Syncopation, Synchrony, and the Art of Listening to Others

deadline for submissions: 
November 10, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Claire Maria Chambers/ Performance Philosophy International Network

Call for Participants:

Syncopation, Synchrony, and the Art of Listening to Others

The Existential Psychology Group with the Performance Philosophy International Network seeks participants to create a Key Group for the 5th biennial Performance Philosophy conference, which will be held in Helsinki, Finland, from June 9-12, 2021.

The Performance Philosophy network aims to create a non-hierarchical and inclusive conference. Instead of individual keynote speakers, the conference invites proposals from key groups.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Performance Philosophy Problems 2021- How does Performance Philosophy Collaborate?”. The conference organizers ask, “What kinds of problems does work in the field of performance philosophy lead us to encounter and to articulate, and what tools does it provide to deal with them?” Artists, philosophers, scholars, practitioners, artist-researchers and performance philosophers, regardless of their particular genre, school, or discipline, are invited to articulate kinds of problems that can be addressed by collaboration between philosophy and the performing arts, broadly considered.

The Existential Psychology Group aims to create a Key Group presentation that considers the problematics of “problems” themselves. A problem, just like a patient, is so much more than “something to be solved”. The Existential Psychology Group was created within the Performance Philosophy network to address the entanglements of performance, ethics, hermeneutics, dialogue, drama, poetry, and the practical philosophy that is therapy, focusing on the existential questions of making meaning at the crossroads of existence: what does it mean to be free, to choose, to be responsible, and aware? Looking toward Gadamer’s “fusion of horizons,” we celebrate the event of understanding between participants in any performance, such as the performance on the “stage” of therapy, as the co-creation of new knowledge that looks beyond the individual and has an integrity and life of its own. A “problem”, such as the presenting problem of a mental illness or condition, can only be understood within the conversation and the performance of therapy, and as such, cannot be treated as an object of study, but more like a co-creation that takes on new life. How does the creation of such new understanding impact each participant’s freedom, access to choices, responsibility, and awareness of the horizons and boundaries of their own existence?

One of the major problems that therapists and counselors face is how to listen, and this question is exacerbated today by the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth is not new, but its now-widespread implementation during the pandemic has prompted varying responses, from criticism that it can only ever offer “therapy lite”, to enthusiasm for new forms of communication it might engender. The Existential Psychology Group proposes that we welcome the potential “problem” of listening and understanding during this unprecedented and historical moment as an opportunity for scrutinizing what it means to listen to others at all.

Does listening transform as a performance practice when the physical body is mediated through technology? What are we listening to—the person or the technology? Can we truly listen through such mediation, or do we merely hear? Or, how might our listening (interpreting) get in the way of our truly hearing (pre-reflectively, as to sound rather than music)? In Listening, Jean-Luc Nancy holds that “To listen, as well as to look or to contemplate, is to touch the work in each part—or else to be touched by it, which comes to the same thing” (p. 65). How can we listen so as to open and hold open, rather than produce meaning, and how might technology help us to better do that?

How does the necessity of communicating through technology exacerbate the boundaries of time, space, and the body that both define our isolation as well as open up our intersubjectivity? How do we and how must we differently listen, attune, and attend to one another during this time?

To this all, we offer the notion and experience of syncopation. Syncopation is rhythm patterned on mis-matching; it displaces accents so that strong beats become weak and vice versa. But as the gaps of syncopated rhythms continue, they synchronize. What at first feels awkward and backward becomes smooth, snappy, intriguing. Considering the art of listening and understanding that forms the basis of the practice of existential psychology and therapy, how is syncopation a kind of synchronization, and how might considering listening and understanding from amidst the demands on technology we are experiencing during the pandemic open our ears in new and different ways?

This is an inclusive group. All who desire to participate are welcome. We envision this group as an ensemble or a choir; singing together requires listening intently and intensely to voices of difference. In singing together, let us listen for other forms of expression. We seek key group participants who could bring performances, texts, images, or any other creative, scholarly, or practical offering to the collaborative creation of a group presentation for the conference. Please send a letter of interest of no more than 300 words with your contact information to:

Elisabeth Belgrano, PhD at elibelgrano@


Claire Maria Chambers, PhD at

By November 10. Upon receipt of your letter the group organizers will send you details regarding next steps.

The interested participants will meet online to discuss the creation of our abstract around November 25.

At that point, duties will be assigned and the proposal written.

The proposal for the Key Group will be submitted to the conference website no later than Dec. 15.

Please visit the Performance Philosophy conference website for the conference-wide CFP (links below).

Note that bursaries are available for BIPOC folks.

Performance Philosophy 2021 conference CFP:

Existential Psychology group:

If you are not already a member, please consider joining the Performance Philosophy Network!


This CFP is posted online at