‘Ordinary’ objects – that is, unremarkable and domestic objects, such as the chair, (or the mattress, the table, even electricity itself as conducted matter), play an intriguing role in performance, dance and the visual arts. They can locate or intensify meaning, gesturing beyond the present moment. In works that are staged, as distinctive from the vernacular of the everyday, the decontextualized presence, circulation, and established meaning of objects shifts radically according to local and geopolitical contexts as well as the cultural and social concerns that dominate or recede in a given time or place. 


This talk focuses on the outdoor durational performance installation, This Here and That There (2007 – 2018), by Croatian artist, Vlatka Horvat. It draws upon my own archive of chairs, and on works by a range of artists including Columbian activist- artist Doris Salcedo, choreographer/dancer Pina Bausch and Kantor. Considering the chair as an actant-object central to each work’s particular charge, how do these objects behave and produce within the inventive and unbound contexts of performance, articulating the political, intimate, surrogate, threatening or world- building potentialities that lie hidden in plain sight?


Sara Jane Bailes is Associate Professor in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sussex with an international reputation reflective of contemporary shifts in the aesthetic and political potentialities of performance as a medium. She is author of Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure (Routledge 2010), a major book on late twentieth-century experimental theatre practitioners, and a co-edited volume on Beckett and Musicality (Ashgate, 2014).