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Situated Agencies: an embodied approach to site-specific performance

Research project
Active research
Project owner
Academy of Music and Drama

Short description

Dissertation by Nathalie S. Fari.
I am a performance artist and teacher working across the fields of performative arts, artistic research and somatic education. For over 30 years, I have been exploring several movement practices, from dance (modern jazz, Butoh) to acrobatics, to improvisation, to yoga (I am certified in the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system) and lately conscious dance (5 Rhythms). Additionally, I have been focusing over the last 7 years, on the research design of performance laboratories based on the notions of embodiment, site-specificity and performativity. (

This PhD project entitled Situated Agencies: an embodied approach to site-specific performance interweaves academic writing with storytelling, spatial explorations with everyday life, and documented performances with fiction. All at the same time, with and through the body/space’s agency.

Focused on site-specific performance practice and the ways, a specific site, place or environment can be embodied, this PhD project explores human and non-human forms of agency. In this process, not only multiple layers of a place - its historical connotation, social meaning or cultural value and so forth - are uncovered. A special emphasis is placed on excavating the imperceptible, imaginary or even, hidden narratives of a specific environment.

How can a place be embodied? How to employ and manifest agency in this process, especially when dealing with the contingencies and unpredictabilities of a place? Which artistic strategies and methodologies may be used for enhancing, describing and, especially documenting the experiences made at a specific, in a specific environment?

In this PhD project, these questions serve as basis for developing a series of site-oriented performance laboratories. Using approaches from phenomenology (e.g. embodied cognition), ethnography (e.g. sensory ethnography) and the environmental humanities (e.g. ecocriticism, material feminisms), the main aim of these laboratories is to refine and deepen the body/space relationship. In so doing, not only physical exercises, making use of ‘somatic’ and/or ‘ecstatic’ principles, are employed for creating heightened states of awareness. Besides that, these laboratories propose an exploration of the ontological meanings of a ‘situated body’ or a ‘performative moment’. The claim that through working on the body/space relationship, new forms of existing, sensing and intervening can emerge, appears here as an approach to site-specific practice.

As a consequence, this PhD project is not only concerned with outlining an embodied research methodology that draws upon individual and collective experiences made in the performance laboratories. But also, with the ways somatic knowledge can be produced when the body is entangled with the narratives and urgencies of a place.

Photo of Nathalie S. Fari
Nathalie S. Fari
Photo: Daniel Schaefer