rethinking why performance matters through the matter of performance
3. Potentials of Performance

30 May 2012

Introducing You Have One Unread Message


Dear Eleftheria, Dear Ioanna, Dear Bojana, Dear Joe, Dear Efrosini, Dear Myriam, Dear Rebecca, Dear Konstantina [1], and for the first time


Dear reader,


   I was asked here by the curators of this year’s theme to create a window for insight into my dialogue project so that others, who do not participate in it, can get an idea and possibly a small taste of its experience. 

   I thought that this could also be seen as a great opportunity not only to satisfy whoever did not participate and wants to get an insight into ‘You Have One Unread Message’, but also all those who did participate in it. Because the structure of the project (the creation of a mailing list that connects myself with various interlocutors in an one-off dialogue discussing the potentials of performance) had it that I sent an email to one of the contributors and they sent me a reply but then my reply to that reply went to a third person who got back to me so that I could be able to go on to someone else and so on and so forth. And it was more than once within this process that some people complained about the fact that they never got a reply to their writings.

   Who received our reply? Where did this go? What did they say? How did it proceed? What are the potentials of this one-off dialogue, of these unanswered emails we all share? It was more than once that contributors wrote to me outside the list to ask such questions and to make sure that I received their reply and that the project goes on with its journey, collecting even more voices, pushing the discourse on potentiality even further and in this way exploring its own potentials even deeper too.

   So, dear all, I grab the opportunity of this post to satisfy all of you. And let’s see if I’ll succeed:

   What have we done there? In the space of an email, which since the 25th of February 2012 has visited the inboxes of eight people and aims to continue travelling until October 2012 (when it will make its first public appearance in the open event of the third year of Performance Matters, so that it starts there another kind of journey, a new one: that of meeting other voices to discuss what the previous voices have written, to speak them, to potentialize further and further without end). We have attempted to exhaust this year’s main research question ‘what are the potentials of performance?’, instead of replying to it. We have asked it again and again producing various other questions, thoughts, ideas. Since February 2012 we have done, among many other things, this:

   I have said to Eleftheria: “And just in case you have not understood it yet, you are the one I want to start with”. And she has replied: “At first I thought it was some kind of computer virus. I had not understood what this was about, until I read ‘and just in case you have not understood it yet...’ and suddenly our potential communication became part of a research context […]then I thought that maybe the potential of performance lies in the way that… some people still surprise us giving us a reason to perform”.

   I have asked Ioanna if the potential of performance is indeed hidden in the way that 'some people still surprise us giving us reason to perform' and she has replied in Greek, with words most of you will not understand.

   I have gone on asking Bojana to read those strange words. A reply she cannot understand. To reveal thus the potential of cases where we don’t know how to do something. But we nevertheless do it. She has got back to me saying that she tried to do it twice, overexhausted from other things. Because she cares for me in a way that she could not not do it.

   I have passed such caring words to Joe sharing with him my thoughts about a potentiality of care, which attempts to read in unknown languages with too tired eyes; which carries the dynamic of doing with not being able to do it, after the limits of knowledge, physical strength and ability. But Joe has talked instead about certain potentials of performance that are to be realised in the vicinity of careless-ness. And he has asked what performances might we be capable of in those situations where we are exhausted by care? And what, in such performances, might we find to care about, and speak of as worthy of praise?

   Later, with Efrosini I have wished to follow Joe’s suggestion. I have asked her to send me a scene of one such performance of ‘carelessness’; of one such dramaturgy. How does it look like? What does it say for the potential of performance? She has replied from her i-phone, (the ‘real reply’ to my email was standing in the draft folder of her emails at home but she couldn’t care less, she has said). Potentiality is a burden, she has said. Could we care less? ‘Maybe the potentiality of performance has to do with those moments when one does not even care anymore, about performance, performers, spectators, the stage, pedagogy, ticket sales, producers, time...’, she has said. 

   I have then decided to write to a stranger. I have written to Myriam some hours before our first meeting; about meetings taking place before the ‘real’ ones. I have asked what this may say about the potential of the ‘real’ and of what actually takes place… Myriam has replied that she cannot reply but that it was nice to have met me and that that was already a reply.

  I have written to Rebecca in Greek about the potential of things that happen when they cannot happen, when there is no time when it is not possible when too many questions are raised… She has sent me two wonderful phrases: 'there must be a certain, at least, stability within this enormous mobile universe, right?' and 'everyone in their life need one thing they can look at and feel reassured'.

  I have written to Konstantina about cases where potentiality does not relate to the unrealizable the unpredictable and the unknown anymore, but it is instead drawing on the safe, the stable, the secure and the known. No risk and no surprise. Just the potential: of performance and ourselves (in and outside of it)….

   I am now waiting for her reply….



[1]: Other than the readers of this blog, this letter is addressed to the receivers of my emails who have contributed to its dialogue up to this point. These are: Eleftheria Rapti (performance artist and researcher, UK/GR), Ioanna Asimakopoulou (performer, GR), Bojana Kunst  (philosopher, dramaturg and contemporary art theorist, GE/SL), Joe Kelleher (Professor of Theatre and Performance, Head of Drama, Theatre and Performance, Roehampton University, UK), Efrosini Protopapa (choreographer, Lecturer Dance, Film and Theatre, University of Surrey, UK/GR), Myriam Van Imshoot (writer, theorist, performance artist, BE), Rebecca Tsiligaridou (performer, GR) and Konstantina Georgelou (Lecturer at the ArtEZ Master of Choreography,  Fellow Researcher - University of Utrecht, NL)

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