(re)Performing the Posthuman a conference on performance arts and posthumanism 21-22 May 2010

full name / name of organization: 
University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Keynote speakers:
Jennifer Parker-Starbuck (Roehampton University, London)
Stelarc (Brunel University, West London / University of Western Sydney)

By the 1980s, the continuing decrease in size and production costs had made digital technology available for everyday domestic use in large parts of the Western world. Interaction with electronic technological devices also became widespread in theatre and performance art. In response to this development, cultural and critical theorists, in search of adequate theories to account for the formation of subjectivity in a technologized culture, became increasingly interested in models of subjectivity that call into question the humanist concept of the body as a biological entity. These theories influenced not only critical analysis of performance arts, but also artists' own conceptualizations of their work.

Now, more than a decade has passed since the heyday of computer-based interactivity in performance arts, the introduction of new dramaturgical and theatrical approaches to character-actor-audience relationships questioning the subject and subjectivity, and the publication of N. Katherine Hayles key work How we became Posthuman (1999). Since this time, many artists have adopted a more critical stance towards the integration and influence of digital technologies in their work. Also, a number of critiques of posthumanism have emerged, some drawing attention to inconsistencies between the theory's wider cultural implications and socio-political realities, others insisting on the possibility of a biological definition of humanness.

It is therefore now an apposite moment to revisit the idea of the posthuman, and posthumanist approaches to performance art and theatre. The aim of (re)Performing the Posthuman is to create an opportunity to do precisely this and to discuss in what form (if any) non-humanist concepts of the body and subjectivity may still be useful as a conceptual and analytical framework in performance arts.

Proposals for papers and presentations on (but not limited to) the following topics are invited:
- performance, technology and animality
- writing, scenography and dramaturgy by and for (post)humans
- posthumanism and musical performance
- the embodied performer and sound/video technologies
- mediated performance and the "liveness" debate
- anti-humanism and posthumanism in modernist and postmodernist performance practices
- posthumanism and aesthetics

Proposals for performances are also welcomed.

Please send a 300 word abstract or performance proposal and an outline of technical requirements to the conference organizers Seda Ilter (s.ilter@sussex.ac.uk) and Daniël Ploeger (d.ploeger@sussex.ac.uk) by February 15th 2010.