In my work I look at performances of humans and non-humans, in the theatre and in other contexts. I am interested in how bringing together Theatre and Performance Studies with other fields of knowledge illuminates what happens in making and watching performances of various kinds, how humans interact with other humans as well as with non-human agents like robots or instruments, and how experiences and ways of understanding come about in such interactions in the theatre, in daily life, and in scientific research.
My current research is developing along three intersecting lines:
One is my work on contemporary theatre, dance and performance, with a special focus on practices of making, dramaturgy and spectatorship. This research includes my monograph Visuality in the Theatre. The Locus of Looking (Palgrave, 2008), the co-edited volumes Performance and Phenomenology: Traditions and Transformations (Routledge 2015) and Thinking Through Theatre and Performance (Bloomsbury 2019), and my most recent monograph Doing Dramaturgy, Thinking Through Practice (Palgrave 2023). I am looking at relations between making and thinking, and at theatre as place to explore new materialist and more-than-human approaches to thinking.
A second line of inquiry concerns the performance of technology and human-technology relationships, both inside and outside the theatre. Technologies are becoming performers in their own right, changing the role they play withing the theatre as well as in daily life. In this context, insights and expertise from the theatre is increasingly relevant for developers of robots and smart objects. This research includes the work we are doing at Utrecht University around Performing Robots and smart objects (https://performingrobots.sites.uu.nl/) and my NWO funded project Acting Like a Robot: Theatre as Testbed for the Robot Revolution. In this research, I collaborate with various technical universities as well as theatre and dance makers and, recently, with Doornburgh Centre for Arts & Science collaborations (https://www.buitenplaatsdoornburgh.nl/agenda/robots-in-captivity/). Together with Norah Zuniga Shaw, I edit a new Routledge Companion for Performance & Technology.
A third line of inquiry, informed by the other two, zooms in on meaning making and knowledge transmission and how these are co-shaped by bodily practices as well as our co-evolution with technology. This research includes my long term interest in what I have come to term ‘corporeal literacy’. Part of this research is a monograph-in-development about the corporeal dimensions of how we understand and think and how these take shape in relation to various technologies of storing and transmitting information, starting with writing. I am particularly interested in the role of movement in how we perceive, make sense, and imagine in interaction with technologies of various kinds. This research has resulted in (among others) the edited volumes Anatomy Live: performance in the Operating Theatre (AUP 2008) and Transmission in Motion. The Technologizing of Dance (Routledge 2017), as well as various journal articles about human-technology interactions in astronomy, quantum physics and data driven research.
Transmission in Motion is also the name of the interdisciplinary research group that I initiated at Utrecht University and that provides a platform for collaborations and events. Information about our research projects and activities can be found at https://transmissioninmotion.sites.uu.nl/
My research is grounded in Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies, Art History & Theory, and Philosophy. From this already interdisciplinary basis, it expanded via Cultural Analysis towards Media Theory, Philosophy of Technology, Cognitive Science, and more recently, Robotics and Design theory. I recognize myself in Jonathan Culler’s observation that theory today “has come to designate works that succeed in challenging and reorienting thinking in fields other than those to which they apparently belong.” This theory is interdisciplinary, analytical and speculative, and also critical in that it shows how that which may seem to be natural is actually the product of culture and history. I believe that theory in this sense is among the most important offerings of the humanities today. Furthermore, theory thus understood is not opposed to practice nor does it exist separately from practice. Instead, theory itself is a practice, thus and allowing for an understanding of other practices as partners in dialogue.
Prior to my appointment at Utrecht University, I taught at the Piet Zwart postgraduate program in Fine Arts (Rotterdam), the School for New Dance Development (Amsterdam) and the University of Amsterdam. I worked as a dramaturge in theatre and dance for more than fifteen years. Together with directors Jeroen van den Berg and Ivar van Urk, I founded theatre company Het Oranjehotel (1993-2000). I performed in several lecture performances and translated five plays that were performed by major Dutch theatre companies. I was an artist in residence at the Amsterdam School for the Arts, member of the jury of the Dutch National Theatre Festival TF (2007-2008), and I served as president of Performance Studies international (2011-2016).