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Performance Philosophy Conference Amsterdam

Thursday 14 - Sunday 17 March 2019
Deadline 30 September 2018

The organizers of the 4th biennial Performance Philosophy conference are pleased to announce the topic Between Institution and Intoxication: How does Performance Philosophy Intervene? Researchers and practitioners are invited to explore intoxicating ways of intervening in institutions. We welcome contributions on interventions into, within or beyond artistic, educational and academic institutions.

Taking place in Amsterdam in the year of the 50th anniversary of the so-called "tomato incident", in which a 1969 Amsterdam audience of theatregoers performed a historic intervention into the antiquated institution of Dutch theatre by pelting the stage with tomatoes, the conference takes as its themes intervention, institution and intoxication. Instead of celebrating this occasion we propose it as an opportunity to inquire into the contemporary utility of concepts of intervention, institution and intoxication —i.e. beyond their counter-cultural legacy.

In this conference we explore how the themes of Intoxication, Institutions and Intervention, the roots of which tend to be associated with the 1960’s, manifest themselves in contemporary philosophical discourses and performative practices as well as in a broader historical and geographical context. “Altered states” or “altering states” might be central metaphors for an intoxicating turn of interventions into, within or beyond institutions. To what extent does the metaphor of altered states problematize the hegemony of institutional critique by opening the field up to a dizzying plurality of institutional experiences? In contrast to the Sixties’ rejection and confrontation of "the system", contemporary interventions can be seen as subtle subversions that employ intoxication as a subjunctive strategy of defamiliarization. The 60’s trope of a liberation from institutional structures as symbolic structures of power might be turned on its head by artists embracing, transforming and revaluing new forms of institutions. They do so by intervening in existing institutions from within or by instigating new institutions in ways that are potentially intoxicating.

We look forward to exploring questions about Performance Philosophy’s subversive potential of intervention and invite contributors to think along with us: What are the altered states of the institutions in which Performance Philosophy intervenes? Which modes of engagement does intervention offer? Wavering between defamiliarization and consolidation, which modes are used to intervene in academia and performance practice? Can Performance Philosophy intervene in the logocentric character of philosophy? In which ways can Performance Philosophy, as a field of research into performance as philosophy and vice versa, offer alternative ways of intervening, of working through intervention and thinking intervention itself? We invite contributions along the following lines of inquiry:

Intervening in institutions

The conference highlights the political dimension of intervention by inquiring into the potentialities and political processes of intervening. Intervention, originally a military term, when understood in the broader cultural sense of interference, often designates a public reaction to dominant discourses through verbal or other expressive means of contestation in the hope of changing the course of those debates (Nussbaum). The term has been associated in cultural scholarship with a certain type of radicalism through polemics and “intellectual agitation” (Semiotext(e) Intervention Series) or with “an underlying commitment to the radical and political potential of the arts in our contemporary moment” (Performance Intervention Palgrave). Interventions in institutions in particular have been framed as critique of institutions which in turn are often seen in Foucauldian terms as symbolic structures of power. Since the late 1960’s through to the 00’s, discourses of Institutional Critique have been capturing typically interventionist art practices which inquire critically into (art) institutions, their power structures and workings.

Yet, what we propose is to look beyond polemics at the procedure of intervention without taking a shared goal for granted. Instead, we highlight the directness and procedurality of intervening vs. instituting, the relationship of interrupting and consolidating and the notions of critique and change as such.

The changing and potentially contradictory notion of social critique or “critique as social practice” (Celikates) forms one important backdrop of this conference and highlights the underlying urgency to examine (the assumptions and hopes motivating) practices and discourses of intervention anew: Whereas on the one hand art discourse has more recently detected and mourned post-critical turns (Foster 2015), on the other hand, and somewhat paradoxically, the vocabulary of both art and academic practices is inconceivable without the terms critique or criticality.

What can currently be observed is that in response to austerity measures and increasing political pressure on cultural institutions, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary artistic practices reflect on and experiment with fictions and imaginaries of instituent practices (Raunig 2008). Art institutions, theorists and practitioners are intervening through a ‘reinvention’ of Institutional Critique. They invoke a liminal state of potentiality in between critique and utopia, by intoxicating the very idea of institutions, thereby intervening in a way which will be of central concern to this conference.

Intoxicating ways of intervening

Intoxication understood in line with Nancy’s conception of ivresse is a concept we find helpful for inquiring not only into the diagnosis of interventions of performance into philosophy and vice versa, but also for reflecting on the expectations, rationales and consequences of such entanglements.

Philosophies on and of intoxication usually identify two different experiences of intoxication beyond the chemical and medical understanding of intoxication (Brennan, Williams). The experience of intoxication is usually considered apolitical because of the subject’s altered states. In this common view, intoxication is seen as an escape from society and as outside of sober norms and rational discourse. At the same time, other perspectives - in line with Benjamin or Bataille - ascribe transformative potentialities to experiences of being alienated from the world, which creates possibilities for criticizing and re-engaging with it differently.

In the case of artistic creation, Nietzsche’s conception of the Dionysian famously points to a form of Platonic creative or divine madness. This conception of intoxication denotes both the ecstatic and immersive experience of spectators and the likewise self-effacing, unifying force of collective creation (Nietzsche, Mersch, Badiou). We propose to examine the meaningful line between the turn towards and away from social critique through engaging with and intervening in institutions in these unexpected ways.

Scholars, researchers and practitioners, both affiliated and independent, are invited to contribute to topics including but not limited to:

  • Potentiality and procedurality of intervention: potentiality of intervention, intervention as gesture (Agamben), intervening and instituting, foundational acts.
  • Intervention as expression of critical thought: addressing structures of symbolic power, intervention as part of Critical Theory or Institutional Critique.
  • Narratives of liberation and rupture: narratives of rupture (Bourdieu) verbal and non-verbal acts (or non-acts) of creating resistance and disobedience in the political sense. Intervention and openness (Butler).
  • Dissolution of institutional structures: consequences of effective change of institutions into structureless networks through effective intervention (Freeman, Lagaay).
  • Institutional forms of thinking: How long do interventions last until they institute new forms of thinking (Critchley)?
  • Fictional institutions/ role of imaginaries in interventions: What is the role of imaginaries in interventions? Relationships of the symbolic and the real, fiction and reality.
  • Performance of and intervention in text: philosophical, theatre, literary or otherwise. The relation between philosophical text (in its institutional context) and performance as intervention into it, for example through re-enactments.
  • Performative ways of intervening in institutions: explicitly including music, performance, dance, visual art and physical theatre.
  • Social critique and artistic creation: in between collectivity and withdrawal.
  • Regional case studies: relevant regional examples, case studies and historical narratives.
  • Media and technology as new sites of intervention/intoxication: imaginal politics (Bottici), imagery and imagination, disruptive technology/ imagery void of politics?
  • Aesthetic dimension of intoxication: ecstatic, inebriated, ritualistic, spiritual, entangled, aesthetic dimensions of intervention (Nancy, Nietzsche).
  • Intoxication as pharmakon: both remedy and poison alike (Foucault, Derrida, Rinella, Stiegler); pharmakon as divine madness/theia mania (Plato) in relation to the Dionysian in Greek Theatre; or contaminating.
  • Intoxication in relation to the creation of art, co-creation and negation: intoxication provoking heretofore unforeseeable and unimaginable forms of co-creation, negative forms of community, désoeuvrement (Nancy, Blanchot); unifying force of collective creation (Nietzsche, Mersch, Badiou).
  • Politics of immanence: rejection of societal norms (Bataille, Deleuze & Guattari)

Contribution Formats

We invite contributions in a range of alternative formats next to ‘standard’ academic paper presentations. In our view, thinking together in real time is what makes conferences worthwhile. We cherish interdisciplinary and intergenerational dialogue, and encourage the inclusion of voices, languages and practices, which are not commonly heard in academic conferences. And, in line with the alternative forms of intervention described above, we encourage problematization over polemics:

“It’s true that I don’t like to get involved in polemics. If I open a book and see that the author is accusing an adversary of “infantile leftism” I shut it again right away. That’s not my way of doing things; I don’t belong to the world of people who do things that way. I insist on this difference as something essential: a whole morality is at stake, the one that concerns the search for truth and the relation to the other.” Foucault, “Polemics, Politics and Problematizations”, 1998.

We invite submissions for contributions in the following formats:


Conference papers - 20 min
The organizers invite contributions for 20 minute conference presentations that address the conference themes.


“Doing together…watching in the midst of doing” workshop proposals - 90 min
The organizers invite proposals for 90 minute workshops. The majority of the session must involve the physical engagement of the participants in activities. The workshop can also involve acts of observation, or what Allan Kaprow called ‘watching in the midst of doing.’ We welcome workshop proposals that question what counts as ‘physical engagement,’ the nature of the relation between participation and observation, the active and the passive, and so forth.


Re-enactment lectures - 15 min
Taking our cue from Robert Cantarella’s Faire le Gilles the organizers invite performance lectures that take the form of embodied re-enactments of the philosophers, theoreticians and performers that shape and move our thinking practices. We explicitly encourage re-enactments of female thinkers and philosophers. If the language of the performance is not English (which is encouraged!), make sure to provide an English translation. Please indicate in your abstract by what means you will distribute the translation and/or how you envision making it part of your performance.


Children & parent dialogues - 15 min 
The organizers invite contributions for dialogues/performances between academics and (their) children, thereby intervening in the habit of academia as a place for mature or adult voices. The dialogue/performance can be pre-recorded and involve film or audio, but preferably be live if the child/parent couple is available/able to travel. There is no minimum age limit, but the dialogue/performance must be a meaningful contribution to the conference theme. Contributions in all languages are welcome, but English translations have to be provided. Please state the ages of all participants in your abstract.


“No paper” presentations - 15 min. or 90 min. panels
The organizers invite contributions for 15 minute presentations or full panel proposals for 90 minute panels. Presenters must not read out a paper written in advance. Other forms of visual aid (e.g. Powerpoint) to support their presentation are allowed. If submitting a proposal for the whole panel, add a 100 word description of the overall aim of the panel and the name of the primary contact along with contact information for all participants.  


Performance lectures - 20 min
The 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.


Audio essays - 10 min
The organizers invite contributions that use archival audio material or other sonic sources, interviews, music to present a performative polyphony of voices. This format for presentations requires pre-recording and affords a different relationship to media and modes of presentation, acknowledging sonic performative aesthetics. For more information see the Audio Papers manifesto.  


Brief interventions - 2 min
The organizers invite contributions that intervene in the formats described above. The intervention should respond to the theme of the conference. The constraint is that presenters use the standard technical equipment available in conferences (microphones, sound system, projector). Contributions for this format can be submitted in addition to submissions for any other format. 

Download Call for Contributions pdf See requirements for contributions