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Curating Performance: Audiences, dramaturgy and the stage in contemporary visual culture reviews

This two day intensive took place as part of 4 Days: Curtain Call and was aimed at curators, arts administrators, and artists keen to engage in contemporary aspects of performing arts curating and programming. Two of the participants have reviewed the event, sharing their insights and experiences.

Helen Cobby, Young Arnolfini 

'This two-day workshop on curating performance at the Arnolfini comprised of lectures and artist talks considering themes such as the relationship between social spaces, aesthetic experience and the audience, as well as similarities between curator and dramaturge. The opportunities and limitations associated with contextualising time-conscious work and live art were also considered. Additionally, notions of staging, movement, image and body were pertinent tropes throughout.

Jamie Eastman, the Arnolfini’s curator of performance, introduced the workshop and set the scene by asking the burning and complex question:  what is a curator? He suggested a curator was a mediator of live moments, someone who is concerned with the production and presentation of narratives, and whose role links to theatre. Another memorable moment from the introduction was Eastman’s suggestion that the context for live performances is highly important as each event is made up of narratives told in social spaces' 

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Louise Hobson, Future Producers

'Curating the Audience / Keep Your Distance – Anja Dorn, curator and guest-professor for curatorial theory and dramaturgy at the University of Design Karlsruhe. Dorn proposed that the recent increase of performative programmes in galleries and museums is directly related to the need for institutions to address and engage with wider audiences. Dorn referenced Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon and his belief that it is no longer about developing audiences, but of coming up with new ways to engage and involve them. She spoke about the de-bordering of art, dissolving the passive experience of the audience and creating strong experiences rather than an aesthetic art experience. The term ‘social space’ arrived at this point. A space to stage a performance is often referred to as a social space; a space for movement, a place for actions.

Dorn went on to discuss a performance piece by Andrea Fraiser called May I Help You, a great example of relational aesthetics. The performance considers the many cultures and many ways of speaking about art and how, through taste, we take a certain position within society which determines our social standing. In highlighting different positions and giving space to difference, Dorn considers this work by Andrea Fraiser to be of a political nature.

Part 2 of Anja Dorn’s workshop considered the transformation and osmosis between artist, artwork and viewer.The viewer as the second part of the creative act (Marcel Duchamp). Dorn discussed Statue Actions by Mark Leckey, a performance of an aesthetic experience through sound, in response to a Henry Moore sculpture. Leckey is communicating with the sculpture as an art object he doesn’t quite grasp, and thus questions the nature of aesthetic perception. Dorn here spoke of alienation, of the inability to grasp something, of being unsettled by art and the need for engendering these feelings. She went as far as to say that this should be defended, that it is endangered. Keeping a distance is the key for Dorn, for when the performer is the same as the viewer and when strong experiences become mere entertainment, the democratic process is lost.' 

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A regular festival of performance, September’s edition of 4 Days focused on contemporary art's restless relationship to the theatrical and the staged.

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Saturday 19 October 2019, 14:00 to 17:00


Zinester Sophie Sherwood will share with you the art of creating this classic, low-fi, DIY form of publication. ...