar (January 2015)

#6 EotW: Alternatives to Now @ [performance s p a c e], London, UK (February 2015)

#7 EotW: Preferences, during MAD Theory 2, online streaming during Performance Philosophy symposium in Madison, WI (March 2015)

#8 Workshop: Sphere of Definable Conditions, Consequences, and Contexts @ PPL space (March 2015)


(above top: workshop, #8. below: Kaia Gilje performing #6, photo by Daniella Vg)

PRACTING_petrichorbannerPetrichor Performance Collective and Panoply Performance Laboratory present an exchange of ideas and performative works in Brooklyn and Boston entitled Practice, Practicing, and the Perpetual Becoming of Performance

Friday, November 7 
Roundtable Discussion: 6pm
Performances: 7pm-11pm

Saturday, November 8
Performances: 7pm-11pm

PPL Space
104 Meserole Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11206

(L to Montrose, G to Broadway, M to Lorimer)
FREE (suggested donation $5-15 for the artists’ travel)

Participating Artists from Petrichor:
Danielle Abrams, Leah Rafaela Ceriello, Dell M. Hamilton, Tiara Jenkins, Ryan McMahon, Helina Metaferia, Cris Schayer, Bryana Siobhan, Kledia Spiro, Nathaniel Wyrick

Byana_petrichor(Photo above: Bryana Siobhán, azul negro, at Piano Craft Guild)

The following weekend, PPL will complete the exchange in Boston at the School for the Museum of Fine Arts:

Friday, November 15
Roundtable Discussion: 6pm
Performances: 7pm-11pm

Saturday, November 16
Performances: 7-11pm
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
230 The Fenway
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Participating Artists Include: Chloe Bass, Ayana Evans, Anya Liftig, Kikuko Tanaka, Zhenesse Heineman, Future Death Toll (Edward Sharp and David Griess), Esther Neff and Brian McCorkle (PPL), Glasshouse Project (Lital Dotan and Eyal Perry), Ivy Castellanos, and Wild Torus (Amy Mathis and Mike Voztok).

s2590047(Photo above: Kikuko Tanaka, Poultry Paradise and its Discontents (2013), PPL Space, Photo by Hiroshi Shafer)


How does an artist design and practice a practice? More importantly, how does an artist practice within constantly fluctuating ways of learning? This performance exchange is meant to address questions of process and pedagogy and to interrogate collectivity and community as a part of the practices of artists operating in Boston, New York City, and beyond.

Performance art, termed as such, has experienced a major shift between 2006 and 2014 “inside” and “outside” art worlds. The “professional” artists from the NYC area and student artists alike will ask critical questions of themselves and each other to determine how the MFA program, the collective, the artspace, the panel discussion, and other forms of social learning, are integrated within performance art practices today. The artists will question pedagogy, community, collectivity, and how our organizational and pedagogical practices operate in conflux with our performance work. Group discussions in each location with be focused around making a practice and will be allowed to digress in any of these directions.  This exchange is curated/organized by Helina Metaferia and Esther Neff, respective members of Petrichor and Panoply.

 danielleabrams(Photo above: Danielle Abrams, video still: Quadroon)

About Petrichor Performance Collective:
Petrichor is a performing arts collective operating and performing in Boston, MA, founded by MFA students, alumni, and friends of School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Facebook: PetrichorPerformanceCollective

About Panoply Performance Laboratory (PPL) is a duo of performance artists, a collective involving anyone who participates in any PPL operations, and an investigative project space in Brooklyn, NY that hosts performance and social projects. PPL has initiated Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival, conferences-as-mass performances, and organized PERFORMANCY FORUM (a critical platform for performance-as-theory) since 2009.

kerwinppl(PPL Space, a project of the Panoply Performance Laboratory (Esther Neff and Brian McCorkle). Photo by Kerwin Williamson)


Helina Metaferia is an interdisciplinary visual artist working in two dimensional, three dimensional, and time-based mediums. Born in Washington, DC to Ethiopian parents, Helina’s work is rooted in diaspora, migration and gender studies through an exploration of the body. Her work has been exhibited at Galeria Labirynt (Lublin, Poland), Emerson College Gallery (Boston, MA), International Visions Gallery (Washington, DC), Casa Frela Gallery (New York, NY), Williams College Gallery (Williamstown, MA), and more. She recently performed at the Guggenheim Museum with Afro-Cuban artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons in honor of the Carrie Mae Weems retrospective exhibition.

Leah Rafaela Ceriello: b. 1989. New Hampshire USA. What has come before you? what will remain after you’re gone

Tiara Jenkins is a Boston based performance artist. She was raised in Pittsburg, Missouri on a 40 acre farm. Since moving to Boston three years ago, she has been considering processes of acculturation and questioning how an individual’s life dreams and goals are formed, crushed, and reformed.

Kledia Spiro is an interdisciplinary artist experimenting with intense physical actions and understanding the internal dialogue and struggle that occur before, during, and after the action.  Kledia was born in Albania and is part of an Olympic Weightlifting team. She uses weightlifting as a symbol of empowerment and pain. Weightlifting becomes a vehicle for discussing women’s role in society, immigration and times of war.

Nathaniel Wyrick is a multidisciplinary artist born in East Tennessee and currently living and working in Boston. Working through performance, printmaking, photography, and installation he explores the fragility and imperfection of memory as it relates to personal history, identity, masculinity, and sexuality.

Cris Schayer, New Orleans artist currently based in Boston. Examining the perception of memory, language, and identities, she works with the ephemerality of time based durational performances yielding residual objects. The residue becomes a compulsive attempt to solidify the intangible.

Dell M. Hamilton is an artist, writer, activist and curator based in Boston. Born in Spanish Harlem and spending her formative years in the Bronx borough of New York, she was raised in a bilingual as well as a multi-racial Honduran family. Her work is grounded in the interdisciplinary contexts of the African Diaspora and she has most recently performed with Afro-Cuban artist, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons as part of MacArthur Genius Award winner Carrie Mae Weems’s retrospective show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Dell’s work has been shown to a wide variety of audiences at the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Paragraph Gallery (St. Louis), Spoke Gallery/Medicine Wheel Productions (Boston), NK Gallery (Boston), Mobius (Boston), OKW Gallery (Boston), the Fort Port Artist Building (Boston), Atlantic Works (Boston), the Joan Resnikoff Gallery/Roxbury Community College (Boston), the Massachusetts State House (Boston) and at Perfolink: Maestros y Discipulos in Concepción, Chile.

Emerging artist Bryana Siobhan is currently a Masters Candidate at the School of the Museum of Fine art of Boston, and an Alumni of the Corcoran College of Art + Design with her Bachelors in Fine Art.  She has been living and working in Boston, MA for the past years as a performance artist, founder (a performance art archive), as a founding member of Petrichor Performance Collective and member of Que Lastima! Working in the topic of US-centric social politics regarding race, gender, and mental health, and spirituality, Siobhan draws cultural cues and signifiers from the Black American, Afro-Cuban and Indigenous American (NDN) cultures.

Danielle Abrams has performed for over 20 years as personae that emerge from her interracial family, and from a lexicon of figures in art history and popular culture. Her performances upend the limits of stereotype and representation.  As each of Abrams’ characters transfigure into new ones, prejudicial assumptions are traded in for complex and candid dialogues. Danielle Abrams has performed and exhibited work at galleries, festivals, and museums in New York including the Queens Museum, Bronx Museum of Art, The Jewish Museum, Roger Smith Hotel, WOW Performance Café, The Kitchen, Rush Arts Gallery, ABC No Rio, and Dixon Place.  She has also exhibited work nationally and internationally at Detroit Institute of the Arts, the Queer Arts Festival, Labotanica at Project Row Houses, Annie Sprinkle’s and Beth Stephens’ Green Wedding, Art Gallery of Windsor, and The Geborgen Kamers Gallery in the Netherlands. She teaches Performance at The School of Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Ryan C. McMahon: “I was injured and hospitalized during the Boston Marathon Explosions with a major back injury and two broken wrists. “You’re Ok” explores my recovery and the healing process. I have been researching how other artists like Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl, Stanya Kahn, Jon Rafman, Hannah Wilke and Liza Johnson uncover the effects of war, trauma and violent events. I’m also very interested in how groups, communities and cities grieve and heal collectively. Using texts from Trauma Studies I am exploring and documenting the impacts of psychological and physical trauma on an individual (myself), my family, my immediate community, and on the city as a whole while also looking at the contrasting methods that the mass media has used to process the event. The body’s healing time vs. media time.”


Chloë Bass Rehearsal for Regular Social Behavior” Chloë Bass is a conceptual artist working in performance, situation, publication, and installation. Chloë has received commissions from LUMEN, the Culture Project’s Women Center Stage Festival, the Bushwick Starr’s Bushwhack Festival, and 3rd Ward’s Moviehouse. She has received residencies from the Bemis Center (Omaha, Nebraska), POGON (Zagreb, Croatia), D21 Kunstraum/5533 art space (Leipzig, Germany and Istanbul, Turkey), and Eyebeam (New York). Recent work has been seen at the Neuberger Museum, Momenta Art, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Flux Factory, Kunstkammer AZB (Zürich), Akademie Schloss Solitude, Exit Art, Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, ITINERANT Performance Festival, Glasshouse, Panoply Performance Laboratory, and Agape Enterprise, among others. Selected profiles of her work have appeared in BOMB, Entorno, ArtInfo, Art Observed, and Hyperallergic. She is a the recipient of the 2014 Create Change Residency from the Laundromat Project, the 2013 Fellowship for Utopian Practice from Culture Push and is a 2011 & 2012 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Individual Artist Grant Nominee. From 2007 – 2011, Chloë served as the co-lead organizer for Arts in Bushwick, which produces Bushwick Open Studios, BETA Spaces, and Armory Arts Week performance festival SITE Fest, which she founded. She has guest lectured at Parsons School of Design, Sotheby’s Institute, the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, and Brooklyn College CUNY. She holds a BA in Theater Studies from Yale University, and an MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) from Brooklyn College.

Ayana M. Evans currently resides in New York, home base for her work as a performance artist and accessories designer. She frequently visits her hometown of Chicago, a city whose “all-American” and sometimes controversial reputation has been a major influence on her art making practices, either as ideals she challenges or as nostalgia for histories she cannot re-create.  Her own family’s roots in the South and her identity as an African American woman add another significant layer to her performance works, which are often presented as critical or banal queries that involve her body. Evans received her MFA in painting from Tyler School of Art at Temple University and her BA in Visual Arts from Brown University.  She has also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture as well as the Vermont Studio Center.  Recent exhibits include: “Time Distortion and the Body” at Panoply Performance Laboratory, Brooklyn, “A Box in the World,” sponsored by Local Projects, Queens, “All that Glitters,” at The Gateway Project, Newark, “Operation Catsuit” video, screened at Panoply Performance Laboratory, Brooklyn, and “Everything Is Up For Grabs,” performance art piece choreographed by Whitney Hunter and shown at Judson Church, New York.  Evans’ accessories line, Yana handbags, was launched in 2007 and has been featured in EssenceNylonMarie Claire, TimeOut NY and the L.A.

Anya Liftig’s work has been featured at TATE Modern, MOMA, The New Museum, Trouw Amsterdam (collab with Stedelijk Museum, CPR, Highways Performance Space, Lapsody4 Finland, Fado Toronto, 7a11d International Performance Festival, Performance Art Institute-San Francisco, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, The Kitchen at the Independent Art Fair, Performer Stammtisch Berlin, OVADA, Joyce Soho and many other venues around the globe. In “The Anxiety of Influence” she dressed exactly like Marina Abramovic and sat across from her all day during “The Artist is Present” exhibition. Her work has been published and written about in The New York Times MagazineBOMBThe Wall Street JournalVogue ItaliaNext MagazineNow and ThenStay ThirstyNew York MagazineGothamistJezebelHyperallergicBad at SportsThe Other Journal, and many others. She is a graduate of Yale University and Georgia State University and has received grant and residency support from The MacDowell Colony, Atlantic Center for the Arts, The New Museum, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Flux Projects, University of Antioquia and Casa Tres Patios-Medellin, Colombia. She is the recipient of a 2014-2015 Franklin Furnace Award for a series of interventions in museums throughout New York mimicking the gestures of animals depicted in Old Master paintings and sculptures. In November 2014 she will release her first self-published artists’ book, entitled Rejection, Just Over 15 years of Ambition, which was featured in the D.A.P. publication, On Art and Life, by Stuart Horodner.  Purchasers receive a one of a kind portfolio box with a copy of every rejection letter Liftig has received to date.  Every year, purchasers receive a packet with the rejection letters of that calendar year to update their collection.  Their purchases also fund the production of a duplicate edition of Rejection which is sent to an institution of their selection from an index of all the organizations that have ever rejected the artist.  Please contact the artist directly for more information or to purchase a copy.  Upcoming performances include performing in: Screening Room, or, The Return of Andrea Kleine (as revealed through a re-enactment of a 1977 television program about a ‘long and baffling’ film by Yvonne Rainer.) at The Chocolate Factory in Long Island City, Queens,  A performance/dance collaboration with Tess Dworman at Center for Performance Research, Brooklyn, NY, and AUNTS on Camera at The New Museum, NY.

Lital Dotan & Eyal Perry (aka: Glasshouse) have been a collaborative team since 2001. Their work is best described as interdisciplinary performative art, integrating elements of video, photography and installation into performance; challenging ideas pertaining to the role of art in society, the role of the audience in art and the very nature of art itself. In their performative pieces they often involve the public, seriously examining public morality and the deeper, more hidden motivations behind social interactions. In 2010 the Glasshouse project was hosted by seminal performance artist Marina Abramovic at her institute in San Francisco. In addition to their work as Glasshouse, Lital & Eyal’s works have been exhibited internationally in museums and galleries (the Israel Museum, the San Francisco Jewish Modern and the National Museum in Cracow among others) and can be found in public and private collections worldwide.

Future Death Toll’s David and Edward ask a lot of questions, like: how can we make performances with people not in the same room (would that also work for several performers in several different places)? is silence important? how far does our voice reach? how can this engage the public? what’s the most minimal amount of material required to conceptually encapsulate the relevant point? Answers become fodder for group collaboration and idea exchange through tools like open forum discussion, a/v recordings, and live video chat. Black trash bags, heavy breathing, sweat, mask, razors, and clothes are objects of ephemera & appropriated context; which may or may not be (or become) transcendental; which may or may not be well crafted; which may or may not really exist. What is seen? What is not seen? How is it that we can “see” what’s not there? And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you (to borrow from Nietzsche).

Kikuko Tanaka: Hybrid Research, Poetic Amalgamation and Communication ” Born and raised in JapanKikuko Tanaka is a frantic thinker and practitioner currently based in New York. Her ongoing series of tragicomic epic “A Tragic Bambi” is an open-ended investigation of psychical histories that inform and condition the present. She has performed and exhibited in various venues, including Smack Mellon, Momenta Art, NARS Foundation, Center for Performance Research, Amelie A.Wallace gallery at SUNY Old Westbury, Vox Populi, Arario Gallery and Panoply Performance Laboratory among others. Her work has been favorably reviewed in Art in America, Art Info, and Hyperallergic. She was a nominatee for a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Visual Art Grant in 2010. She has an interdisciplinary background in her education. She holds a BS in Landscape Design from Chiba University, and has briefly studied fine art at School of Visual Arts, and has engaged in interdisciplinary studies at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center, New York. She was a co-founder/ co-director of one-year artists’ project, Agape Enterprise, Brooklyn, New York, and is currently Administrative Director at Momenta Art, Brooklyn, New York.

Ivy Castellanos is a performance artist and sculptor. Castellanos is the founder of IV Soldiers.

Zhenesse Heinemann: “Ms Connections. Zhenesse Heinemann produces public programming, and curates and creates art in New York City and beyond.  She was born in Germany, grew up in Chicago, lived on the beach in Los Angeles, and has made a home in New York since 2004.

WILD TORUS (WT) is the eccentric brainchild of male and female counterparts, Vlady VØz Tokk and Mág Ne Tá Z’air, in addition to their collaborating spawn. WT creates chaotic, cult happenings within multi-sensory installations. Working out of Capitol Beltway inbreeding in a post-Cold War malaise between clashing Russian bloodlines; mental contortion in the American South; abandoned, Castilian wormholes; gradual suburban numbing; and urban hyper-stimuli, WT aims to create a shared, collective experience with audiences. WT utilizes a combination of digital and physical means, like projection art and kinetic sculpture, to communicate major events that occur in the universe. Through an ephemeral process, WT’s constructed interventions alter its participants’ consciousness, as well as their corporeal position in society. The rituals activate a liminal space-time to personally deconstruct events of our contemporary reality, those which have been distorted through media sources and the Internet. Ultimately, the coming together of WT’s clashing identities, invented tools, and cryptic symbols through ritualistic experience erupts into an extreme, dystopian spectacle.

PPL (Esther Neff and Brian McCorkle): “Embarrassed of the (W)hole: Exchange with Petrichor” Panoply Performance Laboratory (PPL) operates across disciplines and spheres, constructing and participating in live situations. Projects such as operas, conferences, exhibitions, a miniature museum, tours, a performance space, an international festival, workshops, and other forms have been supported through Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Brooklyn Arts Council, LaGuardia Community College, University Settlement, the cell, chashama,, Performer Stammtisch, University of Kentucky, and shown at Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery and High Concept Laboratories (Chicago), Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, The White Page (Minneapolis), ISSUE: Project Room, Grace Exhibition Space,  Flux Factory, English Kills, Momenta Art (NYC), Villa Victoria (Boston), La Casa del Popolo (Montreal), Gruentaler9 (Berlin) and many other spaces, in addition to public sites including a bowling alley, public libraries, bars, gas stations, etc. Outside of PPL, Brian McCorkle is a founder of composer ensemble Varispeed and has performed in PERFORMA 11 and 13, at The Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum, The Kitchen, and all over the world as a performer and composer. Esther Neff (almost always operating as “PPL”) practices contextual and conceptual work involving modes of institutional critique, curation-as-art, and social performance. She also writes about performance theory and has spoken on/at GritTV, Abrons Arts Center, CUNY, The New School, and published texts here and there on the outmost fringes of academia. Brian and Esther have been collaborators since 2004.


Within a situation that intentionally performs the shifting of frames and reflections, witnessing/participating is arbitration between conflicting dialectical images. Meanings can only be read by individually self-authorized interpretants; you will be a dictating mirror in the room, facing sets of ir-rational constructions performed into ad-hoc [1] repetition by a collaboration of nonrepresentative yet rigorously-rehearsed and methodologically-driven performers.


The totalitarian implications of reflective schemas for “reality” and “meaning” must be taken for granted (we have suffered the arrays of western imperialism long enough to know them as ourselves) but we struggle to put anything in place of these schemas or even see anything as other than they are: hegemonic discourses dictating a constant methodological agenda towards universality, understanding, and power-seeking within mythic paradigms of the politic, the personal, the rhetoric, the economic. The smell of the corpses laid in the wake of such schemas make every nourishment our bodies need taste bad.


Any Size Mirror is a Dictator forces us to wade down into the graves; we don’t “transcend” anything. We are not an elite few, we are pro-fessional culture workers. Holding our breaths, we focus on the acts themselves, taking as a principle of performance [2] that isolation of actions [3] are (at best) “interesting” attempts at ______ [4] becoming-states.


Unfortunately here, there are more complications. Acts are so various in mode, and so complex as modes, that performance focusing on the acts themselves must choose what kinds of acts to focus on. Via a long period of rehearsal, debate, and public performance, we become interested in how our focus alters what it focuses on, how it is dictating formality and constructing via its definition of acts and through formalization and definition as acts.


The process of acting as, and some actions, having been chosen via previous processes (remembering is also acting), is and looks like dancing. It also is and sounds like making music, and is and reads like speaking, building, socializing. Perhaps tragically, what we’re doing here is just an opera. It becomes more and more an opera the more consistent our ways of doing become (see: Kaprow): operations (making sounds, saying words, making movements, doing actions, touching things, becoming, becoming) formed into a work means “opera.” At last, as we approach 7-weeks of working it out via our operations, framed as an opera-dance-installation-art-thing by an art gallery, we surface back into the totalitarian air, aiming these (now seemingly absurd) “modal consistencies” or “systems,” or “scores,” into repetition in the face of your interpretation.


And we imagine that you will interpret our actions as opera. A star is easily recognizable by your eye as a star by the time it gets exactly to this point in time and space, somewhere else (or long ago) it was/is a molten mass of energies and everything. In western traditional dance, music, and theater, the most common modes are ways of doing something which are rehearsed to produce the same action every time, irrelevant to whether or not that is even possible: this is how you make a star, this is a star. Modern performance then is most dominantly “research”-based, seeking empiric answers to problems, or just reflecting problems themselves: what is the essence of star-ness? Can the most star-like star be made? Post-modern (or hyper-modern) performance shatters into myriad modes, but even here, ways of doing are often “reduced” to very small sized mirrors in performance-as-art so that a “somethingness” can emerge that is detached from any direct cause-and-effect, see Abramovic, see Rainer, see Cage: ★

“Post-modern” projects contain antitheses and reimaginations of Modernism’s reductive processes (primarily sight-based though also existing across sensorially-dilineated artforms) and are used to identify modal consistencies. Processes of reaction, reflection, reduction, reproduction, representation (and any other “re” which positions itself in relationship with something) can become objects in and of themselves; while actions focus on the way of doing rather than on what is done, the ways of doing themselves must be totally governed, simple, clear, essential, in order to apply to more than what they are, in service variously of “value” of acts as such. Even when processes are aleatoric/relational, they are parsable containers for bodies, operations which signify/represent consistent ways in which things can be done in projection of the things these ways of doing potentially produce. Objectives of many current modes of performance (among many others, any and all that have objectives) are those which might be described as becoming-objects. Objects/objectives act as particles/components in other systems (such as juxtapositional semiotic phrases and art markets) not as agents (lubricant or otherwise). For many reasons, the deathsmell is here too.


It is another assumptive principle of this work that un-reduction (i.e. synthesis, or “confusion” [5]) in terms of technique and in service of “virtuosity” (intentionality of the utmost utterance), is helpful in attempts to act complex actions such as thinking and other forms of resisting. In order to think about this, we have to draw diagrams, or move, or make noise; cognitive exercises prove embodiment just as somatic exercises do and Cartesian dualism finally doesn’t even feel right anymore. Because of this, performance-as-art has become deeply invested in subject-object relationships and so we have many examples of modal consistencies navigating different objectives and actions, as irreducible processes to steal and stitch together. We are now in the anythingplace, putting into repetition larger and larger mirrors that open exponentially in attempts to define each action. Any Size Mirror is a Dictator first attempted to find andprocess acts which were not possibly something, following perceived edges around artistic attempts and researching arguments throughout political science, cognitive science, social psychology, anthropology, phenomenology, and the annals of YouTube for acts which constructively act, but not consistently. All of this soon became re-cognizable as labyrinthine catacomb, reproduced almost automatically [6] as anything at all. The rooms get smaller and smaller, Aristotle haunts our nonexistent breakfasts. We explain ourselves to invisible aliens, startle at rabbit-shaped shadows. We find ourselves collecting attempts (mostly failed) into scores for action, forever mise-en-abymically making smaller and smaller attempts to resist objectivity and reflection until the attempts themselves are erased by what we can’t actually describe via all that which is indicated above, and is probably the “engine itself.”


We move as if each action of ours is another layer of matryoshka [7], size in both directions unlimited. Optimistically though, we might desire this feeling of big something else to prove that a.) there are subaltern [8] ways of becoming meaningful, that b.) simultaneity can be cognized, and c.) everything will be OK.

Otherwise, we might find that our selves (if such things exist) are Totally pinned inside regimes of “existing” meaning, or worse, ground into nothing by the nihilism of capitalism, systemic oppressions, and epistemological theology, all operations never failing to serve as reflections constructing that grand reflection itself, a fascism inherent to any historic/political/social “body” [9] itself.


We rest in repetition of materials, practicing social learning and cognitive parsing, procedural slowings of sense-based decision-makings, performance of sense-making/interpretation. What is and isn’t a part of this? How do I do? (see: Stein)


Sometime at the beginning of the project, we split into two teams fighting inside different sorts of cultural game-prisons: the Rehearsive team is lead by two dictators, a composer and a choreographer. These dictators build an experiential paradox (deathtrap) of rules and laws enforcing the idea that “any size mirror is a dictator” on the performers, and joining the work as performers themselves. Pushed away from the good-feeling ecstatic dancing and singing body by technical difficulty, all acts must be acted as acts, chosen immediately and performed as such for and in the moment. Reflecting opera as a relational aesthetic, a performance of performance, a structure about structures, labor is performed inside a holodeck programmed to simulate what it will be like, the materiality of material can be molecularly pulled apart by the hubris of attempts to “accurately reflect” what is not, in any sense of facts, there. This is, in a handful of ways, a negative reinforcement, but it has attempted the “self-destruct from the inside” approach with excruciating sincerity: the rules and laws are impossible to follow and open to interpretation, they contradict each other in exactly the ways we think we see that conceptual models must (our very problems with them).


The second team, a Recursive team, is lead by third dictator, a writer/theater director. We interpret “any size mirror is a dictator” from an “outside” position, working mostly alone to develop methodologies for making sense. These methodologies are subjective, beginning from the place of instability of significance, confusion of conceptual metaphor, and anti-naturalist “postmodern condition.” Our optimistic expectations are to create a situation like some “grand prehistoric time of tasting” wherein anything could potentially be food the moment we put it in our mouths, but hubris is in any attempt to start from scratch with all of the ingredients already baked into the dough of ourselves.


You are invited to this humble utopian feast of failures, it exists only as an index of the hunger that is interest, as meaninglessfull as you decide.


[1] “ad-hoc” means “for a specific purpose, non-generalizable”

[2] art itself is a semantic and capital-based construction operating though modes of production. This project does have a mode of production, existing weakly in relationship to itself via an “institutional critique” consisting of transparencies, written analyses, and embedded (content-based) reflections, see “Accepting Proposals,” Score #2, for example. Conflicts between artistic modes of production and “how art becomes” are our primary interest here. Antonio Gramsci writes that art is that which defines art: thus, art (even if it has, as an objective to become art, see process philosophy) must begin from a position (where?) that is “not” art. To an extent, this “non-art” remains to tied to becoming art as a product of its own co-constructive resistance of art: it is always art, but its conception of itself defines art as something itself/else/that is.

[3] extrapolate special relativity (see: Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen/Bohm experiment) first as a poetic proof for empirical inadequacy and next as a replacement of attempts at empirical adequacy with action-based diagrams: causes and effects can become equations but each equation relates with every other, infinitely and non totally.

[4] insert positive word

[5] see score #1 “confuse means to pour together”

[6] see scores #22, #23, #24, “artists and all individuals are products/conduits/producers”)

[7] a matryoshka is a nesting doll

[8]“subaltern” in PHILOSOPHICAL LOGIC may mean: “(of a proposition) implied by another proposition (e.g., as a particular affirmative is by a universal one), but not implying it in return” (Dictionary of Philosophy)

“subaltern” in POST-COLONIALISM may mean: “the social group who are socially, politically, and geographically outside of the hegemonic power structure of the colony and of the colonial homeland” (our friend Wikipedia)

[9] conceptual metaphors: “social body,” “world as stage,” our acts process in pursuit of alternatives to these, most constructively



This year, PPL and Drearysomebody, will conclude construction of a dance-opera called ‘Any Size Mirror is a Dictator‘ with a six-week installation and durational performances at Momenta Art, Sept 5-Oct 19, 2014. 

After much debate and consideration, we have decided to launch  HATCHFUND CAMPAIGN to bring in dollars and sense.  

An in-depth analysis of this small act, written in pseudo-political science jargon (as an act of writing-as-performance as part of her role of “recursive dictator” within the dance-opera) by Esther Neff, is below. 

The idea that there is an economic crisis in the arts at all hinges on the final and hegemonic establishment of a turn-of-the-century[1] conception of art: that it is a functional—moreover fungible—part and parcel of society.

As such, “the arts” undergo the same crises as “society,” crises which are caused and demonstrated by the increasing divide between rich and poor, by the prison industrial complex and by hyper-commercialization, privatization, and corporatization, et all. These crises do, oddly, bring artistic practices and their “value(s)” into much interesting and problematic question[2], spawning areas of art theory which, for example, return to essentialist humanist views in formal argument against perceptions of art as leisure, or formally confront economies as performative systems.

I am not here to argue for any specific relationship between “art” and “society” and I will not be using any symptomatic arguments for “the value” of art (I believe that “value” itself is both constructed and subjective). Instead, at the beginning of this expository recursion and introspective case study, I simply want to note that the establishment of this basic, fundamental theory of art’s fungibility, which underlies much of art theory today, is intrinsic on a doxic level, reinforced and demonstrated “scientifically” by the rise of experimental (scientifically moded) artmaking and the rise of the 501(c) 3 sector, as aligned with the tightening grip of post-consensual capitalism. As a paradigm (i.e. thoughts and ways of thinking which are constructed to be universal), this conception of a functional/fungible “role” for art in (an ecologic/economic) society, involves certain smaller, more concrete structures which model artmaking/art and our conceptions of what art is and who artists are:

1.)  Art being a functional/fungible part of society means that the artist is a worker, first and foremost. As such, the artist is subjected to the same valuation schemas for labor as any producer of forms of fungible goods and services. As entrepreneur, as worker, as producer of product. If the artist is not making money and not working as a worker in these ways, they are not a working (“professional”) artist and their artistic labor is not valuable.

2.)  This operates intrinsically with art’s subjection within, and consideration solely as, a set of objects, which are products, fungible within markets, as markets construct economies, which in turn construct culture, which in turn constructs art, which in turn is subject to markets (see: Jameson, in which culture itself is product). This cycle, many argue and feel, is not only economic, but ecological, an understanding of sustainability, a way of existing safely and freely. If art is not being bought and sold, it is not art as it does not functionally construct culture or participate in culture at all.

3.)  That it is the artist’s responsibility to operate functionally and fungibly within these paradigms, which ultimately serve as the only way to value their existences within a society dominated hegemonically (see Antonio Gramsci) by capitalism. If an artist cannot sell their art product, the art product is not valuable.

Figuring out how to actualize the third structure for artists and art dominates much of the dialogue about an “economic crises” for art; artists’ failure to fulfill such a critical component of the ultimate theory that art is a functional part of society burdens them with debt, guilt, humiliation, and fear of ostracization from this very society. Furthermore, any artist who doubts the intention of art to be fungible finds themselves relegated to the crazy camp of outsider artist, or just bad (invaluable) artist (i.e. not participant in society).[3]

On the other side of the same coin, arguments that art is valuable because it is transcendent, therapeutic, empathically stimulating, a part of human nature/essential, beautiful, that it allows for self expression, catalyzes catharsis, and raises consciousness, even that it is anti-capitalist and/or otherwise “politically relevant,” multiply and compound as they are developed and designed to insist why certain art (and programs which teach, fund, and otherwise support art) should be exchanged with money, and/or a lot of money. Thus, conceptions of the values of art are Totally formed by structures for capitalism-based valuation schemas.[4]

This is the point in roundtables about arts economies at which someone always says something reductivist (but “true”) basically stating that: Despite any objections to this vast paradigm (i.e. capitalism itself and its models for human existence), artists such as ourselves ARE, without a doubt, humans living in this society where all goods and services, including space (housing, land, essentially), food (less controlled but totally related with currency within urban areas, see land), health care (access to medicines and specialist members of society), water (see, housing, there are no more public drinking fountains and it is against city laws to open a fire hydrant) and all other resources are subject to currency-based capitalism. When we attempt to work for any reason other than capital gain, we soon find ourselves resourceless (homeless, hungry, sick, thirsty, naked, etc), not to mention deemed valueless as individuals. Capitalism is not a choice, its autopoetic many-headed modes perhaps dominate our very consciousnesses, (see Meszaros) perhaps especially in urban areas, and perhaps especially in New York City. The question we must ask ourselves thus becomes less about how to, futilely, as martyrs or nuns, resist fungibility and become ascetics (somehow) anesthetic to capitalism and more about how to functionally survive as participants, social animals, in society. Perhaps we can most agree: we would like to survive ethically, practically, with compassion and generosity, but we would also like to survive in society (with people, who are the sum, substance, subject, and source of all art as it is made by people), and so we seek ethical, practical, compassionate, and generous ways of dealing with some kind of monetization of art.

A sick hope remains, in me, that art itself will prove that some human agency and potential for something else is still possible (and maybe even help us act out what that something might be).

The first problem confronted, within ensuing, weakly hopeful little interventions within a functionalist (subsequently, capitalist) world, deals with the scale of any one project and its scope, first and foremost.

So what do we have, within our own techniques and methodologies that we can use to determine how to function? Free, or “poor” artworks, to borrow Grotowski’s term, are agit-prop, DIY, and do not require a lot of labor, abundant resources, or private space. These ways of working “poorly” are useful ways, in creating a dance-opera, to build set, costumes, props, and other elements of said opera. “Poorness” is a politics of aesthetics here, and a part of other ideological structures, like mutualism, and collaboration. In NYC, we have Materials for the Arts, dumpster diving, and opportunities to learn skills like sewing and carpentry to Do It ourselves. Many (myself included) also like hand-drawing, and the homemade, as purely pleasurable/aesthetic decisions. However, though these politics of aesthetics and action subvert dominant exchange models, they are also defined by their subversion, negatively reinforcing the very models they resist (this is a complicated idea, see Žižek for more on “negative reinforcement” and how modes designed in direct opposition to other modes serve to reinforce the dominance of that mode being opposed).

Also, the actual problem hits full force when low-level engagement of time and labor is detrimental to the work, which it often is when you’re doing it yourself: if the work is to be complex, detailed, and able to engage with multi-directional logics and somatics of contemporary human life, there are certain types of “poorness” which curtail and oppress the work, ultimately removing the necessity of its existence, at the very least dulling its impact (this is one of many ways in which poorness is oppressive across spheres, see a parallel in food wherein eating healthy requires time or money and cheap fast food is always unhealthy, functionally maintaining the dis-ease of those in poverty, and the entire paradigm, fossil fuels used in transportation and the whole of it, is ultimately the worst of all for health). In art, dis-ease happens in aspects of complexity, originality, virtuoso, and the ability of art and artmaking to “ease” and “dis-ease” existence in its own ways,[5] as the most detrimental poverty to these modes of artmaking is lack of time.

Case study, my collaborators and I have dealt with this problem by making work slowly, developing an opera over a few years so as to not take up too much of any one individual’s time at any given time, but it must take a lot of time regardless, in order to be both cheap yet be healthy and define health (of body, mind, planet[6]). In the end, time becomes more valuable than money, much time is spent, and time is still a tangible part of labor systems which demand that labor be compensated if the laborers are to survive (as one person only has so much time in which to labor).

Second, and very much interrelated with the above, emotional/political/ideological beliefs support the social aspects of a project of theater and/or dance, which involve more than one artist working together, often in larger teams. In addition to creating solidarity and better work with more heads put together, the need and desire to work collaboratively further links our practices into monetary economy; it is one thing for a single individual to separate the production of art from other modes of production, i.e. to work in another sector for money and to make art with this money (time as philanthropy, art as personal cause). When labor, however, is delegated, and groups of performers are asked to organize their lives so that they can work towards a larger-scale project (especially if the core of the project is the vision of a central dictating choreographer, director, composer, or the like) free labor becomes slavery else artists are paid fairly.

These first two problems have only one ethical response for a maker/generative artist such as myself (and I have attended so many panels to this effect, Lindsey Drury, the choreographer of this case study even founded a task force to deal with Rights for dancers, especially women dancers): performers must be respected, they must have reasonable hours, they must have healthcare, they must be paid for their time. There is nothing else (no “opportunity,” no “learning experience,” no “we’re all in this together”) that can be traded performers for their time that is worth as much as money (performers who each generate their own work as makers in their own right and face these problems when they do so, we all perform for each other, all need to be paid).

How to raise money to pay artists is the secondmost point on which most artists and cultural advocates are stuck. I might imagine a world in which institutions and generative artists provide the essentials, such as housing and food, in exchange for art, but this exists only in our imagination; institutions and “generative artists” are, of course, largely crippled themselves by the same structures outlined above.

Moreover, the absolute necessity of paying performers comes into conflict with another two problems when we start asking where we are going to get this payment money: Since this case-study is a dance-opera, the obvious answer seems to be ticket sales. Looking closely into this model however, we bear witness to a closure of access to art; if this is the way, then our art becomes a luxury product that is VERY expensive to buy if we rely solely on ticket sales to reimburse performers for their labor. I mean to say, that if the income from our product being purchased is directly correlated with the worth of the labor performed, only the wealthy could buy it, since we put a lot of time into it. A direct production model for art either decreases the quality of the work (it becomes fast, cheap, and unconsidered, see above) or limits access to individuals and groups living in poverty (for example, most of our friends and fellow arts community members). Not only does the sheer number of people who are subsequently barred from education, health care, and other necessities increase every day (as these things become luxuries), the number and kinds of people who are expected/able to pay us for our labor diminish and homogenize. Personally, I have absolutely no desire to make art for the wealthy only. Nor do I want to make art that is deemed valuable enough to buy only be extremely privileged sectors of a society. Against this last sentence, arguments that artists have always had benefactors bear some weight, and perhaps I/we would gratefully accept such support if such an angel appeared, a miracle.

More likely sticking around, is this problem of access and the position of art and who pays for it, a problem that leads us into the larger problem of free market economies in general. Another symptomatic problem of this larger problem of the free market is that when artists rely on supply-and-demand alone, the amount of supply (product) that is deemed valuable is limited. This may seem fine, maybe one can argue that the world doesn’t need that much art and that those artists who can’t become pop (on the level of Lady Gaga say, who can afford to pay her backup dancers fairly) should not make art at all. This argument about the free market and its effects on the art itself has always been a problem for “the avant-garde;” the complaint being that work that precedes (in time, supposedly) a demand for itself is unlikely to become popular on a large-enough level to support itself through its own sale alone. Also, not all art will ever be intended for a mass audience, and not all art is even recognizable as culture/a part of society before it constructs culture and society itself via its own existence. The free market has also always been a problem for community-based art, which serves those making it and those benefiting from the locality, energy, and other elements of its making, often not from any product. Another related consideration to be underlined out of the assumptive text above is that art is not only about the product of art, artmaking itself can be a “valuable” process that individuals should be able and allowed to participate in, across social strata and beyond any economic viability of their products.

Models attempting to resolve (make sustainable a solution to) these problems that work within capitalism include (across problems): lobbying/proposal writing/activism for government funding for art (actual funding of which there becomes less and less), philanthropy (i.e. asking those with money to pay for the making of the work), reversion to sale of objects and object-based work, and the artists working outside of the arts sector to fund the art.

Back to the “case study.”


PPL, the collective of which I am co-director with Brian McCorkle, is a loose and project-based team of poor artists making “avant garde” “performance art” “opera.” Driven by McCorkle’s and my “ethics and values,” PPL usually pursues few of these resolution-of-economic-problems models[7], relying instead on finding a balance between “poor” politics of aesthetics, conviction/martyrdom, small-group (duo) performances, making work in institutions and for higher-class artists that can pay us, and working day jobs in arts education. However, this project that we are making now, a dance-opera called Any Size Mirror is a Dictator, functions, and seeks to function in a very socially-dramaturgical manner. It is, in its own autopoetically insane way, forcing us to be “fungible,” as it evolves to inaccurately and psychopathically “reflect” the society it constructs and is constructed by. We have created reflective performance structures that we do not control, after many months of working towards this idea. As a project intentionally and systemically put-into-repetition, Any Size Mirror is a Dictator actually has no ethics, it seeks to become what it can see in the mirror, and sometimes it sees us seeing it: starving, angry, fools, enslaved to our own ideological romances with art history (before post-consensual capitalism), our own desires to be important and valuable in non-capital-based ways, and our own inability to truly function without being fungible. Simultaneously, our 3-year process of exhaustive reflectivity tells us, if we want to truly make ART, as art defines itself, and refuses to be defined by any dictatorship, even one formed, silently, of concept (“politics,” “society,” “mental health”), simulacra (currency=gold, culture=market) and values (the value of a human being, the value of a situation/experience, beliefs in rightness, beliefs in quality, beliefs and desires conflating and inflating), we must give the project what it wants, and see where we can go, NOT argue for the empiric value of something that we think we understand.

It is here, strangely torn between the very concrete empty savings account and the silver-lined clouds of civilization’s collapse, that crowd-funding (stupid name) becomes our best (i.e. most ethical, supported by the beliefs and suppositions espoused here) option. It has become important to us, and to this project, solely this project.

This may seem silly, but hear me out…Crowd-funding first deals with the immediate problem: it allows us a way to pay performers during and directly related to their processes of artmaking. Parallel, time becomes money, at least in an almost fair way (depending on how much money we can raise). Crowd-funding is also deemed our most ethical option because it allows the performances of the work to be free (i.e. we ask only for payment for the labor of the employed performers), and so people of all classes can experience the “product.” This freeness usually (has in the past) results in a high demand for our “product(ions),” audiences grow large (though not mass) and remain diverse (in many different ways). The freeness and availability of our work in product(ion) form then, is our second ideological consideration. Complicit with us in this freeness scheme, is Momenta Art, the gallery where we will hold this project’s six-week installation and durational performances. It is worth noting, in response to those who might suggest we relocate our demands to be paid, that Momenta is a not-for-profit space. Momenta disseminates and exhibits artworks and artworking that is certainly not meant for mass consumption, processes and art which often hold forms that are difficult to monetize (i.e. performance, social arts practices, documentation of community projects as visual art, meetings and panels, etc). We would like to support their organization as much as they support ours, we engage with Momenta on a mutualistic level, not as their employees. If you would prefer to support Momenta, please do so! Relatedly, Crowd-funding usually relies on small donations, not large chunks of money from wealthy patrons alone. This allows classes, communities, and cultural subsectors to work together to fund art, and allows individuals and groups throughout various “strata” to decide what art they want to support.

Crowd-funding is a form of free-market demand modelling, which attempts to trade the value of our product for your money, but actually it fails to model this alone, because your donations may also be driven by your love for one of the performers, or by a reciprocal relationship within our local arts community. In some ways, the crowd does not care if the product is “valuable,” and it may even use other evaluation schemas than those directly constructed by capitalism (if indeed there are any[8]). Finally, crowd-funding allows audience members to our work and supporters of us as people to perform their own agency, using whatever justifications they hold dear, perhaps using beliefs that there is value to art that is made grassroots, by people rather than by companies. Perhaps we can even believe that live events are valuable, that face-to-face relationships and shared situations are valuable towards cultural and social being-together, valuable enough to deserve money, which is the highest form of value, within economically-dominated post-consensual capitalism.

Click HERE to visit our Hatchfund Campaign

As an after-note, let it be noted that, we have chosen Hatchfund carefully. Maintaining the pressures of a time-sensitive campaign via requirement of a minimum earning, Hatchfund does not take the funds from unsuccessful campaigns, they distribute these funds as matches to other projects. They also take NO cut of artist income, rather inviting donors to pay for their administrative labor costs. Even further, they operate interpersonally, working closely with artists and paying close attention to each project they accept; you have to apply to Hatchfund, they choose based on experientially-developed conceptions of a reasonable budget, fundraising plan, and possibility of the project being completed. All donations are tax-deductible, and you will not have to pay for a ticket to experience the final work.[9]


[1] 21st

[2] Questions which, perhaps inform performative turning and actually bode quite well for the health of art as a self-defining way of becoming…questions such as, is there such a thing as universality? (towards deciding if something can be universally valuable, see the euro), what is the nature of nature? (towards determining if we are really all going to die at our own hands), and so on. This is a pretty great time for art and for philosophy, and for relationships between these (now global, finally diasporous and conflictual, performance especially becomes a way of thinking about existence, far beyond what is variously defined as “art.”)

[3] I’m not saying that functionality is the opposite of “art for art’s sake” (this, in many ways, is a great argument for the monetary value of an art object/product) I am saying that art is forced to function, before it is even deemed art, as a fungible thing/functions as a valuable thing.

[4] The implications of this forced relationship is evident within art criticism art history, academic spheres, and intellectualism at large, which have experienced the same subjections and capitulatory shifts as art and artmaking communities.

[5] Performance may deal in content, to follow the analogy, with foods such as carrots and hamburgers, but performing as actual acts is analogous to forming different human relationships with health as a concept.

[6] A jolt of embarrassment hit me as I wrote these three words like that. I am just coming to realize that this type of embarrassment means that I am being what may be perceived as uncool, uncouth, (fucking hippie!) “insensible,” just like the “woman,” “poor person,” “mentally ill person” that I am, etc. Maybe I should write towards this type of embarrassment…

[7] We do apply for some grants, but we rarely get them, we have difficulty participating in market-driven institutions, various and complicated particular situations here…

[8] Of course there are! Didn’t your momma love you when you were a baby?

[9] As per all crowd-funding campaigns, we are also offering “perks” in exchange for your money, which I guess is in case the art isn’t enough on its own, but more probably designed to assuage the artist’s deep fear that the art isn’t enough.


A report on the panel discussion “WHO CAN WRITE ABOUT PERFORMANCE ART?” presented by PERFORMA Institute and NYU Steinhardt at Judson Church, 04/24/2014.

PROGRAM via e-flux announcements.

“Why Dance in the Art World?,” presented by The Performa Institute and NYU Steinhardt at Judson Memorial Church on September 17, 2012. Photo © Paula Court

“Why Dance in the Art World?,” presented by The Performa Institute and NYU Steinhardt at Judson Memorial Church on September 17, 2012. Photo © Paula Court

This is a written response to a panel discussion. I will understand the panel as a public performance, problematically attempting to identify the assumptions, intentions, concerns, and theoretical positions of the panelist-performers and then to judge success or failure in their realizations, complications, and expressions of these. Subjective judgment will be used to declare the panel’s cultural relevance and value, and to show where the panel is without cultural relevance and value, each at my own discretion. Throughout this critical explication, judgment, and process of (e)valuation, my own theories and opinions will inevitably emerge, combining my embodied experience as a witness with my synthesizing thought processes as performed during and after the performance of the panel. I will also write in a style that parodies abstract “art language” as it exists in dialogue with philosophy, social theory, and other formal systemizations of nooespheres (1).

Adrienne Edwards introduces the event, speaking about the history of and “substantial contribution to the field” made by PERFORMA the institute and by PERFORMA the rest of it. Edwards reads the panelist bios and then turns the microphone over to panel moderator/panel participant RoseLee Goldberg, the founder of PERFORMA. Goldberg first notes the anniversary of PERFORMA and re-describes the institution’s venerable history of similar panel discussions, further mediating and assigning value to the situation and context. She draws attention to importance of Judson Church, making a gesture of open, raised hands to the vaulted ceiling of the space and the stained-glass apostles basking in the 6pm light. Goldberg then asks for a show of hands, saying she needs to get a sense of who she is talking to: who is an art historian? How many critics in the audience? Writers? Anthropologists? Theater, dance, film, or music practitioners? Most of the hands remain down, as she does not ask who is a “performance artist,” or who is a “babysitter,” and I recognize a majority of individuals who might identify as both of these. The attempt to identify the individuals present is no doubt an attempt to be inclusive and to recognize the performance situation. However, the neglect of performance artists specifically attests the opinion that (as many fellow attendees of the panel later contest) “performance art” is more of a critical category or movement like Feminism or Abstract Expressionism (primarily to be defined by critics, art historians, and curators not by artists), rather than as its own discipline or set of concerns (see the end of this piece of writing for more on this). After this interactive show-of-hands game, Goldberg leans forward against the podium to perform a narrative about her own background, epistemic evolution, and intellectual subjectivity. Goldberg moves and speaks with a cool grace, her speech patterns and vocabulary are direct and bent on universalization, the language of a politician. In rhetorical content, she is similarly level, serving up what I perceive as four “meta-concerns” for the panel as a whole: context, situationality, subjectivity, and framing processes, as such. (These words are somewhat arbitrary but I use them to draw a shaky line around what I see as the most general clusters of frames, ideologies, and perspectives put forth by the panel as a performance.)

Construction-Destruction-Construction, 1967 Performers: Al Hansen, Jon Hendricks, Taylor Mead, Ralph Ortiz, Lil Picard, Jean Touche, and Viva C-D-C took place at Judson Church on October 20, 1967, and at The Factory in November 1967.

Construction-Destruction-Construction, 1967
Performers: Al Hansen, Jon Hendricks, Taylor Mead, Ralph Ortiz, Lil Picard, Jean Touche, and Viva
C-D-C took place at Judson Church on October 20, 1967, and at The Factory in November 1967.

Golberg provides instruction to the other panelists to continue to observe these four meta-concerns as governing frames for the panel: she asks them to note context in terms of her own book and the live PERFORMA festival (a context including history and dialectic locale of the institute, NYU Steinhardt–which is hardly mentioned at all and I’m not sure who is the representative party from this institution–and Judson Church), indicates to the panelists what the panelists will do and how they will do it with regards to microphones and podium (by which site will interact with performance actions) and instructs the panelists to provide their own background narrative so that specific subjectivies can be known by the audience (by which their subjectivities will be made transparent).


Throughout each of their initial presentations, the panelists will lay out different types of contexts, using contextualizing and historicizing materials/materializations such as texts, witnessed performances, historical facts, and documentation and using definitions of contexts as functional, (and thus valuable) dialectic components (2). The contexts of History, they agree, are empiric though subjective, ephemeral yet dialogic, inclusive yet exclusive. The differences between journalism, art historical writing, theoretical writing, and criticism are noted as contexts for subjectivities, mediating conditions (the pressures of working for a newspaper, for example), and processes alike. Contexts such as “academia” and “the art world” are seen as objective systems which simultaneously produce art and are produced by art.

The artworld (see Danto, Becker, Dickie) and academia (public and private institutional research divided into fields of study and discourse) are the only two contexts named “contexts” as such, though the panelists complicate these as a matter of interesting point during their individual presentations. Economic and political contexts are loosely identified as parameters for differences and identities. Claire Bishop and Adrian Heathfield keep their panelist presentations trained within leftist/Marxist dialectics but their more contemporary eyes on philosophy (i.e. formal logics in conflicting dialogue with social and political processes, Hegelian problems with agency and universalism) are somewhat obscured by the ways in which the panel’s meta-concerns are heavily maintenanced/mediated, and ultimately excluded by the way in which PERFORMA’s authority is asserted via the panel’s active forms and self-contextualizations.

Throughout the panel presentations and following discussion, disciplinary context is of utmost amicable concern: the panelists discuss how theater, dance, and art are all skill-based traditions as well as institutions, economies, dialectics, and valuation schemas. They agree that interdisciplinary skills, multiculturalism, hybridity, general conflictuality, and intellectual catholicism are useful and are to be valued. However, “knowledge” is only tangentially problematized as such, left standing even as differing historicizing agendas emerge. I am forced to assume that this word, “knowledge,” is functioning in a semantic code for “universal” processes for thinking (processes, which separated from that which is thought about, are sometimes considered the threshold of possibility for such a thing as “universal” anything).

Contextuality, as an overarching concern, steers navigation of the panel’s improvisatory dialogue following the initial individual presentations by the panelists. Contextuality provides easy steerage via its discursive appropriation and synthesizing aims, easy first because there is extensive writing within the dialectics co-constructed by global academy and the global artworld debating “distinct formative genealogies” (Adrian Heathfield) and secondly because well-defined competing genealogies as performable tensions are ideal dramatic conflicts for a performance, such as a panel. Third, and verging on an almost teleological absurdity, “context” is an idea has been most formalized by linguistic fields as a way of dealing with relationships between language and social affect, allowing the performance of the dialogue itself and the discourse rehearsed by the performance of that dialogue, to operate in agreement. This agreement is, in fact, one functional (Platonian) definition of “a dialectic.” (3)

PERFORMA '13 opening party. Photo from GuestofaGuest. (I was there performing in a piece by but I didn't take a photo--author)

PERFORMA ’13 opening party. Photo from GuestofaGuest. (I was there but craps I didn’t take a photo–author 😉


This meta-concern is partially subsumed by context in general but demands that attention be drawn to it as a way of “dealing with it.” I might better entitle this framing concern “acts of situational recognition and coordination,” in attempts to separate this concern from contextuality.

Attention is drawn to the site and situation as a kind of moral act, a Brechtian (Brecht is mentioned three times during this panel) self-reflexivity that trades transparency for authorization, and values embodiment as a performed attempt to consciously perform construction of context rather than capitulate to an “existing” monolithic context (such as “academia”).

Despite the urgency of this concern, this panel maintained an autopoetic, dialectic constructivity as its dramaturgical design, making any formative “inclusion of the other” problematic if not impossible (as such acts of recognition serve to further position the recognizers in opposition/separation from “otherness,” i.e. otherness is defined by “not otherness”), and the colonial structure of the panel, as a form, remains unreformed by mere recognition. I reiterate; performance structures for this panel are not adjusted in any conclusory accordance with any political or social ideology regarding the site or its situation; the structure used operates in accordance with dominant/traditional/default academic panel formats of 2014. The arrangement of the audience in relationship to the panels is theatrical, the panelists sit behind a table on a stage in front of a sea of front-facing audience members in rows of folding chairs. Panelist blocking (as in the bodies of the panelists performing mise en scene) involves each panelist rising from their seat behind the table and moving to a podium downstage right. The panelist then has 13 minutes to present something that they feel relates to the purpose and intention of the panel (which is “writing about performance art” and “who can do it” see framing text in the program and this list of meta-frames). After this presentation of self and substance, panelists return to their seats as Goldberg picks out one element from their presentation to summarize and essentially add to the following collective, improvised, discussion. It is stated, by most of the panelists, that site (geographically in the city, in the country, in the world) and situation (the panel as a panel and as a form for a panel) can be considered a part of context and that all of this is somehow important without being presently formative/instructive/applicable/actionable. Only Adrian Heathfield notes that his position as an “exemplary authority,” standing on a dais in front of a disempowered, silent audience, is uncomfortable and should be considered.


Photo from Hrag Vartanian's instagram account of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses.

Photo from Hrag Vartanian’s instagram account of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses.

Hrag Vartanian’s process is also self-reflexive as suggested by the conflux between frameworks valuing inclusion of context, site/situationality, subjectivity, and process as meta-concerns. As a journalist, Vartanian explains, he is concerned with performing witnessing, and acts of performance documentation and dissemination. His concerns cause him to consider his own presence and subjectivities. As an example, Vartanian tells of a performance that he disliked while it was being performed, finding that some time later and in a different place, he felt the piece in a new and powerful way. Here, he is discussing an experience of subjectivity, a translating and using of one’s own emotional and psychological experience into writing. The writing self here is neither an objective nor a funhouse mirror, the writing self is an agent capable of engaging with time and space, in the same ways that a performer does when entering a performance situation. Witnessing becomes a form of presence, and not just during a performance, but throughout a process of intending and then performing writing or, sometimes, in Vartanian’s case, photographing and posting online. Noting Vartanian’s engagement with the internet also as a mode of performance, strong interest is sparked by relationships between his ideas and Philp Auslander’s much-cited article “The Performativity of Performance Documentation” (PAJ 84, 2006) in which the difference between “documentary” and “theatrical” photography is posed as an ideological intention (but whose?). Auslander writes that he is “suggesting that performance documents are not analogous to constatives, but to performatives: in other words, the act of documenting an event as a performance is what constitutes it as such. Documentation does not simply gener- ate image/statements that describe an autonomous performance and state that it occurred: it produces an event as a performance and, as Frazer Ward suggests, the performer as “artist.” Here, the intentions of the photographer as productive/generative acts is hinted (perhaps it is the photographer who holds an idealogical intention about the operation of the photograph? But to what extent does the photographer design/act out their production of the event as a performance and produce the definition of the artist as artist other than via the eventual inclusion or exclusion of that photograph in public record?) and Vartanian’s interest in his own “writing up,” ”photographing” and “uploading” bring this ongoing chain of debate surrounding documentation of performance into a more complex and contemporary place.

John Rockwell begins by (situationally) drawing attention to the different forms of notes and the divide between himself and Vartanian, who improvise their presentations from notes, and the through-written readings of texts by Heathfield and Bishop. His subjective perspective, he says, is “cheerfully barbaric” and self-proclaimed as “somewhat anti-intellectual.” He encourages young writers to attend a lot of performance art and reiterates the need for a broad education for writers about performance art. Near the end of his statement, Rockwell notices that he has been making a rhetorical separation between “us” and “them” regarding Western thinking and artworlds. His recognition of this expands in some moments of self-consciousness as he discusses his familiarity with Western art and white artists, problematically conflating groups and identities, devolving into a flippant tone. There is some complicit laughter in the audience, rewarding Rockwell’s frankness. He poses frankness, irony, straight-talk, and common language against academic and artworld dialectics to an extent, but perhaps accidentally aligns what he perceives as a “normativity” (white, male, cis, straight, Western?) with the former. This alignment is a paradigm which Rockwell would no doubt dispute, but in his attempts to locate his own subjectivity he finds its reinforcement.

Each of the panelists give background on themselves, describing their initial interest in performance art, linking their projects to individual artists, institutions, time periods, and geographic locations. The individual artists mentioned include Jonah Bokaer (Bishop), Tcheh Hsieh (Heathfield), time periods include the 1980’s and 1960’s, geographic locations are London, New York, Sydney. Two of the panelists are professors, one is a critic, one is a blogger, and one describes herself as a “curator, art historian.” Subjective perspectives, if they can be defined at all, might be defined as “Western,” “Feminist,” “Pedagogical,” “American,” “South African,” “British” and so on.


Claire Bishop begins her presentation by noting that the business of a panel performer is to attack and re-frame the panel’s framing. This process of debating the frame as a frame for the panel itself is re-introduced as a recommended procedure by Adrian Heathfield. In both of their spoken texts (they are reading partially-memorized papers), shifting frames are expertly outlined as they pass by, words have a rhythmic sensibility that make for pleasurable listening. In the best of lecture situations, the listener can follow the logic of both the framing process and see/understand that which is being framed, while enjoying the words and voice (assonance, tonality, timbre, volume, emotional expression, etcetera). I am reminded of Vanessa Place’s definition of a “sobject” in Notes on

Small Stellated Dodecahedron

Small Stellated Dodecahedron

Conceptualisms which locates the subject/object “existing in an ongoing procedural loop, self-eclipsed by degrees.” In the performances of both Bishop and Heathfield, their virtuoso in performing these procedural, self-eclipsing loops of thought and language is breathtaking. Bishop ties processes of dialecticization to performance writing, knitting the act of defining disciplines to art history trajectories, tying modes of production to skilling and de-skilling dialectics, etc (see types of contexts, above). The dialectic (a mathematics) emerges as a shimmering tetrahedron.


The presentations of the panel performers serve to complicate the initial meta-concerns for the event, following a dialogic (4) process which seeks to contribute co-constructive layers of insight. Heathfield’s text seemed most successful to me with regards to this intention, as he posed the performance artist as a practical philosopher and as a writer who opens up the space between politics and philosophy, describing how writing about performance, writing in performance i.e. performance text, performance as writing, and the performance of writing embodies active investigation into relevant problematics. This idea at first seemed unexciting contextually (i.e. linguistically), as his conceptual metaphors of “opening up spaces” and of “filling holes” as well as an intertwined personal narrative about the 1980’s seemed to bent towards that impossible omega point where all of reality is understood and all problems solved (see Goldberg, see Modernism and Plato’s Cave) or at least a project of “successful failure,” as formal yet impossible attempt towards such a thing (object and/or arrayed objects of knowledge). Yet when Heathfield begins to number out the schemas and dialectics via which performance has its own frame, he began to pose problematics as processes, aligning himself with what I feel are exactly the modes being realized by practicing performance artists. These are my notes that I wrote as he spoke verbatim, it is a list of the ideas he feels that performance art and writing about performance as well as writing using performance as its core metaphor and theoretical form (I hope this is what he was saying) co-construct:

Psychotherapy. “Holes in structures of constantive knowing.” Politics of visibility, voice, and access, altern bodies (Feminism, queer and post-colonial theory). Phenomenology, affect theory, generative frames, the sensate, embodiment. Relation, social and aesthetic theory, activism, “trouble economics” and “identitarianism,” collaborative writing, power paradigms, ways of thinking and being.

Zefrey Throwell, Ocularpation Wall Street, 2011.

Zefrey Throwell, Ocularpation Wall Street, 2011.

Hrag Vartanian’s perspective overlapped with Heathfield’s despite their very different lexicon and “contexts.” First, Vartanian spoke directly of artists and their acts, mentioning Zefrey Throwell’s public actions just before OCCUPY officially began on September 17, 2011, the collective institutional critique project Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival, (see photo below and statement of bias in footnotes) and several other works, pointing to the ways in which performance art projects relate with other fields and spheres of research, scholarship, theory, and analysis, existing in and as writing. He also brought up the internet rather slyly, speaking plainly about how images via Instagram and Facebook are “writings” about the witness’ experience and role within the performance situation. He put forth the idea that these image-based forms work well to understand work that deals in and with the present and presentness. Vartanian and Heathfield agreed that writing as a practice is a “troubling of identity,” and that the performance of the writer must be considered when that writer is writing in relationship with performance art (see: subjectivity).

The panelists all spoke with a certain advocacy for performance art. Bishop cited the recent Guardian article by Jonathan Jones dismissing performance art at large as silly cultural banality. “A need for more thoughtful, persuasive criticism which can also call a spade a spade” she said. Goldberg, Vartanian, and Rockwell agree that artists should be taken more seriously, young writers don’t read enough and aren’t any good, plugs for funding PERFORMA and for the institutions with which the panelists work are made.

Documentation image, Chris Burden "Shoot" (1971)

Documentation image, Chris Burden “Shoot” (1971)

In the discussion following the individual presentations, additional problems and questions are raised, the primary discussion is about processes of art historical writing regarding performances which have passed. Can a performance be written about by a writer who wasn’t present during the live performance? At first, I didn’t understand why this question should take up so much time, but it does seem to be one of the cruxes of one of the most intensive conflicts surrounding performance art:

Brought up and turned into a lively discussion by Claire Bishop and RoseLee Goldberg, these two seemed to argue with a certain heat for the primacy of an art-historical context and for a writer to know about the history of performance art, towards contextualizing a performance art work (or artist) within art history. By primacy of context, I mean that for them, art history is a context which defines performance art. Generally, I mean a closure of definitions of Performance Art (capital letters) into that performance work which is written about. (i.e. only performance art that is written about is actually performance art, see Auslander again making the similar argument about photography of performance). Running beneath this argument which is not quite an argument (Adrian Heathfield attempts to indicate the diversity of contexts for performance art but speaks with such indirect language that the points fall to the side of the conversation) is what I see as a simple and banal attempt to own performance art, for PERFORMA and Claire Bishop, as institiutions and as individuals represented by RoseLee Golberg and by the body of the theorist herself (respectively), to use the panel to authorize their definitive perspectives and knowledges about performance art. This is to be expected, and is, perhaps, obligatory. I have, however, been looking for a way to describe in this piece of writing, the vicious antagonism of performance artists in the audience of this panel towards this panel, and the antagonism of performance artists working in New York City (and perhaps beyond) towards PERFORMA and other institutions and towards the art world and academia at large.

This antagonism between performance artists and specifically PERFORMA is aggravated during this panel event when Goldberg attempts to skip over the audience question-and-answer section expected by the format of the panel. Perhaps she hoped to avoid a public confrontation. Unfortunately, the questions that were asked, after the panelists themselves protested that the panel should include an open Q and A, turned out to be so uninteresting and confused that I don’t care to write about them. Another moment was an inaudible (unamplified) statement from someone named Anna in the audience, prompted by Goldberg.

In writing now, I can’t neglect the discussions had by working performance artists about this panel after its performance, as many expressed frustrations that exceed contained, formal, dialectic disagreement with the meta-contexts I have superimposed on the experience. I am tempted to throw many complaints out as forms of “sour grapes,” levied by careerist artists demanding attention and recognition in the form of writing by academics and artworld authorities. These complaints range from the simple “but why doesn’t PERFORMA actually curate performance artists, like me?” (see “communitarian vagueness” below: who is a performance artist and who gets to say they are one?) through ideologically-driven demands for inclusivity in art history and access to artmarkets (demands aligned with Goldberg own concerns). In regards to these frustrations and demands, it may be interesting to note that only Hrag Vartanian has performed witness to and performed within the thriving, throbbing, International subculture of performance art with which the writer of this essay is most familiar. At least, he is the only one who has written about it. For those who may not know, there is a “community” of some formality, involving Rapid Pulse in Chicago, MPA-B in Berlin, and festivals across most major cities in the world (and many in smaller towns and rural areas besides) operating throughout DIY spaces, independent galleries, public spaces, and organizations with varying degrees (and often total lack) of artworld and/or academic engagement. From the Venice Biennale through Anaze Izquierdo’s organization in her apartment in Lima, artists who self-define as primarily performance artists are producing work within this convergent-yet-separate performance art community, artists ranging from the very established (such as Mobius, like Ron Athey, Marilyn Arsem, Vest and Page, Guillermo Gomez-Pena) to those who perform primarily on the street (Matthew Silver, Kalan Sherrard, in NYC alone). Writing abounds as well. In fact, the very evening after this panel discussion, a performance art journal called INCIDENT was launching in Brooklyn at Grace Exhibition Space, involving Sandrine Schaefer who founded The Present Tense in Boston, and Eames Armstrong who founded Peri0d in Washington, DC, two women who are also performance artists as well as curators of performance art and writers about performance art.

"Longtable" performative, participatory panel on Body Art organized by Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics and the Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival (BIPAF) artists. Pictured clockwise (at the table): Shawn Chua Ming Ren, Erik Hokanson, Christen Clifford, Joseph Ravens, Jill McDermid,  Ron Athey, Kris Grey/Justin Credible, Geraldo Mercado, Mari Novotny-Jones.

“Longtable” performative, participatory panel on Body Art organized by Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics and the Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival (BIPAF) artists. Pictured clockwise (at the table): Shawn Chua Ming Ren, Erik Hokanson, Christen Clifford, Joseph Ravens, Jill McDermid, Ron Athey, Kris Grey/Justin Credible, Geraldo Mercado, Mari Novotny-Jones. (Back row): Lital Dotan, Rae Goodwin, Eyal Perry, Gete Berhe, participant, the author.

Many performance artists attended this panel to see if the fact that there is a performance art renaissance (both in artmaking practices and in writing) happening worldwide is still only visible to these panelists (except for Vartanian, again) when it surfaces as idiotic stunts such as  Marina Abramovic and Jay-Z’s music video and in the bum-rush of celebrities driving in their stakes, or if this renaissance of performance art, as such, is the very work that concerns Goldberg when she says she is “mostly concerned with the knowledge, the history, the fabulous history which has actually been left out of art history for the past 100 years and more.” In assumption that performance artists/performance art organizers and institutions like PERFORMA are both working towards, as Grace Exhibition Space puts it “the glorification of performance art,” It is unclear as to why the practices of currently working performance artists are often not deemed valuable enough to write about, to curate and support financially, yes, but more importantly why these practices themselves are not deemed relevant enough to impact dialectics discussing performance art and the forms in which these dialectics are developed (formally, ideologically, constructively).

Instead of feeling these frustrations myself however, this panel assured me that performance art practices (however defined, and across definitions) have the potential (as Adrian Heathfield indicated) to co-construct theorizations within larger debates about hegemony, Otherness, universality, intentionality, agency, contingency, and identity, precisely because they haven’t yet “surfaced.” The extent to which these practices choose to relate with philosophical, political, and other formal spheres can still be negotiated by the artists and their corroborators; practices can also be “common,” populist, non-lingual/non-dialectical, outsider, defined via their very problematic (non)existences (5) during a period of totally consumptive hegemony and metabolization of cultural imperialism.

I am relieved that there seems to be no danger of performance art being encompassed by, or even “accurately” defined and determined by legitimized writing about performance art. Performance art is—when most successful—not possible to include in art history, it can’t be reviewed or criticized after the fact, you have to be there and experience it, if you want to write respectfully about it (in my opinion). Oral and written tradition can be passed down through time (this is one of the reasons that a “performance art community” might be said to exist), but no authority can be more relevant than that of the witness and the artist themselves. Because performance art splits and hides, relating itself formally with the very aspects of its own otherness, recursively responding within already-slippery disciplines like social arts practices, street art, political action, and practices of the daily, writing itself must be flexible in form and mode in order to relate effectively with it. Because performance often doesn’t begin and end, often is not a “piece” or “work” that can be described or discussed as such, writing in relationship with it must be cognized as a performance process too. Because authorship is often convoluted, modes of production resisting the knowledge-sourcing and influencing tactics of public and private financing must be sought by both performance art and its writing. Further, because language struggles to dramatize, narrativize, commodify, and dialecticize as performance dissolves into its own theorization, writing must be expanded conceptually to include many forms of index, trace, ephemerality, image-making, description, reflection, and reaction. When performance art and writing (language) merge, they have the potential to reify a “performanceworld” that—perhaps in forced transgression— supersedes “artworlds” entirely in terms of adaptability, self-cognition, and ability to relate directly to states of in-situ human being. Core meta-concerns like context, site-specificity/situationality, subjectivity, and constantly performed re-evaluation of framings and processes, process itself as a focus, are the domains of performance art itself, an emergent, conceptual skilling that is highly developed both somatically and intellectually.

Finally, I find it hard to believe that an art historian or other academic writer will soon venture any deeper than the most well-lit areas of the performance art world (described briefly above) which is presently somewhat invisible (they call that “marginalized” though if it is intentionally performed, it is more like resistance) due to its sites, its location within certain classes and lifestyles. It is also likely that more and more performance artists will be recognized and canonized as they grow older, and that as performance artists, currently increasing in numbers, lose some of their numbers to dialectic nets and a salting and saving for later consumption, the thinning of these competitive, capitalist artists will allow other artists—those left to swim free and invisible—to breed more potent and resilient forms of performance that actually operate within social and political oceans.

This panel is, in my opinion, only tangentially related to anything relevant to writing and performance art, as actual human processes. The tangent is that which keeps the word “art” tagging along after the word “performance.” It is also the tangent which encourages universities to sell MFAs in performance art. Perhaps the next panel will ask, do performance artists want those who “can” (i.e. are authorized) write about performance art to do so? Do performance artists care if these panelists decide that they are welcome to write about their own practices, even as many already do? Do any writers, who are legitimate writers, care about performance art? Do “legitimate” terms of engagement set by writers rather than by performance artists automatically disallow subsequent writing to “accurately” write the importance, value, and significance of performance art as a hybrid sphere of conceptualization and action? Does writing about performance art actually un-define performance art as such, and the performance artist as such?

It seems that this panel performed its constructed aims well, appealing to many individuals across specializations in its cohesive presentation of current institutional, artworld, academic, journalistic, and art market concerns regarding writing about performance art and who does it. The form of the panel could have better supported a multiplicity of its panelists’ concerns, better used non-dominant forms of logic and sense-making, been more inclusive, it could have been more queer, more of color, it could have involved at least one performance artist, it could have been somewhere else, it could have been a baseball game. As it was, it reinforced contemporary reconciliation between art and capitalism, generated its own authority, and maintained its meta-concerns, venerably fulfilling its own expectations and purpose as “a performance.”

–Esther Neff

There is a video of this panel, I have not re-watched it before writing this response (this response is written from my notes and memory, as I prefer to write about performance art). Here is the video if you want to hear the exact words said, you can’t see much:


(1)   It would be too complicated in this writing to fully acknowledge the extent to which this approach to writing criticism is problematic. Let me briefly note that further inquiry into processes for interpreting intentions, assignments of relevancies and values as absolute products of the same hegemonics producing this panel, and modernist ideas of the performance as a total object, are required. Your reading of this piece of writing should be deeply suspicious and critical, I aim to be hyper-didactic as a mode of absurdity/parody. For more about the term and concept “noosphere,” which is defined in analogy with the earth’s atmosphere as a “sphere of human thought” comprising energies, emotions, etc, see: Vladimir Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin. Let me also note that I am biased, very much so, and personally involved in some of what I discuss in this piece of writing.

(2)   function, operation, and affect are the three problems which make English a difficult language for writing about performance art, and are the very problems of conceptualization/cognition about action—conceptually at large—that very lovely mud into which “the performative turn” has slowly been grinding itself.

(3)   Dialectics, like art itself, are primarily bent towards self-definition and self-construction, modeling themselves directly within and on capitalist schemas for knowledge, sense, and mattering as commodity, sum, and substance. Dialectics are can thus be seen as primarily bent towards usability of language as an evaluative, meaningful, interpretive and universalist schema rather than as a set of acts which perform evaluation, analysis, and complication, and allow for multiple performative constructions of meaning, interpretations, and schematizations.

(4)   Dialogics are simply logics based in a formalized dialogue between works, in in the literary theory of Mikhail Bakhtin, who was most simply stating that we do not speak—or write—in a vacuum, but rather in relationship with all that has been and will be spoken and written. Bakhtin also argues for polysemy/polyvocality, feeding his writings dialogically into later theory by Julia Kristeva surrounding “intertextuality” and multiplicities of meanings and references. See Richard Sennett’s Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation (2010) for a sociological perspective on the distinctions between dialectic (i.e. as proposed by Hegel, claims exemplified by Plato’s Republic, as attempts to resolve meanings of statements) and dialogic processes (facilitating interface between multiple intentions and views).

NOTE: Dialectics and dialogics are similar in that they describe patterns of codes for compound thoughts which can’t be written out in full each time (books would just keep getting longer and longer, instead of simply saying “Hegel’s dialectics” I would have to try to explain it all again in my own words…this would be great, excepts for that little thing known as “time,” and our own mortality).

(5)   This can of worms is so full of worms as it may be perceived as the single largest source of worms in the world today. To use the texts of others as openers of this can, see Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s Can The Subaltern Speak, and plethoras of texts by post-Marxist scholars like Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoj Zizek, each as they discuss the abstract “existence” of views, bodies, thoughts, meanings, and other elements of existence “outside” and/or “inside” hegemonies.

This lil essay was edited with help from Gelsey Bell from the initial essay I wrote in the middle of the night during Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater.

Kikuko Tanaka performing the work at PPL Space

Kikuko Tanaka performing the work at PPL Space

Meaning, for Theater: Kikuko Tanaka’s Poultry Paradise and its Discontents
“How to explain theater to a dead chicken”

“Man is a symbol-using animal,” declared sociologist, linguist, and grandfather of “dramatism” Kenneth Burke in his Language as Symbolic Action, “Reality has been built up for us through nothing but our symbol system.” (Burke, 1966)

This breed of social solipsism at its most extreme has a special relationship with “theater” both as an artistic practice and as a functional metaphor. Burke’s statement serves to value theater as a cultural conveyor of symbolic systems, subsequently amplifying theater’s artistic processes and simplifying the modes of analysis used to understand both theater and its social implications: if an individual’s immediate reality is constructed via the interpretation of symbols, symbols can be intentionally placed to build up a reality, they can be mise en scene (put into scene/made seen) by an authorized, expressive artist, then interpreted as meanings, and reality continues as such via maintenance of culturally meaningful tautological symbol-systemization.

Symbolic interactionist Erving Goffman directly incorporated Burke’s ideas into his own sociological research, using the term “dramaturgy” for his methodology for microsociology (see Goffman, 1959, 1974). This dramaturgy, freely synthesized from Burke, Meade, Montaigne, and “the Greeks” (especially Plato,) allowed Goffman to use theater as an overarching analogy for breaking down unmediated social interactions into observable, categorical systems for behaviors. In reduction, theories of identity, cognitive functionalism, and many other dominant answers to social interaction and in-situ self-identification problematics (see Searle, 2010) debate and negate a paradigm so ingrained in Western thought that it has a name, Theatrum Mundi (“world staged,” a term usually credited to John of Salisbury, 1159). Theatrum-Mundi-based dramaturgical frames, albeit in more complex incarnations, remain especially valuable to discussions of social constructivity, encouraging analyses of existing symbol systems and political science’s questioning of who builds up meaningful reality through performed symbol systems and via what formal modes of political and social authorization (see Ranciere, 2010, Butler, 2000, Obeyesekere 1990). As William West points out, attempts to discern differences between an authored phenomenal reality and any empiric reality serve to show how a “wise and discerning few” are given a “view backstage.” (see West, 2008) It is here, in slippery positioning of authors and spectators within Theatrum Mundi metaphors, that theater audiences, artists, and academics alike are autonomously implicated in a model that constructs only a dichotomy between privileged epoché (artist) vs. blind receptivity (audience), rather than considering multiple relationships and forms of interpretive exchange.

Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater was a two-week conference in September 2013 that relied on a problematized framing for theater performance and for analyses of its co-constructive relationships with “reality” and “society.” The conference placed four theater productions into a theatricalized argument structure, framing theater as a diacritical vehicle propelled by a lack of universality of meaning and by the impossibility of separating “interpretations of symbols and actions” from the world “itself.” Instead, the conference and its works focused on theorization as performance itself. The first step in this adjustment of framing was to define what is placed in the mise en scene by theater artists as “a way of seeing” (the-ory) that constructs subjective and multiplicit realities via its performance of ways of seeing, rather than defining what is placed there by its meaningful symbolization or the en-action of what is represented.

Theoretical support for and attacks on this type of reframing in the fields of philosophy of mind, microsociology, neuroscience, and media and communication studies are numerous and it is difficult to write anything that communicates effectively across disciplines and dictions, yet theater discourse avoids confusion by sticking staunchly to a dramaturgical frame, both in its self-analysis or in its modes of production. Reliance on dramaturgy, further on Theatrum-Mundi-based dramaturgy, remains powerful because it allows theater a direct “representative” or “remodeling” role, promoting staged versions of reality as direct, accurate symbolic and constructive (or “transformative”) envisionings of “act-ual” (en-act-able, not necessarily “realistic”) realities. Writes Paul Monaghan about his collaborative Dramaturgies Project, “At the heart of dramaturgy lie three key verbal nouns: selection (or choice), construction (or structuring), and framing (for interpretation)” (Monaghan, 2005). For Monaghan (and many others) the content being “chosen, structured, interpreted” is visible as sets of symbolic actions that have concrete, representative and analogic relationships with an objective reality. Similarly, dramaturgical theorists such as Eugenio Barba describe dramaturgy as “the work of the actions across human behaviors” with his definition of ‘action’ including all elements of performance (lights, set, props, aspects of character, words, etc) “woven together in ways that create interpretive frameworks.” (Barba, 1985, p. 76). While the word “action” has replaced “symbol” in Barba’s work, the term “interpretive framework” (directly lifted from Erving Goffman and his colleague Howard Blumer) reveals overarching conceptions of theater as a symbolically coded representation of reality. In attempts to imbue theater with as much social influence and integrity as possible, the discipline aligns itself with dramaturgical theory as a matter of course, using dramaturgical models for theater which maintain its representational and analogic modes.

This piece of writing about theater will not attempt to negate dramaturgical frameworks or argue against their use of an idealized/nonexistent theater as a metaphor for microsocial interaction, but it will use a work of performance to show how the “performative turn” is being dealt with as an active problem within actual theater-making. This active problem arises primarily as the performative turn resists a plethora of objectivist assumptions; theater’s artistic engagement in society and its capital/object-based power paradigms need not be reduced to representative morality play, metaphorical expression, or analogic parabola, theater can be used as critical methodology itself, enacting social and experiential forms as forms themselves.

Kikuko Tanaka’s Poultry Paradise and Its Discontents: Nightshifts, one of the plenary productions presented by Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater, deals directly with dramaturgical paradigms and their influence on schemas of power and resistance, furthermore providing an example of how theater operates as an “uncanny social science.” (Gluzman, Neff, 2013)

The auteur-performer, Kikuko Tanaka, enters the very intimate whitbox performance space to Debussy’s Afternoon of the Faun in a gaudy Victorian costume, inviting audience members to come see a “delightful tragedy” at her “salon.” A bartender in a bowtie (Eric Heist) serving drinks to the audience and a video of the artist and friends playfully emulating gardeners (Tanaka, 2013) are elements that construct an environment of hysterically anachronistic upper-class experience. “The play is so sad, so tragic” Tanaka whispers to individual audience members, cooing “oooh I can’t wait to see it.” She then disappears and changes costume, re-entering as a character in the afore-mentioned tragedy, a lower-class security guard. Tanaka’s costumes can be seen through a dramaturgical frame to symbolize time period, gender, and class. Her presence, when interpreted symbolically, combines inherent properties (her Japanese accent, her age, visible signs of female sex) and intentionally constructed properties (as “security guard” or “night worker” or “man”). In this symbolic interpretation lies a dramaturgical frame’s traditional relationship with theater practices; it is assumed that Tanaka–as an artistic authority–has intentionally positioned symbols at a site (in time, space, context) as a logical (logos) way of reflecting an “other” more real reality, or, on the flip side of the same coin, placed elements of her performance to distort/rupture/re-model existing really real realities. In the comparison between Tanaka’s reality and the “real reality” should be commentary, or interpretable “meaning,” visible to those who can see both the staged world and the real world it represents. However, Tanaka writes, “I don’t think there are ‘single accurate interpretations of symbols as dependent on social contracts and social roles’ at all.” (E-mail with the artist, 10/20/13) While this insistence on basic interpretive subjectivity does not negate the assumption that the artist has “placed symbols intentionally,” or that multiple interpretations stem from existing social contracts, it does allow us to question how Tanaka has placed these symbols (modeling placement rather than what is placed), and how individual audience members expect to experience meaning. If symbolic references and social coding can’t be used to compare the world-of-the-play with the world-as-a-play (because each interpretation is subjective), identification/interpretation becomes a process that can be theorized as (variously) problematized empathy with an Other, self-implication in power and class paradigms, and role-playing as social agency.

Through a theoretical lens, we find a shift in cognitions of theater (site for sight); for Tanaka, “theater” is not a separate, representative reality, but act-uality itself: Tanaka’s costuming and other elements of mise en scene are not meant to be experienced as a set of conditions in which audience members are “really” in the Panoply Performance Laboratory studio, drinking hot toddies. Further, there is no metaphor-conducive single way that audience members, performers, bartenders, passers-by, and conference-organizers express and interpret in order to build symbol systems. The ways in which individuals perform interpretation are the artistic selections, constructions, and framings practiced collectively at the site for sight, as partially constructed by the artist. “I construct the association between each element as the problematic system itself.” Tanaka writes, “But I’m not sure that how many audience members see this system as complicity between power and resistance.” (E-mail with the artist, 10/20/13)

Her first costume (“character” is sidestepped; Tanaka introduces herself to individual audience members using various common English names, maintaining her identity as the artist dressed-up) remarks on and reinforces elements of the “actual” situation: privileged artists and intellectuals gathered in Brooklyn, NY to see a play. Converse to West’s discussion of privileged, analytic sight through phenomenological epoché, Tanaka locates audience members “in seen/scene.” Through her behavior, she theatricalizes (makes visible) social relationships and expectations by acknowledging the current in-situ performance of them, i.e. theorizing them, not by re-presenting them “inside” a drama.

Tanaka, now the performer in the “tragedy,” enters dressed as a security guard and sits in a chair in front of a large box. The video-projection is replaced by multiple live-feed security cameras that monitor the audience and the entire space, reminding us that we are really here now. This play begins as Tanaka opens a large black book with a red question mark on the front and begins to read fragmented text into a microphone. Tanaka’s accent and the timbre of her voice make the readings—from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Sexual Geography and Gender Economy: The furnished room districts of Chicago, 1890- 1930 by Joanne Meyerowitz, Maldoror by Comete de Lautreamount, and Hatred of Democracy by Jacques Rancière.—difficult to decipher. This act continues for the rest of the 1-hour performance. The opacity of the text and the way it is read flattens communication itself into a single symbol: artist-as-character reading = durational action-as-image. The totality of the play (bracketed by the prelude) and its closure as an object, a single act and image, challenges again dramaturgical ideas of theater as a representative model of a more real reality. The microphone, the large box (which takes up over half of the room and is never seen inside, a totally present yet visible, bracketed-out “backstage”), and the very present cameramen borrow from existing theater techniques meant to make audience members aware that they are indeed audience members and that they have decided together that this is a play (the extent to which these verfremdunksteffect-inducing techniques have become semiotic through repetition and interpretation is another essay entirely).

As Tanaka reads, she pulls a red-orange, many-pronged phallus from her fly and begins to “pleasure herself” by touching it. Here, Tanaka forces the very shift in a framing of theater that this piece of writing is discussing, simultaneously representing an idea and enacting it/theorizing-as-act: Tanaka sculpts “accurate interpretations of symbols” as a self-objectifying masturbatory act that fails to provide self-satisfaction since it remains dependent on universal symbols, objectified social contracts, and normalized roles (a system that Tanaka calls “the library,” books being both objectified versions of Western ways of seeing and objectified ways of transgressing existing ways of seeing). Here, it is also worth noting that “visual arts performance,” Tanaka’s primary discipline alongside sculpture and video, often reduces performance solely to a conflict between positioning of visual symbols and “authentic action” (Marina Abramovic interview by Sean O’Hagan, 2010). This reduction of conflict is often done to objectify a performing body as a product within the art market. By expertly reducing the play-within-a-play to an object, Tanaka maintains her theorization of power paradigms and their relationships with dramaturgical worldviews; the play as a theoretical object identifies itself to a “tragic” extent, fatal to its own “reality” via its own ability to separate itself from the “real” world. Further, an object-state is conflated with compliance in social role-playing, including gender, class, and cultural and racial representation. While the red-orange many-pronged phallus represents, or symbolizes, “the library,” (according to Tanaka) that which is mise en scene, namely an alien genitalia (see Haraway, 1992), starkly resists any claims that this act represents an “accurate” reflection of reality/nature/the other. Stretching to maintain dramaturgical analyses, we could insist that Tanaka posits dramatistic/dramaturgical schemas for society as masturbatory, while maintaining that their fabricated/false “representative” nature makes them unable to fully build up all of reality, with this inability proven especially by their failure to encompass human “monstrosity” and other forms of difference through directly representative symbol systems. Yet Tanaka insists that her “intention is rather to address the mechanism of [the] symbolic system that creates ‘un-representable monstrosity’ only in order to make it into an appropriate motif of artistic expression/consumption through representation. This tautological system of symbolizing is, itself, masturbatory.”
(E-mail with the artist, 10/18/2013) Tanaka’s use of a dramaturgical tautology as a play is a kind of pseudomenon, a statement that can’t be assigned binary truth-value due to its self-reference (i.e. “this sentence is false”). How can a symbol (the “library” alien phallus) represent something “culturally ingrained,” i.e. dramaturgy/the Western library/Theatrum Mundi, while the actress Tanaka receives no “actual” meaning (pleasure) from the alien phallus (she is acting, i.e. intentionally symbolizing masturbation), while simultaneously actualizing/representing (as a body, receiving no actual pleasure from a prop) the very failure the action symbolizes? Dramaturgical framing of Tanaka’s Poultry Paradise and Its Discontents: Nightshifts here itself becomes visible as a tautology and aligns any performance of symbolic interpretation on the part of individual audience members (or on the part of the writer of this essay) with capitulation to a less-real reality, in which they are only actors in a pre-determined social play and forced to fulfill their symbolic, social roles (O tragedy!). When Tanaka’s pseudomenon is identified, we can see the surveillance feed in a similar way, as a theorization of how individuals (the audience members) see themselves seeing, or as a representation that fails to represents its own ability to represent. As the masturbation, the reading, and the live-feed surveillance continue, the audience members begin to perform their attention/audience; agency over the image is emphasized by the multiple agents seen and seeing.

Using a theoretical frame, Tanaka’s “frantic” (the artist uses this word often to describe her practice) escalation of symbolism is a “tragic” theorization, a worldview dependent on the performance of symbolically empiricizing/”building up” (construction of = dichotomization of). As audience members to Tanaka’s Poultry Paradise and Its Discontents: Nightshifts, our own performance of a dramaturgical interpretation of symbols in Tanaka’s work positions us in compliance with functional power paradigms, making us “poultry” (perhaps punning on cowardice = “being chicken” and alluding to poultry factory farms where all of the chickens play their fatally-determined roles perfectly?) while a theoretical frame allows us to experience agency and recognize conflicts between subjectivity vs. social sight. However, the theoretical frame does not allow us to confidently interpret symbols reflected by the work in order to justify its value as meaningful within any existing “symbol system,” including those of currency, -ism, and the theater industrial complex.



Abramovic, Marina, interview by Sean O’Hagan, The Observer, October 2, 2010

Barba, Eugenio
1985. ‘The Nature of Dramaturgy: Describing Actions at Work.’ New Theatre Quarterly, 1.1 Cambridge University Press. P. 75-78

Bernheimer, Richard 
1956. “Theatrum Mundi” Art Bulletin 38, 225-247.

Brissett, Dennis and Edgley, Charles, ed.
1990. Life as Theater: A Dramaturgical Source Book (2nd ed.). New York: Walter de Gruyter

Burke, Kenneth
1966. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature and Method. California, USA, University of California Press.

Butler, Judith
2000. “Critically Queer”, in: Identity: A Reader. London.

Christian, Lynda G. 1987. Theatrum Mundi: The History of an Idea, New York, Garland (Harvard Dissertations in Comparative Literature)

Goffman, Erving
1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York City, Anchor Books (a division of Random House)

Goffman, Erving
1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Glasgow, Harper & Row.

Haraway, Donna
1992 “Otherworldly Conversations: Terran Topics; Local Terms.” Science as Culture 3.14

Gluzman, Yelena, Neff, Esther
2013. “Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater” framing text, in printed programs and online.

Monaghan, Paul
2005 “The Dramaturgies Project” RealTime Arts 70, p. 3-4 accessed 09/05/2013

Obeyesekere, Gananath
1990. The Work Of Culture : Symbolic Transformation In Psychoanalysis And Anthropology. Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press

O’Hagan, Sean
2010. “Interview: Marina Abramovic” The Observer, Saturday 2 October 2010. Accessed online 10/09/2013 at

Potolsky, Michael 
2006. Mimesis: The New Critical Idiom. New York, Routledge; New Ed. edition

Ranciere, Jacques
2010. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. London, Bloomsbury Academic

Salisbury, John of
1159, Policraticus

Searle, John. Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Tanaka, Kikuko, 2013. Afternoon of Faun. Accessed 10/15/2013:

Tanaka, Kikuko
E-mail exchanges with Esther Neff, 10/17/2013-03/18/2014
West, William
2008. “Knowledge and Performance in the Early Modern Theatrum Mundi” Metaphorik Journal 14 accessed 08/10/2013


Whatmore, Sarah

  1. Hybrid Geographies: Natures Cultures Space. London, SAGE Publications.

[1] For Tanaka, this word figures largely across her practice. See the artist’s website:

theater Theory posterTheorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater

PART I: September 6, 7, 8
PART II: September 12, 13

Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater is being held to communally research how theorizing is performed. We use the word “the-ater” to frame performance modes that propose a way of seeing, or “the-ory.” We seek to enable serious consideration of the ways that performance constructs ways of knowing, but also ask how dramaturgy and other “theatrical” ways of knowing inform and sometimes restrict discursive and dialogic processes at large.

Therefore, at the core of this conference is performance. The conference begins with four plenary presentations, all in the form of performances, by Amapola Prada, Reality Research Center, Kikuko Tanaka, and Mike Taylor. Each of these will be followed by a moderated discussion. The responses by conference participants will discuss, derail, and embody theater-as-theory.

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION is $50 for full access* to the two public weekends of the conference. Register here: Entrance to any of the public events individually is $10 strongly suggested donation (or DNA in the form of hair or fingernails at Glasshouse).

*August 31st-September 4th is Acts I, II, and III of the Reality Research Center’s “Symposium.” The piece is a workshop-format performance for 12 individuals during the day. Participation is first come, first served and will occur at Momenta Art. Please note in your registration if you are able and desirous to participate in this aspect of the conference.

Friday Sept 6
5-8pm Amapola Prada / Plenary Performance
(Glasshouse Projects)

8pm Amapola Prada / Moderated Discussion
(Glasshouse Projects)

< dinner break >

10:00-11pm Kikuko Tanaka / Plenary Performance (Panoply Performance Laboratory)
“Poultry Paradise and Its Discontents: Nightshifts”

Saturday Sept 7
4:00-5:00pm Kikuko Tanaka / Moderated Discussion (Panoply Performance Laboratory)

7:00pm-12:00am Reality Research Center / Plenary Performance Act IV*
Dinner will be provided.
(Glasshouse Projects)

[Note: Only the 12 audience members from Acts I-III can participate in this final, inner sanctum Act IV of “The Symposium”]

Sunday Sept 8
1:00-4:00pm Mike Taylor / Plenary Performance Part I (Glasshouse Projects)

4:30-5:30pm Reality Research Center / Epilogue and Moderated Discussion (Glasshouse Projects)

6:00-7:00pm Mike Taylor / Plenary Performance Part II and Moderated Discussion (Glasshouse Projects)
Moderated by Gavin Kroeber

7:30 Casual drinks & wrap-up discussion

In this intervening week, invited conference participants (scholars, artists, writers, and others) construct responses to the four plenary works in the form of performances, dialogues or writing. These works are performed or read on the following two days:

Thursday Sept 12th
7-10pm Participant response panels and performances (Glasshouse Projects)

Friday Sept 13th
7-11pm Participant response panels and performances (Glasshouse Projects)
— In conjunction with a closing party/Glasshouse residency opening —

Glasshouse Projects
246 Union Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Panoply Performance Laboratory
104 Meserole Street
Brooklyn, NY


Amapola Prada lives and works in Lima, Peru. Her practice navigates the intimate spaces within human beings unprocessed by consciousness and expressed by non- rational impulses to create symbolic works resonating the social conflicts of everyday life. Her performance work has been presented by the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, Belo Horizonte, Brasil; Performa 11; the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, Mexico; and the II Bienal Internacional de Performance in Santiago de Chile, Chile. In 2011, as a Franklin Furnace Fund Fellow, her solo exhibition Modelo Para Armar: Rehearsing The City was on view at the AC Institute in New York City. She received a BA in Social Psychology from Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú.

Reality Research Center is a well-known performing arts collective based in Helsinki, Finland. Their works stem from critical perspectives that observe, question and renew the surrounding reality through performative means. During 2012-13 RRC is creating Utopian Reality, which uses the everyday as an artistic medium and invites everyone to reconfigure it with utopian practices.

Mike Taylor is a writer, director, installation artist, and performer across disciplines. Her projects have been performed, read, and shown at The Kitchen, The Invisible Dog, CUCHIFRITOS art gallery, Dixon Place, La Mama, TONIC, and elsewhere. She has recently collaborated with Ralph Lemon, Lance Gries, and, her primary collaborator in this experiment, Iki Nakagawa; and has worked extensively with Meredith Monk, Yvonne Meier, Sibyl Kempson, John Jesurun, Urban Bush Women, Richard Foreman, Dar-A-Luz, Conway & Pratt Projects, The Wooster Group, The Ridiculous Theatrical Co, and many others.

Born and raised in Japan, Kikuko Tanaka is a frantic artist based in New York. She has performed and exhibited in various venues, including Smack Mellon, Momenta Art, NARS Foundation, Center for Performance Research, Amelie A.Wallace gallery at SUNY Old Westbury, Glasshouse, Vox Populi, Arario Gallery and Panoply Performance Laboratory among others. Her work has been reviewed in Art in America, Art Info, and Hyperallergic. She was a nominatee for a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Visual Art Grant in 2010. Her open-ended multi-media tragicomic epic, A Tragic Bambi, is fiscally-sponsored by New York Foundation for the Arts. She has a cross-disciplinary background in her education. She holds a BA in Landscape Design from Chiba University, and has studied fine art at School of Visual Arts, and interdisciplinary study at Hunter College and Graduate Center, New York. She is also a co-founder/ co-director of a not-for profit organization, Agape Enterprise, Brooklyn, New York.

Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater was established by Esther Neff (Panoply Performance Lab) and Yelena Gluzman (Science Project / UCSD / Ugly Duckling Presse). It is sponsored by an Honorary Fellowship for Utopian Practice from Culture Push.

To contact the organizers, please email

dolanbay's Untitled Act at PPL Space

dolanbay’s Untitled Act at PPL Space

Thank you, thank you, and thank you, for making the Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival (BIPAF) what it was…what was that???!!!


Performing Media Partner: Hyperallergic

Images from the first week of BIPAF
Images from the second week of BIPAF
Images from the third week of BIPAF
Article about La Pocha Nostra
Article about The Super Coda
Article about No Wave Performance Task Force’s Labor Debate
BIPAF is the Best Thing to do this month!
We survive at the end of this article about Jay-Z and Marina
Check out Hrag Vartanian’s FLICKR STREAM for BIPAF photos in their Brooklyn context

Felix Morelo at Gowanus Ballroom

Felix Morelo at Gowanus Ballroom

Art is Life is Art on
Eames Armstrong mentions BIPAF in the Washington Post
An much abridged and subjectively notated guide on Culturebot
State of the Art
Art article
An Art Filled Cavity on La Pocha Nostra
TAB and BIPAF in the NYTimes
AND organizer Esther Neff talks about BIPAF on GRITtv

We are acting as a fiscal sponsor for this glorious preview and benefit on March 23, it is organized by PPL co-director Esther Neff with Yelena Gluzman. Get tickets in advance if you can!

Theatre as Theory

BENEFITPOSTER3smallerA Preview Benefit for
Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lecture by Dr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Performances by Varispeed and other guest artists


Glasshouse Projects

246 Union Avenue 
, Brooklyn, NY
(M to Lorimer, G/L to Metropolitan-Lorimer)

Suggested donation $25 (donations over $250 tax deductible)
or reserve a seat online by donating $30 at

If you can’t make it, please consider donating to the project via Panoply Lab’s fiscal sponsor HERE

Space is very limited!

A preview of and fundraiser for the upcoming Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater, this evening draws together artists, scholars, and also theorists working outside institutions. The lecture by Dr. Spivak, on imaginative training for epistemological performance, will act as a provocation and catalyst for further discussions and, alongside music and theatrical performances, a live auction of critical theories…

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