Macgeorge Fellowship Public Lecture: Out of the Ordinary - objects, agency and performance

'Ordinary' objects play an interesting role in performance, dance and the visual arts.

This Macgeorge Public Lecture took place on 9 November 2017 at The University of Melbourne.

Sara Jane Bailes, Associate Professor in Theatre and Performance Studies, School of English, University of Sussex


'Ordinary' objects - what we might call unremarkable and domestic objects, such as the chair, mattress, table, shoes, the light bulb, or electricity itself as conducted matter - play an interesting role in performance, dance and the visual arts. They can locate or intensify meaning, or evoke a particular mood. In staged performances as distinctive from, say, the vernacular of the everyday, the decontextualised presence, circulation, and established meaning of objects can shift radically according to local and geopolitical contexts and the cultural and social concerns that dominate or recede in any given time or place.

Drawing on works by a range of artists, such as Pina Bausch's seminal 1978, Café Müller, Judson Dance Theater's 1960s choreography with mattresses and Mona Hatoum's rehabilitation and disturbance of domestic objects, this lecture examines the function and use of unremarkable everyday objects and explores how they might, in the inventive and unbound contexts of performance, become political, intimate, accommodating, threatening or world-building.

Supported by the Macgeorge Bequest