Can Performance Save The World?

October 4-7, 2012

Proposal Deadline Extended to March 19, 2012  

The sev­enth Per­form­ing the World (PTW) con­fer­ence will be held in New York City, Thurs­day, Octo­ber 4 through Sun­day Octo­ber 7, 2012. Inter­na­tional, cross-disciplinary, con­ver­sa­tional, expe­ri­en­tial, and practical-critical, PTW has come over the decade to play an increas­ingly impor­tant role in sup­port­ing and expand­ing "the per­for­mance turn" around the world. If you prac­tice and/or study per­for­mance as a means of indi­vid­ual, com­mu­nity and world trans­for­ma­tion (or want to), PTW is for you.

The theme of the last PTW, held in 2010 and attended by over 500 peo­ple from dozens of coun­tries, was, "Can Per­for­mance Change the World?" The depth of the chal­lenges fac­ing human­ity two short years later have led the con­ven­ers of Per­form­ing the World to recast the ques­tion for the 2012 con­fer­ence as, "Can Per­for­mance Save the World?"

Dead­locked gov­ern­ments, pro­tracted wars, dys­func­tional edu­ca­tion sys­tems, and a deep­en­ing global eco­nomic cri­sis with no appar­ent solu­tion have become the norm. At the same time, the activ­ity of per­for­mance (and play­ing and pre­tend­ing and cre­at­ing…), as an alter­na­tive to the cog­ni­tive and/or faith-based "solu­tions" of tra­di­tional ide­ol­ogy, con­tin­ues to spread both at the grass­roots and in the uni­ver­sity, with the non-ideological, impro­visatory move­ments strug­gling to embody this trend. PTW is look­ing for pro­pos­als, be they for pan­els, work­shops, per­for­mances, demon­stra­tions, instal­la­tions, etc., that address this ques­tion, "Can per­for­mance save the world?" from a mul­ti­tude of per­spec­tives, includ­ing but not lim­ited to: 

· Does per­for­mance con­tribute to peo­ple seeing/being in the world in new ways?
· Can we per­form our way to end­ing poverty?
· Per­for­mance and com­mu­nity build­ing and sus­tain­abil­ity
· The inter­face of the­atre per­for­mance and per­for­mance in daily life
· Per­for­mance and learn­ing
· Per­for­mance and youth devel­op­ment, in school and out
· Per­for­mance and the elderly
· Per­for­mance, play and ther­a­peu­tics
· The rela­tion­ship of per­for­mance to phys­i­cal and emo­tional heal­ing
· Health and the per­for­mance of med­i­cine (East and West)
· New model of com­mu­nity health and human rights
· What is cre­ative con­ver­sa­tion and how can it take place in  

polar­ized (and vio­lent) envi­ron­ments?
· The role of the­atre and per­for­mance in war and con­flict zones
· What is play and its role in human cre­ativ­ity and devel­op­ment?
· The social con­text of cre­ativ­ity
· When "rea­son­ing" and "argu­ment" fail, what then?
· Per­for­mance and the cre­ation of his­tory
· Does know­ing get in the way of per­form­ing?
· The role of cognition/reflection in per­for­mance
· The per­for­mance of lan­guage and the lan­guage of per­for­mance
· Per­for­mance and orga­ni­za­tional cul­ture
· The role of per­for­mance in pol­i­tics and rev­o­lu­tion
· Does it take pre­tend­ing to make change real?

We envi­sion Per­form­ing the World 2012 as a marathon "per­for­mance of con­ver­sa­tion" with peo­ple from all over the world — schol­ars and researchers; edu­ca­tors, ther­a­pists, social work­ers, youth work­ers; doc­tors and other health work­ers; the­atre, applied the­atre and other per­for­mance artists; social activists and com­mu­nity orga­niz­ers; busi­ness lead­ers and phil­an­thropists; film, video and media cre­atives; and oth­ers.

The spon­sors of Per­form­ing the World 2012 are the  

All Stars Project, Inc. and the East Side Insti­tute for Group and Short Term Psychother­apy. PTW will be held at the All Stars Project's per­for­mance and devel­op­ment cen­ter on 42nd Street in New York City.

Pro­posal sub­mis­sion forms are avail­able at

Con­fer­ence Fees
Before July 1, 2012: $235 (US)
After July 1, 2012: $275 (US)
[NOTE: there is no one-day rate.]

A key part of the Per­form­ing the World expe­ri­ence is the person-to-person con­nec­tion — the build­ing of new rela­tion­ships with peo­ple from around the globe. If you need a place to stay dur­ing the conference, our Inter­na­tional Host Com­mit­tee will make every effort to find you one in a home of a New Yorker.

A Brief His­tory of PTW

Per­form­ing the World (PTW) was born in a con­ver­sa­tion between East Side Insti­tute co-founder, the late Fred New­man, and me at the end of the sum­mer of 2000. We had already "dis­cov­ered" per­for­mance, and its essen­tial role in human devel­op­ment and learn­ing was key to the ther­a­peu­tic, edu­ca­tional and community-organizing work of the East Side Insti­tute and its broader com­mu­nity. At the same time, New­man and I were also hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with Ken and Mary Ger­gen, lead­ing social-constructionist psy­chol­o­gists who them­selves were turn­ing toward per­for­mance, par­tic­u­larly by exper­i­ment­ing with new per­for­ma­tory modes of pre­sent­ing research and schol­ar­ship. Dur­ing the 1990s at annual meet­ings of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion, we and the Ger­gens did some joint per­for­ma­tory symposia and Newman's orig­i­nal "psy­chol­ogy plays" were performed — all to great enthu­si­asm. We were encour­aged, and wanted to do some­thing big­ger and of our own structure.

My inter­na­tional trav­els had intro­duced me to many dif­fer­ent per­for­ma­tory prac­tices ini­ti­ated at both the grass­roots and from within the uni­ver­si­ties. I met dozens of peo­ple and heard of hun­dreds more who were using per­for­mance to help peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties grow and cre­ate pos­i­tive social change. We decided to reach out to those doing this work/play — from com­mu­nity orga­niz­ers to busi­ness peo­ple, from artists to social work­ers, from ther­a­pists to teachers.

The first Per­form­ing the World con­fer­ence was held in Octo­ber 2001, just a few weeks after 9/11. Hun­dreds from all over the world showed up at the beau­ti­ful ocean side vil­lage of Mon­tauk, 120 miles from New York City, as if this kind of gath­er­ing was what they and their com­mu­ni­ties needed at such a moment.

There have been five PTWs since then. The last two — in 2008 and 2010 — were held in New York City, bring­ing the con­fer­ence to one of the most vibrant and diverse cul­tural cen­ters of the world and part­ner­ing with the All Stars Project as co-sponsor. PTW has been greatly enriched by hav­ing the All Stars' per­form­ing arts and devel­op­ment cen­ter on 42nd Street near Times Square as the conference's home base and by the inclu­sion of hun­dreds of young peo­ple and adults who par­tic­i­pate in its pro­grams. Addi­tion­ally, both the Insti­tute and the All Stars reach out to friends across New York City's many commu­ni­ties to pro­vide hous­ing for PTW par­tic­i­pants and broaden the "per­for­mance space." I am inspired by the growth of the global perfor­mance move­ment and the role that PTW is play­ing in it, as not only a conference/performance fes­ti­val but also a unique com­mu­nity event bring­ing peo­ple together to per­form a new world.

Lois Holz­man

To read more from Lois Holz­man, direc­tor of the East Side Insti­tute and PTW's chief orga­nizer, read her blog and download her papers from the East Side Insti­tute library.