Philosophy On Stage - new approaches to knowledge at Tanzquartier Wien

An international cast is bringing fresh momentum to the current debate on education at the Tanzquartier Wien contemporary dance centre. A season of lectures and performances at special "dance labs", entitled "Education acts. Kunst macht Bildung", is putting the spotlight on the usefulness of education. The project, supported by the Austrian Science Fund - FWF, picks up the theme of the successful Philosophy On Stage programme held last autumn at the MuseumsQuartier arts centre. Like its predecessor it should attract large audiences.

Science in action: performance artists offer illumination to science. © Use of this photo for editorial purposes is free of charge, subject to attribution: Arno Böhler, wiener kulturwerkstätte GRENZ-film

In the current controversy on the Austrian school system, the arts are not only defending their place in the curriculum, they are also enriching the debate by taking up theoretical positions of their own. Under the "Education acts" banner, internationally renowned artists are developing performances at five different dance labs at the Tanzquartier which are analysing artistic learning and working methods. The aim is to critically examine the value of education whilst showing how artistic performances themselves can create new or different forms of knowledge. The artistic work will be accompanied by a series of public lectures, due to begin in mid-May, which will explore the limits of the power and possibility of education. The Education acts project, which will run for two years, is based on research cooperation between an FWF project, the University of Vienna and Tanzquartier Wien.

Making truth happen
Education acts is part of a wider, three-year FWF research project on The Materiality and Temporality of Performative Speech Acts, led by Dr. Arno Böhler, a lecturer at the University of Vienna Department of Philosophy and Susanne Granzer, a professor at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna (Drama Department). Dr. Böhler commented: "Our research project, entitled Philosophy On Stage, is concerned with philosophically addressing the performative nature of knowledge and artistically testing it out with lecture performances. We do this by performing scholarly texts on stage. This makes it apparent that knowledge takes on a wholly new and different character through its portrayal on stage, when it relies on sensory and bodily expression. Our research approach focuses on the way that performances influence performed knowledge, and transform the truth claims of that knowledge."
This theory of this process, known as "performative turn", has its roots in philosophy, and in cultural and linguistic studies. At the heart of the "turn" is the view that knowledge does not exist independently of the act of its performance, as the enactment of knowledge is itself an elementary component of exhibited and performed knowledge.

Experiments on stage
Philosophical texts were successfully performed last year during the three-day Philosophy on Stage event at the MuseumsQuartier. Dr. Böhler said: "One reason why the event worked so well was the fact that while developing the artistic treatment of the academic texts more and more twists emerged which changed their meaning in surprising ways. The huge response - all three evenings were sold out - was testimony to the public demand for research projects like this. Because of this we have just decided to put on the Philosophy on Stage lecture-performances again in a revised form at the Vienna Schauspielhaus, in June 2007."

Böhler is hoping for similar success with the current Education acts experiment which, like the Philosophy On Stage project, is being supported by the FWF. By funding this project at the interface of philosophy and art the Fund is also, as a spin-off, helping to bring a breath of fresh air into the debate on education.

Scientific Contact
Dr. Arno Böhler
University of Vienna
Department of Philosophy
Universitätstraße 7
A-1010 Vienna, Austria
M +43 / 664 / 512 6567
arno.boehler(at)univie.ac.at

The Austrian Science Fund FWF
Mag. Stefan Bernhardt

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