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Dec 2022 /Jan 2023


Dec 2022 /Jan 2023

VERTICAL PHENOMENOLOGY: for an Ontology of the Time – Movement Binomen

Here it is this arm becoming not arm or not only arm, this swinging flesh that goes from right to left, from left to right, in a coming and going that has no coordinates, in which the left is a “here and now” and the right is also a “here and now”, in which space is displaced by the space occupied by not only the arm through its movement which is already finished, proceeding to the next indivisible gesture.


The main question is: is this movement really already over?

Time is the main fabric of performative acts in a very different sense than the other arts. It’s impressed on the constitutive matter of the performative act, it’s the flesh in a way that is as liminal as the performative act jumps into the scene subverting the concrete existence, the physicality of daily life. The time taken into consideration is not already the overall time of a performative work, this kind of time is closer to the time of the other arts as a total time which obviously brings with it a series of wonderful problems of a more general nature related to the duration of the performance and therefore to its substantial specificity. What is considered here is the time of the gesture or the whole of the gestures, of that gesture which, enlarged or conceived as becoming unified, constitutes the performative act in itself.


Before talking about the time of movement it is necessary to clarify what type of movement we are talking about. The body of this movement is not a body divisible into the Husserl’s Leib and Korper couple but rather it finds its most proper form starting from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s concept of body. His concept is based on an ontological vision of the body as chair, translatable as the fabric of the flesh of which man and world are made. In this sense it must be clear that analyzing the performative act means analyzing the entire performativity of a work and therefore not only the movement of the body but all the elements present on the scene. Conceiving adequately the performativity means conceiving every organic or inorganic element present on the scene as phenomena and therefore as performing elements. A performative act consisting exclusively in the presence of objects is of course possible (later will be clear how, for Henri Bergson, such a conception is already fully present in the reality). According to Merleau-Ponty “the flesh is not matter, it’s not spirit, it’s not substance. To designate it the term “element” is required, as it was used to speak of water, air, earth and fire, as a general thing, halfway between the space-time individual and the idea, a kind of embodied principle that introduces a style of being wherever you find any particle of it. In this sense, flesh is an “element” of Being. It is not a fact or a sum of facts, and yet it adheres to the place and the now. ” (1)
Here we are already moving outside of time and space, not in the sense of no time and no space but in the sense of a dance that says properly the time and the space.
The human body is understood as a living body and the dancing body is the maximum expression of this potential or, as Raymond Bayer would say, “dance is the unique movement, the elected one, the flower of movement”. (2) This is how – passing through the body conceived by Martin Heidegger as being thrown into the world, passing through the inseparable binomen body – theater of Jean-Luc Nancy for which the body is what comes, approaches the scene and the theater is what gives rise to the approach of a body – we hear the whisper of Antonin Artaud and his conception of the body with a capital B, that body without organs yearned for by the masters of Butoh dance that totally becomes movement and therefore time, whose gesture, which is the protagonist, screams the Word with a capital W before the word of the language, before the logos (logos not intended as the ancient Greece’s logos in symbiosis with the being). So here we are, close to Deleuze and his conception of the flesh as a “thermometer of the becoming”. (3) He diverges slightly from the notion of flesh, preferring as Merleau-Ponty the notion of body as an element but even more as matter in power in which the CsO (acronym of body without organs) is a body without organization and, thanks to this, absolutely free and floating. In this sense, the body must be understood as without organs because unorganized and non-organic or non-functional for a specific purpose. In a certain sense, CsO constitutes the unconscious, the repressed of the body and its always virtual potential; that is, it is desire itself as a reserve of productivity always ready to generate new connections, revolutionizing the existing in the name of a body still to be done and always to come. What we are talking about is nothing more than the performative body and it is thanks to its flow that we get even closer to the conception of time initially declared.


One more step. Through the performance Trio A Yvonne Rainer brings into play a fundamental aspect connected to the concept of movement. It may be fairly stated that work is entirely dictated by her motto “Feeling are facts”. (4) What Rainer dances is not something reducible to a pathetic interpretation related to a subjective dance linked to emotions, but rather the power of the flesh as a layered element , something very close to the Antonio Damasio’s philosophy of the ego, which expresses himself maximally in the infinite facets of movement. On the other hand, what is performed by Yvonne Rainer is “the fact” and all this seems to be extremely close to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s conception of language (not the language of the tongue but rather its pure movement) intended as an expression of the facts and therefore of its conception of the world as totality of facts and not of things. Facts move, facts dance.



Yvonne Rainer, Trio A, 1978 (choreographed 1966)



Here we are at the point, here everything is moving, here also the inorganic participates in the swirl. Through the performance A Possibility of an Abstraction: Square Dance by German Kruip we witness a true and proper reiteration, an obsessive repetition of circulatory movement in which time ceases to be chronological time and becomes pure time. The performative act becomes self-declaring and, repeating itself, it allows the perception of chronological time to become inconsistent.
This type of approach applies to any performative act but it goes without saying that in this way the work emphasizes its peculiarity, nullifies any possibility of fallacious interpretation by working on the aspect that mostly interests it and of which it is constituted.



German Kruip, A Possibility of an Abstraction: Square Dance, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2014 © Ernst van Deurse



The arm movement described initially as well as any performative movement are movements that live of duration.
Henri Bergson’s conception of time consists in the cancellation of the spatial time that characterizes the Western culture and the assertion of a qualitative time which he call “duration”.
What is relevant is not the arm that goes from point A to point B but the unrepeatability of that movement, its uniqueness and the impossibility of repeating the perceptions related to it.
The time of the performance is therefore the gesture itself and it runs out with its duration. However, the movement of the dance touches the apex and then is canceled to allow another succession to exist, while the gesture tries to retain the duration just passed, without succeeding. This contingency, however, is not a sign of a futile time but of a powerful transience inherent in the characteristic of duration itself. The performative act shows another aspect of the temporal disappearance, an elsewhere traceable in what persists but rather in what is fleeting. Similar to an instantaneousness which has something eternal. To an instant full of memory. To an “ephemeral who gives us a lesson of eternity”. (5)
Dance is an instant that reveals itself. Here is its ulteriority, in the moment in which it reveals itself as full of eternal movement. Eternal and movement: two infinities knotted by the lightness of a passage and therefore attributable to a common concept of vertical time in which each gesture remains thanks to the uniqueness of its moment.


Emiliano Aversa




(1) M. Merleau-Ponty, Il visibile e l’invisibile, cit., p. 15 [The Visible and the Invisible, 1969].
(2) R. BAYER, L’esthétique de la grâce. Introduction à l’étude des équilibres de structure, Félix Alcan, Paris 1933, pp. 213-214.
(3) G. Deleuze, F. Guattari, Che cos’è la filosofia?, Einaudi, Torino 2002, p. 185.
(4) Y. Rainer, Feelings Are Fact: A Life, 2006
(5) G. BACHELARD, La psicoanalisi del fuoco, tr. it. di G. Silvestri, Dedalo, Bari 1993, p. 141; [La psychanalyse du feu, Gallimard, Paris 1967].