The Dance Artist as Facilitator in a Gallery Context: Towards a Posthuman Ecology of Participation

  • Sheila De Val Madsen

Student thesis: Phd


Understanding facilitation as an umbrella term to encompass the different forms of engagement between gallery visitor and dance artist, this thesis draws on both historical and research-led examples in order to develop an ecology of participation. Tracing the line from the collaborative Happenings of the 1960s, and offering examples from six seminal dance artists and choreographers, and two practice-led research periods, I investigate the complex relationship between the dance artist, the gallery visitor and the gallery artefacts and space. The particular ethos of an ecology of participation is discussed and later, after working with the exhibition of bio-artist Patricia Piccinini, I offer my reasons for developing a posthuman ecology of participation. I propose that when the dance artist takes a posthuman and new materialist stance in the process of developing creative encounters with gallery visitors, this allows for engagement that respects otherness and the more-than-human (Braidotti, 2013) and proffers an aesthetic experience that prompts visitors to potentially engage all their senses with the materiality of the gallery environment. Advocating for the dance artist as a/r/tographer (artist, researcher and teacher), I concede the entangled role they inhabit. I propose an outline for the training of dance artists as facilitators that acknowledges and embraces the multiplicity and complexity of their roles if they are to create an environment conducive to embodied and reciprocal engagement. Seeking to create a posthuman ecology of participation that acknowledges spaces, environments, objects and the other-than-human as active contributors to the creative process encourages us to move beyond the confines of specified identities to create new ways of thinking, perceiving and sensing (Braidotti, 2013, p.107). I identify instances where I consider that the dance artists own unique creative practice has been able to achieve this together with a gallery visitor - and where it has not. I offer current examples of this enmeshed, sustainable co-existence which prompts re-thinking of how dance artists engage with art gallery visitors and participants, both indoors and in alternative spaces. The dance artist can act as a catalyst for the gallery visitor to see and perceive dance and art in a new light, where the posthuman turn is seen as an opportunity, in Braidottis words, to decide together what and who we are capable of becoming, and a unique opportunity for humanity to re-invent itself affirmatively through creativity and empowering ethical relations (Braidotti 2013, p.195).
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaggie Gale (Supervisor) & Simon Parry (Supervisor)


  • Dance, art gallery, participation
  • Posthumanism, new materialism

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