From 2012 to 2015, the postgraduate programme Assemblies and Participation: Urban Publics and Performance asked how performance and media-based arts can contribute to the development of new forms of public assemblies and democratic participation in urban civil society.
The public assembly, defined by a co-presence of strangers, has long been considered a basic condition for performance. With the emergence of site-specific, participatory and multi-media performance the form of this assembly, however, has been up for negotiation and has shifted from a pre-condition to an experimental set-up. If and how a specific form of public assembly comes into being is exactly what many contemporary performance works explore. What roles are taken up in forming the assembly and how are the participants addressed? What times, places and media does the assembly use and what kinds of relations are thereby created? Thus, similar questions are asked with regard to performance as they are with regard to the development of democratic participation in society in general. While the term participation appears overused at times and needs to be critically discussed, it can be stated that social, academic, and artistic developments regarding the question of participation and public assemblies in many respects run in parallel – and it was exactly these parallels that constituted the research field of the postgraduate programme. In this context, contemporary performance practice can be understood as a space for experiments in which new forms of assemblies and participation can be rehearsed, explored and also questioned. The postgraduate programme defined four areas to which this applies in particular: Performance in Urban Public Space, Performance in the Context of Cultural Education, Choreography/Performance, and Performance-Oriented and Experimental Media Arts.
In these areas, concepts of participation, publics, and the communication of knowledge, as well as different forms of movement, assembly, and interaction, are constantly critically reflected, negotiated and developed. The postgraduate programme benefited from the fact that these areas were already well-represented in Hamburg and brought them together on an institutional level. In each of these four areas, two postgraduates respectively conducted research projects that consisted of a theoretical-analytical as well as of an artistic part. This combination of artistic and academic practices was furthermore connected to the integration of ‘everyday experts’ into the individual projects.
Assemblies and Participation was a cooperation of: