Contemporaneities: Symposium on the Entangled Now of Performance

Contemporaneities: Symposium on the Entangled Now of Performance

Event date: Saturday 5 March 2016
Location: Vooruit, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 23, 9000 Gent

Contemporaneities: Symposium on the Entangled Now of Performance

With contributions by: Rebecca Schneider (US, Brown University); Milo Rau (CH) and Stefan Bläske (DE); Fabian Barba (EC); Timmy De Laet (BE, University of Antwerp); Daniel Blanga-Gubbay (BE/IT,; Thomas Bellinck (BE); Frederik Le Roy (BE).

During the second half of the 20th century, the label “contemporary” was increasingly used to designate artistic work’s relation to the present day. Today, contemporaneity has become a prerequisite for artistic production, especially in performance and the performing arts, time-based arts that are often defined by their ontological foundation in the “here and now.” However, “contemporaneity” as a notion and as a condition of performance is far from unproblematic. Together with theatre makers, philosophers, and performance theorists, this one-day symposium wants to investigate what the “contemporary” in “contemporary performing arts” stands for. How do the performing arts relate to the world they are “contemporary with”? And what kind of contemporaneity is produced by the performing arts? What philosophical, temporal, and political notions underpin the “contemporaneity” of performance, and how do the performing arts negotiate, critique, and transform these notions? 

Performances often reflect the present-day social and political context they are embedded and intervene in. The artistic moment of performance, however, not only produces a distinct sense of presentness, it can also become a porous event that registers other times. Some theatrical performances, for example, have the remarkable ability to endow a past or forgotten reality with presence. Think of the performing arts’ ability to cite and reenact history, to produce a sense of “again-ness,” to appropriate old-fashioned forms, or extend the life/live of what has supposedly passed. In this symposium we are especially interested in those moments when performance produces what Peter Osborne has labelled the “con-temporary”: the “coming together not simply ‘in’ time, but of times (…) by a coming together of different but equally ‘present’ temporalities” (Osborne 2013, 17).

The genealogy of the notion “contemporary” is tied to the modern(ist) conceptualization of history as a linear and universal (read: Western) chronology. The insistence on contemporaneity therefore often leads to the exclusion of that which is not “of the now.” What is not timely or out-of-date is dismissed as anachronistic. The performing arts, with their ability to experiment with what Rebecca Schneider (2011) has called the “entangling,” “crossing,” or “mutually disruptive” temporalities of performance, invite us to think contemporaneity differently and think different contemporaneities. 

Contributions: performance theorist Rebecca Schneider (US, Brown University) on gesture, history, and rethinking the limits of liveness; theatre maker Milo Rau (CH) and dramaturge Stefan Bläske (DE) of the International Institute of Political Murder on new realism in documentary theatre; choreographer Fabian Barba (EC) on anachronism and/of contemporary dance in Ecuador; performance theorist Timmy De Laet (BE, University of Antwerp) on artistic re-enactment and historical distance; philosopher Daniel Blanga-Gubbay (BE/IT, on Giorgio Agamben’s critical notion of contemporaneity as interruption; theatre maker Thomas Bellinck (BE) on the entanglement of past, present, and future in documentary theatre; introduced and moderated by Frederik Le Roy (BE).

Entrance is free but registration is mandatory. Please register here:

Please visit for more information and to register. 

Contemporaneities is organized by research centre S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media) at Ghent University in collaboration with art centers Vooruit and Campo. With additional support from Performance Philosophy and Visual Poetics (University of Antwerp).