PAS Performance Art Studies


In the framework of the Learning Program of the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK 2014, PAStudies #37 "Critical reflection" by PAS | Performance Art Studies took place from 13 to 20 December 2014 at Palazzo Mora.

Facilitated by BBB Johannes Deimling, Francesco Kiais and Marie-Luise Lange. 

With the participation of: Kirsten Heshusius, Eielex Keiowen, Filomena Krause, Anna KosarewskaSabrina Kricheldorf, Annelie Möller, James Needham-Walker, Anna Prus, Carla RocaLisa Tostmann, Angeliki Tsoli Chaido, Ieva Savickaitė, Nina Willimann, Emma Zetterstrom.

The comprehensive collection of the material realized by participants can be found here.


By Francesco Kiais

The Studies that were held during the second VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK in December 2014, were part of a curatorial project as a pedagogical initiative. The PAS educational program PAStudies #37 Critical reflection was born in this context, based on the opportunity of be present, analyse and conceptually re-elaborate the different performances going on during an artistic and cultural event. A considerable part of this has been published in this digital edition, as a summary of the traces left from the participants. In the books which we had given to them the first day, they put down experiences, thoughts and sensations, and what you see in the publicatin is the final result of it. A sort of common object, coming out from a process of encounter between different ways of thinking, different generations and cultural backgrounds.

We gathered around performance art starting from having knowledge of the fact that our personal point of view must be put in play at all times, verified, called into question and even – if necessary – contradicted. The discussions between us were finally a medium of liberation of the language from the usual frames of its practical function, as a mere support of personal expression of thoughts. Our personal language has been demolished and regenerated several times through the necessity of being understood, of willing express a sensation, of trying to elaborate a scandal, a surprise, a feeling of pain, happiness, hilarity, compassion, eroticism. Often, in front of a performance we put in discussion ourselves, more than the object of observation, so that the object of our attention reflects us in the critical position of being called into question. Critical reflection as a process of discover the potential of language, not a workshop on critics in art.

At the same time, to the participants was given the opportunity to be a part of the project itself and live directly its evolution, from the beginning until the end, from the first until the last performance and thematic round-table. Actually, the two spaces dedicated to our Studies (one in Palazzo Mora, for the performances, and one in Palazzo Michiel, for the round-tables) have been soon integrated and identified as a pulsating and creative part of the whole project, and were visited by some of the artists (i.e.: Tania Bruguera). Particularly in the case of the latter, the team of the participants was also actively involved in the planning and realization of the performance).

As a member of the curatorial team, I witnessed the interpenetration of the cultural project with the character of the pedagogical studies through the possibility offered by both, to experience and learn through art. As a guest teacher of PAS, I could verify the value of a pedagogical study parallel to a cultural project like this but, more than this, I discovered the value of the pedagogical activity that merges with it.

Performance art is fulfilled in an ephemeral and fleeting dimension, so that the process of its reading and interpretation must be deconstructive and adapted to the specific complexity of each performance. It is exactly what happened in Venice: through the constant and open discussion between the participants, personal prejudices or cultural barriers were left behind for reaching a wider and more spherical point of view, personally and collectively. We were going through a temporary community (1) created by the artists, within which we became temporary citizens hosted by the artistic gesture. Then we hosted and took care of those gestures in our intimate considerations, perceptions, critical interpretations and in the dialogues between us. Through the repeated attendance to the long-duration performances, and participation at the other shorter performances and at the round-tables, we reached a knowledge of the whole project in its different parts. In a certain way, we transformed our fragmented approach in a finally composed mosaic of images, significances, impressions and questions, giving back something more than a collection of analysis on different performances. The final container of this mosaic is the book of the books (2) that we are presenting as the synthesis-object of Critical reflection.


...and then, they tear down the house.

Presence, Absence, Memory

The first day, one of the participants was trying to explain to a friend what we were seeing in the morning: a documentary (3) in which, at the end of an articulate process involving different artists in the same empty spaces of a little house, the last of the artists has tore down the entire building with bulldozers. Destroying the rooms that hosted the actions and the people, tearing down walls, windows, doors and stairs, the performer cancelled the containing place of the happening of the various performances, putting the radical sign of the ending of an experience, and giving / entrusting to each of the presents, the memory of the facts. It was a moment at the same time of melancholy and of freedom, because of the end of something, and because of the beginning of something else. There, where an intense and touching experience had ended, the memory/metabolization of it has started.

But how could the participant tell about what she have lived? In fact, in the moment that she was trying to explain it, she realized that something important was missing, and that it was not enough just to tell what she saw (the final demolition of the house). Because the meaning of things that dwells within the territory of coexistence and exchange, was totally lost. In this failed attempt of communication, she understood that for transforming physical sensations and feelings in a communicable meaning, one has to let the absent person be present, not in the look but in the significance of the things that one has lived. The sentence "...and then, they tear down the house," and the following failing of communication was to me the real start of our Studies.

To realize that to express oneself on something, and to eflect critically on it, means to go through a process of identification and comprehension. This leads to the possibility of reflection: for to transform the presence in experience, and the experience in (conceptual and emotional) knowledge, and for to change the knowledge in memory and the memory in (conceptual and emotional) significance. But I think this the book of the books will be more eloquent than any other words. Good vision.


(1) "Temporary communities" is a term used by Guillermo Gomez-Peña (La Pocha Nostra), and was repeated several times, in several places during the ART WEEK.

(2) The book that each participant received from PAS | Performance Art Studies in order to be filled with his/her thoughts, sketches, collages and so on.

(3) A documentary of the curatorial project Proyecto Liquido. Fear by Jessica Berlanga Taylor, 2012. Presented by Fundacion Alumnos 47, Mexico City.




"We learn differently when we are learning to perform than when we are learning to understand what is being communicated to us. Reflection enables us to correct distortions in our beliefs and errors in problem solving. Critical reflection involves a critique of the presuppositions on which our beliefs have been built." (Jack Mezirow, "How Critical Reflection Triggers Transformative Learning")

During the Studies, participants have the unique opportunity to witness the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK 2016: seeing the exhibition, observing the live performances, meeting the artists, discussing and researching what is presented with other like-minded people. Sharing our opinions and reflections, and putting them into context will generate a vivid research on performative practice, and help to understand complex structures and theories. Participants will mainly discuss, write, sketch, scribble, doodle, interview and document their views and shared opinions. These documents will be published at the end of the Studies in an online publication (see here for the publication of Critical Reflection I in 2014).

PAS works with three teachers, allowing to do specific research also in smaller groups, which share their observations in a plenum. BBB Johannes Deimling, Marie-Luise Lange (Technische Universität Dresden) and Michael Barrett (University of Arizona) guide the Studies, involving artists of the ART WEEK 2016.

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