David Harradine

Crossing Borders 2017 | 7 November 2017 7- 8.30pm | Thinking alongside Performance

What might it mean to think alongside, rather than about performance?

In this session, we want to consider the relationship between the forms of thought that take place in and as acts of performance-making, and those that might conventionally be described as ‘performance theory’ or scholarship.

While the discourses of ‘practice as research’ and ‘artistic research’ have brought greater prominence to and growing institutional acceptance of the notion of art as the production of knowledge, we know that performance has always functioned as a kind of thinking and a way of knowing in its own right.

But what is the role for so-called ‘theory’ or ‘writing about performance’ in this context? If performance practice already thinks – already asks questions, shares insights and interrogates itself – in its own ways, then what is the role of the so-called ‘theorist’ or ‘scholar’ of performance (including in the case of the practitioner-researcher who, all too often, remains under institutional pressure to write about his or her own work)?

With his ‘non-philosophy’ project, contemporary French thinker François Laruelle invites us to experiment with the hypothesis that philosophy is not a matter of representing reality from a position of transcendent authority (which it has consistently assumed for itself): it is not ‘about’ the Real, but that which belongs to and is determined by it. According to this paradigm, our task would be less a matter of producing a philosophy or theory of performance – but something like a ‘performance philosophy’ that thinks ‘alongside’ or ‘according to’ it.

Situating our discussion in the contexts of PaR, Laruelle’s non-philosophy and the emerging field of performance philosophy, this session will invite reflections on how theorists ‘use’ practice and vice versa, seeking to articulate productive models for how performance and philosophy might relate to each other as equals (that is, as equally thought) and benefit from each others ways of thinking.

Laura and David will each present for 15 minutes at the start of the session - opening up some key ideas, questions and provocations from their own research, which we hope will serve as triggers for conversation. That is, our aim is for the session to focus on the exchange of ideas amongst all those present.


David is co-artistic director of Fevered Sleep, making performance, film, installation, books and digital art. Fevered Sleep’s practice is research led, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary. It appears in very diverse places, from theatres, galleries and cinemas, to beaches, parks, schools and the spaces of everyday life: in people’s homes, on phones, online. It’s created collaborativel,y with artists, scientists, academics, children, professionals and non-professionals, who enter the work as research partners, co-creators, performers, thinkers, writers and participants.

This practice - which is concerned with making thoughtful, complex, empathetic, political art - explores a number of recurring themes: the connections between the human and more-than-human worlds, and how deeply identity develops in relation to place; intergenerational relationships and the life course, from childhood to death; and science/scientific phenomena (with subjects as diverse as the theory of biophilia, particle physics and X-ray crystallography).

David is also Professor of Interdisciplinary Practice at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.