SKH researcher criticizes the concept of performance in new book


"We must get a new critical understanding of the concept of performance". That is the opinion of assistant professor in dance theory Josefine Wikström in her new book recently published by Routledge Publishing.

The book is a revision of her PhD-thesis with the same title and which has two purposes. It is a critique of a concept of performance which, according to Josefine Wikström, dominate within scientific disciplines like cultural studies, dance-, performance- and art- theory. It also describes the writer’s construction of a new, critical concept of performance.  

-I discovered that the dominating concept of performance doesn’t make any difference between “art” and “non-art” and which therefore, when it is being used on art and dance, become a-historical and positivistic in an uncritical way. In the book I criticize this partly by going back to philosophers and traditions of philosophy on which such a concept of performance is built on, amongst others the North American pragmatist John Dewey, says Josefine Wikström.  

Crucial thinkers  
In the new critical concept of performance, presented in the book, Josefine Wikström investigates dance and performance from within terms like abstraction, object, practice and structure. 
- I use thinkers like Theodor Adorno and Karl Marx. They are thinkers who are vital for thinking performance in a contemporary art’s paradigm.  

The book is a minor revision of Josefine Wikström’s PhD thesis with the same title that she defended in 2017 at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy in London.  
- I worked with my PhD thesis for many years, so to see it as a physical object means a lot to me. I am especially curious on the reception of the book amongst different readers. The plan is to arrange a book release with a conversation later this spring, she says. 

Active for 15 years 
​​Josefine has been active within the dance- and art- scene in Sweden and internationally for about 15 years, she holds a PhD in philosophy and her research is focused on performance practices in relation to questions of labour, value and critique. She is educated at Stockholm university, Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy and London Contemporary Dance School and she has worked as a dance- and art-critic, curator, dancer and now foremost as a researcher and critic.  

-I have worked at SKH since 2013, primarily at the Department of Dance, but I have also taught at many other of SKH’s departments as a guest teacher. I teach on BA-, MA- and PhD-level, as well as being in charge of several freestanding courses. I am also part of the valuation committee for internal research funding at SKH, says Josefine Wikström.  

Josefine has used several of the ideas from her new book as the basis for her teaching at the different levels at SKH, most recently at the PhD course Perspectives on theory and practice through artistic writing. 

Funding from Riksbankens jubileumsfond 
In 2020 Josefine Wikström in addition received a 3-year grant from RJ (For the Advancement of the Humanities and Social Sciences), together with Kim West and Gustav Strandberg, both doctors in philosophy and aesthetics at Södertörn Högskola.  

Read more about Josefine Wikström's research project at SKH