Themed Panel (Peer Reviewed) held by Pia Palme, Composition/Performance/Artistic Research / Irene Lehmann, Theatre Studies / Christina Fischer-Lessiak, Musicology/Autoethnography/Cultural Work at the Symposium Performing, Engaging, Knowing at the HSLU Luzern


The recent pandemic crisis, in parallel with the advancing crisis of our polluted planet, touch at the core of our humanity. Artists, artistic researchers, and scientists seem especially responsive to this situation in their practices. Three associates, composer/performer Dr. Pia Palme, theatre scholar Dr. Irene Lehmann, and musicologist/cultural worker Christina Lessiak join for this panel in order to explore aspects of interference, performance, and composition, each from their respective fields of interest and from their present situation. In so doing, they focus on audition, i.e. the power of listening, as an instrument ofengagedanalysis, artistic work, and critical engagement. Working at the intersections of music and performance, theatre research and musicology, writing and autoethnography, they include feminist and gender-sensitive explorations as they develop strategies for creation, reflection, and compassionate action that can also integrate the COVID-19 crisis. The panel includes Pia Palme’s video of a recent experimental musical performance recorded during her artist’s residency. Thus, the disciplines are invited to disrupt and interfere with each other; in this way, the presenters invite their audience into the interactive space opening up between disciplines.

(Palme, Lehmann, Fischer-Lessiak)

Abstract Part I – Pia Palme
Composing with a polluted planet

The COVID-19 crisis is a symptom of the Anthropocene, a term that, though controversial, can be used to describe our planet’s critical condition. Per Bruno Latour (Davis & Turpin, 2015), I notice how my artistic practice is deepening with a renewed urgency in this crisis. I take a feminist position and locate my practice ‘with’ the planet. To explore fluidity, interference, and relationship I present my ideas in an experimental video that includes a sound composition with household objects and some electronic processing. While performing in my kitchen, I explain how I can tune into an environment by directing my ears under the surface, in order to connect to the potential of a particular location and community: “My idea is that the process of composing politically begins to unfold as situational process.” Performing with my ‘instruments’ stimulates playful joy, on a physical and perceptional level. In so doing, I must rely on my ears: listening provides crucial information to balance a situation. Along my experiment, I explore four stages of connecting ‘with’ an environment. I investigate the term ‘with’ from the philosophical and from the artistic researcher’s stance, from the position of an environmentally engaged artist, and from a feminist position. In this way, composing can be characterised as activism grounded in listening and caring, a practice that resembles organic growth rather than strategic action and is sustained by balance, resilience and courage.

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Bregman, A. S. (1990). Auditory Scene Analysis. The Perceptual Organization of Sound. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Chion, M. (1994). Audio-Vision – Sound on Screen. New York: Columbia University Press.
Davis, H., & Turpin, E. (Eds.). (2015). Art in the Anthropocene. London: Open Humanities Press.
Douglas, M. (1966). Purity and Danger: An analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo. New York: Routledge.
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Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.
Norman, S.-J. (2014). Grappling With Movement Models: Performing Arts And Slippery Contexts. Retrieved from
Oliveros, P. (2005). Deep Listening : A Composer’s Sound Practice. New York: iUniverse, Inc.

Abstract Part II / Irene Lehmann
Listening with my eyes wide open

In Heike Langsdorf’s piece “Mount Tackle” (2017/2019) audience members move through a scattered world on stage. After some time, performers start to move, explore and enact practices of organizing and sense making in a world which has become more and more reluctant to these attempts. In Pia Palme’s “Mattetoline” (2019) the composer-performer brings on stage reverberations of a deserted island and its impact on her perception, that is acted out through different media and with two further musician-performers. In my contribution to the panel I will reflect on my own attempts to approach these productions through the employment of listening, observations, writing and taking photographs as practices of my research. In addition, I will reflect on my moving through the performative installations working with a method of points of attraction, that can be linked to Roland Barthes’ notion of ‘studium and punctum’ (1980). While I will focus on movement as a means of mediating between different modes of perception, I will also reflect on inevitable lacunae of the research process and impossibilities of capturing what is going on. Both productions are at the same time part of artistic research processes which gives me the possibility of reflecting on modes of co-researching that loosen the traditional opposition and separation of research and art production. The altered positioning of research allows to shed a light on different modes of knowing and the social and situated character of knowledge production (Latour 2005, Bennett 2010). This aspect seems to gather new momentum at the current crises that affects our societies as well as the planet and even the reliability of knowledge dissemination.

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Barthes, R. (1980). La chambre claire: Note sur la photographie. Paris: Seuil.
Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Abstract Part III – Christina Fischer-Lessiak
Learning through listening: an autoethnographic approach.

From the point-of-audition, we ask: what interferes with listening? Listening in/to the world from my standpoint, I bring in personal experience and knowledge. Perception is distorted by preconceptions and the state of being situated. Autoethnographic research allows us to connect with the bigger picture and engage with our surroundings. This means to “I-witness” (Spry, 2001) the world, by means of connecting, describing, and analyzing personal experiences in relation to a given cultural and socio-economic context (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011).  Echoing Barad, I argue that researchers are part of the physical world rather than observers looking at the world (2007, 376). Thus knowing constitutes a “physical practice of engagement” (Barad, 2007, 342). By including this new materialist perspective, I consider nonhuman forms of agency in autoethnographic research, thereby shifting the focus on relational networks rather than focusing solely on human action. With an emphasis on the act of listening, I propose the adoption of the “listener-as-student” stance (McRae, 2012). Listening critically in/to the world, into ourselves and towards others, we gain knowledge. In terms of artistic research, it makes sense to investigate the self in order to reveal an internal individual view of the creative process. Self-reflection enables awareness of misconceptions, expectations, and prejudices that interfere with listening and learning. We are able to form new understandings by balancing information acquired from within and without. Following research previously conducted as part of the project On the Fragility of Sounds hosted at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, I will posit an example of an autoethnographic approach towards listening: I will present how the composer Pia Palme engages with listening and autoethnography in her artistic research process before going on to demonstrate how conceptions of gender might interfere with listening to music and aesthetic judgments.

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Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, N.C./London: Duke University Press.
Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview. In: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 10. Retrieved from
McRae, Ch. (2012). Listening to a Brick: Hearing Location Performatively. In: Text and Performance Quarterly, 32:4, pp. 332-348. 
Spry, T. (2001). Performing Autoethnography: An Embodied Methodological Praxis, In: Qualitative Inquiry, 7:6, pp. 706-732.
Vu, C. (2018). New materialist auto-ethico-ethnography: agential-realist authenticity and objectivity in intimate scholarship. In: Strom, K., Mills, T. & Ovens, L. (Eds.). (2018). Decentering the Researcher in Intimate Scholarship: Advances in Research on Teaching, pp. 75-89. Bringley: Emerald Publishing Limited. 

Find the programme of the symposium here: