Spring 2012 Honorary Fellow
Fellows: Yelena Gluzman and Esther Neff
Project: Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater

About Theorems, proofs, rebuttals, and propositions

Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater was a durational conference that was foremost a collaborative performance project between the conference organizers and conference participants. Over the course of three months, organizers provided time, space, resources, attention/public audience and critical commentary to four theorizing performance-makers (who did not need to have any theater or formal artistic background) and four arts writers, inviting them to investigate theoretical propositions via performance, through a dialogic mode of production. 

This process began with:

  1. Theorist approaches a question, hypothesis, or problem/paradox
  2. Theorist researches the question, tests the hypothesis, or re-creates/makes evident the problem/paradox 
  3. Theorist answers the question, proves or disproves the hypothesis, or formalizes the problem/paradox AS A PERFORMANCE.

The four projects constructed inside this overarching theoretical frame for performance comprised a conference weekend, which was the first stage of a dialogic process. In Stage 2, panel discussions, led by the four arts writers, followed each performance, and conference participants were invited to consider and discuss the presentations via various political, theoretical, and analytical contexts of their choosing. All participants in this public weekend conference were also invited to submit written responses that were published in a hard-copy Gazette and online; these written documents constitute the third stage of the project. Stage 4 consisted of a final public discussion that considered the written responses and previous discussions. The entire process was documented and excerpts made available via online or print publishing after the event. theatreastheory.wordpress.com

Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater began with the simple conception of “theater” as a public site for insight (in Greek, theater means ‘seeing place’), tied intrinsically to theory or ‘ways of seeing.’ The project sought both to recognize, theorize, and authorize performance-making as a constructive theorizing and envisioning act that may have the agency to escape autonomous artistic spheres and participate in co-construction of public discourse and, as a performance project itself, to invent, theorize, test, bend, expand, and corrupt the conference’s own overarching theory and mode of production.  

On March 23, 2013 Honorary Fellows Yelena and Esther hosted a preview of and benefit for Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions at Glasshouse Projects in Brooklyn. The preview embodied the open-source and inter-relational platform constructed by the project at large, drawing together artists, “outsider” scholars, and academics alike. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Ph.D provided a keynote lecture and there were performances by Varispeed, Miao Jiaxin, and others.


artist bio

Born in the Soviet Union, 4-year old Yelena Gluzman emigrated with her family as political refugees. Initially studying neuroscience at Columbia University, Gluzman began making theater works in 1997 as a continuation of her interest in the mechanisms underlying human behavior. Since 1999, under the initiative called Science Project, she has created numerous performances and events. Most recent Science Projects include School for Salomes (Collapsable Hole, NYC 2011) The Bacchae (2011), The Emancipated Spectator (Superdeluxe 2010), Worman (Morishita Studio 2009), Three Easy Pieces (Site-specific 2008), and Steal Life #1 (Superdeluxe 2008), all in Tokyo. Other works (in NYC and elsewhere) have been performed at The Performing Garage, Theater for a New City, and the Old American Can Factory, among others. She is the editor of the Paperless Book Department at Ugly Duckling Press, and in 2010 had a brief edition of her own paperless book "Dear Diary" on display at PS1/Artbooks in New York. Gluzman has taught at the University of Tokyo and Yotsuyta Art Studium.  From 1999-2002, Gluzman worked with co-editor Matvei Yankelevich to publish the Emergency Gazette, a free, bi-weekly broadsheet on radical and marginal performance, which advocated similarly radical and marginal art writing. Ten years later, Gluzman and Yankelevich launched a three-book series in the spirit of this original project. Emergency PLAYSCRIPTS publishes one performance text each year, introducing works which highlight issues specific to notation and performative text; previous PLAYSCRIPTS have included Hello Failure by Krsiten Kosmas (2009), Concertos by No Collective (2011), not knowing by Mike Taylor (forthcoming 2012), and Costume in Front by Tatsumi Hijikata (forthcoming 2013). Launched in 2012, Emergency INDEX is an annual book of performance documented in the words of its creators. INDEX provides a cutting-edge view of the ways in which performance is used in dance, theater, poetry, music, visual art, political activism, scientific research, advertising, terrorism, and elsewhere.  Emergency ANALYSIS will be an annual monograph, focusing on an important or unusual theoretical approach to performance; it is forthcoming in 2013-14.

Esther Neff was born on an organic permaculture farm in Indiana and unschooled until she went to the University of Michigan for a BFA in theater directing. She formed the Panoply Performance Laboratory (PPL) with composer Brian McCorkle in 2004, subsequent projects including a miniature museum/installation/video/software The Silviculture Museum (chashama, 2008), operas On the Cranial Nerves of Barbarians (ABC No Rio, elsewhere, 2009), The Last Dreams of Helene Weigel or How to Get Rid of The Feminism Once and for All (Surreal Estate, 2010), and a trilogy of participatory pieces, The Transformational Grammar of the Institutional Glorybowl (Schooled and Unschooled) [Dixon Place, elsewhere, 2008], Workforce/Forced Work [14 Wall Street through LMCC Swing Space, 2010, chashama on 42nd], and Institute_Institut [LPAC residency, the cell, elsewhere, 2011]) all made through interviews, Focus Workshops, and collaborations with artists and “non-artists” alike. Esther has also collaborated with German performance-maker Dina Keller, dance-maker Lindsey Drury, new music ensemble thingNY and has made video, poetry, scores, visual art, and performed solo and with Brian McCorkle in performance art/visual arts performance contexts. During a 3-year residency at arts-and-activism collective Surreal Estate, Esther began organizing Works conferences (MODE, METHOD, MEDIUM and Operation and Participations) and the first of now 20+ PERFORMANCY FORUMS, an evolving platform supporting experimental performance practices. Currently, PF takes place at different sites around the city, including Vaudeville Park, where Esther is a curator in residence. She is also 1 of 3 as experimental curatorial collective C.O.N.C.H, and a founding member of community collective the Compendium. She is currently creating a new opera, NATURE FETISH, in residence at University Settlement. panoplylab.org/estherneff/.