What Can Performance Philosophy Do?

The 2nd biennial Performance Philosophy conference


Fri 10 - Sun 12 April 2015

The University of Chicago, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago, IL, USA.


Keynotes will include:


Simon Critchley

Peggy Phelan


Matthew Goulish & Lin Hixson


With a premiere of a new work-in-progress by


Every house has a door


Kindly supported by: The Franke Institute for the Humanities, The Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, The Center for Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Performance Department.


What Can Performance Philosophy Do? will be the 2nd biennial conference event organized by the professional association Performance Philosophy, founded in 2012. Performance Philosophy is also the name of an emerging interdisciplinary field concerned with the relationship between performance and philosophy, broadly construed.


While the inaugural conference invited participants to respond to the question, “What Is Performance Philosophy?,” the theme for this conference is “What Can Performance Philosophy Do?” From one perspective, this question invites considerations of performance’s philosophical affects and philosophy’s performative actions; it invokes concepts of performativity and efficacy (but need not assume any straightforward relation between cause and effect). The form of the question recalls Marx’s critique of the contemplative nature of philosophy, but also Spinoza’s relational definition of bodies in terms of capacities. From another, it prompts explorations of the present or future value of examining performance and philosophy in relation to one another, and the actual or potential impact of performance philosophy on its participants whether in academia, art or the public sphere. The question “What Can Performance Philosophy Do?” may also require us to consider what performance philosophy cannot do and why, and to consider the kinds of experimental methodologies needed to investigate these constraints.


In posing the question “What Can Performance Philosophy Do?,” the conference is not implying that what counts as ‘performance philosophy’ has already been determined. On the contrary, it aims to provide a space to continue conversations and debates about what constitutes performance philosophy; to what extent it is a new field or simply a consolidation of existing activity; and to what extent we should ‘mind the gap’ between performance and philosophy as distinct disciplines (Puchner) or pursue the ideas of ‘performance as philosophy’ and ‘philosophy as performance.’


The conference welcomes proposals from researchers working in any area of philosophy (analytic, continental, non-western etc.) or any area of performance (dance, theatre, music, visual art performance, the everyday, non-human performance, etc.) that address issues including but not limited to the following:


  • Performance’s philosophical affects and philosophy’s performative actions; concepts of performance and philosophy as kinds of doing or forms of action; the relationship between thinking and doing, contemplating the world and changing it, representing the real and transforming it. Is thinking a kind of doing and doing a kind of thinking?
  • The nature, value, or impact of philosophical modes of performance and performative modes of philosophy
  • What performance philosophy can and cannot do for Performance and for Philosophy as academic disciplines. What performance philosophy can or cannot do outside of academia
  • What are the limits of performance philosophy? What can ‘performance’ do that ‘philosophy’ cannot and vice versa?
  • How should we value or evaluate what performance and philosophy, and performance philosophy can do?
  • Notions of experimentation as a means of exploring the capacities of performance and philosophy
  • Is the concept of ‘performativity’ (as laid out in Austin, Butler etc.) still valuable for understanding what performance and philosophy do?


Call for proposals


The organizers welcome proposals for 20 mins conference papers. Presenters are invited to submit 250-word abstracts, a brief biography and a note of any basic technical requirements. The organizers would particularly like to invite proposers to consider presenting in one of the following alternative formats:


1. “No paper” presentations = 20 minute slots [or 90 min panels]


Organizers invite proposals for 20 mins presentations or full panel proposals for 90 minute panels (3 x 20 mins presentations, plus 30 min for questions) that address the conference theme. The constraint on presenters is that they must not read out a paper written in advance. Presenters may use Powerpoint or any other form of visual aid to support their presentation (though any additional presentation materials need to be provided by presenters themselves), but they must not read from a pre-written text. Presenters are invited to submit 250-word abstracts, a brief biography and a note of any basic technical requirements. Full panel submissions should include 250-word abstracts for each of the presentation and a 100-word description of the overall aims of the panel, along with contact information for all participants, and the name of a primary contact.


2. “Doing together… Watching in the midst of doing” = 90 min workshops proposals


Organizers invite proposals for 90 min workshops with the constraint that the majority of the session must involve the physical engagement of the participants in activities. This is not to say that the workshop cannot involve acts of observation or what Allan Kaprow called ‘watching in the midst of doing.’ Likewise, workshops are more than welcome to interrogate the very question of what counts as ‘physical engagement,’ the nature of the relation between participation and observation, the active and the passive and so forth. Workshop leaders are invited to submit 250-word outlines of the workshop describing the general parameters of the session and its intersection with the conference theme, as well as a brief biography and a note of any basic technical/facilities requests. Please be aware that particularly complex technical/facilities requirements may not be able to be met by the conference, and the more self-reliant workshop leaders are able to be, the better.


3. Performance lectures = 20 minute slots


Organizers invite proposals for 20-minute performance lectures. Combining thinking and doing, this format provides opportunities to foreground processes of knowledge creation, reflect on the act of learning, consider potential pedagogical affects made possible by nontraditional methods of teaching, and many more. Individual applicants are invited to submit 250-word abstracts that describe the form and content of the lecture, along with a brief description of their research interests, institutional affiliations (if any), address, email contact information and any basic technical/facilities requests. Please be aware that particularly complex technical requirements may not be able to be met by the conference, and the more self-reliant presenters are able to be, the better.


4. Conditions that make possible…


Aiming to provide a measure of ad libitum to the conference format and to attend closely to the processes of collective meaning making, this format asks that applicants devise a series of rules or guidelines that will lead participants into an exploration either of the Cultural Center or other parts of the surrounding area in Chicago (random urban locales, lakes, rivers, ponds, negative spaces, etc.). Understood as conditions that will make possible generative forays into the spaces within and around the conference venue, these rules and guidelines can take many forms but must play within the following limits:

  • The localized unfolding of the endeavor must not exceed 1 hour and 50 minutes
  • Facilitator(s) must develop a method for collating the knowledge produced from the event and a format for sharing the event with the Performance Philosophy network at a later date (either on the website or through some other media)
  • The event’s structure should be flexible enough to accommodate one participant or many participants
  • The conference theme needs to undergird the thinking of the facilitator and should remain visible throughout the event’s duration

Facilitators wishing to curate and lead one of these sessions need to prepare a 250-word narrative describing the general parameters of the event and its intersection with the conference theme. Organizers recognize the complexity of producing a proposal for this format for those not based in Chicago. If you would like to locate a Chicago-based collaborator, please contact the organizers (with an outline of your idea) for support in making connections.


Proposals for all formats need to be submitted by Monday 13th October 2014

Please email your proposal to: Laura Cull &Will Daddario

Please ensure that you include your surname in the file name of the document you send.

Please do not send any additional documents beyond the material requested above.

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