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  • To Do or Not to Do? Performance Philosophy School of Athens:A School of Practice
  • Stefania Mylona (bio)

“Performance Philosophy School of Athens” was a two-day symposium held in Athens, Greece, 15–16 March 2014, at the EDW, the Greek initials for Εργαστήρι Δημιουργικής Ώσμωσης (Creative Osmosis Lab)—an acronym that happens to spell the Greek word here. I organized the symposium in collaboration with Michael Kliën and in association with the international Performance Philosophy network. Following the inaugural Performance Philosophy conference in 2013 at the University of Surrey, the network awarded eight grants to applicants proposing to hold local interim events. A proposal to hold an interim symposium in Athens was accepted. The symposium introduced current concerns of performance philosophy in Athens and brought together Greek and international scholars and artists interested in the emergence of performance philosophy as a field.

The Performance Philosophy School of Athens, both a school in the literal sense and a school of thought—or more precisely, a school of practice—examines performance’s philosophical value and philosophy’s performative value for thinking acts not only about, but also in the world, as well as in philosophy, in performance, and in the present. Performance philosophy is precisely about the externalization and exposure of this double and simultaneous effect: that philosophy is present in performance, while performance is present in philosophy. This differentiates performance philosophy from other philosophies of performance and performances of philosophy. In this sense, performance philosophy is seen as a way of being in and for, rather than thinking about, the world.

A School of Practice

Performance philosophy allows us to consider knowledge not only in relation to memory, but also in relation to performance and doing in the present. Our symposium focused on doing performance philosophy in order to offer new understandings of it. As an alternative site of learning, the symposium examined creative, performative, and alternative tropes of learning about and through performance philosophy; it explored performance in terms of practice, even when the practice in question was theoretical performance.

Lectures, presentations, events, and workshops considered the ways in which we could make sense of philosophy in relation to and through performance, and also the ways in which performance practitioners might work with, and artistically respond to, philosophical perspectives. Overall, the school’s curriculum focuses on phenomenologies of knowledge. It involves “dys-courses”1 of opposing positions understood as inseparable; alternative classes and amphitheatres of perception that enhanced post-dramatic learning by allowing performances of unknowing and doubt; choreographies of thought and footnotes allowing jumping into beginnings; post-thematic lessons based on the archaeologies of senses, existential assignments, assessments of being through alternative submissions, ethical subtexts, paradoxes of difference; and performances of semblances, as well as performances of thinking as caring.

These performative approaches to learning served a practical approach to philosophy, and also added creatively to knowledge formation. Moreover, these approaches were the basis for presentations [End Page 89] and workshops offered by Stefan Apostolou-Hölscher, Jonny Blamey, Paul Clarke, Bojana Cvejic, Stella Dimitrakopoulou, Sophia Efstathiou, Constantina Georgelou, Sozita Goudouna, Giorgos Gyparakis, Michael Kliën, Sophia Lycouris, Owen Parry, Danae Theodoridou, Anna Tsichli Boissonnas, and Mischa Twitchin. I will refer to a number of these as I review the symposium and its themes and activities.

Personal Cosmologies

A practical approach to performance philosophy opens the way for performances of unknowing, such as those demonstrated in artist-scholar Kliën’s “Personal Cosmologies” workshop. In this session, he facilitated participants’ personal cosmologies in a way reminiscent of the Socratic maieutic method in which the learner is encouraged to find her/his own answers rather than being offered them. Kliën and members of the audience would ask questions that workshop participants would answer in their own way. Each participant’s response allowed all involved to enter her/his personal cosmology and thinking about the world and existence. The questions had no objective or “right” answers; they were metaphysical in that they were, as Kliën stated, “zoomed-out” from the person and from specific spatiotemporal conditions. At the same time, however the questions were also tailored to a person’s subjective answers so that a journey of unconscious thinking could...


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