Performance Space Exhibition

Andrew Filmer (Curator)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


The Performance Space Exhibition – titled ‘Acts of Assembly’ – explored how theatres and performance spaces operate as sites of assembly and spaces for community: how they create connections, facilitate encounters, and function as sites for social action and the making of culture. Focussing on the dynamics of different acts of assembly, and positing performance itself as an assemblage, the exhibition explored the productive continuities and antagonisms between more traditional theatre architectures and the broader emergent qualities of performance spaces.

The exhibition was located on Level 5 of the National Gallery’s Trade Fair Palace (Veletržní Palác) and offered a wide variety of performance spaces and approaches to exhibiting these. Included were examples of newly built theatres and performing arts centres, renovations of existing theatres, and adaptations of found spaces. There were interventions into public space, spaces of encounter with the more-than-human-world, sites for communal celebration and reflection, and venues that facilitate cultural exchange and access. The possibilities of digital platforms and technologies were also addressed through spatial audio, extended reality, and hybrid virtual-physical spaces. A number of contributions to the exhibition responded to the recent disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside a range of films, showing spaces from countries including Brazil, Ghana, and Rwanda, were still photographs, installations, models, and interactive experiences, including a mobile theatre – The Drifting Room – which regularly traversed the streets outside the gallery. Rather than just represent performance spaces, the exhibition itself became a space in which different acts of assembly were staged and encountered.

The exhibition offered insights into particular, local, and uncommon spaces and experiences, through which we glimpsed possibilities for performance space more broadly. The fluidity of boundaries – between inside and outside, architecture and scenography, and the physical and the virtual – was noticeable across different spaces as was an attention to the specifics of situation, location, and materiality. The importance of performance spaces as places of communal attachment and memory was also evident. Performance spaces are as diverse and dynamic as performance itself and increasingly serve multiple functions; not only are they places for performance but also a vital form of social infrastructure, engaged with the life of the communities around them.

The award for Best Performance Space went to Jill Planche and Mhlanguli George for their film Theatre in the Backyard: Spaces of Immanence, Places of Potentiality. Mhlanguli George’s Theatre in the Backyard, based in Cape Town, South Africa, engages with fundamental questions of what performance space is and its interconnection with private and public spaces. It is anchored and rooted in communal traditions of storytelling and creates a place of generosity and hospitality. It calls for an urgent reconsideration of performance as a space of assembly.

The question of what contemporary theatres or performance spaces might be seems more complicated than ever, but also more open, and certainly more urgent. Performance spaces are a necessary means by which we continue to work out how to live together in our lively but fractured and damaged world.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 08 Jun 2023
EventPrague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space - Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 08 Jun 202318 Jun 2023


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