The journal Performance Studies has a call out for a special issue on ‘Microperformativity’, edited by Jens Hauser, international curator and researcher at Museion, and Lucie Strecker. The deadline for one-page proposals is September 2nd.
What is microperformativity? In simple terms, it invites us to consider what performance means when we turn our attention to (or develop artistic practice with) the very small and very large; from microbes to galaxies. Performance usually implies a human body encountering other human bodies. Microperformativity asks what happens when we, for example, invite microscopic life to perform on stage (Baum & Leahy et al.), or slow down human performance time to the scale of a plant responding to light (Špela Petrič).
Suitably, the special issue is interested in contributions from across space, time, and disciplines. I’ve been starting to think about how the idea of microperformativity might travel into the world of a museum like ours. The human ‘mescoscopic’ body has traditionally been our touchpoint; the body of the visitor meeting the invoked body of the medical subject through a whole collection of immediately evocative, medium sized objects. How might we use the notion of microperformativity to both understand overlooked aspects of mesocopic encounters, and develop new strategies for dealing with a biomedicine whose objects are increasingly invisibly small or incomprehensibly interconnected*?
I spoke about this at CLICK festival a couple of years ago in relation to our exhibition of Heirloom; a work by Gina Czarnecki that grew living portraits of the artist’s daughters from their own cells, onto glass casts of their faces. Here I was particularly interested in two things. First, how the ‘cell scale’ was layered into the more recognisably human to make a kind of composite – but intentionally disjointed – identity. And second, in how exhibiting growing cells required us to care for the cells on their own time; a microscopic performance of care that evoked deep museum currents around the conservation of delicate mesoscopic objects constantly threatened by invisible forces; pests, light, touch, and time. We’ve continued working on both exhibiting the microscopic in Mind the Gut, and thinking about the various timescales of care that exhibitions and their objects demand. I’m intrigued to see how ideas coming from the world of performance studies could infect these discussions.
* Not a new question for Museion… See e.g.,:
Söderqvist, T., Mordhorst, C. and Bencard, A. 2009. Between meaning culture and presence effects: contemporary biomedical objects as a challenge to museums, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40.
Whiteley, L., Tybjerg, K., Pedersen, B.V., Bencard, A., & Arnold, K. (2017). Exhibiting health and medicine as culture. WHO Public Health Panorama, March, 59-68.