Perform, verb

  1. Carry out, accomplish, or fulfil (an action, task, or function).
    1. Work, function, or do something well or to a specified standard.
  2. Present (a form of entertainment) to an audience.

Performative, adjective

  1. Relating to, or of the nature of, dramatic or artistic performance.
    1. Characterised by the performance of a social or cultural role.

For Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE), performing can be both a research tool as well as a means of expressing (that) research. As a research tool, it could help to understand data collected from an audience, or, through the acting out of the investigated subject matter (and the collecting of audience responses), to better understand already gathered insights. (Though performances could also be recorded and presented via screens). By analysing common physical activities – often daily rituals, the embodied, or tacit, knowledge inherent in them, can be reflected upon and used, or translated into a design or a research outcome.

Furthermore, performing can also help to express and disseminate knowledge. Expressing research or knowledge through performing, by giving a performance, is an opportunity to relate directly to an audience. Through the performance, the audience experiences the research, or the research conclusions, or gains an understanding of the functioning of a product or a service. The embodied knowledge becomes visible. A performance has the function of expressing something, of actively communicating, possibly with exaggeration. A performance can also be concerned with storytelling. A narrative could be more strongly expressed when it is performed. The performer doing the storytelling often steps out of their normal role and can even become a character. In this case, the role of a performance could be to gather knowledge from, or express knowledge to an audience. 

The word performativity is often used to clarify a form of social interaction embodied in a particular use of language. The ideas of philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler link performativity strongly to gender studies. Butler reverses the idea that a person’s identity is the source of its actions, instead declaring one’s actions to be both the result, as well as the source, of one’s identity, which is continuously being redefined through the performance of speech acts and symbolic communication. With performativity, the focus is often to criticise social constructs or frameworks.

DAE examples

  • Tessel Brühl, Wearable Grief, Graduation project Man and communication, 2011

  • Kim Hou, About a Worker, Graduation project Man and Communication, 2017