What and Why
Performance Matters is a creative research project exploring the contemporary values associated with performance at a time when it has increased resonance as a cultural phenomenon, and as a concept and metaphor in critical discourse.
Profound shifts in the cultural status and presence of performance have recently been manifested through a number of related phenomena including the museological, archival and curatorial assimilation of Live Art; an increased profile of performance aesthetics within visual arts, theatre and contemporary dance practice; a 'performative turn' in critical theory and cultural studies; and a re-evaluation of performance phenomena that have hitherto been marginalised by critical consideration.
Against the backdrop of this institutional, theoretical and market embrace of performance and Live Art, Performance Matters asks whether such forms of cultural practice are now being taken seriously in culture more broadly, and how they may possess the potential to refashion understandings of what, and how, things matter in the contemporary world.
Between 2009 and 2012, Performance Matters comprises three themed years of interlinked research activities. In its first year, working under the title Performing Idea (2009/10), the project investigated the shifting relations between performance practice and discourse, event and writing, by staging critical and creative exchanges between leading international figures in the performance studies field.
Its second year, titled Trashing Performance (2010/11), explores marginal and degraded performance practices in order to produce critical and cultural innovations through non-institutional manifestations and informal disseminations. The final year of the project, framed under the theme Potentials of Performance (2011/12), will culminate its processes with the creation of a talks series and publication initiatives that will focus on questions of performance affect, political and cultural possibility.
Opening up the field of creative research to include perspectives and contributions from artists, scholars and other cultural practitioners, the project will involve numerous innovative and exploratory events in London and internationally over the course of three years. These will include the bringing together of pairings of academics and artists in dialogue projects; an exciting series of practical workshops involving early-career artists and leading writers, thinkers and artistic figures; two public international symposia; two innovative PhD projects; and a series of talks focused around the project’s concerns.
Performance Matters sets out to explore the interface between performance theory and practice, as well as differing approaches to performance within higher education institutions and the public sector. The project is co-directed by Dr Gavin Butt from Goldsmiths, University of London, Prof. Adrian Heathfield from Roehampton University, and Lois Keidan of the Live Art Development Agency. Convened between departments of Visual Culture and Drama, Theatre and Performance, the research will move between different academic traditions, as well as crossing the educational and cultural sectors, with the active partnership of the Live Art Development Agency working as co-curators.
Performance Matters will be of interest to an array of scholars, artists, curators, cultural workers and audiences across the fields of visual art, performance, theatre and dance. By addressing and reaching such a diverse and broad audience in this manner, Performance Matters seeks to generate a new field of possibilities for research on, and as, contemporary performance; one which will find further fruit in the future practices of new generations of artists, performers and theorists.