Materiality as performance: Blurring the boundaries between the real and the imagined

Cecilie Sachs Olsen

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This is a dual paper in which I will introduce the notion of 'materiality as performance'. Materiality as performance is a dialectical approach to urban space. It seeks to interrogate the interplay between the imagined and the material, and this way provide a powerful lens through which city residents can view their city and collectively envision, negotiate and articulate alternatives to present conditions. Urban inhabitants tend to be placed in passive roles as consumers rather than active citizens, framing the politics of the city as concerned with developing capitalist accumulation rather than human potential. Imagination is socially placed within the domains of non-authority such as the childish, placing the loci of authority in the marketplace, the state or the university – places that deal with the 'real' world. Seeing materiality as performance is an attempt to subvert this distinction between the 'real' and the imaginary by refusing to accept what is presented to us as given. The example of the socially engaged artistic project, Montopia, will be used to illustrate how 'materiality as performance' can be applied as a method that offers a way of stepping back from the real without losing sight of it and hence imagining alternatives that are rooted in, but not limited to, the present. The two parts of this paper are in dialogue with each other, elucidating how materiality is destabilized through practice and representation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number3
Early online date9 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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