Leap into Action

Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education

by Lee Campbell (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection XII, 290 Pages


Leap into Action asks: "What happens when performative arts meet pedagogy?" and views performative teaching as building students’ understanding of complex ideas and concepts "through action." It provides the theoretical, philosophical, and conceptual terrain by setting forth the scholarly rationale as to what performative pedagogy is at this moment across Art & Design education. Contributions are made from individuals and groups across art and design disciplines who deploy innovative pedagogic approaches with an emphasis on performativity. To underline that Art & Design does not only happen within the institution, Leap into Action provides rich intertextual material that draws upon the experiences of practitioners. Leap into Action is intended to prompt new angles from which to examine one’s practice including and beyond pedagogy, mainly in terms of art, design and performance, and disciplines further afield. Whilst Leap into Action engages with performative pedagogies through disruptions, interruptions, tricksters, liminalities, affective bodies, sensory encounters, and technoparticipation, it calls into question what risk-taking means in an arts school context and the tension (even paradox) that exists between wanting to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment and provoking students out of their comfort zones through experimental performative pedagogy and playfulness. Whilst engagement with performative strategies may be a ‘risky’ strategy, the rewards can be great. Enter the unknown, take a leap into action, and have fun.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction: Critical Performative Pedagogies: Principles, Processes and Practices
  • Part I: Radical Not-Knowing: Disruptions, Interventions, and Liminalities
  • Chapter One: A Leap into Dissociated Space: Liminality, Liberation, and Action in Performative Pedagogies
  • Chapter Two: Assembling Agency—Learning in Liminal Spaces
  • Provocation One: The Swerve
  • Glenn Loughran
  • Peter Bond
  • Neil Mulholland
  • Adrian Rifkin and John Seth
  • Chapter Three: Regulation, Resistance, Readiness and Care: What Can Be Learnt by Performing the Peripheral Behaviours of Artists?
  • Chapter Four: Doing Without, Inside. Scenes from a Scenario (Stagings for a Conversation)
  • Provocation Two: The Art of Interruption
  • Alex Schady
  • Steve Fossey
  • Adam Cooke and Paul Jones
  • Christabel Harley
  • Gill Foster
  • Adrian Lee
  • Chapter Five: Tricks and Erasers: Disruption as Performance Pedagogy
  • Chapter Six: Pausing to (Re)frame: Using Actioning and Positive Reflection in Performative Learning and Teaching
  • Chapter Seven: Gaps
  • Chapter Eight: Feelings to Knowledge: The Trouble with Sensations, Matter and Systems
  • Part II: Proximities and Encounters: Bodies, Senses and Affects
  • Chapter Nine: DEMO CHELSEA #
  • Chapter Ten: Strange Continuities
  • Provocation Three: From Space to (Embodied) Place: A Manifesto for Sensory Learning in Site-Specific Practices
  • James Layton
  • Nathan Geering
  • Paul Vivian
  • Nic Chalmers and Sarah May
  • Jo Hassall
  • Chapter Eleven: Beyond the Visual: Exploring the Intersection of Performative Pedagogy, Interaction and Multimodal Interventions in the Creative Classroom
  • Chapter Twelve: Harnessing the Power of the White Cube: The Contemporary Art Gallery as a Liminal Space for Multisensory Learning
  • Chapter Thirteen: Drawing Performance: Creating Confident Collaborators Through Movement, Mark Making, Dance and Dialogue
  • Part III: Technoparticipation: Traversing Physical/Digital Thresholds
  • Provocation Four: Transition
  • David Parkes
  • Cathy Gale
  • Laura Davidson
  • Pauline de Souza
  • Aaron D. Knochel
  • Chapter Fourteen: How Do You Wish to Be Operated? Cultivating Technological Disruption for Creativity
  • Chapter Fifteen: Art Apart: Collaboration and Disruption in the Virtual and Augmented Immersive Space
  • Chapter Sixteen: ‘Materials in Motion’: Using Film as a Method for Exploring Material Qualities
  • Provocation Five: Not Enough Immersion?
  • Lee Campbell
  • Chapter Seventeen: Relating and Acting: Learning, Embodiment and Performance in Virtual Worlds
  • Chapter Eighteen: Performing the Live Image: Critical Materiality, Visual Culture and Art Education
  • Conclusion: Critical Performative Pedagogies: Look Before You Leap
  • Notes on Contributors


Critical Performative Pedagogies: Principles, Processes and Practices


through action: student as politicised active critical thinker and doer

[R]eform-minded educators are beginning to use performance to conceptualize educational culture by examining the rules, roles, and rituals that engage its participants[…]Despite this burgeoning interest in performance, however, the ways in which educators playing out the teaching/performance analogy have not recognised the value of performance as a generative metaphor for educational phenomena. (Pineau, 1994: 5)

Twenty-five years on from Elyse Pineau’s (1994) provocative statements above, this volume (monograph and companion) explores the topic of critical performative pedagogy in both theory and practice today. As you journey through the volume, what is discussed will fire your imagination and serve as calls for action to embrace innovative ways of engaging teaching and learning through theorisation, articulation and demonstration of the exciting and timely ‘intersection between pedagogy and performance’ (Louis, 2005: 335). Contestations, deliberations and debates occurring during paper presentations and question and answer sessions taking place at two events which I organised in 2017 and 2018; first, the conference Provocative Pedagogies: Performative Teaching and Learning in the Arts held at the University of Lincoln, UK (co-organised with Lisa Gaughan), in October ←1 | 2→2017 and secondly, a conference stream on critical performative pedagogies as part of London Conference in Critical Thought at the University of Westminster, UK, in June 2018 affirmed the need for such a volume situating performative pedagogies within the context of Art and Design education, beyond the discipline of language teaching, the discipline where publication on this topic has received the most recent attention.

A pedagogy founded on performance art represents the praxis of the post-modern ideals of progressive education, a process through which spectators/students learn to challenge the ideologies of institutionalised learning to facilitate political agency. (Garoian, 1999a)

Emerging as a direct response to what I have identified as an international community (including myself) of active critical thinkers and doers from within and beyond the academic community (teachers, scholars, artists and practitioners) with shared pedagogic interests built upon the principles, processes and practices of performance and performativity, this volume brings forth tactics of performative pedagogy within teaching and learning so that students, extending Charles Garoian’s ideas above, may become politicised active critical thinkers and doers. Comprising this monograph publication and a companion (a Fluxus-style instruction manual), the volume is organised into three parts which propose an educational ethos grounded upon building students’ understanding of complex ideas and concepts through action. Performative pedagogies enable a new, or deepened, critical awareness of power, its uses and abuses in ‘ordinary’ life, and how social power (Foucault, 1980) operates in all aspects of our lives. Performance is a means of planning a situation where power relations can be explored in terms of ‘the effects of power [in] shaping and misshaping the pedagogical act’ (Kincheloe, 2008: 3) in relation to the implicit ‘contract’ between student and tutor. A pedagogy centred upon performance mirrors the power plays that take place in all forms of daily human existence. This points to the ‘larger relevance of critical pedagogy involving its capacity to expose [make visible] life’s permanent conditions of oppression and exploitation’ (ibid.: 86). Students and tutors become ‘detectives of new theoretical insights, perpetually searching for new and interconnected ways of understanding power and oppression and the ways they shape everyday life and human experience’ (ibid.: 49).

This introduction draws from my earlier writing on various aspects of performance, fine art and current innovations in art and design pedagogy for Journal for Pedagogic Research (Campbell, 2017a), Spark: UAL Creative Teaching and Learning Journal (Campbell, 2018) and Body Space Technology (Campbell, 2019).1 Drawing stimuli and going beyond discussions in these publications, here I take an interdisciplinary approach and weld together artistic, performative and current pedagogic thinking and practices to produce a critical performative pedagogy that speaks directly to the needs and challenges of contemporary art and design education. ←2 | 3→Such an approach encourages and supports interdisciplinary working and cross collaboration between departments. Resisting the sometimes-insular working nature of different departments and instead allowing the skills and knowledge from individual courses to transfer, I suggest, culminates in a rich(er) experience for all students. Teaching is a form of pedagogic performance. Teaching and performance are both about communication. Peggy Phelan (1993) suggests they too embody collaboration:

The pedagogical class, like any performance event, is a collaboration. Each person is part of the group and each apart from it. Collectively the class creates ‘a piece.’ The piece is a statement about each one’s relation—political, psychic, performative, affective, geographical, economic, physical, aural—to the animation of ‘the material.’ (Phelan, 1993: 173)

In my own teaching, I enjoy setting up collaborative projects/‘collaborative fictions’ (Pineau, 1994: 10) to inspire and motivate my students to understand their practice in different forms, underlining that interdisciplinary ways of working prepares them for multiple projects as graduates. Students understand how to work in a professional context in an interdisciplinary manner, broadening their employment prospects. The interdisciplinary context of previous projects I have set up (combining performance, fine art and collaboration methodologies) have sophisticated the students’ understandings of their own practice, also enabling them to see their work in a professional context which helps bridge the gap between university study and graduation.

Provoking Participation: Tactics of Performative Pedagogy. As part of a guest lecture that I gave at University College Cork, Ireland, in May 2016, the chair Professor Manfred Schewe asked, ‘What happens when performative arts meet pedagogy?’ and went on to suggest the following:

In any pedagogical situation, you want the learners to feel safe. On the other hand, you must know that you may be faced with group where there isn’t a lot of dynamics, there’s a lot of sleepiness and so on, and you [the teacher] want to somehow make them active, challenge them. Performative arts would have a lot of strategies. (Schewe, 2016)

Art and design as disciplines require technical skills and abilities that mean art colleges in providing education, as well as training, emphasise experiential learning (Kolb, 1984; Schön, 2001) as part of core teaching philosophy. Gregory Sholette and Nato Thompson (2004) refer to tactics as ‘manoeuvres’ (2004: 13) as resembling tools: ‘like a hammer, a glue gun or a screwdriver, they are means for building and deconstructing a situation’ (ibid.: 14).

As long as education remains ‘utilitarian’ and performance ‘entertainment,’ the claim that teaching is performance will evoke nothing beyond the facile acknowledgment that a certain theatricality can help hold the attention of drowsy undergraduates in early morning or late afternoon classes. (Pineau, 1994: 5)

←3 |

Concurring with this definition, to understand and ‘deconstruct’ how performative ‘strategies’ (Schewe, 2016) as tactics may ‘enable [experiential] learning to happen’ (Fry, Ketteridge, & Marshall, 2009: 3) and far extend beyond Pineau’s (1994) suggestion above of performance as (mere) entertainment, the central premise underpinning the contents of discussions taking place within chapters across this volume is that deployment of performative pedagogies rapidly increases the possibilities of experiential learning and leads to an enriched form of (student) participation and emergent knowledge base in terms of action, doing and the body.

Performance art pedagogy exposes the body as the palimpsest on which academic culture continually inscribes its ideologies. By using the body as material, process, and site, students learn to rewrite and re-present the cultural codes inscribed on their bodies and, in doing so, to construct their own identities and create new cultural myths with which to challenge the body politic. (Garoian, 1999b: 57)

Gravitating this focus, the volume thinks through the possibilities of performance as both ‘topic and method’ (Pineau, 1994: 6) in terms of teaching and learning that emphasises embodied experience to ‘challenge the body politic’ as suggested by Garoian above. Taking flight from the question ‘How might the disciplinary knowledge of performance studies enrich pedagogical uses of performance as both metaphor and methodology?’ (ibid.: 9), Leap into Action proposes a range of exciting teaching and learning encounters where, in many examples, ‘the body is our method, our subject, our means of making meaning, representing, and performing’ (Medina & Perry, 2011: 63). As Mel Jordan (2017) observes, ‘the continuing debate on representation in art, that oscillates between pictures of ideas (meaning to be interpreted by the onlooker) and artworks as actual actions in the world that ‘affect’ a cause by deed or critique’ (2017: 13). Indeed, in art and design education, students are often shown artistic representations of an idea/thing which in themselves are representations and depictions. To disrupt these historical precedents, critical performative pedagogy can be viewed as a leap into action, a pedagogy underpinned by action as opposed to representation. This importance placed on action corresponds with John Langham Austin’s version of the speech act (1962): ‘Performative utterances constitute an action being done as a result of the utterance i.e., “I do” in a marriage ceremony or “I name this ship”’. Phelan (1993) offers a useful definition of Austin’s theory:

Austin argued that speech had both a constative element (describing things in the world) and a performative element (to say something is to do or to make something, I promise, I beg, I bet). Performative speech acts refer only to themselves, they enact the activity the speech signifies. (1993: 149)

Activating and enacting performative pedagogies based upon action and doing results in students acquiring working practical, embodied and emotional forms of ←4 | 5→knowledge where they move ideas beyond abstraction through (bodily) engagement in performative acts. Rather than just verbally explaining an idea or showing some form of pictorial representation, students get to physically experience an idea/theory/concept. In this way, the classroom becomes a ‘venue for the construction of knowledge, not merely for its inculcation’ (Kincheloe, 2008: 88), positioned as a space of liminality (part-laboratory/part-discussion arena) so that students can move theories beyond abstraction to physical, emotional and practical tangibility, thus allowing them to connect theory with practice.

In a discussion between myself and other colleagues from across University of the Arts London whose research/practice interests include generating multimodal multisensory learning environments including Alex Lumley, Graham Barton and Catherine James (Scholarship, Research and Academic Practice Group meeting, London College of Communication, January 2018), we all agreed there to be a shortfall in thinking around teaching environments pushing forward multisensorial bodily teaching and learning strategies. Graham made the witty yet perfectly to-the-point remark that educators should ask less, ‘Where’s Wally?’ and far more, ‘Where’s body?’ Performative pedagogies represent a harnessing of risk-taking—a pedagogy of risk. The stakes are higher in terms of risk when using such a pedagogy, as students engage not just their mental faculties with an idea, so too do they grasp ideas with their bodies through direct physical engagement. How can we generate a critical pedagogy that emphasises critical consciousness of the body? A pedagogy that extends and goes beyond current discussions of the useful but somewhat generic term ‘multisensory learning’? I argue that educators need a terminology for a pedagogy of the body and not just for those educators working in disciplines where the physical body may be said to be a key component in theoretical discussion and practical exploration (e.g. theatre, drama and performance). Discussions around the performative may supply the necessary language tools to equip educators.

leap into action: narrative journey


XII, 290
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (February)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XII, 290 pp., 10 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Lee Campbell (Volume editor)

Lee Campbell, PhD received his doctorate from Loughborough University, United Kingdom in 2016. He is an artist and Lecturer in Academic Support at University of the Arts London. His previous publications include PARtake: The Journal of Performance as Research, Body Space Technology and Performance Paradigm.


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