TaPRA 2022, 12–14 September, University of Essex, Documenting Performance Working Group CfP: Use and mis-use

Deadline: Friday 1 April 2022

In her critique of utilitarianism as an educational framework, Sara Ahmed writes that the ‘project of queering use does not aim to create distances from use but to inhabit use all the more. We might respond to the problem of instrumentalism not by rejecting the idea of useful knowledge but by calling for knowledge that is useful to others, with this “to” being an opening, an invitation, a connection’ (2019: 222). TaPRA Documenting Performance Working Group call for papers and presentations which engage with use and mis-use in relation to the documentation of performance. Inspired in part by Ahmed, this invitation emerges from current political contexts in which arts and education funding structures are being squeezed by narrowing frameworks of what the arts can possibly be ‘for’. As Ahmed delineates, utilitarian principles (which includes the instrumentalisation of the arts) have been built into the foundations of arts and education institutions. The marketisation of education, and crises of resources engendered by the pandemic and environmental collapse, have aided capitalist and utilitarian agendas by placing renewed emphasis on the value of an arts education as contingent on its use by graduates to survive or thrive within certain markets. In such contexts, the arts may be put to use to advance capitalist economic agendas, to sustain or seem to repair institutions, or to contribute to neoliberal structures of public funding cuts and inequalities which might be art-washed through wellbeing agendas. Conversely, we might pursue other kinds of uses, such as the ‘queer use’ (Ahmed, 2019: 34) and transformation of performance documentation by unintended users, use towards collective liberatory potentials, and para- or counter-institutional experiments. An important theme that emerged from contributions to the Documenting Performance gathering on ‘Speculation and Fabulation’ (2021) concerned reparative readings of performance documentation, and fabulative histories that might be critical or coercive. This year, we continue to think about performance documents as multifarious forms of evidence with complex relations to legibility, as we turn our attention to use and mis-use. This concerns how archival remainders such as photographs and films, funding reports, press, and gathered accounts create the afterlives of performances, often produced and held by institutional processes and understandings of use which the practices exceed at a fundamental level. The ways in which the arts are asked to account for themselves must frequently adapt to institutional frameworks which fail to comprehend the complexities of the uses and mis-uses of art and performance practices. As Nuccio Ordine (also cited by Ahmed) has suggested, the arts might actively resist utilitarian use-function in important ways with the active adoption and production of ‘useless knowledge’ (2017). In the context of a resurgent interest in relations between maintenance, administration, and the gendered and racialized labour that sustains capitalism and its institutions, we might ask: how is the documentation of performance put to use? What are the functions of use and mis-use in performance documents? How can performance documentation contribute to the development of alternative models of co-production? How might performance documents obscure the legibility of practice as useful? For whom, how, and by whom is usefulness determined? How can performance documentation mis-use and be mis-used? In what ways can documents be produced through or enable productive ‘queer use’? How might artists and scholars test, resist or refuse administrative and institutional instrumentalisation? We welcome proposals for papers, panels, and creative presentations for our Documenting Performance Working Group gathering at the TaPRA 2022 hybrid conference. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Use and mis-use in performance documents
  • Uses and mis-uses of performance documentation in institutional contexts
  • Use and mis-use of documentary materials in regimes of administration and care
  • Appropriation and assemblage
  • Usefulness and uselessness
  • Use of labour, care work, and the performance document
  • Labour of administration, or administration as use/mis-use
  • Legibility and regulation in relation to performance documentation
  • Critiques of utilitarian use-function, including mischief and chaos as methodology
  • Queer use
  • Systems of use and mis-use in institutional critique

Conference structure

The 2022 annual TaPRA conference at the University of Essex will be a hybrid event, facilitating participation by online delegates alongside those attending in-person. The 2021 TaPRA conference demonstrated the many benefits of online conferencing; increased opportunity for international presenters, lower financial costs to participate, greater accessibility for those with caring responsibilities etc. The 2022 conference at Essex aims to retain the wider opportunities for engagement that online platforms offer, whilst also creating a space for in-person engagement and social interaction. In the event of a cancellation of in-person conference activities due to, for instance, COVID restrictions, the event would run entirely online and all registered in person delegates would be offered the opportunity to attend as online delegates, with the difference between in-person and online registration fees refunded.

Process for submitting a proposal

Please email abstracts (no more than 300 words in length), and an additional few sentences of biographical information to the Working Group Convenors (documentingperf@tapra.org) by 23.59 on 1 April 2022. IMPORTANT: Please indicate at the point of submission if you intend to attend the conference in person or online. This information is vital so that the conference organisers can effectively plan the infrastructure for the event and Working Group Convenors can schedule panel sessions effectively. You should also indicate if you have any specific requirements relating to space or AV technology as part of this submission. Please note: You may only submit a proposal to one working group (or else the PaR Gallery) for this conference, proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.


Working Group Convenors will inform you whether or not your proposal has been accepted as quickly as possible and by no later than 22nd April 2022. Convenors will offer brief summary feedback to all proposals that could not be accommodated. ​​Please note that putting together a full draft schedule for the conference is a complex process, particularly as all sessions will need to be accessible to delegates attending in person and online. Therefore your patience while this process is ongoing, and prompt responses to acceptances, are much appreciated. Convenors will have completed their draft schedules by the end of May 2022.

Conference costs

The early bird registration fee will be: £220 – standard in person attendance £120 – concession in person attendance £88 – online attendance £48 – online concession attendance Prices will increase to the following after 24th June 2022: £250 – standard in person attendance £150 – concession in person attendance £100 – online attendance £60 – online concession attendance All of the above conference fees include TaPRA membership for one year (£35 standard / £17 concession) starting 12th September 2022. ​On-campus ​conference accommodation will cost no more than £55 per night. The conference dinner will cost £45. There will also be an opportunity to donate towards a conference dinner fund for unwaged/unaffiliated colleagues and postgraduate researchers. Please note: All presenters must be registered for the conference by 15th July 2022; this includes those presenting online. Numbers for in-person attendance will be more limited in 2022 than previous years so we advise early booking. If you have registered for in person attendance and find yourself unable to attend you will be able to access the conference as an online delegate but will not be eligible for a refund. Concession definition: Concession rates apply to all postgraduate researchers, unwaged, unaffiliated, and retired researchers, and staff on contracts of either less than 0.6FTE or else fixed for less than 12 months. These categories apply to the attendee’s circumstances on the first day of the conference.


There will be up to 14 bursaries (one per working group) available for postgraduate researchers and unaffiliated presenters/contingent faculty. These are highly competitive and so we would encourage everyone who is able to secure institutional support where possible. Each bursary includes a conference fee waiver and one year of TaPRA membership. There is also a separate discretionary fund towards expenses and access costs such as travel, accommodation, digital access, childcare and so forth up to a maximum of £300 (justified and costed) per applicant. You must submit your application for a bursary at the same time as your proposal to the Working Group (within the same document as your abstract/bio). If applying for a bursary, please include the following:
  • Whether you are applying as a postgraduate researcher OR unaffiliated presenter/contingent faculty
  • A statement of up to 100 words explaining why you are applying for the bursary
  • An outline of any expenses/access needs for which you would like to apply to the discretionary fund: what they are and costs
Decisions about bursaries will be made by 6th May and notifications will be issued shortly after. The criteria for awarding bursaries are: 1. Quality and strength of submitted abstract. 2. Strategic case made by the WG conveners outlining the significance of the applicant’s contribution to the WG sessions (connection to advertised theme, methodological approach, expected outcomes). Conveners in each working group will consider applications according to the criteria above and will nominate one applicant to put forward for a bursary. Final decisions about awards, including requests for expenses and access costs, will be made by the TaPRA Executive Committee.

TaPRA at the University of Essex

For the 2022 conference, the Working Group sessions and Keynote talks will be located in the Essex Business School (EBS) on the Colchester campus; the UK’s first zero-carbon business school building, which features an indoor winter garden (https://www.eventessex.co.uk/portfolio/the-essex-business-school/). Working Group sessions will take place in Zoom-enabled lecture-room and classroom spaces in EBS, with live-streamed keynotes delivered from two large cutting edge Lecture Auditoriums. Live performance will be hosted at Essex’s on-campus Lakeside Theatre (https://lakesidetheatre.org.uk), which also has facilities to stream performances for those attending online. While the Practice-as-Research Gallery will be hosted in Essex’s iconic brutalist building, The Hexagon (https://www.eventessex.co.uk/portfolio/the-hexagon/), which sits in the heart of the University’s Green Flag Award-winning campus (https://www.essex.ac.uk/news/2021/10/13/green-flag-award-2021). The conference will have technical support from Essex’s AVS team, with training sessions provided for Working Group convenors in advance of the conference to support the delivery of blended WG sessions to mixed rooms of in-person/online delegates. For those in-person delegates who wish to attend the conference meal, food will be served in the Garden Suite of Wivenhoe House, a beautiful 18th Century four-star hotel on campus (in walking distance of the Essex Business School). This hotel/restaurant is near the quayside village of Wivenhoe, and minutes away from Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester (https://www.wivenhoehouse.co.uk). The meal will be followed by a live DJ set after dinner.

Please note: only one proposal may be submitted for a TaPRA event. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Participation. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the event; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the event venue.

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