Navigation – Plan du site

Signata 11 / The meaning of performance: from arts and beyond

Deadline: May 1st 2018
Maria José Contreras Lorenzini et Valeria De Luca


The opening that semiotics has demonstrated in the last few years to the theme of the practices, allowed to study more deeply the in-action dimension of meaning, the specificity of interaction and more generally, the practice of sense making.

The concept of semiotic practice as defined by Greimas and Courtés (1979) may be related to the notion of performance, as coined by Richard Schechner (1966), who described a broad-spectrum approach of behaviors and events that may be described in terms of their capacity to organize actions. According to Schechner’s perspective, there is an underlying dimension of “performance” to all human behavior.

Due to its transversality, the term performance gained rapid recognition in diverse disciplinary fields, being one of the predilect contemporary epistemes. One of the problems with this notion of performance is its buzzy boundaries and the lack of methodological and application tools. The semiotic approach may offer analytical and methodological appliances in order to better understand how “performances” are constructed and put in circulation in the social dimension — a sociality which is a firstly dimension of sense.

The next issue of Signata aims to study specifically the artistic declinations of performance from a semiotic perspective, studying thus their regimes of signification, efficacy, and social inscription. A semiotic perspective on artistic performances may consider diverse levels: for instance, it may be conceived as a simple value transformation, as in the case of the performances in greimasian semiotics where an established practice in a specific domain aims to produce certain acts. But artistic performances may also be conceived as practices that by the installation of a tension between diverse spaces of semiotic pertinence (real or fictional), or by a different pertinentization operations modulates the presence and the actions efficacy, produce certain aesthetic effects.

Remaining in the field of the “artistic” performances, a semiotic perspective allows to deepen some aspects as:

  • The event nature of performance despite the tension between program and improvisation. This aspect emphasizes the constitution of the scene itself, of the space and time of performance and all the elements that may affect or problematize its recognition and course of action.

  • A certain actantial reversibility since the performance provides — or at least does not prevent — multi-stakeholder and distributed initiatives (calling or overturning the role of the audience, but also proving “test” operations towards the audience, particularly in performances with audience activation devices).

  • A work in the space of action and on other spaces (enunciation, media, etc.) that can multiply the instances of the artwork, creating new landscapes, scenes or actors that overlap in the development of the performance, especially in cases where there are different types of media or, even when, complete technological environments are realized. In other words, the performative device seems to possess, more than others, the ability to generate tensions and perturbations between spaces (institutional, pertinence, etc.) that contribute to its own identification;

  • The repetition — and, more generally, the rhythmic management of the course of action — which, despite of the event dimension of the performance, intervenes mainly in forms of reenactment. The repetition of what has happened in the past (or, on the contrary, the prefiguration of the becoming, as in pre-enactment forms) concerns both the relationship to the past event, the story, and the relationship to the performance event, as the traces and materials through which different temporalities are (re)built. In this way, the repetition of reenactment forms results in specific choices of action in the reconstitution of the singularity of the historical event, reconstitution which sometimes declines in the mode of witnessing, and others as an alternative figuration of the course of history;

  • The relationship between the always ephemeral and deictically located event and its archiving on media such as video, photography or texts. This aspect focuses on forms of intersemiotic translation between different signification regimes, and in particular on possible enunciative and mediation strategies capables of reconfiguring an “object” that by its very nature exceeds the limits of the textualization of the presence in atto;

  • The complex and multimodal relationships between different corporealities (the bodies of performers, the audience, the objects) and the establishment of inter-bodily communication systems that may have repercussions on somatic and / or passional efficacy and, in general, on different sensory regimes;

  • The hybrid forms of reciprocal reconfiguration between digital and corporeal presence in the actual context of performance, in so far as the creation and action in virtual spaces and in digital environments complicates the idea of performance as a space for co-presence.

Theoretical and analytical contributions will be welcomed on the following topics:

  • The relationship between backstage practices and performance topics;

  • The amplification of bodies (actors and objects) through mediatization of the performance;

  • The links between the subjective experience of the performer and the spectator’s reception;

  • The links between the singular event and repetition, and between the project (eventually disappeared) and improvisation;

  • The role of performances in the institution of values and in the construction of social and cultural identities conceived as acts of claim, of grip of an existential word;

  • The relationship between performance and narrative;

  • The possible intersections between the performance device and other artistic and / or socio-cultural practices;

  • The specific forms of configuration of the political dimension through performance practices, as in the case of different callings of “pubic/audience” in perfomances-trials aiming at reconfiguring justice acts and the stage itself of the trial (cf. De Toledo, Imhoff, Quirós 2016).

Important dates and Guidelines for submitting

Proposals must be submitted by May 1st 2018, to the following adresses: v.deluca.83[at], contreras.mariajose[at]

Once the proposal is accepted, the paper has to be sent by September 1st 2018.

Guidelines for submitting:


Banes Sally, Lepecki André (eds.), The Senses in Performance, London/New York, Routledge, 2007.

Bay-Cheng Sarah, Kattenbelt Chiel, Lavender Andy, Nelson Robin (eds.), Mapping Intermediality in Performance, Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 2010.

Bial Henry, (ed.), The Performance Studies Reader, London, Routledge, [2004] 2007.

Biet Christian, Roques Sylvie (eds.), “Performance. Le corps exposé”, Communications, vol. 1, n° 92, 2013, en ligne :

Bouissac Paul, Circus as Multimodal Discourse. Performance, Meaning and Ritual, London/New York, Bloomsbury, 2012.

Carlson Marvin, Theatre semiotics, signs of life, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1990.

Davies David, Philosophy of the Performing Arts, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

De Marinis Marco, The Semiotics of Performance. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, [1982] 1993.

De Toledo Camille, Imhoff Aliocha, Quirós Kintuta, Les Potentiels du temps. Art et politique, Paris, Manuella Éditions, 2016.

De Toro Fernando, Theatre Semiotics. Text and Staging in Modern Theatre, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1995.

Eco Umberto, “Semiotics of Theatrical Performance”, The Drama Review, vo. 21, n° 1, 1977, p. 107-117.

Fischer-Lichte Erika, The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics, London/New York, Routledge, 2008.

Fischer-Lichte Erika, The Routledge Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies, London/New York, Routledge, 2014.

Fischer-Lichte Erika, Benjamin Wihstutz (eds.), Performance and the Politics of Space. Theatre and Topology, New York, Routledge, 2013.

Greimas Algirdas Julien, Courtés Joseph, Sémiotique. Dictionnaire raisonné de la théorie du langage, Paris, Hachette, 1993 [1979].

Harding James M., Rosenthal Cindy (eds.), The Rise of Performance Studies. Rethinking Richard Schechner’s Broad Spectrum, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Helbo André, Theory of performing arts, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins, 1987.

Helbo André, Signes du spectacle. Des arts vivants aux médias, Bruxelles, Peter Lang, 2006.

Helbo André (ed.), Performance et savoirs, Louvain-la-Neuve, De Boeck Supérieur, 2011.

Kozel Susan Closer, Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology, Cambridge Mass., The MIT Press, 2008.

McKenzie Jon, Perform or else: from discipline to performance. London/New York, Routledge, 2001.

Lepecki André, Singularities. Dance in the age of performance, London/New York, Routledge, 2016.

Pavis Patrice, The Routledge dictionary of performance and contemporary theatre, London/New York, Routledge, 2016.

Pietropaolo Domenico, Semiotics and Pragmatics of Stage Improvisation, London/New York, Bloomsbury, 2016.

Reinelt Janelle, Roach Joseph (eds.), Critical Theory and Performance, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 2007.

Sack Daniel, After Live. Possibility, Potentiality, and the Future of Performance, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 2015.

Sindoni Maria Grazia, Wildfeuer Janina, O’Halloran Kay L. (eds.), “Special Issue of Social Semiotics: The Languages of Performing Arts: Semiosis, Communication, Meaning-Making”, Social Semiotics 26/4, 2016.

Sindoni Maria Grazia, Wildfeuer Janina, O’Halloran Kay L. (eds.), Mapping Multimodal Performance Studies, London/New York, Routledge, 2017.

Schechner Richard, “Approaches to Theory Criticism”, Tulane Drama Review, vol. 10, n° 4, 1966, p. 20-53.

Schechner Richard, Performance Theory, London/New York, Routledge, [1988] 2003.

Schechner Richard, Performance Studies: An Introduction, London/New York, Routledge [2002] 2013.

Schechner Richard, Performed Imaginaries, London/New York, Routledge, 2015.

Schneider Rebecca, Performing Remains. Art and war in times of theatrical reenactment, London/New York, Routledge, 2011.

Taylor Diana, Fuentes, Marcela (eds.), Estudios avanzados de performance, México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011.

Taylor Diana, Performance, Durham/London, Duke University Press, 2016

Tomlinson Matt, Ritual Textuality. Pattern and Motion in Performance, New York, Oxford University Press, 2014.

Trenos Helen, Creativity: the Actor in Performance, Berlin, De Gruyter, 2014.

Haut de page
  • Logo Presses universiatires de Liège
  • Logo Université de Liège
  • OpenEdition Journals