Anarchy, Desire and Performance

Date: Wednesday 28 March 2018

“The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too!” (Mikhail Bakunin, 1842)

Anarchy is at once creative and destructive. Its creativity is often predicated on relatively peaceful forms of dissensus that target a symbolic order or ideology. However, whilst anarchism has at times aligned with violent forms of direct action, anarchism’s creative impulses are routinely folded into narratives that demonize diverse forms of dissent as violent assaults not just against an established order like a government or forces of governmentality, but against society and its constituents. This afternoon-long event responds by challenging this limited understanding of anarchy and anarchism by addressing anarchy as a source of creativity and hope, in particular by focusing on the ways in which artists past and present have turned to anarchist principles as a source of inspiration. Anarchist thought played important roles in the development of modernism, postmodernism and the avant-gardes (notable examples include the Situationist International, the Living Theatre and the San Francisco Diggers, as well as anarcho-punk and DIY), providing valuable context for how we might approach the politics and aesthetics of live art and contemporary performance. Anarchist principles also underpin the tactics and strategies of multiple forms of protest and educational initiatives that make creative use of theatre and performance (for instance, Reclaim the Streets and the Antiuniversity), encouraging an address not just of what we might consider in a research or pedagogic context, but also how we might do so.


In proposing anarchism as a key theme for our next interim event, and as the basis for a longer-term consideration of anarchy and performance, TaPRA’s Performance, Identity and Community Working Group are interested in addressing and unsettling assumptions that connect violence to anarchism by exploring the significance of hope and desire in anarchist thought and action. We’ll be mapping various historical intersections between art and anarchism, and asking how these might form an illuminating context for makers of theatre and performance in the present moment. Finally, we are interested in what theatre and performance might have to offer to how we conceptualise anarchism and make sense of its value and significance.

For this interim event, we invite regular members of the Working Group and anyone with an interest in our themes to register and participate in scoping out the terrain of anarchism, desire and performance in an afternoon of discussion, debate and practical experimentation.


The event will be taking place at Camden People’s Theatre in London, and runs as follows:

13:00-13:15: Registration

13:15-15:15: Panel and open discussion. Guest Speakers: Ally Walsh (University of Leeds), Valeria Graziano (Middlesex University), and Shiri Shalmy (Antiuniversity Now and independent curator and producer)

15:15-15:30: Break

15:30-17:00: Practical workshop & discussion with performance maker and scholar Daniel Oliver

This event is free, but all attendees must be (or become) registered TaPRA members. Please register for the event here:

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