Artist & researcher


Featured in "ALE DLACZEGO JA O TO PYTAM? / BUT WHY AM I ASKING THIS?" Uniwersytet Artystyczny w Poznaniu (2020). Redakcja / Editor: Tomasz Drewicz

In this essay, I will look into a possible connection between a few concepts that are more commonly used in the context of philosophy or anthropology. The context of this essay is the pedagogy of performance art, and specifically in the context of higher education. I have started as a professor in Live Art and Performance Studies Masters’ of Arts programme at the University of the Arts Helsinki in October 2018. One of the first tasks that I had waiting for me, was to rethink the curriculum for this 2-year international programme. It was a task that was both complex and exciting, since I was able to think right at the beginning of my position, what would be the pedagogy of the live arts in the 2020s? The programme itself is nearly twenty years old and was started by professor Annette Arlander in 2001. However, my task was to regard the programme in the contexts of the artistic fields and the wider socio-political field we are living right now, so different from the early twenty-first century.

The MA degree programme for Live Art and Performance Studies (LAPS) is an international meeting place for students from various fields, and not only from the arts, but also from the humanities and sciences. At the moment, there are six students enrolled, and two of them have a Bachelor’s degree in the humanities, but like other students, they have artistic practice, as well. One objective of the programme is to enable people from different environments, classes, cultures, and upbringing to study together and develop their practice. The programme itself is closely connected with the other MA programmes in the Uniarts, such as Choreography, Time-Based Arts and Curating, but also with the Doctoral Studies in artistic research. There are three focus points for the LAPS on individual practice, collaboration, and more theoretical research, which often is aligned with the new paradigm of artistic research.

The ethos is broadly post-humanist and aims to explore performance as a mode of inquiry through four contemporary themes of futures, humans, technologies and economies. These themes provide a loose frame for the students to explore their practice and collaborations over the duration of the 2-year programme. As you may have noticed, these concepts are regarded in their plural forms, which does not mean that the emphasis would be in certain kind of libertarian pluralism. The question is rather ontological, in other words, each one of these concepts can be regarded through a perspectival point of view, instead of based on canon. However, all of this means that there is a difficulty to approach these subject matters in pedagogy, moreover that they are often connected personally and in embodied ways to each students practice. One of the useful terms has been to use dialogical pedagogy, or to focus on the intersectionality in the classroom. However, my focus on this essay is not on neither of these useful terms.

Rather, I will inquire what would be the use of two concepts, which are somewhat ‘Deleuzian’, and in that sense have a danger of becoming mere philosophical concepts. They might be useful in theory, but hard to recognize in practice, if at all. In his two-decade-long practice at the Institute of La Borde from the early 1960s, Félix Guattari developed an idea of the ‘collective assemblages of enunciation’.[1] To introduce this concept, I will present it as an ensem­ble which makes possible the emergence of subjectivity. It is the way how subjectivity comes into being as collective. In other words, the subjectivity for Guattari is that, which comes to being through the collective assemblages, and in that way, subjectivities are rather in modulation, and not moulded or fixed identities, say ‘an artist’ or ‘a performer’. In the same way, enunciation emerges from the groups and social assemblages, and not through horizontal or vertical tracks, but transversally. In other words, transversality goes beyond the objective laws of how the group or community is founded. It is rather based on unconscious desires that can leap, cut, rupture or emerge.

Another similar kind of concept that I will use in this text is ‘perspectivism’, which has been developed by a Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. The term itself is already rather commonly used, at least to certain view to anthropology where the work of Viveiros de Castro and others have been recently termed as defining the ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology.[2] Yet, it was already in 2004 when the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern wrote in her book Partial Connections how the pluralism effects perspectivism in the way where “[t]he relativizing effect of knowing other perspectives exist gives the observer a constant sense that any one approach is only ever partial, that phenomena could be infinitely multiplied” (Strathern 2004, xiv-xvii). When effaced with apprehension that there is not only one totalizing perspective, the multiplicity and infinite amount of perspectives cease to be perspectival. Any position receives the same value as any other. This, in turn, creates the effect of scaling the perspectives through modes of mapping or arborescent models, seen from the air or as a system of concepts, and recognizing the world having multiple perspectives, that flattens all perspectives (Strathern 2004, 31). All perspectives can be assembled so that they create a perspective, where a perspective is always a ‘perspective plus one’. These are rather common positions that an ethnographic fieldworker, artist or a philosopher can take in their approach with an object. This question, in this text, is turned into a question, how to approach a pedagogical situation not in the pluralist manner, which was more common to the late 1990s contemporary art practices? In the following pages, my intention is to explore the difference that Strathern promotes for another kind of perspectivism. 

The LAPS programme is one of the most international of all the programmes at the Theatre Academy. Most of the students have already built an international network before entering the programme, and some of them have years of professional practice behind, before they enrolled in the programme. For this reason, the pedagogical context should follow a kind of diffraction pattern, where many variants are at play. Not only one individual perspective is enough to sustain the environment or provide a place for new knowledge to emerge. Rather, the context is entangled with alliances and conjunctions and also with differences and ruptures. The principle for practice and research is an articulation that is based on these complexities. Therefore, it is a transversal and synthetic process, and hardly a natural, positivistic or pluralist. We could think of several overlapping perspectives being articulated where not an individual interpretative reflection on the topic of performance or theory can be apprehended. Transversality does not interpret a process, but flows through the breaks, blocks and resistances, also. The transversal conjunctions take place in an acentric network, which does resemble the digital trees or mapping of knowledge, but these acentric combinations are ‘diffractive’. Knowledge is an ever-expanding complexity, which in itself is the articulation of knowing.

Strips of behaviour

In an early text Happenings (1965) Michael Kirby writes that in the traditional theatre, the actor works within a created matrix of time, place and character. This created matrix makes a manufactured reality so significant to the audience. However, there are also non-matrixed performances that take place outside the theatre, in sport, classroom, street, gatherings, etc. In this broad-spectrum, so to speak, Kirby regards that Happening is a place for the non-matrixed performing. For instance, the act of sweeping the floor in the matrixed acting, and non-matrixed acting are very different kind of acts altogether. He writes that “Happenings might be described as a purposefully composed form of theatre in which diverse alogical elements, including nonmatrixed performing, are organized in a compartmented structure” (Kirby 1965, 9). Kirby and Kaprow were very much involved in the development of performance studies at the NYU with Richard Schechner, where the regard on performance was part of broad-spectrum, as Schechner states (Schechner 2004, 170).

Schechner points at that the so-called restored behaviour functions through ‘strips of behaviour’ that are twice behaved in any performance. In rituals, gatherings and for him, in performance art, also. The ‘strips of behaviour’ extend cultural and personal boundaries, but need to be restored and can be even taken out of the context. These strips of behaviour have no ‘originality’ (Schechner 2004, 324). Every strip, no matter how small, brings some of its former meanings into a new context. Their ‘memory’ makes ritual and artistic recombination so powerful, Schechner argues (Schechner 2013, 34). Such restored behaviours can have a long or short duration, take place in rituals or fleeting gestures and even without a clear subjectivity or identity. In this way, Schechner could declare that anything can be viewed ‘as performance’. In the context of learning, these strips of behaviour behave transversally in the collective assemblage of enunciation; in other words, they are articulated performatively. They make things happen.

Through this, I might regard how new knowledge is not an accident. It just might not have received an articulated form yet. It is situated knowledge where each agency has a transversal relation with the complexity of the collective assemblage, as Anne Sauvagnargues writes on art practices (2016, 138-50). Every perspective is equally valid and true, no universal or correct representation of the whole exists (Viveiros de Castro 2014, 70). Nevertheless, each individual perspective creates particular expression in this situation, even if the knowledge is produced in and through alliances or conjunctions.  It means, that we do not fall into some kind of pluralistic mush, where “anything goes”, but individuals and collectives have kind of bifurcating relationship. The performance is an articulation of a situated perspective in a particular context. If we look at this through the specific context of LAPS programme, each articulation from a perspective of a student, teacher or audience may carry their own strips of behaviour — including concepts, histories, institutions and intuitions. The articulation is both discursive (performance studies) and expressive (performance).

The strips of behaviour, like film strips in the process of editing — we can scale it to video editing also, since even in the digital format it uses frames as units — the speed of thought is parallel with the speed of cuts and transitions, where we can say that these strips of film (frames) have their own form of thinking (Ó Maoilearca 2015, 116). In this sense, a strip of behaviour has a ‘speed of thought’. They are not strictly speaking human but material not determined by the ethos of humanity. ‘It’ thinks in the situation.

Moreover, thinking in the context of learning — in the classroom of six to eight students and a teacher — points at the situation where there are no clearly articulated positions. I would rather call this a ‘posture’, with partial and malleable truths, instead of standard truths. The postures are performative, but not in the sense of the conventional acts, as proposed by J.L. Austin or John Searle. Postures are not even citational, since no origin of the strips of behaviour or postures is to be found. The postures are precarious, uncanny, crimped and entangled. In the transversal and situated context, things will emerge, and they perform if we have more fixed postures, as in certain conventions of editing these postures create habits and styles — a performance style. Still, any posture is a node of perspective and only a partial truth. As Shosana Felman writes on performativity, they do not inform or describe, but “accomplish and act through the very process of their enunciation.” (Felman 2002, 6). Through using the term ‘posture,’ we are able to leave the original-copy binary, as well.

If seen as postures, the strips of behaviour are without a standardised figure, and they are subject to a partial infelicity. Performance art as practice is specific for the reason that in it we may mirror any standard positions — say, a professor in live art and performance studies —and how they are  always anchored on the potentially feigned or mimed derivations, which “undermine the order of succession or of dependence among the terms,” as Derrida writes on performatives and iterability (Derrida 1988, 91-92). Each performance from a certain perspective with a certain posture undermines the standard positions.

These postures that emerge from the transversal and collective practice have no propositions about the nature of reality, but rather they contest any superior knowledge about reality. At least potentially so. We are doing research as much as we are producing knowledge, but doing the research, we need a posture whereas for production we need positions. We can say that in the production of knowledge, the posture and position meet, but always from the point of view of a position. It is the act of measuring in the method of producing knowledge, which acts as a disturbance for postures. We can only know how uncertain, and how felicitous the postures have been whereas the knowledge production is limiting the uncertainty of the postures that are performing. The strips of behaviour have no origin, but only their contexts determine to mean. The context determines the postures in regard to the institution, also. The institution is the fixer of these postures. In a case like this, “a teacher has the final word.”

When Allan Kaprow stated in 1978, that the work of an artist is to perform life, then today, what we can say about life? Is a life a continuum of producing knowledge and disseminating it? Hardly, but life is not automatically something more than production or consumption of knowledge, also. Life is not only something being lived, and in some cases, life is less. It is an uncertain posture. In 1978 Kaprow wrote how: “displacements of ordinary emphasis increase attentiveness but only attentiveness to the peripheral parts of ourselves and our surroundings. Revealed this way they are strange. […] The coming together of the parts, then, might be the event’s residue, latent and felt, rather than its clear promise” (Kaprow 1993, 198). Postures, as well, are strange. They make strange — the classroom context, also. In short, the whole situated context of learning transversally is often filled with residual emotions and affects. It is strange to realize that a posture has emerged from elsewhere, through transversal connections and alliances. Like strips of behaviour from nowhere. It is like wave-packets of particles, quanta that also behave immanently strange. 

My proposition here is to view the pedagogical context for performance art, not as a framed context to produce knowledge that would take an expressive form of art. Many other things are going on in the classroom, which is as meaningful — and strange. They may take the form of postures, positions, arguments, gestures, withdrawals that perform felicitously, or maybe not. But also, they are perceived and experienced, then framed into methods and concepts, which are in turn assembled in standard forms of thought — like in logic or philosophy.

Collective work, or, collective speech?

The context, where Guattari worked and for the Institute of La Borde, was the collapsing hegemony of the Gaullist France and the aftermath of it. It was the period that Guattari also called as the winter years, after 1968. At La Borde, he worked with the psychoanalyst Jean Oury in methods that they termed as institutional psychotherapy or schizoanalysis. Their focus was not on the individual, which Guattari scathingly regarded as the relationship between the analysand and the analyst in the bourgeois psychoanalytic setting, but their militant aim was deeply connected with the context of the post-68 in France and elsewhere in Europe. The focus was on the groups, communities and collectives that produce the subjectivity, and not the other way around. Guattari regards in the schizoanalysis that society and its institutions produce certain kind of subject groups or subjugated groups, and their binding forces are machinic (not mechanistic) non-linear, and transversal.

This articulation of collective speech is an ensemble, which makes possible the emergence of subjectivity that can be viewed like an entanglement subjectivity that comes into being. We can view this as machinic reconfiguring of the strips of behaviour mentioned earlier, where positions are as significant as more indeterminate postures – like quanta or particle packets.  Moreover, how Guattari regards the machinic is that it is always in motion and productive, there is no place for negation or lack, but all connections take place already in the molecular within the infrastructure of institutions or collectives. The content is comprised of expression, bodies and enunciations, passions with statements.

I do find it difficult to use Guattari’s vocabulary directly if defining a pedagogical context, since the terms such as desire or unconscious since then, has been contested and critiqued extensively. Neither I am completely happy to divert the discourse more on the new materialist speech where terms like intra-action or entanglement have emerged as catchwords after Karen Barad’s seminal book Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning from 2007. Theoretically, I find them both extremely interesting and have used them in my writing, but to use them to define what performance pedagogy might do, is deflating and irksome. 

In order to elaborate on this, I ask you to regard the institution as an instituting, administrative apparatus, where power and force are concealed in particular protocols and architectural forms. In a Foucauldian sense, a subject is a result of these institutional process; one likes it or not. The quite logical result would then be to regard performance as an expression of these hegemonies expropriating a subject. A performance would be the form of emancipation that the artist aims to develop and put forward. To emphasize transversality would mean to make performance art as a form of institutional critique, locating blocks of desire and collective enunciations. It would produce the expression for the critique of the institution as a mediating object, as Gary Genosko writes on transversality (Genosko 2002, 69-70). However, what is the missing arbiter here is that the context of La Borde was an institution for schizophrenic peoples, whose expressions and enunciations are had a completely different form than the MA students in the performance art programme. I resist making an equalizing mark between those two, for the reason that is would conflate two different kinds of context into on and promote the rather stiff proposition of an artist as a dissident.

Most of the time, this is not the case. The MA students in the institution have obtained a certain level of privilege, since they have had the capacity to formulate their expression in a somewhat standardised form. As Didier Eribon writes in his autobiography Return to Reims about his working-class parents and grandparents, and their extremely precarious and expropriated position in the society, which resulted in that they did not ever have a privilege for a perspective or agency in life (Eribon ###). To articulate your privilege already means that you need a context to reflect on it. In order to have a conscious agency, one needs to be given the capacity to determine a position. Eribon is rather adamant in this, that it is a common misdemeanour of intellectuals like sociologists and philosophers to regard ‘agency’ or ‘perspective’ as something given, when for the peoples in precarious positions it is only wishful thinking. There is simply no time and place to regard such thoughts. Eribon does not claim that his parents or alike are not people, but to receive such a position that you would claim a perspective and agency is already a tremendous step higher from their pecking order.

There is also another point in this, that we should not regard that the MA students or artists in contemporary society have similitude with the patients or militants in the context of the 1970s cold war. For instance, Boris Groys writes on the Moscow Conceptualism in the 1980s how there was no market for the arts in the Soviet Union, which was to some degree the same for most of the Eastern European conceptual artists at that time. Artists did their works for colleagues within a tightly-knit collective or did so in total isolation. Groys writes how “in the Soviet Union the artwork was not a commodity, there was no art market, but art nevertheless took place” (Groys & Vidokle 2006, 401-07). In contrast with this, Bojana Kunst writes, how in our context of the global, neoliberal capitalism an artist must instead “have abandoned this strategy and to work constantly,” where “every gesture […] must necessarily be turned into work […] in connection with the institutions and other elements of the system that make the artist’s work visible and evaluate it as work”(Kunst 2015, 187). We need to be critical for using concepts such as desiring machine or nomadism from Guattari and Gilles Deleuze since we are in an extremely different context than where these concepts were made for. We might be better off thinking in our terms, since no concepts are universal.

Still, some general concepts like transversality are useful in regards to the intersections in a pedagogical context, where transversality focus on the potential space in between subjects. It is the space in between that is, in any case, active or activated. The question is, should the group be activated with tasks, questions and assignments, or could it sustain its activity autonomously? I don’t think there is a simple dogmatic answer, but each pedagogical situation both stultify and sustains emerging expressions to take place. Such a concept as freedom is rather useless and purposefully universalising in these contexts. Freedom is already an ideologized concept. However, the concept of transversality regards this contested space of dominance and minority simultaneously, without scapegoating some instances as ‘capitalist’ or ‘neoliberal’.

Another point of view that I still find possible to accommodate if transported from Guattari is that one, where transversality combined with the awareness of different privileges allows students and teachers to regard how each context has points of a burgeoning universe of alterity. I do not mean here the concept of ‘otherness’, which in reference to Eribon, would still be only one of the intellectual catchwords to disregard the intellectuals own privileged position. The precarious and exploited do not know anything about the ‘otherness’, but only sameness. Guattari writes how these universes of alterity may provide help for the entrapment of sameness, that are constituents of the privilege and precarity, also. For Guattari, they are not voluntary decisions or emancipatory regards, but rather inductions of the collective assemblages, in other words, the sensitive matters not enounced in the group (Guattari 1995, 70). They can be performed and become performative without a conscious decision. First and foremost, they are social and even non-human multiplicities. This is the main interest for my regard on the pedagogical context for performance art and theory practice.

Intersecting perspectives in the class

Any person that has started their MA studies in arts have some hunch of their perspective to contemporary art or performance art. It is necessary to make this distinction from the truly expropriated, exploited, traumatized and precarious peoples who have none of these privileged opportunities. Yet, as intersectional pedagogy clearly states, not all assumptions of privilege are equal and should not be treated in equalized terms. I could express that, for instance: Yes, I am a white, heterosexual male, but I am the first one in my family who has ever enrolled and successfully finished my higher education. However, I should not assume that the CLASS division card could equalize my expropriation from the students with nonbinary gender or from students who have grown up in the warzones. This leads me to regard perspectivism as a model to create a nonstandard view for the pedagogy, instead of pluralist inclusivity.

In the first place, for me, the MA in the arts do not aim to produce new artists for the market. Rather the starting point is in the radical proposition that Joseph Kosuth stated already in 1969 that we do not know what art is — not generally, but only in particular contexts? (Kosuth 1991, 13-32). The performance pedagogy is, therefore, rather a context where we ask questions. It can also be regarded as the militant context where we need to continuously inquire through privileges, intersections and heterogeneous perspectives what art is, or what could it be? It is a process of collective enunciation not limited to students’ inquiry, only.

The collective as a term in the context of an institution like an art academy can be misleading. After all, it is within this institution where the collective is burgeoning, and demanding a relationship with the institution. But for the collectivity in the institution, it seems to herald a certain pluralism, with grand and positivistic objectives for pluralist inclusivity. However, most part of the functional decision-making is done elsewhere; in other words, the participation of the students into this process is limited. The aim for totalizing or universalising a ‘strategy’ or a ‘vision’ is nothing else than a counter-effect for partiality, which presses on for ‘total education’ or ‘life-long learning’ and not for the ‘partial education’ presented by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten (2017, 170). Pluralism relativizes the partial connections and perspectives and in turn, whilst totalizing the perspectives, it scales down all perspectives as flat and equalized.

On the contrary, perspectivism for Strathern has no a point of view from what one knows, but perspectivism inquires how one is inhabiting a point of perspective (Strathern in Holbraad and Pedersen 2017, 152)? How do we apprehend the world when we cease to take a distant vantage point to the world inhabited with other objects of attention? The others in the classroom are not some potential entries for my individual knowledge production, with particular properties, like distant monads. The perspectival point rests on nothing else, but variants. As Viveiros de Castro remarks on his research on the Amazonian indigenous peoples’ cosmology, which he specifically defines perspectival, we should not regard thinking as such, as ‘post-humanist’ thought, because that would always refute (western) metaphysics as the invariant for all thought.

In his development of perspectivism of the Amazonian indigenous thought, Viveiros de Castro recognizes the influence of Strathern’s conceptualization of perspectivism and Strathern, in turn, writes how Viveiros de Castro’s regard on perspectivism relocates this from epistemology to ontology. It is not about what one knows, but how one is inhabiting, or apprehending the world as knowing (Strathern in Holbraad and Pedersen 2017, 152). It is different regard to perspectivism than the one based on the western epistemology, where things are understood as objects of attention, that can be seen from different vantage points and where knowledge is a property that is produced from a specific vantage point. In other words, we could say, that instead of distant points of interest, the classroom is always full of perspectival points.

In the same way, when we are working with some material — say, the European conceptual art — in the classroom context, then should we claim that what is invariant is that all perspectives rely on the pluralist points of view? Then, art would be invariant. Then, what if we regard Kosuth’s statement perspectively? The learning process would become paradoxical, since most of us agree that art is a social phenomenon and is taught at the art institution. Moreover, it would be obnoxious to state that the Yanomami tribe may have a contemporary art practice, as well. However, Viveiros de Castro writes that the shamanic and philosophical discourses are variations of each other, however, defined differently, but they are both signifying practices in both cases. Them both do not create “versions of some original, invariant, universal essence (form and content) of ‘thought’”(Viveiros de Castro 2017, 260-61). Then, how can this be for any use in the context of the classroom, if art or performance would be viewed as one of the variants? The perspectives are variants. What changes in this proposal, is not the way how we see the world around us, but the world we see. The perspective is founded on the difference of the bodies, but not onto the cognitive attributes. A perspective is not a ‘vantage point’ to things in the world.

A small digression may be needed here. Viveiros de Castro has become rather well known for his postulation as the basis for the indigenous cosmology of the Amazon indigenous peoples. He argues that all beings — from animals to spirits — share the same ontology as humans. He writes that animals have the same categories as humans, such as “hunting, fishing, food, fermented beverages, cross-cousins, war, initiation rites, shamans, chiefs, spirits […] the things they see when they see them as we do are different: what we take for blood, jaguars see as beer; the souls of the dead find a rotten cadaver where we do fermented manioc; what humans perceive as a mud puddle becomes a grand ceremonial house when viewed by tapirs” (Viveiros de Castro 2014, 71). The perspectives are not caused by a difference in the cognition, but because the animal bodies are different from humans.  The particular capacities and affects render a unique body, in other words, how that body moves, eats and communicates; or if an animal is solitary or gregarious (Viveiros de Castro 2014, 72). Different type of beings see the different things in the same way — and not that different type of beings would see the same thing differently. Viveiros de Castro writes that jaguars do have the same sense with blood than we have with beer:  it is a different thing seen in the same way. Animals are people who have ‘culture’, but not a culture that would be an opposition to nature, or wild. All animals have a culture that consists of different things seen in the same way (Viveiros de Castro 2014, 72).

In my speculation, this is how we could regard the practice of art, even though; it is only humans that have enrolled in the classes. We do not have a unified image of what performance art is, or what it can be – not even within a collective of a group of people with similar interests. It is not an obstacle but a part of the collective enunciation of perspectives. For the pluralist ethos, all flowers may bloom, because in that logic, the invariant of ‘art’ is always present — or, that institutional collective always has the invariant of management as the invariant. These invariants are like interpellations, where a teacher loses his nerve during a workshop or seminar and start screaming to students that “we are learning art here!” As if, what had outraged the teacher, was not art. But there is not one ‘art’ that makes other things ‘arting’, as Heidegger would put it, or where every artistic expression would be a variation of the invariant of ‘art’.[3] I don’t agree that such a thing is taking place in artistic practices or in the workshops. It is not a teleological process, wherein the end a student would finally ‘get it’ — “oh, that’s what performance art is!”. In the transversal process, no-one knows what art is more than anyone else. It is an experimental practice, an open form practice, but not in the sense that ‘anything goes’, and it does not result in for a pluralist mess.

In this sense, what institutions can provide at best is that perspectives are transversally able to invent and experiment without the interference of the curriculum. Inventions are always partial, and not totalizing. We cannot invent what art is or what it should be. The other perspectives have an activating effect, where instead of things, relationships in between are invented. In other words, we do not invent performance art again, but we can invent what performance have a partial relationship with; we do not invent the audience, but we invent the in-betweenness of the performance and audience. How does the performance perform its perspective to and with the audience?

This, of course, is rather speculative. At the same time, the institutional pressures make this kind of play anxious, and very soon I hear myself, or someone else in the room asks, if and when are we going to produce something? The familiar loops between teacher-and student, institution and collective, artist and audience begin again. We aim to make something appear that already exists, and when we innovate, we are rather approximating with what we already know, exists. Here, Roy Wagner’s notions about the invention of culture are very useful. He writes how the fieldworker such as an ethnographer invents a culture for the peoples he is researching, as much as they invent the idea of culture for him. The invention is an extension of his own notions in connection with the discrepancies he finds between his invention and the ‘native’ culture. This process continues until the analogies seem to be sufficiently appropriate until culture will assume a refined form (Wagner 1981, 12).

In the same way, performance studies may have the invariants of ‘culture’ and ‘nature’, or they might be ‘performance’, or ‘ritual’. What follows is pure pluralism, where through performance, we can comprehend other performances, but nevertheless, we hold on to the invariant of ‘performance’.  We can look documentations from other performances and acquire more understanding of what performance is and what it could be? This has very little to do perspectivism or transversal enunciations anymore. It has very little to do with the question posed by Kosuth, neither, since his argument was that, we do not know what art is, since the artwork itself is to ask what art is through formal and expressive ways?

What I am trying to propose is to see that the intersectionality in the classroom does not entail an equalising effect, since that would only request that we admit to having some invariants like art, performance, culture or nature. We could see this situation in rather rudimentary terms like a market, where tokens can be exchanged to objects. We might even bargain for the correct exchange value, but still at some point tokens and things would have found a sufficient exchange rate. I think this is rather a common way of seeing a learning process, or, as contemporary jargon states, for ‘knowledge production’, where knowledge equals wealth. Still, transversal systems are too arbitrary and volatile for such an exchange. Things and ideas can be even stolen in certain instances if perspectival autonomy is respected. There is no matrix of equivalence. All of this is counter to any common sense of acquiring knowledge or producing artworks. It is counter to any universal patterns based on binary opposition, that is, either-or logic. How can we approach a classroom with both/and logic and the perspectival and transversal learning?

These questions I will leave purposefully open, for the sake of perspectival inquiry on the topics of collectivist and artistic practice. I cannot occupy a perspective of someone else, student or colleague; cannot actualize their potentials and virtual possibilities; I cannot say if it is right or wrong to do this or that. For the sake of being transparent to my perspective, and for the sake of a possible transversal and collective enunciations in the classroom, I, like anybody else, need to articulate my perspective. My perspectival point is not to offer my knowledge as gifts or tokens to exchange. We may ask, if this is performance art, what happens in the classroom? If it is not that for me, then the next, and better, the question is to ask why it is performance art for someone else? It will open more questions like, how is this performance art? Where will it develop, what kind of consistency it has, and how will it survive?


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Charbonnier, Pierre, Gildas Salmon and Peter Skafish (eds.) 2017. Comparative Metaphysics: Ontology After Anthropology. London: Rowman & Littlefield
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Felman, Shoshana. 2002. The Scandal of the speaking body: Don Juan with J.L. Austin, or seduction in two languages. Translated by Catherine Porter. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Genosko, Gary. 2002. Félix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction. London: Continuum.
Groys, Boris & Anton Vidokle. 2006. ”Art Beyond the Art Market,” in East Art Map: Contemporary Art and Eastern Europe. Edited by IRWIN. London: Afterall, 401-07
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[1]           Guattari’s concept of Agencement Collectif d’énonciation has been alternatively translated as ‘the articulation of collective speech’ by Brian Holmes (Holmes 2006, 421), ‘collective agents of utterance’, translated by Rosemarie Sheed (Guattari 1984, 43) or ‘collective assemblages of enunciation’, translated by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis (Guattari 1995, 8-9). I will use the latter term in this essay.

[2]           My intention in this essay is not to take a stance for direction or another for ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology, which is in itself rather heated discussion among the contemporary cultural and social anthropology. See, for instance, discussions at the Anthropology of this century journal (2012) and Comparative Metaphysics: Ontology After Anthropology (Charbonnier, Salmon and Skafish 2017).

[3]           For instance, how he argues for the original source for art that “Art is the origin of the art work and of the artist” (Heidegger 2001,56)