Just right: performing facilitation as artistic research

Adelheid Mers
40 min Presentation + 40 min Discussion
Olavshallen: Korsalen
Facilitation techniques — developed and alive in activist theater contexts (Preston 2016), largely defanged as popular, cultural, and corporate compliance delivery systems, and recently reintroduced holistically in social justice work (Brown 2021) — are under-represented and under-utilized as artistic research practices. They draw on performance modalities, while also engaging more broadly with architecture, design, sculpture, language, and gaming in their intersections with co-operative practices. Drawing on a forthcoming paper for Performance Research Journal, I discuss how facilitation can be fruitfully located at the core or “the dynamic middle” of Peircean diagrammatic processes, where “a continuum of possible realizations is built into a diagram” (Stjernfelt 2007). Associated exercises will make palpable the role of the artistic facilitator: devising or co-devising and guarding this diagrammatic space, holding it open as widely as possible for participants’ polyvalent imagination and diffractive co-articulation. The deep potential of facilitation techniques is the ability to translate among multiple, embodied, and otherwise enshrined models of meaning making, while also rendering their underlying ontologies transparent. Allied with embodied, affirmative critique (Braidotti 2010), such transparency surfaces epistemic diversity by challenging “the occlusive constitution of the field of categories themselves” (Butler 2002). This work connects to and branches off from the SIG, “Language-based Artistic Research,” to which I have made multiple contributions. By presenting my research on the diagrammicity of my artistic practice, Performative Diagrammatics, in conjunction with exercises in facilitation design, I hope to expand on the Diagrammatic Facilitation workshop, “Micro-Practices for a New Gentleness,” which I offered at SAR 2022, to explore and support interest in a SIG on “Facilitation as Artistic Research.”

Adelheid Mers

Adelheid Mers is a visual artist, who works through Performative Diagrammatics. Her research draws on close work with others in support of epistemic diversity. Work takes place nationally and internationally, for example in residency, conference and exhibition settings. Educated at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and the University of Chicago, she is Professor and chair of the department of Arts Administration and Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Mers currently co-leads the working group Performance & Pedagogy at PSi.