City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past event

‘Performance, Writing’: What’s that Comma Up To?

12 March 2017

Poet John Hall (Emeritus Professor, Falmouth University) discusses the relationship between 'performance' and 'writing', in the context of the 2017 Performing, Writing symposium hosted by Massey University and Performance Arcade.

When the two terms—Performing and Writing—come together in any kind of coupling, their combination no longer marks a single, clearly designated practice or space of operation or display. When a comma comes between them everything really does start wobbling in the enactment of an unfinished thought. A relationship is signalled: could it be the beginning of a longer list, for example? How does the performance of a comma differ from that of an unpunctuated gap or of an ‘and’ or of any of a range of prepositions such as ‘for’?

In the early 1990s, John Hall, whose primary practice had been poetry for the page, brought together a group of artist-teachers to plan a writing degree whose alignment would be less with the institutional study of ‘literature’ than with the actual practices and conceptual preoccupations of performance and studio arts. Eventually the group settled on a name: Performance Writing, singular, no comma. The approach to writing treated each term as unsettled and their potential relationships as constituting the climate of thought in which the learning would take place. In 2013, John developed his thoughts on the continuing validity of the proposition and what had changed in and to the scene of writing in an essay for a special issue of the Journal for Writing in Creative Practice on Performance Writing.