International Encounter Presence, absence, invisibility

10 – 14 OCTOBER 2022

Deadline for proposals submission: 30.1.2022

Send proposals to:

We accept proposals for:

– communications on theory or case studies
– panels or round tables
– performances or other artistic presentations
– mixed formats coming from practice as research, such as performance-conferences
– workshops
– meetings of young researchers
– posters, preferably in video format

All proposals must have a title + abstract (maximum 250 words) + 6 keywords.

Deadline for proposals submission: 31.1.2022.

If you would like to participate through videoconference, please justify that in your proposal. We strongly encourage physical presence, though absence is part of our theme.

All submissions will be subject to appreciation by the members of the Scientific Committee through a double-blind peer-review process.

Presentations will be in English. Exceptions (e.g., Portuguese) will be considered case by case and might be approved, especially if the talk has an English text handed out or a PowerPoint in English.

Why five days? Because we want to escape the usual rush of academic conferences. The format will depend on the proposals we will receive, but what we are preparing is:

Monday and Tuesday for workshops, performances, and a round table, possibly as a residence outside Lisbon.

Tuesday night, a film screening about Presence, Absence, Invisibility, followed by  debate.

Some participants may prefer to come only for the remaining three days, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, in Lisbon, for keynote conferences, talks, and performances.

There will also be opportunities for open mike sessions, chat rooms, and other discursive games.

We will be selecting the best presentations for publication after the Encounter.

Early bird (payment until 15.4.2022):

5 days 300 € (some workshops may have extra charges)

3 days 200 €

PhD and master students: 5 days 150€,  3 days 100€


The current covid19 pandemic has many ancestors, from the black plague in medieval times, understood by Artaud as a paradigm for theatrical subversion, to AIDS, Ebola, bird flu, or SARS-1. But this time, the world has stopped globally, and nothing can ever be the same again. Social distancing – as a means to live the paradoxes visible/invisible and presence/absence – is on everyone’s agenda today. We can move towards distant, apathetic, fearful, aggressive, vigilant sociabilities, or we can move towards a reformulation of ties and a deep need to embrace the world.

The answers, opinions, and dogmas are multiplied, but only thought without haste will really welcome what is new and host a possible re-foundation of life. We aim to contribute to this discussion to come. The arts, especially when connected to life and its reinvention, have always been fundamental to creating and illuminating our paths. We sincerely believe that we can help. Because this crisis did not come from the financial world, but from the body: and performers work with the body. It’s a disease of breathing, which has always been the source of our physical and vocal activity and our somatic training. Because we know what touch, distance, and inhibition are, as well as the methods to overcome it. Because we live in the structural confrontation with the other, in the acceptance of otherness. Because we have always valued vulnerability and certain states of exception. Because we have learnt how to dialogue with our ghosts and with absent Godots. Because we have the tools of improvisation. Because we deal with movement and pause. With the macro and the micro.

Moreover, the performing arts have been developing non-presential relationship modes, which are essential during reterritorialization in the digital sphere.


Questions of presence are central to the theory of performing arts and to the training of performers. Since the 60s, performance art has tried to create scenic alternatives to representative thought (realistic or symbolic) and dualism (reality vs representation), favouring presence and interaction. This fact demands a redefinition of the scene but also of theory, art and culture.

Fischer-Lichte considers three degrees of presence: simple (the body as materiality), energetic (the body intensified by training), and radical (intensified by the collective presence). Presence is not an innate ability. It requires (in the body, not just in the mind): listening, attention, generosity, porosity, dispossession, dramatic and resonant multiplication. Presence is often connected to energy and breathing (Prana, or Koshi). How can we expand this energy in space, work on the magnetic field, transform the body’s weight into energy?

But every presence creates a distance. Derrida argued that the presence has always to start representing itself, in order to be present and self-present. “Distance is in the very heart of presence” – a displaced and unstable presence created in relation to the otherness. The performer is confronted with the often invasive co-presence of other performers, the director, and the audience. He grows with them, in between.

Moreover, we can place absence and nothingness (instead of presence) in the centre of thought, conceiving it as the first stance both on arts media discussion and social matters problematization (Foucault, Lacan, Žižek): what is not seen and not performed as a primal entrance to tensions and precarity. Hauntology (Derrida) and spectres (already present in Deleuze’s theory) interrupt the comfortable notions of identity and history as signifiers of absolute otherness.

In digital performance, which has exploded due to the new Covid forms of socialization, the concepts of presence, absence, and visibility underpin the debates between virtual and real, embodiment and disembodiment, opacity and invisibility, liveness and mediation. The discussion of absence is interdisciplinarily pertinent as a follow-up to the ecologies of liveness, where reproduction enables the live category and where remediation relates to Derridean hauntologies as a means to activate pasts.

In addition, intermediality, as an in-between arena of simultaneities of present/absent, makes ambiguities visible in narratives of power and exclusion. At the same time, it can activate both disappearance and what remains. Like past remains in the present, identities contain ephemerality (marginal and “invisible” performative-social practices become visible in specific communities) in a way that performance persists, and absence is made present. Absence needs to be named – even provisionally – to address a conflict between singularities.

Presence also depends on visibility and power, as both theories and artworks have been highlighting. One might consider an ideology of visibility that makes an “increase in visibility” equivalent to an “increase in power”, ending up by fetishizing a difference that does not consider fundamental differences. For instance,“visibility” of black skin or gender cannot be a precise barometer for identifying a community of similar political, economic, sexual, and artistic interests. Some performers who sought to inscribe this transformative component in their art used precisely this “power of the invisible.”