Exchange of practices symposium

Call for participation

Performative Schools: Temporary Structures / Permanent Unknowns
Exchange of practices symposium
July 18-19, 2020
Santarcangelo Festival, Santarcangelo (RN), Italy

Theater involves, […] neither the constitution of order out of chaos nor the solving of problems. It does not communicate contents or produce positive knowledge. Nor is it “performative” in the sense usually understood, which is to say, that of accomplishing an intention through an act. Rather, by isolating acts and gestures from their intentional context, it points to established frames of reference – and also to the conditions and contexts that those intentions suppose – but only in order to dislocate them. […] When theatre rules, people forget their proper place. And places become so unstable that they can hardly become familiar, much less forgotten.
(Samuel Weber, Theatricality as Medium 2004)

Theatre is a place where things are re-seen, re-experienced, and re-located as unknown. It provides performative perspectives – multiple ways of seeing in time and space. It moves, disappears, makes shadows and ghosts of things and thoughts not there anymore. Showing glimpses and seeds of things-not-yet. The past and the future. The possible and the unthinkable. Continuously moving, dislocated people and things gain new meanings and provide new potentials and experiences. It is a form of thinking. A complex thinking that combines experiences, gestures, practices, contradictory positions, where ‘proper place’ is forgotten. But how does one grasp this? How do we teach this thinking? How do you teach the unknown? How do you teach dislocation? Certainly there are ways, there are methodologies. But how does one keep good strategies and methodologies alive, questioned, vibrant? How long can things be repeated? Torn between the teaching of the existing knowledge/methodologies/experiences and grasping for the unknown, the critical: what is the role and the potential of the theatre/performance schools?
During this two-day symposium, we want to address these questions by focusing on the recent rise of temporary, nomadic, festival, independent, and artists-led performance schools. These temporary schools are important places of critical thinking and teaching and can both challenge and inspire more institutional schools. Permanent schools offer stable conditions – administrations, access to accreditations, formal acknowledgements, sustained support and spaces of visibility – to experiment with the unknown. Permanent schools also have direct connections to traditions that, when handled well, can produce an important cultural impact on a larger scale. Yet, the temporary school also challenges or interrogates the permanent school.
First of all, the temporary schools question the importance of the ‘spatial location’ of the school: their potential for a changing socio-geographical embedding, of decentralisation and nomadism is in contrast to the physically and mentally centralised, sedentary art institute. Secondly, the temporary schools draw attention to the temporality of the school. They invite us to reconsider the times, the rhythms and the duration of study (artistic schools often take place in the evening or at night, intentionally invoking the ‘obscure’ and ‘non-transparent’) and to think the school agency in response to political topicality. Thirdly, temporary schools problematize which practices are recognized as ‘contemporary’, at least insofar as ‘contemporaneity’ is understood as a performative and disciplining concept that delineates which artistic practices are considered to be relevant, and which are not. Fourthly, they create a framework for critical reflection on technology-driven phenomena such as ‘lifelong learning’ in both private life and the organization of labour (e.g. Google calling its headquarters a ‘campus’ as a great example of the emergence of the knowledge economy). In short: above all, temporary schools question how ‘permeable’ the school is: how the world outside the school seeps into the school, but also how the school itself shapes that world.

But in the end, in the discourse of temporary and permanent schools there is a striking common ground: they both can emphasize emancipation and critical thinking; encourage artistic creation, experimentation and thus also failure; focus on the sharing of knowledge and practice through different modes of transmission, both through knowledge transfer and embodiment; the interaction between individual, collective and peer-to-peer learning processes.

Performative Schools is a symposium at Santarcangelo Festival that will gather people working in institutionalized schools (academies and universities) – as well as temporary schools (such as festival schools and more independent artists-led schools) to exchange practices and strategies. Today, in the context of the rising pressure of nationalist and neoliberal ideologies on the arts and art education, there is a greater need than ever for artistic organizations to connect to places and practices where critical thinking is being developed. This symposium wants to think through the great potential in connecting these independent initiatives to institutional examples of schools that are keeping questioning and rethinking themselves. What is there to gain in the contamination of the institutional and the independent, the permanent and the temporary?

Silvia Bottiroli, PhD, DAS Theatre, Amsterdam
Frederik Le Roy, PhD, KASK, Ghent
Sodja Lotker, PhD, Prague Academy of the Arts

We welcome proposals for presentations and the sharing of practices and case studies, as well as proposals for topics/moderation of working groups sessions, round tables or short workshops. For the selection we will take into account the overall dramaturgy of the symposium. Send 300 words bio and 300 words abstract.
All proposals must be submitted via email to Alyssa Dillard:

March 9th, 2020

Notification of acceptance: March 16th, 2020
Applicants to confirm participation: March 23rd, 2020
Preliminary program: April 2020

There are no fees to the symposium. Each participant is responsible for their travel and accommodation expenses.
The symposium’s official language is English.

Alyssa Dillard:

Organised with the support of Santarcangelo Festival
KASK & Conservatorium, school of art of Ghent University College