Performing Otherness

November 16-17, 2017
Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki

Otherness is a complex, contested, and slippery context with a long history in many different academic disciplines, e.g. philosophy, psychology, literature, cultural studies, political sciences, and arts.

During the two conference days, Otherness is examined from multiple angles in student presentations, keynote lectures, and a panel discussion focusing on question such as
• Whose stories are told and how?
• How can Otherness be performed and represented responsibly and ethically?
• What has political correctness to do with art, if anything?

Keynote lectures by Jamila Johnston-Small, Teemu Mäki, and Tiina Rosenberg.

Evening program on Thursday: Play Rape, Whiteness on Display Club Night

Panel discussion “Freedom of Art and Responsible Representation” on Friday November 17. Panelists include: Jamie MacDonald, Teemu Mäki, Tiina Rosenberg

Registration: by November 10, 2017

The conference is organized by The Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki and Latvian Academy of Culture in collaboration with the International Theatre Festival Baltic Circle.


Thursday, November 16, 1st day

10.00 Opening – Elina Knihtilä, Hannu-Pekka Björkman

10.20 Key Note - Un(per)forming by Jamila Johnston-Small 

Unacademic unprofessional unneutral unperformance. A poetic lecture about navigating fragility, accepting nonbelonging and decolonising my mind including ideas for anti-assimilationist holistic practice with tangible, focused manifestations as dance performances (ie stuff about my art practice) thoughts about gaze, resistance, surrender, alienation, destruction and transformation... Considering not ‘Otherness’ but entanglement, complexity, hybridity and blurred boundaries / in relation to movement and removal and harnessing of power


Jamila Johnson-Small is an artist whose practice affects/disrupts/deflects/distorts/reflects the gaze(s) directed towards her body and the resultant choreographies are a stage or dreamspace or battleground for working through questions of presence, visibility, responsibility and pleasure, for situating and expanding (or dismantling) her ‘identity’ and turning it into theatre. She moves with an awareness that her dances will always be a lament for the histories her body represents, carries and conjures. Her current research is exploring surrender as a strategy for destruction and producing states of alienation as part of this resistance. The enemy is also within and the dances are driven by these strategies as internal processes.

Of Caribbean descent, born and based in London and trained in Contemporary Dance, she has formed long-term collaborations with other artists including Project O with Alexandrina Hemsley, immigrants and animals with Mira Kautto. More recently she performs in work by Fernanda Munoz-Newsome, runs HOTLINE with Sara Sassanelli, and GUSH, a semi-regular low-key DIY event. She is one of the holding space associate artists at The Showroom, a project initiated by Teresa Cisneros looking at equity and decolonial processes.


11.45 Key Note - Art and Otherness by Teemu Mäki

How to perform otherness? How to encounter otherness? How to work with the Other?

Teemu Mäki speaks about representing/performing/facing otherness in the arts. He approaches the theme both on a general, philosophical level, and on a practical level, using a few of his own projects as examples.

Teemu Mäki (1967–, born in Lapua, Finland) is an artist, director, writer and researcher (Doctor of Fine Arts, Finnish Academy of Fine Arts 2005). Since 1990 he has been an independent, freelancing artist, except for the years 2008–2013, when he was the Professor of Fine Arts in Aalto University.

Mäki describes his activities in the following way: I work in the fields of art, philosophy and politics by whatever means necessary. The results are usually some kind of visual art, literature, theatre, film or theory. For me art is the most flexible, versatile and holistic form of philosophy and politics.
Mäki has had 51 solo exhibitions, participated in about 200 group shows, written seven books and directed and written numerous theatre plays, films and operas.

12.45 Lunch break

14.00-16.00 Open Circle – Student presentations

* Anneleen Lemmens & Lynn Elsof (RITCS): “If you are the other, who am I”

* Elina Sarno (The Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki): Dogfriends

* Jamie MacDonald (The Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki):
  Presenting and representing the Other in stand-up comedy

* Mãra Blome (Latvian Academy of Culture): Searching for a room

* Elizabeta Lace (Latvian Academy of Culture): LǬJA

18.00 Performance Play Rape + discussion at the Theatre Hall
Play Rape is a declaration of an angry woman, an icy monologue about the problematics of rape scenes in the theatre of 21st century Finland. Actor, playwright and director Anna Paavilainen got fed up with submission and wanted to do things in her own way. Freedom of speech and shame meet in a face-off that goes far beyond personal experience, deep down into the power structures of our society.
20.00 Whiteness on Display – Club night at Circo, uuden sirkuksen keskus (in collaboration with Baltic Circle Festival)


Friday, November 17, 2nd day

10:00  Opening day 2

10:30 Key Note – WHO THE HELL ARE YOU? - On Othering and Performance
by Tiina Rosenberg

Performance, as Diana Taylor writes, is a wide-ranging and difficult practice to define and holds many, at times conflicting, meanings and possibilities. Within frameworks of its own structures, conventions, and styles, performance includes the possibility of creativity, critique, and change. This raises the towering question of how to perform, and indeed, who is performing and who is left out. As Roland Barthes states, “the theatre alone, of all the figurative arts (cinema, painting) presents the bodies and not their representation” (1995:83).

 The point of departure of this key-note lecture is that it matters who is performing. It is in the recognition of the Other’s needs that politics begins. If performance enables us to share the feelings and experiences of Others, solidarity becomes a principle attribute of that empathy and gives the audience the feeling of standing in the shoes of Others. “Without address, there is no survival,” as Judith Butler has stated. Being addressed means that a finely crafted performance has the potential of being in tune with audiences, evoking empathy and solidarity, and making people feel closer to their actual lives.

Tiina Rosenberg is professor of Performance Studies at Stockholm University and has previously been professor of Gender Studies at Stockholm University and at Lund University. Rosenberg and has written extensively on performing arts, feminism and queer theory. Her most recent books include Don’t Be Quiet, Start a Riot. Essays on Feminism and Performance (2016) and Mästerregissören. När Ludvig Josephson tog Europa till Sverige (The Master Director. Bringing Europe to Sweden, 2017).

11.45 Open circle - Student’s presentations

* Katriina Kettunen (The Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki):
   An unfinished Story: Teenage moms in Nicaragua

* Hardy Punzel (Theaterakademie August Everding): Otherness in a song

* Miiko Toiviainen (The Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki):
   More Than A Martyr: Trans representation on our stage

* Mees Walter (Toneelacademie Maastricht): Sulla Sicilia

13.45 Lunch break

15.00 Panel Discussion – Freedom of Art and responsible representation
Tiina Rosenberg, Jamie MacDonald, Teemu Mäki &  ?

16.30 Summary and closing


Conference is moderated by Saara Särmä


Dr. Saara Särmä is a feminist, an activist, an artist and a researcher.  She is the creator of “Congrats, you have an all male panel!” Saara and her humorous documentation of nearly 2,000 manels have been widely featured in national and international media. She co-founded the Feminist Think Tank Hattu, which has empowered numerous women in Schools of Daring and Cursing Soirées. Hattu’s Kone Foundation funded project Women forward! critically examines the structural issues causing the lack of women in expert positions while empowering individual women to reclaim the space and step forward. Saara’s doctoral dissertation in International Relations (University of Tampere, 2014) is titled Junk Feminism and Nuclear Wannabes – Collaging Parodies of Iran and North Korea. It focused on internet parody images and developed a unique and innovative art-based collage methodology for studying world politics.  Saara currently works at Finnish National Defence University in an Academy of Finland funded consortium project Hybrid Terrorizing - Developing a New Model for the Study of Global Media Events of Terrorist Violence. She’s interested in politics of visuality and image circulation, feminist academic activism, and laughter in world politics. She is committed to making both academia and the world kinder and better places.

Practical information

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