The Centre for Contemporary and Digital Performance

at Antonin Artaud Performance Centre

Brunel University, London



Contested Exchanges: Space, Place and the Performance of Democracy

International Conference-Workshop

Friday - Sunday, March 27-29, 2015

held at the Antonin Artaud Performance Centre


KEYNOTES INCLUDE: John Parkinson (Professor of Policy and Democracy, University of Warwick)
Davina Cooper (Professor of Law and Political Theory, University of Kent)

Participation is an issue that has everything to do with the physical city and its design. For example, in the ancient polis, the Athenians put the semi-circular theatre to political use; this architectural form provided good acoustics and a clear view and of speakers in debates; moreover, it made the perception of other people's responses during debates possible. In modern times, we have no similar model of democratic space – certainly no clear imagination of an urban democratic space.

(Richard Sennett, The Open City, URBAN AGE / BERLIN / NOVEMBER 2006 p.4)


The fourth ARTAUD FORUM examines the contemporary political praxis: The Arab Spring, Occupy Movement, England Riots, and Ukrainian Revolution are events that show how dissent is at its most powerful when it spills over into public space and becomes a visible event for the world to see. Of course, these events also demonstrate the potency of digital media to circulate these voices of dissent to a wider global public sphere. They therefore add value to the argument that suggests every sort of public debate and ‘politics’ can increasingly be ‘democratised’ through online platforms and virtual presences. At the same time, politicians have been encouraging ordinary people to work together with voluntary, public and private bodies in order to revitalise local communities.

However, these developments have created tensions in cities and towns. On the one hand, a ‘deliberative’ approach to citizenship has arisen that attempts to listen to local grievances and seeks to ‘empower’ people in communities through the creative opportunities that public and private investment provides. On the other hand, cities and towns have increasingly privatised their public space through the likes of new shopping centres, redevelopment schemes, and private housing schemes. Alongside these networks of gentrification, many authorities, planners, and security forces have also installed new modes of surveillance in public space that code people’s behaviour in different ways, while different governments across the world have equipped their police and security forces with increased legislative powers to regulate cities and towns.

Taken all together, these processes have created assemblages of power, fissures and fluidities in public space. Deliberative opportunities have opened up for a whole network of ordinary voices to be heard in the public sphere, while new modes of control and governance would seem to confine these voices within configurations of control. Tensions between both of these mean that novel spaces for alternative assemblages and performances of activism, citizenship and democracy have the potential to arise.

But why might performance/s in such public spaces be considered fundamental to the democratic process? Where the performance of democracy is not con
sidered a metaphor for action or intent but as something fundamental to the process itself, how have these performances grown or have been stifled within processes already described? In an age of digital media, what is in fact the value of physical space and physical bodies for democracy? What is the role of space and place in the performance of democracy as well as in notions of ‘public’ spaces that are increasingly difficult to define as ‘of the people’ /popular/ public?

In 2015, the biannual Artaud Forum would like to meet days before Parliament dissolves on the 30 March, itself the final dissolution before the UK General Election on 7 May, to consider these important issues. Indeed, at this critical moment of suspension, the Forum would like to interrogate the function and significance of place and space for (or against) the ‘performance’ of democracy, from a range of disciplinary perspectives that might include, but is not limited to, geography, history, politics, sociology, psychology, theatre, and architecture.

We therefore invite participants to submit abstracts / proposals on these themes.


Please send abstracts (300 words plus biog) or proposals for installations, provocations, film, or performance to
by 1 December 2014

Convened by John Roberts, Grant Peterson and Mary Richards

Curated by Johannes Birringer (Centre for Contemporary and Digital Performance).



This event is sponsored by the Centre for Contemporary and Digital Performance and supported by the Brunel College of Business, Arts and Social Science


All Keynotes and Roundtables are co-produced with DAPLabTV and streamed online as well as archived.



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Past workshops



Theatre and Resonant Politics

Struggle between students and teachers against government forces, Oaxaca 2006 © photo: Israel Rosas

International Conference-Workshop

March 23 - March 24, 2013

enter here


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Konnecting Gestures

Helenna Ren in DAP-Lab rehearsal with camera and Kinect interface (c) DAP-Lab 2011

International Conference-Workshop on Performance and Sound Technologies

March 30 - April 1, 2012

enter here


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The World from within and without

(in memoriam Kazuo Ohno)

Yumi Sagara and Biyo Kikuchi (Maison Artaud, Tokyo) performing at Artaud Performance Centre, West London

April 4-5, 2011

enter here


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(c) 2013 The Centre for Contemporary and Digital Performance, Johannes Birringer (acting director)