Emilie Gallier

Reading in Performance
Lire en Spectacle

Reading in performance, Lire en spectacle, is a practice-based research about reading in the moment of performance. Such reading occurs when spectators take their gaze away from the action on stage to silently read the document they hold in hand: a program for instance. At times, the audience is offered more than a program: a performative document in the form of a book, a print, an object, intended to be a part of the performance. For instance, in episode five of the performance 'Life and Times' by the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, the audience reads ‘a hundred and forty page hand-calligraphed illuminated manuscript’ (Nature Theatre of Oklahoma 2013). Audience members receive ‘small leather-bound books and individual reading lights’ for an ideal reading time of ‘forty four minutes and twenty seven seconds’ (Isherwood 2013). Other examples of reading in performance can be found in the works of contemporary choreographers like – and this is a non-exhaustive list – Mette Edvardsen (2010), Alix Eynaudi (2017), Juan Dominguez (2016), the duo Alice Pons and Olivia Reschovsky (MOHA 2016), and Anouk Llaurens (2016).

The research Reading in performance, Lire en spectacle investigates shifts in attention and in spectatorship when the audience of dance reads in the real-time of performance. What happens in dance performances when the audience is reading? That question raises two interrelated questions about on the one hand the nature of the document which is read by the audience, and on the other hand the quality of participation emerging from the act of reading. The solitude of reading merged with the collective nature of an audience is at the core of my curiosity. In examples of reading within a collective frame, I search for practices of attention that appreciate and cultivate heterogeneity of experience and of being.