Performance, Choreography, and the Gallery: Materiality, Attention, Agency, Sensation, and Instability

Erin Brannigan, Hannah Mathews


This issue of Performance Paradigm, focusing on “Performance, Choreography and the Gallery,” takes the 2016 Biennale of Sydney (BoS20) as a starting point. The Biennale featured scores of performances that ranged across of a variety of genres (one-to-one, live art, theatre, dance, opera, installations, walks, talks, and tours) and a variety of sites (libraries, galleries, post-industrial halls, inner city streets, and harbour islands). The Biennale’s artistic director Stephanie Rosenthal and two of her ‘curatorial attachés’, Adrian Heathfield and André Lepecki, have been working at this intersection for years, along with curators such as Pierre Bal Blanc, Catherine Wood and Mathieu Copeland. So too have scholars such as Claire Bishop (2012; 2014), Shannon Jackson (2011), Amelia Jones (1998; 2012) and Susan Bennett (2009). We will not attempt a survey of that field here, suffice to say that the research presented in what follows refers to much of this seminal work.

This collection of articles and artist pages seeks to engage with the performance dimension of a sprawling, international art event and related work outside the Biennale, along with the associated field of literature. The articles proceed primarily through female case studies such as Alex Martinis Roe, Shelley Lasica, Noa Eshkol, The Brown Council, Mette Edvardsen and Julie-Anne Long, and link the work of such artists to major themes circulating in this field. Of the many themes covered in this writing—including practice, choreography, labour, ethics, discipline, collaboration, visuality, power, spectatorship—we choose materiality, attention, agency, sensation and instability to frame this introduction.


theatre; performance; dance; visual arts; gallery

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Bennett, Susan. 2013. Theatre & Museums. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bishop, Claire. 2012. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso.

———. 2014. “The Perils and Possibilities of Dance in the Museum: Tate, MoMA, and Whitney.” Dance Research Journal 46 (3): 63–76.

Burrows, Jonathan. 2017. “Traces: Text Written for the Catalogue of Siobhan Davies Material / Rearranged / To / Be At the Barbican Curve Gallery London, January 2017.” Jonathan Burrows

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Deleuze, Gilles. 2002. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. London: Continuum.

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Jackson, Shannon. 2011. Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics. London: Routledge.

Jones, Amelia. 1998. Body Art/Performing the Subject. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

———. 2012. Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts. Abingdon: Routledge.

Kostelanetz, Richard. 1968. “A Conversation with Rauschenberg.” Partisan Review 35 (1): 103–104.

Rosenberg, Harold. 1952. “American Action Painters.” Art News 51 (8): 22-50.

Squirra, Rafael. 1966. “The Happening: Art or Jest?” Americas 18 (6): 27–33.


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