Call for Papers


The aim of this conference is to explore the relationship between performance and institutions, building on the premise that institutional structures are formed through repeated sets of practices, patterns and relations. Through a performance studies lens that approaches the figure of the institution as verb, this conference seeks to consider how institutions are performance and in turn how performance practices may enforce, destabilise and initiate new modes of organisation. Although often read as abstractions of seemingly objective, entrenched and systematic structures, institutions, whether formal or informal, are always social processes. Thus, if institutional constructions and resources are established through repeated modes of action and arrangements, how might certain performance practices constitute radical acts, becomings and socialities, and by extension, potential performances of instituting otherwise?

At present, formal educational, cultural and art institutions, whether public or private, comply with economic policies or prove un-sustainable. These conditions have spurred diverse opinions regarding the engagement and involvement with and within official institutions. Many argue for an exit as institutional re-structuring becomes increasingly complicit with market rules and neoliberal governmental agendas. As Boltanski and Chiapello amongst many others have shown, artistic practice and critique are often incorporated into the system as an extracted new set of values, attitudes and structures so as to re-legitimise dominant institutions. At the same time many argue that to effect change we must necessarily and simultaneously work from both outside and within current institutions as interconnected sites for social transformation. In what ways can performance practice critique or even attempt to change the conditions it often appears to serve?

In refusing an easy binary between the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of institutional frameworks and between artistic and social performance, this conference aims to offer insights into the ways all of us engage in practices of instituting while maneuvering within, through and against institutional parameters. Historically and in the present, dominating and governing institutional structures are constituted through hierarchical bureaucracies and divisions of labour bound up with the production, function and management of race, gender, sexuality and class. At the same time, the last two decades have seen what Athanassiou and Butler call a “perfomativity in plurality”: new global forms of organisation and resistance including guerilla art practices, activist-artist occupations of state-owned theaters, boycotts of art and educational institutions, worker-run factories, occupied square movements, hacktivisms, emergent community assemblies and economies, self-organised art and publishing spaces, relational participatory structures and critical experimental performance. Questions on how practices of performance and mis-performance facilitate other forms of sociality play a key role in interrogating and re-imagining participation, collaboration, collectivity and decision-making. How can an emphasis on institutions as performance and performances of instituting or non-instituting offer examples of contingent and resistant forms, aesthetics, strategies, theories and methods? How do we constitute institutions as they constitute us?

Conference topics and questions may include (and not limited to):

  • The role of institutions and politics of resistance in the current sociopolitical landscape.
  • Performance practices (including but not limited to theatre, dance, music, visual and performance art) negotiating with questions of institutional labour, arrangements, borders, aesthetics and norms.
  • Interrelations between institutions and performance practice. Effective modes of research, artistic practice and critical engagement and its relation to current institutions.
  • Institutions as performance, institutions of performance, performance as institution and instituting or non-instituting otherwise
  • Can performance and cultural practice effect, challenge and re-invent current institutional formats?
  • Performance practices as potential alternatives to notions of hegemony and the “long march through institutions?”
  • Performances of governance, institutionalised biopolitics, necropolitics and countering performances.
  • What strategies and forms of performance may challenge established practices and ways of doing? Can performance produce new forms of institution?
  • Performances within and against state and private institutions, including but not limited to the institution of language, economic and monetary institutions, algorithmic and logistical institutions, religious, health, educational and art institutions.
  • Fugitive planning before, within and beyond institution: queer, feminist, black radical traditions, interventions and the undercommons.
  • New forms of instituting: collective, emergent, social and self-organised structures.