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Performing water

Performing water

Performing water

CPER 2020-2021.


Anna Street (3L.AM) et Anne-Laure Fortin-Tournès (3L.AM)


The ethical questions raised by water – its availability, its pollution, its infrastructural dimension for globalized trade – highlight that water is more than a metaphor of thinking practices. It is a site of deep contention and political crisis, as currencies and currents, ecology and economy flow together or collide. By exploring water as metaphor, water as infrastructure, and water as basic element, this project will reflect critically on the function and circulation of this unique medium in various cultures, examining its force in fostering collective imaginaries. By following the stream of thought water traces through mythology, immigration, ecology, new media, and other fields, we will discover how water offers a way to reflect on the vulnerability and improbable resiliency of the Anthropocene in a way that combines performativity and critical thinking.
Since the turn of the century, the question of human rights, in many ways the central accomplishment of preceding generations, has expanded to include the non-human in its embrace, with animal rights and environmental concerns increasingly at the forefront of cultural debates. Scientists, activists and artists have joined causes in sounding the alarm that the ethical cannot be abstracted from the ecological. Philosophy as well, traditionally opposed to empirical logic, has put into doubt the supposed hierarchy of thought over matter. Indeed, an all-too-literal sea-change has led to a conceptual transformation of watershed proportions, exposing anthropocentrism as the harbinger of its own demise. Innovative knowledge practices are promoting models of plasticity and fluidity that no longer conceive of identities or states as static units but as forms of encounters, movements, happenings, etc., implicating all entities in the task of the social where materiality plays a crucial role. This mattering of matter has engendered multiple transformations in the very architecture of our thought constructions, leading to the disabling and disassembly of hierarchies and the emergence of what we could call networks of immersion and subversion.
Whereas a growing number of research projects devoted to water infrastructure, supply, access, and geo-political tensions as well as eco-literature are enriching research around this object of study, we have yet to locate any collaborative project concentrating on the representation and performance of water in the visual and performing arts.
The project is divided into 3 distinct thematic approaches:

The history of human civilization begins with our primeval efforts to impose shape upon water. From irrigation to trade, dependence upon and mastery over water formed cities and then societies. Today more than ever, the way water is treated and distributed reflects our commercial values and our failure to coalesce as a global community (Glasgow). Bodies of water have given way to waters full of bodies, as well as bodies without water.

The collective nature of the looming ecological crisis exposes previous conceptions of the individual as direly inadequate for resolving planetary-wide concerns. At the same time, the human is implicated as never before in the mechanisms of an increasingly fragile ecosystem. New social paradigms are being proposed whereby the conditions for improving existing institutional structures are created through inter-activism or intra-action (Barad) as part of the struggle to locate these structures outside the sphere of oppressive forms of techno-capitalism (Latour). And here the question of environmental refugees coincides with ecological concerns (Baldwin, Bettini). In navigating the Anthropocene or new climatic regime, how can social justice and ecology inform one another?

Currents and Currencies
The notion of fluid or rather ‘liquid communities’ (Anderson) may prove particularly useful in mapping out the evolving philosophical and political narrative alliances along the question of hospitality that the migration crisis over European seas inevitably raises. Gaining in momentum daily, anti-immigration sentiment has led to the rise of nationalist and protectionist populism across Europe and the US, highlighting the contradictions of our Western societies that claim to promote human rights while denying basic living conditions to their very neighbours at the border (Oliver, Madura, Ahmed). Regarding the immigration crisis and the question of open societies, we intend to explore philosophically performative responses to the geo-political currents that are affecting the lives of unseen multitudes.


Lien vers le site du projet :


  • Interweaving Performance Cultures (centre)
  • Theatre Magazine Moscow
  • TIL (EA 4182)
  • Zaragoza, Espagne
  • V-A-C Foundation
  • Rimini Protokoll (Berlin)
  • Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne
  • Rudolf Steiner University College (Oslo)
  • London, England
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