Decolonizing Performance Practices
There is no word for ‘performance’ in Arabic, nor is there a term for decoloniality. To engage with so-called decolonizing performance practices within communities of artists in the Arabic speaking region, West Asian and North African communities, or in their large diaspora in Europe and in the United States, we could only be decolonized by speaking and writing in English. How can we decolonize performance practices when we must always go through the language of the former British empire that has colonized much of the world? How can we address decoloniality through the knowledge structures that have long sustained cognitive injustices against non-western people and their aesthetic canons? Of what colonies do we speak of in the art world when we engage with decolonizing artistic practices? And how can we speak of decoloniality in western institutions concerned with contemporary dance and performance when we are unable to speak of Palestine, and use nuanced political terms to address the struggle of Palestinians under colonial rule today? The colonial is fleeting, the decolonial is as well, because the empire is alive and well. We do not live in a postcolonial reality. We live in hypercoloniality. Some of us are shielded from this reality, except for moments when they see Gaza under attack, and must suddenly think of colonialism once more. Others living under the rubble must first read books authored by dead white writers, in order for their scholarship or artistic legacy to be given ‘primetime’ in western academic and curatorial institutions.
This lecture will present evidence of ongoing colonialism through and because of contemporary performance practices, will address the growing curatorial trend of decolonizing artistic practices and revisiting ethnographic museology, and through questioning the politics of our language as we address contemporary performance, we will arrive at the language of our politics in the contemporary art world between the empire and the colonies.
is a choreographer, composer, curator, historian and theorist. In 2006, he established HaRaKa Platform, Egypt’s first institution dedicated to contemporary dance and performance research and practice. Since 2012, he has been documenting and historicizing the work of contemporary Arab performance artists, through the project ARC.HIVE, initiated by HaRaKa Platform. As an artist, his work stages queer chronotopias, reenacting and fortelling political and epistemological ruptures. He investigates minoritarian embodied performance techniques, from exorcism rituals, to Zar and Mevlevi Sema. His work, often created in collaboration with HaRaKa Platform core members, has been presented at Sharjah Architecture Triennial (UAE), MoMA PS1 and La Mama Theatre (USA), Hebbel Am Ufer (Germany), Cairo Opera House and Townhouse Gallery (Egypt), Damascus Opera House (Syria), among other reputable venues. As a theorist and a historian, his work focuses on a critique of postcolonial discourse, the Anthropocene, language and performance, and climate catastrophe.
He has lectured at Middle East Studies Association (MESA), History of Knowledge (Netherlands), Cite’ de la Culture (Tunisia), School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (France), Universitaet der Kuenste (Germany), among several others. Adham Hafez holds a Master’s of Philosophy in Performance from New York University, a second Master’s degree in political science and the arts from SciencesPo Paris, and a third Master’s degree in choreography from Amsterdam University of the Arts. He studied for his PhD at the Performance Studies Department of New York University, where he currently teaches Arab Queer Theory, and Non-Western performance practices. Currently, Adham Hafez is co-founding Wizara, the first Artists-for-Artists Blockchain based platform, offering tools to empower digital artists to engage with programmable autonomous art.