The Shifting Plane of Performance


Entracte, Ali El-Darsa, Performance, 2012

Thursday April 26th 6 pm Performance by Ali El-Darsa
Friday April 27th 5:30 to 9:30 pm Symposium
Saturday April 28th 1 to 3 pm Discussion forum moderated by Matthew Goulish

The Shifting Plane of Performance was a series of performances, symposia, and a discussion forum that examined contemporary developments and directions of performance art. Over the three-day event, artists and researchers explored the relationship between performance art, social practice and relational aesthetics, and how performance functions beyond North American or European models.

In partnership with the South Asian Visual Arts Centre, Toronto, the three-day platform opened with a performance by the Montreal-based artist, Ali El-Darsa on Thursday April 26th.

An intensive symposium on performance art was held on Friday April 27th followed by a moderated discussion forum on Saturday April 28th. The symposium and forum were funded through Diane Borsato and Stephanie Springgay’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, “The Institute of Walking: Research and Creation in Relational and Interventionist Arts Practices,” co-funded by the Ontario Arts Council, produced in collaboration with the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House, University of Toronto, and co-curated by Swapnaa Tamhane.


Thursday April 26th 6 pm
Performance by Ali El-Darsa Entr’acte
Location: Debates Room, Hart House
Produced in collaboration with SAVAC

Friday April 27th 5:30 to 9:30 pm
Location: Hart House East Common Room

“Panel 1: Positions of Performance Today”: Christof Migone, Curator, Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga; Antawan Byrd, Doctoral Student, Art History, Northwestern University, Chicago; Swapnaa Tamhane, Artist/Curator, Toronto; Ambereen Siddiqui, South Asian Visual Arts Centre, Toronto.

“Panel 2: Performance not merely as performance”: Darren O’Donnell, Artistic Director, The Mammalian Diving Reflex, Toronto and the Torontonians; Vesna Krstich, Curator, Toronto/London; Wanda Nanibush, Executive Director, ANDPVA, Toronto; Jimena Ortuzar, PhD student, The University of Toronto; Amish Morrell, Editor C Magazine.

“Panel 3: Institution vs. Public Space”: Stephanie Springgay, Assistant Professor, OISE, The University of Toronto; Emelie Chhangur, Assistant Director, Art Gallery of York University; Jess Dobkin, Artist/Curator, Toronto; Jorge Lucero, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Kim Simon, Curator, TPW.

Saturday April 28th 1 to 3 pm
Moderator: Matthew Goulish, Adjunct Full Professor, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Panel Presentation Titles and Abstracts

Panel 1: Positions of Performance Today

Christof Migone
Pneumatics: from formless to form and back again

Performance is a conduit, an in-between, a conversant. Ins, outs, throughput—in and of itself, performance is nothing. Performance’s nothing status, its nothingness, should not raise any ire, concern, or anxiety, it’s a rich and swarming petri dish. It is a nexus of research which mixes plans with fluxes with chances with obsessions. It circles round and around. It confuses the complex with the simple. It unknows givens, and discovers knowns anew. Every time, it takes a new breath with the same old lungs. It is weary of morals and exigencies. It breathes best when the air flows unfettered. “Ungovernable shoots play out of it”, as Walt Whitman would say, “the response likewise ungovernable.” The proposition of this presentation is that an unrestricted pulse is the imperative necessity for the flourishing of the ungovernable performance.

Antawan Byrd
Being There/Being Seen: Locality and Afterlife in Jelili Atiku’s Agbo Rago

The emerging cosmopolitan cities defining the West-African region are characterized by a fast-faced, hustle and bustling dynamic, so much that daily life in such spaces has be characterized as a “performance” in its own right. This combined with the reality that, in West-Africa, performance as a genre of contemporary art is still in its infancy invites several critical questions about the nature and possibilities of performance: What are the conditions that govern the translatability of performance as a “global” genre of contemporary art in non-Western regions? How can we define performance in cultures where street interventions are closely linked to masquerade and other cultural traditions? What are the conditions that govern acts of witnessing? And how does this relate to the afterlife of performance practices vis-a-vis publications and archives? This presentation seeks to engage these questions by exploring the performance practices of the Lagos-based, Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku, taking his 2009 performance Agbo Rago as a case study.

Swapnaa Tamhane
What does a name mean and who does the naming?

The India that has happened in the last 50 years, in the last 2 years, or in the last 3 months, is in a perpetually evolving state that is (possibly) constantly trying to understand itself. Everything from religious celebrations to street life to high society luncheons, is a performance and the ‘performative’ is in a state of becoming. Contemporary artists from India easily adopt established Western art movements; ‘Performance Art’, while still nascent, reaches its pasts and its futures and ultimately, this popular name can not satisfy these reaches. What can this medium be named instead of “Performance Art”? And will it be a curator, art historian, or artist who take the ownership of naming their own movement and writing its history and discourse?

Moderator: Ambereen Siddiqui

Panel 2: Performance not merely as performance

The Torontonians
“How to be a downtown teen”

The Torontonians are a group of 14- 16 year olds from Parkdale, Toronto and form part of the Youth Wing of the research-art-atelier Mammalian Diving Reflex. The youth have produced a video titled “How to be a Brown Teen;” interrogated talk-show style a group of young art hipsters; filmed a teen sexual health video; lead a series of night walks with teenagers in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and host a monthly Dare Night in Toronto hip gallery district. The youth are also involved in a year-long mentorship residency at the Gladstone Hotel, where they are learning the ropes of event production: curating, budgeting, marketing, production management and hospitality. On another level, The Torontonians initiative is a succession plan: they will eventually move into artistic and administrative leadership roles and will have full control of the company in 10-15 years, as they move into their 30s. Their presentation will highlight some of their performance practices and engage in questions about friendship, mentorship, and collaboration.

Vesna Krstich
Action teaching and other ‘happening’ classrooms

What is the difference between a set of instructions performed by an artist or audience and a lesson devised by a teacher for a group of art students? Before Beuys prophetically claimed that ‘teaching is my greatest work of art” in 1969 and before David Askevold’s infamous Project Class of 1971, artist pedagogs of the 60s such as Roy Ascott, John Latham, Allan Kaprow, and Peter Kardia were already re-thinking the interrelation between instruction and action, process and product, often within the framework of higher education. I plan to discuss how their radical instructional strategies gave rise to group experiments, games, random events as well as objects. How might we conceive of these gestures as ‘action’ teaching and what semblance might they bear to happenings and fluxus or other conceptual practices? Where is the line between instruction and art form?

Wanda Nanibush
Performing Indian: From Captivity to Cabaret

A short history of the impact of performing “Indian” by Indigenous artists since contact on contemporary Indigenous performance art. Artists such as Robert Houle, Rebecca Belmore, Adrian Stimson, Lori Blondeau and Bear Witness mine this performance art history for their own practice as well as continuing its tradition of artistic cosmopolitanism. Agency within performance,protesting colonial conformity and captivity, re-enactment, remixing and memorialization are the artistic strategies discussed. All works discussed are in some way embodied without a present live body.

Jimena Ortuzar
The Labour of Love

Locating the role of the female foreign domestic worker at the intersections of affect, labour and biopolitical othering, and in light of Judith Butler’s “performative contradiction” in Who Sings the Nation-State, I examine the singing of lullabies as acts of affective labour that connect multiple expressions of intimacy, language and cultural memory. Can the cross-cultural practice of lullaby-singing function as a possible means of coming to terms with the spatial and temporal dislocations inherent in migrant work? I explore this question while taking into account the instability of the labouring body of the migrant woman and its production of affect.

Moderator: Amish Morrell

Panel 3: Institution vs. Public Space

Stephanie Springgay
Performance, publics, and art education

Increasingly contemporary art has been marked by a turn to education through the adoption of pedagogical and research methods, and a focus on knowledge production and learning. The escalation of discursive events within contemporary art, the curatorialization of education, and education as a form of art making mark an urgency to problematize, interrogate, and examine critical cultural practices against the political rhetoric of culture-as-service, the creative economy, and the standardization of educational outcomes. This presentation works transversally across institutions, disciplines, notions of ‘publics,’ and artistic strategies in an attempt to address what our efforts in the arts in relation to education make possible and for whom. How are contemporary artists engaging with educational formats, concepts, and motifs as spaces for the development of new critical practices, and how might we critically interrogate, examine, and trouble such critical art practices when they are located in collaboration with schools and communities?

Emelie Chhangur
Recombinant Practices and Institutional Interruptions

In this presentation Chhangur discusses the role of performative curatorial practices in the creative transformation of the institutional space of the contemporary art gallery. Using the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) as the starting point, and discussing two recent collaborative and participatory performance projects The Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA) and Humberto Vélez’s The Awakening, she will outline how the gallery uses the principles and strategies of contemporary art (i.e. collaboration and socially engaged participatory methodologies) to reposition itself as an agent of critical engagement not just a site of viewing.

Jess Dobkin
Working Inside and Outside of My Bubble

Dobkin’s presentation will address her experience and practice working within and outside of institutional structures, and also address the diminishing of this dichotomy. She will discuss resources, networks and skills used in various projects and how the privileges and confines of working within/without institutional support impacts the conceptualization and realization of performances.

Jorge Lucero
We still don’t know how much less ‘nothing’ can be.

The poignant 1968 proposition of Lucy Lippard and John Chandler that “we still don’t know how much less ‘nothing’ can be” is a challenge that flies in the material/archival face of what it means to make a moment of Live, participatory, or relational art. How many participants, audience members, or instances of documentation does a conceptual work need to have in order for it to mark its existence and consequent validation as a work of art? In a short recounting of two works performed within a university office, Jorge Lucero, examines what it means to make a work that doesn’t get documented, is experienced only by a handful of people, and pretty much appears to have made zero impact.

Moderator: Kim Simon


Christof Migone is an artist, curator and writer. His work and research delves into language, voice, bodies, performance, intimacy, complicity, endurance. His writings have been published in Aural Cultures, S:ON, Experimental Sound & Radio, Musicworks, Radio Rethink, Semiotext(e), Angelaki, Esse, Inter, Performance Research, etc. He obtained an MFA from NSCAD in 1996 and a PhD from the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University in 2007. His book Sonic Somatic: Performances of the Unsound Body will be coming out this Spring from Errant Bodies Press in Berlin. He currently lives in Toronto and is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga and the Director/Curator of the Blackwood Gallery.

Antawan I. Byrd (b. 1986) is currently a PhD student in Art History at Northwestern University (US), focusing on Modern and Contemporary art of Africa and the African Diaspora. In 2009-10 he was a US Fulbright fellow based at the Centre for Contemporary, Lagos, where he was also a curatorial assistant from 2009-2011. While based at CCA, Byrd co-organized projects such as Identity: An Imagination (2009), the first publication on video art in Nigeria and most recently All We Ever Wanted (2011), a group exhibition featuring six Nigerian women artists. Byrd was recently curatorial assistant for Moments of Beauty, a retrospective exhibition on the work of the Nigerian photographer, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma, Helsinki, 2011. He has held research fellowships and internships with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walters Art Gallery (Baltimore) and at HIAP-Frame, Helsinki, and has participated in a variety of projects in cities ranging from Sharjah, Cairo, Bamako, Johannesburg and Cotonou. He currently lives in Chicago.

Swapnaa Tamhane is an artist and curator currently working towards an exhibition at Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, centred around her research on artist, Rummana Hussain (1952-99). Tamhane was a Project Editor at Phaidon Press, London, (2002-06) working with contemporary art and design titles, and following was Assistant Curator at The Power Plant, Toronto (2007-08). She has been exhibiting since 2009 in Delhi (Galley Seven Art), Bangalore (KHOJ @1 Shanthi Road Residency) and Toronto (Launch Projects, Contact Photography Festival).

Ambereen Siddiqui is the Executive Director at SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre). Born in Toronto, and raised in Karachi, she returned to attend the joint Art and Art History program at the University of Toronto and Sheridan College. As an artist she works across media to include, video, animation and photography. She received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design this past June, and her work was shown most recently at Pleasure Dome, Niagara Arts Centre and Museum London. She is currently working on a range of programs for SAVAC, including exhibitions, screenings, professional development workshops and community outreach.


The Torontonians are a Toronto-wide art collective, soon to include the whole world. We create performance, interview shop owners, give lectures, make videos, dance on the street, start fights with drunk guys, take photographs, draw penises, check cell phones, sing songs, play cellos, draw bunnies, take the TTC, ride bikes and do volunteer hours.

Vesna Krstich is an art critic and independent curator, who teaches at Upper Canada College in Toronto. She holds a BA in Art History from York University and a MA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where she specialized in Contemporary Art. Her research focuses on the intersection between participatory art and pedagogy from 1960 onwards. She has published in Parachute, C Magazine, Art Papers, Canadian Art and Curator: The Museum Journal, among others. She is currently based in London, England where she is conducting research on British Conceptual artist Stephen Willats as part of research grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Wanda Nanibush is an Anishnawbe-kwe curator, writer, and media artist. She is finishing her Masters at University of Toronto and is the Executive Director of the Association for Native Development in the Performing & Visual Arts. As a curator, her work has largely concentrated on re-contextualizing Indigenous time-based media and performance art to examine the underlying philosophical complexity of the work, as well as rethinking how culture and identity are framed by contemporary artistic discourses. Nanibush has published in FUSE magazine, Literary Review of Canada and in the book: This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Blockades.

Jimena Ortuzar is a doctoral student at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto. She received her MA from Tisch School of the Arts/NYU where she earned the Leigh George Odom Memorial Award for Distinguished Masters Student. She has collaborated in various theatre, performance and video art projects in Toronto and New York City and her short film Pinochet’s Trial has circulated numerous festivals in Toronto, San Francisco and Brussels, Belgium. Her professional experience includes labour relations and human rights for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Amish Morrell is Editor of C Magazine, a quarterly journal on contemporary international art, and Special Lecturer in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He has written for publications including Art Papers, Ciel Variable, Fuse Magazine, History of Photography and Prefix Photo. His curatorial projects include The Frontier is Here, an exhibition of works by contemporary Canadian and international artists that explore landscape and identity, and Nightwalks with Teenagers, a collaborative project to produce new artworks that investigate walking as aesthetic practice, produced by Mammalian Diving Reflex. He recently edited The Anti-Catalogue (The Model, 2010), a book on contemporary artists collectives, and is published in Byproduct: on the excess of embedded art practices (YYZBooks, 2010), edited by Marisa Jahn.

Stephanie Springgay is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where she teaches courses focused on arts education, cultural studies, and curriculum studies. Her research focuses on how cultural production (films, performances, contemporary art practices) create pedagogical spaces that facilitate, invite, and demand “unlearning” as a site of creative resistance. Currently she is working on two interrelated Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grants on relational and interventionist art practices, and on the ‘pedagogical turn’ in contemporary art and art education. She has published widely in academic journals and is the co-editor of the book M/othering a Bodied Curriculum: Theories and Practices of Relational Teaching University of Toronto Press, with Debra Freedman; is the co-editor of Curriculum and the Cultural Body, Peter Lang with Debra Freedman; and the author of Body Knowledge and Curriculum: Pedagogies of Touch in Youth and Visual Culture, Peter Lang.

Emelie Chhangur is an artist and award winning curator and writer based in Toronto, where she works as the Assistant Director/Curator of the AGYU. Over the past decade, she has developed an experimental curatorial practice in collaboration with artists. Recent projects (2011) include The Awakening, a three-year multi-faceted participatory performance with Panamanian artist Humberto Vélez and the Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA), a radical proposition of gallery “in-reach,” where participatory, activist, and research-based practices were emphasized over conventional methods of exhibition display. Chhangur has published a number of texts, which follow the principles and strategies of the artists she works with, most recently (2011) the hybrid screen-play/curatorial text Oliver Husain: Mechanisms at Play, and the relational text/diary Walking into and along-side Diane Borsato’s Walking Studio.

Jess Dobkin’s performances, artist’s talks and workshops are presented internationally at museums, galleries, theatres, universities and in public spaces. She creates innovative live and video solo performances, as well as multiple artist productions. Jess has presented as a Visiting Artist at numerous universities and taught as a Sessional Lecturer at the University of Toronto and OCAD University. Currently she is Guest Curator of Harbourfront Centre’s 2011-2012 HATCH season and a Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. She is also a collective member of 7a*11d, which produces a biennial international performance art festival. For more about her work visit:

Jorge Lucero is an artist who’s teaching practice is his creative practice. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Art Education at The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Strongly identifying as a first generation Mexican-American who was born and raised in Chicago, Jorge looks forward to how his perpetually in-flux identity is reinvented daily by the encounters he has with other individuals. Jorge’s current research is concerned with the interactions between contemporary art practices that have a distinctly pedagogical character (such as performance, participatory, and conceptual art) and how those modes of operation propose alternative approaches to learning, relationships, ethics, spirituality, generativity, and civic engagement. Jorge and Maribel Lucero co-construct a life with their four highly sensitive and generous children in Champaign, IL.

Kim Simon has been active as an arts writer and curator for over 15 years, she is currently curator at Gallery TPW in Toronto. Founded in 1980 as a non-profit venue for photographic practices, TPW is committed to a media-specific but expanded mandate, addressing the vital role that images play in contemporary culture and exploring the exchange between photography, new technologies and time-based media. Within the context of TPW, for the last few years Simon’s particular curatorial research investigates an ethics of viewing in relation to the aesthetics of troubling images, within the context of pedagogical and journalistic turns in contemporary art. Alongside exhibitions at TPW, Simon continues to develop two extended programs, “You Had To Be There” – an event and performance series looking at the relation between liveness and images, and “This is Not a Blog” – an intimate series of discussions on culture. In addition to TPW, Simon writes and curates independently for other institutions. Recent work includes the presentation of a performative, community-based, public site work by Canadian artist and activist Reena Katz, and publishing on the work of Quebec artists Diane Landry and Karilee Fuglem. In 2006, Simon also curated a section of the inaugural Nuit Blanche Toronto, a city-wide 12 hour public art event.

Matthew Goulish co-founded Goat Island in 1987, and Every house has a door in 2008. His 39 Microlectures – in proximity of performance was published by Routledge in 2000, and Small Acts of Repair – Performance, Ecology, and Goat Island, which he co-edited with Stephen Bottoms, in 2007. He was awarded a Lannan Foundation Writers Residency in 2004, and in 2007 he received an honorary Ph.D. from Dartington College of Arts, University of Plymouth. Goulish teaches in the MFA and BFA Writing Programs of the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

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