Stephen Barber

Stephen Barber

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2012/13

Author of numerous books on international performance cultures, including three studies of the work of Antonin Artaud (most recently, on the final notebooks: Artaud: Terminal Curses, 2008), and books on the Japanese performer/theorist Tatsumi Hijikata, on the work of Jean Genet, and on the films of the Vienna Action Group's performances. He has also published many books on urban cultures in relation to performance, film, photography and digital art; his most recent book (2012) is on the personal archive of the moving-image pioneer, Eadweard Muybridge. The Times newspaper in London called his books ‘brilliant, profound and provocative’, and The Independent newspaper described him as a ‘writer of real distinction’. He has held posts at the California Institute of the Arts, Tokyo Keio University, IMEC in Paris, and was a Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Program in 2006. He is currently Professor of Visual Culture at Kingston University in London.

Research Project

In Transit: Performance, Public Space and Film: Street-Performance Cultures in Berlin

My research project focuses upon an exploratory analysis of street-performance cultures in Berlin, spanning interrelated examinations of performance, urban space and the filmic documentation of performance. The project develops my previous research into performance cultures within an international framework, into the urban space of Berlin, and into the status of film as a documentational medium for representing performances, especially those of an ephemeral or fragile nature. My project’s aim is to generate an experimental book which will, in part, map multiple histories of street-performance cultures in Berlin from 1895 to the contemporary moment, and will also explore how such cultures are archived, remembered and abandoned. My corpus of street-performance culture is an intentionally wide one, and encompasses such manifestations as performance art staged in open spaces and urban wastelands, choreographic performances, demonstrations and protests with a performative or spectacular dimension, and performances by street-magicians. The project will examine the ways in which street-performance cultures—which may erupt and vanish in urban space within concentrated spans of time, and are often marked by momentary conjoinings of disparate cultures and strategies—become seminally sustained in memory through their documentational forms, and by filmic fragments above all. Street-performance within urban space forms a crossing-zone of interweaving in which the act of performance brings together amalgams of visual cultures, the recording and archiving of which create new configurations and traces of performance, as well as documenting processes with wider social and political dimensions.

Short Video

Watch a Short Video with Stephen Barber.

Selected Publications

  • Barber, S., Abandoned Images, London: Reaktion Books, 2010.
  • Barber, S., Hijikata: Revolt of the Body, Chicago: Chicago University Press (Solar series), 2010.
  • Barber, S., The Walls of Berlin: Urban Surfaces, Art, Film, Chicago: Chicago University Press (Solar series), 2011.
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung