Performativity in the public realm

Matthias Sperling, Siobhan Davies

The bridge that seems apparent between the Theatrum Mundi discussion and my current work is my particular interest in embodying an understanding of the boundaries of the self as mobile and porous rather than fixed, with the movement of those boundaries emerging from a constant process of negotiation and exchange with others. Extending from my own questions about how such movement can become the visible content of choreography, this discussion prompts a curiosity about how the organisation of the street or the cultural centre might shift when conceived as spaces for exercising the mobility and porosity of the self.

As a result of this area of interest, I am increasingly working on creating choreographic frameworks for noticing the richly complex relationships at play within even the simplest interactions. Most relevant, perhaps, is my recent installation performance WalkingPiece, in which a large group of volunteer performers created a single-file loop circumnavigating the interior and exterior spaces of Siobhan Davies Studios, along which route I mapped performative tasks playfully relating the performers’ own awareness with the ambulatory audience and the architectural space. I would enjoy considering Walking Piece as a starting point for potential performative interventions in other spaces relevant to this discussion. A further question I would be interested to find a forum for pursuing early on is: Given the project of bringing a dramaturgical approach to the organisation of contemporary street life, what do we mean by dramaturgy? According to one prominent dance dramaturge:

“Dramaturgy is always concerned with the conversion of feeling into knowledge, and vice versa. Dramaturgy is the twilight zone between art and science… Dramaturgy today is often a case of solving puzzles, learning to deal with complexity. This management of complexity demands an investment from all the senses, and, more especially, a firm trust in the path of intuition”, M. Van Kerkhoven

Could this kind of description of a dramaturge’s mode of engagement in a creative process usefully inform an engagement with the street? The Turbine Hall commission by Tino Sehgal offers many parallels to this discussion of performativity in the public realm and seems a significant resource to draw on, link with, or distinguish from.