Despina Zacharopoulou’s article “Contracts as Protocols of Governmentality in Performance Art” in Performance Research Journal

30.01.24 @ 12:00


Despina Zacharopoulou’s (SNF ARTWORKS Fellow 2021) text “Contracts as Protocols of Governmentality in Performance Art” is now available as an Open Access article in Performance Research Journal ‘On Meeting’ Vol. 28, Issue 2 (2023), edited by Simon Bayly and Johanna Linslay. Cover Image: Mark Robson.

This essay raises questions regarding meeting protocols as a form of art practice. Drawing on recent examples from my performance works, I initiate a discussion about how contracts in performance art might operate as protocols of governmentality, offering morphogenetic structures towards other ways of ‘meeting with’. The term ‘governmentality’ is used to designate all those ‘regulatory apparatuses (dispositives)’ that exercise power via protocols of economy and circulation, to engender new subjectivities (Foucault 2007), whereas the term ‘morphogenesis’ is employed to describe processes where the genesis of forms follows a sensuous logic of structural disposition or tendency that organizes disparities of potential events. One could argue that in the 1970s, several performance artists adopted contractual methods of negotiating their meeting with an audience in order to critically expose the power dynamics existing within everyday hierarchical relations (O’Dell 1998). In so doing, contracts often demarcated the roles of the artist and the audience from the outset of the live work, as already fixed, separate subjectivities, thus sustaining binary essentialist categories (for example subject vs. object, and so on) as met within the philosophical tradition of dialectics (Golding 2021). However, in my performance works brought forward, contracts operate as protocols of governmentality, offering morphogenetic structures governing the thickness and the porosity of boundaries within the ways that people come to meet with one another, without pre-determining any final outcomes or assigning specific roles to the parties involved. Contracts in this case establish a set of meeting protocols that generate and distribute intensities through the organization of areas of possibilities for the emergence of potential events. And it is within this shifting topography of events that subjectivities emerge through the ways that bodies affect and are affected by other bodies via processes of use.

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