How does performance philosophy act? Ethos, ethics, ethnography

How does Performance Philosophy Act? Ethos, Ethics, Ethnography is the 3rd biennial conference organized by the international network, Performance Philosophy, founded in 2012. An emerging interdisciplinary field of thought, creative practice and scholarship, Performance Philosophy is concerned with all aspects of the relationship between philosophy and performance, including the ideas of “performance as philosophy” and “philosophy as performance”.

For this 3rd conference, our focus is on how performance and philosophy act, exploring the intersections of notions of ‘acting’, ‘action’, ‘activity’ and ‘activation’ across theatrical, political, behavioural and ethical contexts. Our interest revolves around three domains where different forms of “how” are co-articulated:

1) the “ethos” built into performance and/or philosophy in terms of style, stance or attitude;
2) the different renderings of “the ethical” and “ethics” questioned by performance and philosophy, e.g. virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, principles of Eudaimonia, postmodern ethics, posthumanism;
3) the ethnographic linkages between performance, philosophy and the regional, cultural and political singularities, differences and forms of knowledge.

These domains return us to the ‚ethos‘, ‚ethics‘ and ‘ethnography’ of our research, because as Malinowski proposed, „To study the institutions, customs, and codes or to study the behavior and mentality without the subjective desire of feeling by which people live, of realizing the substance of their happiness—is, in my opinion, to miss the greatest reward which we can hope to obtain from the study of man”.

From the outset, philosophy’s aims have been formulated in close connection to ethics as well as to performative protocols and processes. One of Heraclitus’s most memorable statements, “ethos anthropos daimon“ (usually translated as “character is fate”), proposes that each human life is guided by its own ethos, however unknown or strange to the self / subject. Furthermore, understanding philosophical praxis as an art of living or care of the self is found, as Foucault noted, in Ancient Greece in the quest for Eudaimonia. The arts – Greek tragedy, musical practice, plastic and visual art making – play a significant role in these ethical practices. Interpretations of terms like ‘wellbeing’, the ‘good life’ and ‘care for the self’ however, differ vastly with regard to the roles of intentionality, embodiment, techne, will, fate, social context, happiness, pre-given normative aims, virtue hierarchies, and other values.

However, our conference does not have a purely historical focus. It incorporates systematic views which afford the treatment of recent ethical issues in connection with the arts and philosophy. We consider identity politics, as well as the ‘ethics of care’ in relation both to non-western moral perspectives (Held, Tronto, etc.) and to the encounter with otherness as it might be understood in posthuman and poststructuralist ethics and biopolitics (Massumi etc.). Attention is also paid to the relationship between ethics and music / sound / noise, where the works of e.g. Duchamp, Deleuze, Nono, Beckett, Boehme, and Cage might serve as inspiration for a looser reconfiguration of how audition affords both ethical practice and acts as a mode of performance philosophy. In addition, our conference pays tribute to two citizens of Prague – Franz Kafka and Václav Havel – whose artistic and philosophical contributions to our understanding of human nature have many ethical implications. Their work serves as a model of exemplarity and continues to provide a source of inspiration worldwide.

Our conference also questions the ethos of Performance Philosophy as such. Is there a particular notion of ethics or ethos that applies to the encounter between performance and philosophy? Did performance philosophy emerge from the capacity to maintain a creative tension and non-unification between two different domains or from the capacity to abolish artificial boundaries and produce new values, meanings and styles within a new field? Are there distinct methods for collecting materials from archival pasts as well as the present, establishing the basis for an ethnographic research highlighting the interactions between performance and philosophy? Can these ethnographies serve as behavioural or performative protocols for ‚doing‘ philosophy?

The conference welcomes proposals from researchers working in any area of philosophy (analytic, continental, non-western, Ancient, Medieval etc.) and any area of performance (dance, theatre, music, visual art performance, the everyday, non-human, etc.) that addresses issues including but not limited to the following:

• Styles, stances, attitudes and values arising within artistic performance and philosophizing;
• Performative and philosophical models of care for the self and their implications for performance philosophy;
• Opacity and transparency, responsibility and resistance, identity politics and alterity within performance philosophy;
• Normality, normativity and individual norms in performance and philosophy;
• Ethics as afforded by music / sound / noise;
• Posthuman ethics and morality after deconstruction: how performance and philosophy contribute to our ethos with regards to nonhuman entities (animals, earth, the environment etc.);
• Wellbeing, flourishing and happiness as an aspect, aim or side effect of performative philosophical endeavour;
• Ethics of research in performance philosophy (methodologies etc.);
• The way that performance makers scrutinize, grasp and create values, and that artistic questions can result in ethical answers (and vice versa).
• Local ethnographies and global issues
• Ethnographies of protest
• Kafka/Havel and the exemplarity of Prague
• The ethical implications of an ethnography of the archive