2021-2022 HTDTWT seminar Hypatia Vourloumis: (non)Performance & (non)Performativity: Archives, Experiments, Stakes

About Hypatia Vourloumis

The seminar from month to month

Participants: Iarlaith Ni Fheorais, Pelumi AdejumoEmilia Kuryłowicz, Theresa Zwerschke, Chiara Pagano, Dandelion Eghosa, Emmeli Person, Marilú Mapengo Námoda, Morena Buser, Nash Caldera.

Thesis Coaching Matches.


This year’s seminar is divided into two parts. We will begin by critically engaging with the interdisciplinary field of performance studies via a reading of foundational texts, revisiting and rethinking key issues and methods. Our readings for the introductory part of the seminar will include excerpts from J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words, José Esteban Muñoz’s Disidentifications, Fred Moten’s In the Break, Alex Vazquez’s Listening in Detail; and will also refer to writings by Eve Sedgwick, Jean-Luc Nancy, Erving Goffman, Jacques Derrida, Richard Schechner and more. We will ask: what is performance? What is the performative? What is performativity? All students will be encouraged to voice their own different understandings of these terms, acts, and enactments during class exercises, as well as share their every day and aesthetic practices of performance and performativity with each other in the seminar. An important lens and approach for us will be thinking through questions of the materiality and ephemerality of “form” in the word “perform,” and a collective posing of the question: what is at stake, are the stakes, when we study and/or do, make, create “performance?” 

Alongside our reading practice we will critically analyze varied experiments and materializations of social, cultural, aesthetic performance and performance art according to different historical, regional and canonical formations, paying particular attention to the ongoing forces of archival performativity. This emphasis on archives, experiments, and the political stakes always at hand will be the focus of the second part of the seminar. The theoretical and experimental writings of Laura Harris in Experiments in Exile, Sandra Ruiz in Ricanness, Gayatri Gopinath’s Unruly Visons, Katherine McKittrick’s Dear Science and Other Stories, as well as the fictional novel Lote by Shola von Reinhold will guide us here. We will trace connections and resonances between these different works teasing out the ways that survival, escape and fugitive planning express, cut across, and are bound up with “dirty,” discrepant, anticolonial, queer methods, articulations, spatialities, temporalities, and archives. How are the refusals and deliberations at work within different forms of singular and collective survival, insistence, resistance, critique and celebration materialized through performance and non-performance? In order to explore the ways in which artistic and cultural practices, by way of their myriad articulations and forms, offer different methods and processes for ongoing and potential compositions of social life, we will study performance practices that work against and through sets of constraints (economic, physical, social, material etc), and the entanglement of historical, contemporary and futurial cultural modes of political being and (un)becoming. Thus, in addition to an in-depth engagement with examples of certain strategies, actions and enactments, while always emphasizing practice as method and theory made material, we will be grappling with formations of refusal and escape, which is to say, we will be thinking about the questions raised by those performances that refuse to perform in a certain way, that refuse certain calls to perform. Therefore, the questions of nonperformance and nonperformativity as practices also become ones of collaborating, improvising and living otherwise. These acts are also ones where fugitivity is conducted in the open as explicit, collective conspiracies to be witnessed, shared, held and taken on. Here we can pause to think through how these fugitive forces and manifestations are always related to pedagogies that necessarily refuse and rework governing modes and understandings of “seeing,” “being,” and “knowing” through a dismantling of dominant epistemological and metaphysical assumptions. Furthermore, fugitive insistence is not only a moving to a somewhere else, to other horizons, but also the imperative to defend what one already has, a recovery and preservation; the tapping into embodied memories through improvisation and protection within constraint, care and (sur)realization. 

Thus, alongside our in-depth readings the seminars will dedicate much time to closely studying, watching and listening to performances and performative acts in the realms of manifold aesthetic expressions and productions; varying forms, materializations and organizing principles of sociality, politicality; and differing communal expressions of self-hood, experiences and life-worlds, too many and varied to list here. The interdisciplinary field of performance studies is an expansive one that refuses easy containment and definition and connects to many modes of inquiry, fields, and disciplines such as gender studies, anthropology, sociology, philosophies of language, cinema studies, queer theory, Black and Brown studies, critical theory, literary studies, psychoanalysis, sound studies, and many more. What does performance studies as a field do to these interlinking fields and disciplines? Finally, during the seminars we will also dedicate time to collaborative writing exercises together in order to grapple with aporias such as: Where does performance as an object of study begin and end? If it can be argued that aesthetic productions and performances are also modes of inquiry, how do we write about and with art and performance? How do all these questions pertain to the implied performativity of the seminar seeing that it is placed under the heading How to Do Things with Theory? 


Primary and secondary readings and references will include:

J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975.

Jacques Derrida, “Signature, Event, Context” in Limited Inc. 1-24. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1988. 

Matthew Goulish, 39 Microlectures: In Proximity of Performance. London & New York: Routledge, 2000.

Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday, 1959.

Gayatri Gopinath, Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diaspora. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018.

Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. Autonomedia/Minor Compositions, 2013.

Laura Harris, Experiments in Exile: C.L.R. James, Hélio Oiticica, and the Aesthetic Sociality of Blackness. New York: Fordham University Press, 2018.

Katherine McKittrick, Dear Science and Other Stories. Durham: Duke University Press, 2021.

Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Fred Moten, “Blackness and Nonperformance.” Talk given as part of MOMA’s AFTERLIVES: The Persistence of Performance, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2leiFByIIg&t=1070s.

José Esteban Muñoz, Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Jean-Luc Nancy, Doing. London: Seagull Books, 2020.

Andrew Parker and Eve Sedgwick, eds., Performativity and Performance. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Shola von Reinhold, Lote. London: Jacaranda Books, 2020.

Sandra Ruiz, Ricanness: Enduring Time in Anticolonial Performance (New York: New York University Press, 2019).

Richard Schechner, Performance Theory. New York: Routledge, 1988.

Diana Taylor, Performance. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.

Alexandra T. Vazquez, Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.