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How does performance represent, critique, enact and construct "the real"?

The "Performance of the Real" Research Theme is a multidisciplinary project that investigates why representations and performances of the real are particularly compelling.

At its core is the study of how performance and performativity, in its many cultural, aesthetic and social forms and discourses represents, critiques, enacts/re-enacts and constructs/reconstructs the real.

This project includes the investigation of the impulses, desires and/or social and political impetuses behind the drive to represent the real.

The team of researchers will offer the first project of its kind by comprehending the ethical, relational, political, social or formal issues involved in representing the real. 

Performing Artefacts conference

Performing Artefacts is an interdisciplinary conference hosted by the Performance of the Real Research Theme, The University of Otago, Ōtepoti/Dunedin, New Zealand

18-19 November 2019

About the conference

As our world becomes increasingly digitised, we ask ‘what role do physical objects continue to play in our lived realities?’ This conference considers how peoples’ experiences and knowledges of ‘the real’ are communicated via performances involving artefacts – performances of the everyday, as well as activities explicitly labelled ‘performances.’ It looks at how ‘performance’ and ‘the real’ are understood with respect to artefacts, as well as at how and why peoples’ realities are communicated performatively using artefacts.

Some specific provocations to consider include:

  • How are artefacts used performatively to represent or reframe various kinds of realities?
  • Can or should virtual artefacts replace physical ones during performances? What are the affects/effects of doing so?
  • How are artefacts used to blur how people perceive/conceive ‘the real’?
  • What is the importance of artefacts’ objectivity or subjectivity when they are used performatively?
  • How are peoples’ pasts, presents and futures represented, communicated and understood via performances utilising artefacts?
  • What are the socio-political and cultural realities of performing with particular kinds of artefacts? Are certain ontologies and epistemologies privileged or marginalised in such performances?

Email the research theme with the subject 'Mailing List Sign-Up' for information, updates on upcoming events and calls for papers in 2019/2020.


Register for the conference

Keynote presenters

  • Conal McCarthy (Programme Director for the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies)
  • Vanessa Russ (Associate Director of the Berndt Museum, University of Western Australia)

Conal McCarthy is the Programme Director for the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies based at Victoria Universty Wellington. In his current role as Director of the Museum and Heritage Studies programme he leads academic management, postgraduate teaching and supervision, and research in collaboration with colleagues in national heritage organisations and the cultural sector more broadly. Conal is an interdisciplinary scholar who works at the intersection of history, theory and practice in public culture. He is an assessor for the Australian Research Council, and worked on an ARC-funded research project led by Professor Tony Bennett at the University of Western Sydney 2010-14. Currently he is working on a Marsden funded project led by Professor Anne Salmond from Auckland University 2016-8.

Vanessa Russ is the Associate Director of the Berndt Museum at the University of Western Australia. As the Associate Director, Vanessa is focusing on the importance of this Aboriginal-led university museum to create a dynamic facility for all Australians to learn about the first peoples, while engaging young Australian Aboriginal people in new ways of accessing cultural knowledge. Vanessa was born in Derby and raised between Derby and Ngullagunda (Gibb River Cattle Station) and has family connections to Ngarinyin and Gija people in the Kimberley. She was awarded Honours (Fine Arts) at the UNSW 2009 and returned to Western Australia to attain a PhD in Fine Art at the University of Western Australia in 2013. She was awarded a Churchill Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in 2014, in which she investigated the effects of national identity in mainstream art museums on Indigenous populations, travelling across the United States of America, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Call for papers

We welcome abstracts for papers, performances, panels or other presentation formats, such as installations.

  • Please submit a 250-300-word abstract of your presentation and a 150-word biography for each presenter by August 16, 2019
  • Please send us your abstract as a Word document, and use your surname as the document title

Please clearly indicate:

  • The title of your presentation
  • Your full name (first name, surname)
  • Institutional affiliation (if relevant)

Who to send abstracts and enquiries to

Please send your abstracts or any enquiries to the Theme administrator, Alex, at

Travel bursaries for postgraduate students

There are a limited number of travel bursaries available for postgrad students. Please contact the theme administrator for details.