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Keynote Speaker


Performance Design: What has Love got to do with it?


How do cruel and alienating acts contribute to performing love in a new century troubled by pandemics, uprisings, and displacements? It has been over 20 years since US theorist Jon McKenzie published Perform or Else (2001), a seminal text that established ‘performance’ as a means of measuring cultural efficacy, managerial efficiency, and technological effectiveness, thereby operating beyond the performing arts to address troubling socio-political realities. This coincided with the formulation of Performance Design as “a fluid and emerging field”, alongside the initial academic program established at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand. A global proliferation of Performance Design programs has since followed with the idiom adopted by the Prague Quadrennial in 2009, repositioning scenography within a more extensive interdisciplinary arena. However, is the term still floundering in theatre design and avoiding a deeper engagement with the ‘real’ world? Dorita Hannah – who established the field, led the Massey program, and co-edited the first anthology – will revisit it as “a critical tool to reflect, confront and realign worldviews” (2018, 19), emphasizing compassionate engagement with reality and the Lacanian ‘Real’. She utilises McKenzie’s essay ‘Global Feeling: (Almost) all you need is love’, which expands the term to encompass our contemporary world as “a designed environment in which an array of global performances unfold – for better or for worse” (2008: 128). Here ‘political love’ comes into play, also described by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten as a haptic means for us to “feel (for) each other” (2013: 98). Revisiting her written publications and collaborative projects over the last two decades, Hannah (like McKenzie) advocates feeling ‘a/part’ – simultaneously a part of and apart from – as the basis for a critical spatial practice, which brings together Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and Bertolt Brecht’s Theatre of Alienation through performance design as empathic double presencing.


Dorita Hannah (2019). Sites + Situations Lapland

Hannah/Harsløf (2008): ‘Introduction’ to Performance Design. MTP

Harney/Moten (2013): The Undercommons. Minor Compositions

Lacan, J (1990): Television. Norton & Co.

McKenzie, J (2001): Perform or Else: Discipline and Performance. Routledge Press

McKenzie, J (2008): ‘Global Feeling: (Almost) all you need is Love’ in Performance Design. MTP



Dr Dorita Hannah is a New Zealand-based designer and independent academic whose practice and research – operating across the architectural, performing, culinary and visual arts – focus on performance space and spatial performativity. Her international projects range from theatre architecture (space-in-action) to public events (action-in-space), addressing the dynamics, politics and intermediality of the public realm. Hannah has published on Performance Design and Event-Space, while designing, curating and directing exhibitions, installations, performances, feasts, symposia and workshops.


Her creative work has gained awards and citations and has been regularly selected for exhibition in World Stage Design and the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design & Space for which she been Architecture Commissioner (2011) and Theory Curator (2015). In 2019 Hannah was selected to represent Aotearoa New Zealand in PQ’s Fragments Exhibition as a “celebrated ‘Living Legend’ of performance design whose work keeps inspiring new generations of artists and audiences.”  Hannah currently co-chairs the Performance+Design Working Group for PSi (Performance Studies international) and co-convenes the Theatre & Architecture Working Group for IFTR (International federation of Theatre Research).

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