Performing the digital

Rethinking Performance Studies under technological conditions

Symposium – Jan 27, 2015 to Jan 29, 2015

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DCRL, Leuphana University Lüneburg: Timon Beyes, Irina Kaldrack, Martina Leeker, Renée Ridgway and Imanuel Schipper (Fellow DCRL) In cooperation with Institute for Design Research, Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK)




“Performing the digital” is an event of the research project Art and Civic Media in the Innovation Incubator of the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, supported by the Eu­ro­pean Re­gio­nal De­ve­lop­ment Fund (ERDF) and the Ger­man Fe­deral Sta­te of Lo­wer Sa­x­o­ny.

Concept: Art and Civic Media (ACM), Digital Cultures Research Lab (DCRL)

For further information, please see:

Program (pdf download): program_perfdigital.pdf

Summary (German)

Culture as performance

Performing the digital?




Session 1: Body and technological performativity

Scott deLahunta (G): “Case Studies in Choreographic Coding: the body/ mind/ machine laboratory”:
In the last decade a range of specific artist-initiated projects have emerged from the field of contemporary choreography and dance that have embraced the idea that digital technology offers dance a more powerful and flexible tool for its recording, preservation & representation. We have the unique opportunity now to study the published results of these projects and pose critical questions about the possible role of computational media in the field of choreographic and dance practice. This presentation will focus on a handful of case studies in ‘choreographic coding’ with a view toward exploring two key concepts: that of dance-related databases and of ‘artworks spawning artworks’.

Marie-Luise Angerer (G): “Oscillating Bodies – Between Calculus and Unconsciousness”:
The paper will discuss key terms – such as the “bio-mediated body”, data as relationship, the body as filter, and affect as the new centre of a libidinal economy – which have emerged over the last years to re-formuate the notions of materiality and mediality against the background of an encompassing digitization of our society.

Keynote/DCRL Lecture

Karin Harrasser  (A): “Obviously Obscure. Poetics of the Hyperfactual”:
“There is such a thing as fact psychic. Sometimes in the literature also known as a data mystic, and the syndrome itself as RFI (= Random-Fact Intuition). These subjects’ sudden flashes of insight or awareness are structurally similar to but usually far more tedious and quotidian than the dramatically relevant foreknowledge we normally conceive as precognition.” This is how tax-agent Sylvanshine is introduced in David Foster-Wallace’ unfinished novel “The Pale King”. In her talk, Karin Harrasser will investigate the novel along with recent ones by Don deLillo and Thomas Pynchon that ask the same question: If code is doing what it does (recursive and highly networked processing of data), it routinely outperforms human modes of knowing that are traditionally characterized as “rational”. What modes of thinking and doing, what kind of subjectivities are then still thinkable? The three novels present us with poetics of knowing that are obviously obscure, a mode of thinking that is prominently advocated in Gilles Deleuzes’ Difference and Repetition and that can already be found in Leibniz model of the psyche.

Session 2: Performing Data and Economy

Studio NAND, Stephan Thiel (G)

Margarete Jahrmann (CH): “Tagging as Informal Design Technique in Ludic Role Play”:
“Injection of a writeable RFID chip can make our judgements stick. The tagged person becomes a blank field in a database craving to be filled in. The tag changes into a target, the roto-relief into a bull’s eye…” (Dr. Aamin Ben Kassim, Cairo (gHack, Munich/Vienna) for Ludic Society, see here)
Tagging the body with RFID tags was enacted as a performance by Ludic Society members at the so called social hacking festival in Plymouth UK. This performance will serve as evidence for a reflection on Ludic methods, which stem from introduced arts research principles and embrace play, emerging technologies and performance.

Session 3: Performing Protest and Sociality in techno-logical conditions

Susan Kozel (SE): “Mobile Choreographies: Affect and Encryption in the Performance of Mobile Media”:
This talk charts a path from viewing the fine interweaving of mobile technologies in our lives in a positive light as expressive social choreographies, to the critical awareness of mobility as the conduit to surveillance and the resulting increasing control of gestures and affect in urban movement. Combining the philosophical with the artistic, this discussion takes in the Augmented Reality (AR) performances of AffeXity: Passages & Tunnels and experiments with somatics and archiving. The idea in development is that affect, when understood through improvisation and performance, opens ambiguity and encryption as counter practices.

Oliver Leistert (G): “Mobile Phone Signals and Protest Crowds”:
Today, protest crowds are enmeshed into mobile phone signals. These signals are layers of control with performative outcomes such as coordination, confusion, or utter dislocation. In any case, the mobile phones signals are adding more contested layers to the dynamics of protests, bringing their own spatial, temporal and social logics to an already fragile agglomeration of bodies.

Session 4: Performing Cities

Imanuel Schipper (G, CH): “From Flaneur to Co-Creator. On collecting, assembling and producing narrations in urban space”:
Smartphones with GPRS and online maps changed the way we navigate in cities completely. The constant use of these devices leads to the overlap of two distinguishable layers of information. Visual information originating from the interaction with “the screen” (maps, images etc.) as well as the perceptual information we perceive from the physical and social environments around us.
Obviously this double awareness changed the way we act and move in public spaces. Since the contemporary behaviour is influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic triggers at the same time, it differs from the kinaesthetic movement of (for e.g.) “the Flaneur”, who is driven only by his own experiences, thoughts and interests. Following some recent performative art productions in public space I will discuss how this entanglement of digitally mediated and non-mediated perceptions and interactions evokes a specific experience for the user/performer in urban spaces.

Sigrid Merx (NL): “Mapping the city. The performativity of collective digital mapping”:
According to some estimates, roughly 200 million people may be forced to flee their homelands by the year 2050. With this in mind and the current political course, being stateless – that is, not to possess the right papers and to be considered an illegal immigrant – will become a future scenario for many. In a society where visibility and traceability are favored over privacy, this raises pressing questions such as: what are the hiding places of the public spaces in the city? how do stateless people remain invisible and avoid social control? what strategies do they use? This paper discusses the fresh outcomes of a workshop organized by Platform-Scenography and Frascati Theatre in Amsterdam on January 16th that set out to digitally map the experience of the city of the ‘invisibles’. It will frame the workshop as an example of performative mapping and critical cartography, where a digital tool is being used to engage people with social and political realities that otherwise remain hidden.
In this workshop participants were individually guided through the city of Amsterdam by a stateless person. Prior to the fieldwork a legend was created by the participants which consisted of ’emotions’ that relate to the experience of hiding, such as ‘fear’, ‘hope’ or ‘stress’. The stateless guided the participant to a place in the city that she associated with the concerning emotions. For the mapping the participants used a web application on their mobile phones that tracked the journey and made it visible on a digital map in realtime. This live animation was a means to visualise the ’emotional’ journeys that had been made. Moreover the participant photographed places, traces, materials, objects and behaviours along the route that had to do with hiding from reality. These were presented and accessible in an online photo archive. Finally the participants recorded the conversation they had with the stateless. This was turned into an audio map that ‘visitors’ could listen to afterwards (with a mobile phone and headphones) by walking this very same route. The ‘visitor’ could only hear the story and find the places by following the same track as the stateless.


Jon McKenzie (USA)  (Venue: Stadtarchiv): “Performance and Democratizing Digitality”:
All performance is electronic, shaped by recursive forces found in liminal rituals, change management, and feedback loops. This multimedia presentation explores the complex relation between performance and digitality. Performance extends from theater to companies to computer systems, while digitality spans the practices, forms, and tools associated with electronic cultures. Drawing of long histories, performance and digitality emerge together as dominant forces in the late 20th-century, becoming increasingly entwined in the 21st and altering both structures of knowledge and power and modes of normalization and resistance, To understand performance as theater is akin to theorizing digitality by the book: yes, it can be done, but why? To paraphrase Marx: theorists have thus far critiqued the world; the point is to change it. How to perform the democratization of digitality? How to intervene in creative industries? How to queer the war machine?

Session 5: Performing Organisations

Timon Beyes (G, DK): “Performing Organisations”

Bernhard Herbordt/Melanie Mohren (G): “Performing Institutions (Catalogue of Performative Practices #3)”:
In the archives of the ‘Max-Planck-Gesellschaft‘ documents with proposals for the foundation of new institutes are stored all over the last century. The proposals have never been realised and are often handwritten classified as “nutcase!”. The documents are presenting universal archives, institutes for the extension of human knowledge or theories of everything. In their ‘Catalogue of Performative Practices‘ Herbordt/Mohren present scenic set-ups for interrogating the integral parts of narrative apparatuses like archives, theatres and other institutions. The lecture-presentation ‘Performing Institutions‘ envisions performance-instructions to enact non-existing research institutes and is the title of a recently published book on institutions and their actualisations edited by Herbordt/Mohren.

Über uns

Re-thinking methods: Experiments&Interventions als Methode eines kontinuierlichen und diskursanalytischen Überdenkens und Umdenkens von Bedingungen und Perspektiven digitaler Kulturen und ihrer Erforschung. Mehr dazu auf der Seite Über uns...

Das DCRL ist Teil des Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC) an der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg.

Kontakthof 2.0

Das Theaterprojekt „Kontakthof 2.0. Living in digital cultures“ wurde für die Verabschiedung des Innovations-Inkubators, Bereich Digitale Medien der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg erarbeitet, ein von 2009 bis 2015 von der EU gefördertes Projekt zur regionalen Entwicklung. Die Aufführung fand am 24.6.2015 im Rahmen der Abschlussveranstaltung des Inkubators an der Universität in einem Seminarsaal statt. Das Stück wurde in einem Seminar mit Studierenden zum Thema „TheorieTheater“ entwickelt. Eine ausführliche Projektdokumentation sowie den dazugehörigen Mitschnitt finden sie auf der Unterseite “Kontakthof 2.0. Embodiment of Remix und TheorieTheater“.