rethinking why performance matters through the matter of performance
Performing Idea


These are a series of ongoing creative research exchanges between artists, academics, and other social and cultural practitioners. Each dialogue experiments with the possibilities of discourse around the question of performance value. As a transformative departure for its participants, the dialogue presses their artistic/critical skills and knowledges into uncharted territories.

As well as constituting an ongoing activity, each of the three dialogues featured a public presentation at the Performing Idea Symposium. Below you can find links for each dialogue's weblog.

In Silence

Tim Etchells and multiple correspondents

Etchells’ research project In Silence convenes a series of encounters with experts and professionals whose daily work and life practice leads them to an interest and investment in silence. Silence - death to the comedian, transcendence to the priest, a right in the eyes of the law - is after all not the negative space of speech but rather a complex piece of social communication, which functions in contexts as a statement, as transitional state (instrumental route to something) and indeed as a goal or objective all of its own. In a linked set of videotaped interviews Etchells will explore the diversity and complexity of silence as it is constructed and read, investigating both its utility and its blankness, as it is deployed and broken in different situations. Read Tim Etchells' weblog for In Silence.



Jonathan Burrows and Adrian Heathfield

Over the last few years, choreographer Jonathan Burrows and writer and curator Adrian Heathfield have developed a dialogue around the relationship between writing and dancing. Mostly the dialogue took place in artist’s workshops where they found some ways to experiment with elements of speech and movement in performance processes with performers. They are interested in exploring the creative tension between the distinctive affects of embodied actions and spoken words, investigating their different roles in the making and receiving of meaning. They are fascinated by those moments of intensity – unforgettable yet unspeakable - where something of life is disclosed between sense and sensibility. For their dialogue as part of Performing Idea, Jonathan and Adrian have been in a process of creative exchange, sometimes working with others, sometimes together, sometimes alone, where they are able to push these questions further. What are the relative weights of gestures and words in a performance space? How can each open to the other? What place does music occupy in a negotiation between muted movements and sonorous words? What might be some principles of composition for a generative relation between creative writing and choreography?



Joe Kelleher and multiple participants

The dialogue begins with the appearance of the work.
A 39 year-old theatre festival, for example, in a town without a theatre; a festival that breaks with four decades of tradition in order to re-examine and renew that tradition; that addresses the urban texture not as a void that needs filling but a space of generation; that imagines a spectator in motion, whose trajectory is governed, as curator Chiara Guidi writes, by a sensation of lost powers, and by tiredness perhaps, but who may be capable of conjuring from this trajectory ‘a place filled with promises.’ Or else the emergence of a new practice, work still in its nascence, work being done with the young, for example a company dedicated to the non-spectacular rigours of collective dance, and to mining the minimum pause, tracing the presence of a rhythm, as director Claudia Castellucci puts it, between one beat and another. But also then the channels, the forums, the platforms of exchange through which events and practices such as these and many others are debated over and contested and sustained, by a self-reflexive critical writing, and also by a commitment, as the editors of the journal Art’O: culture and politics of the scenic arts put it, to the idea of a future of performance even in those spaces most emptied out by current ideology.