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Friday March 15 | Session 16:30 - 18:00 (20 min) De Brakke Grond | Grote Zaal


Theron Schmidt is a Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies at UNSW Sydney, and works internationally as a writer, teacher, and performer. He has contributed to anthologies and journals such as Performing Antagonism, Postdramatic Theatre and the Political, Performance Research, Law Text Culture, The Live Art Almanac, and Contemporary Theatre Review. He is one of the founding conveners of the Performance Philosophy network and is Editor of the open-access journal Performance Philosophy. He also edits Contemporary Theatre Review’s online Interventions, and is Associate Editor for Performance Research. 
It’s clear one can re-appropriate the representational role of the gallery or theatre for a pedagogic or communal purpose: in examples like Group Material’s Democracy, Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International, or Karen Mirza and Brad Butler’s The Embassy of Non-Participation, the gallery borrows the aesthetics of the classroom but also takes on its pedagogic function—and the theatre attempts something similar through participatory forms such as forum theatre or Brecht’s Lehrstücke. In these forms, participants play at being learners—though the pedagogic intent risks a “stultifying” effect, as Rancière puts it.

But what about the opposite experiment? How can people who are already playing the role of learners (i.e., “students”) gain agency and freedom in that role? Here the kinds of questions around disagreement, antagonism, and agonism that are raised by the likes of Rancière, Bishop, and Mouffe come into direct contact with the Foucauldian apparatus of subject-making—as well as my own complicity as a teacher with pedagogic expectations and duty of care. Antagonism and dissensus may be cultivated in the gallery, with or without the blessing of certain curators—but what does it mean to encourage them in a classroom for which I am responsible?

And so this is a practical enquiry, as well as a conceptual one. I share here my own experiences of teaching approaches to social practice and community-based activism, in which I have discovered that the most valuable insights come not from the subject matter, but from the opportunity to experiment with different forms of group behavior, non-hierarchical or anti-hierarchical structures, and techniques for self-organization within the classroom.

This is not unlike the shift to attention of forms of gathering within activist movements, from Jo Freeman’s feminist critique of “the tyranny of structurelessness”, to more recent alter-globalization movements, about which David Graeber (later to co-found Occupy) declared: “It is not lacking in ideology. Those new forms of organization are its ideology.”
In focusing on collaboration and communication, I am aware that this might be one more way in which the “feeling labour” of performance serves as exemplary preparation for work in affective economies. But my hope is that in making collaboration, disagreement, and deliberation available as material practice, then the ‘work’ that arises out of that practice will be valuable in more senses than a purely economic one.
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