rethinking why performance matters through the matter of performance

3 October 2012


A dialogue between Hypatia Vourloumis and Gigi Argyropoulou

As our dialogue takes place in different locations, contexts and moments, so does this blog entry, comprised of a multiplicity of voices, thoughts and performances stemming from our current experiences in Greece as well as social movements around the world. Moving between thoughts and actions, past moments and future imagining, our own words and the words of others, it asks questions regarding crisis, critique, notions of the common, difference, direct action and theory, civil disobedience, and potentialities. By touching upon some of the knowledge production and investigations emanating from a diverse range of recent actions and theories concerned with radical change, the structure of this blog is necessarily one that is unresolved, nebulous and indeterminate. As many of the dialogues and debates within and concerning recent social movements operate through an open process that embraces the condition of not yet knowing, this blog inevitably embodies and performs the multifarious uncertainties, contingencies and ephemeral malleabilities of present struggles that work in the present towards a futurity of material possibilities.


In the summer of 2012, as Athens awaits another loan instalment from the IMF, ECB, and European Commission, bracing itself against the implementation of a new set of abject austerity measures, with an alarming growth of neo-nazi faction violently patrolling its streets, we set off on a walk through the dilapidated centre of Athens armed with masking tape, a marker pen and a camera.

  We begin from the occupied theatre Empros, head in no particular direction, get lost, marking abandoned spaces with the words ‘potential’ and its equivalent in Greek ‘εν δυνάμει’ (en dynamei)

  As urban impoverishment deepens, empty spaces proliferate. Yellow and red signs for ‘to rent’ and ‘for sale’ multiply dizzyingly throughout our cityscape. We dream these empty spaces can be given life through ‘constituent imaginations’ and actions; scrawling on them we call out for their transformation. These dreams emerge and erupt out of moments and movements of walking and pausing and murmuring together. It is the city that recounts for us what its possibilities are and where they lie. Thoughts emerge from these becomings, these streets and walls, from singular and social movements within spaces and channels, from our motions.  We marked these locations in the center of Athens on a virtual map and will be developing more of these tracings in an ongoing open-source collective project. We are following José Muñoz when he writes that ‘“affective and cognitive maps” of the world that a critically queer utopianism can create...need to be attended to in a fashion that resembles a kind of politicized cruising.’ (2009:18) [1]

  We invite you to continue and expand this process by marking spaces in your own environment, photographing the markings and buildings, sending us the pictures to and locating them on this map:

  Please supply yourself with the following:


Click here to see the live map

Words and places

'The urban space of the street is a space for talk given over as much to the exchange of words and signs as it is to the exchange of things. A place where speech becomes writing. A place where speech can become “savage” and, by escaping rules and distributions, inscribe itself on walls.' (Lefebvre, 2003:19) [2]



  Sitting at the bar one evening during the first twelve-day occupation and reactivation of the theatre Empros after a general assembly concerning its future, I described to Hypatia what was said by different people suggesting ideas and future models for the occupied space. During those days Embros was filled again and again by different activities, actions and encounters expected and unexpected. There was a commitment to deciding about its future on the last day of the 're-activation' programme 'collectively' after a general assembly. During this final meeting the theatre was full of people - artists, participants, residents from the area, familiar faces of people that repeatedly showed up during those days, and many others, some interested about the 'political' side of the action, others just to see what was happening. So many different ideas, models that Embros 'had to follow', 'had to do', in some cases imposing past failed discourses, trying to determine its function and fix its identity. Embros appeared to have many potentials. As Agamben notes what is potential is 'that which has exhasuted all its impotentiality in bringing it wholly into an act as such’ (1999:183)[3]. Embros’ occupation engages with the impotential conditions of the Greek (cultural/social) landscape and an impotential (disused) site producing 'a potential'. But that which appeared as 'potential' could continue to exist only if it retained a relationship with its impotentiality.

  Hypatia answered that the differing views and opinions voiced at the assembly were part of the open process. I in turn replied that it is not enough to make actions, that we need to find new words for new conditions. And then Hypatia remembered an article she had just read called Occupy Language [4] and her experience at the general assemblies in Syntgama Square and what she had written in response a few months prior to the emergence of the OWS movement:


  Thinking of, with, and within the street. Or rather streets. In the past few months streets and squares of countries and cities as diverse as Tunisia, Spain, Greece, Wisconsin, Tehran, Lisbon, Yemen, New York, Mongolia, Egypt, Belarus, Syria, Oman, Bahrain, Libya, Morocco have acted and are doing so in the present as theaters of crisis, change, mobility, visibility, anonymity, rage, desperation, death, and life. The dialectic of resistance and oppression made bare, brought to the world in high definition, in the sharp relief that makes the distant and abstract touchable, traceable, tactile to ones occasionally willed and at other times unconscious indifference. These trajectories filled with fluid rivers, single darting figures and standing yet undulating seas of human bodies expressing for us the communication and communion of crisis whilst at the same time revealing how the communication and communion of crisis is always the result of the crisis of communication and communion. If, as Benjamin writes, we are always in a state of emergency, then we are always also in a state of emergence. And in streets close to home. Streets we can walk down. Squares we can sit down in. Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras and countless of spaces throughout this land. I have been attending the improvised people’s assembly held in Syntagma Sq. for a few weeks now and I am struck by many thoughts and feelings. First, the visceral nature of one’s sensing of the new – where one recognizes it because the malleability and ephemerality of context and convention are made aural and visible, seeing that malleability twisting, never settling before one’s eyes, the work itself as it unfolds, the contingency that is the absence of a finished product –the presentness of the moment – and in that presentness – history bearing down with watchful eyes and small smiles – ha – here is an attempt at 'direct democracy' a few hundred meters from whence it first articulated and defined itself  more than 2,500 years ago-- But I am also struck at how the language that seeks to spew forth from this nebulous forum is frozen in that Butlerian notion of citational confinement. Language so bureaucratized its DOA, a finished product, where singularity, voice has been coopted, erased. It’s as if the newness of the event (communication, communion, collaboration, citizenship, 'democracy' –what?) means that there are still no words for it. (Like the moment that begins Marquez’s ‘One hundred years of solitude’ where people point at things because they still have no name) [5]….


.... To continue reading this dialogue please click: here

Gigi Argyropoulou, Hypatia Vourloumis

[1] Muñoz, J. (2009) Cruising Utopia: The then and there of queer futurity. New York & London: New York University Press.

[2] Lefebvre, H. (2003) The Urban Revolution. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press

[3] Agamben, G. (1999) Potentialities: Selected Essays in Philosophy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

[5] Vourloumis, H. (2011) Paper presented in symposium ‘The communi(cati)on of crisis’ in Nafpaktos, Greece.

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