Art, Performance & Free Association

Fri Dec 06 2019 at 10:00 am to 06:30 pm
Studio 5, Jubilee Building (top floor), London, United Kingdom

Studio 5, Jubilee Building (top floor), London, United Kingdom

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Art, Performance and Free AssociationStudy Day including Evening Seminar

This experiential study day explores 'free association' as both a method of enquiry pioneered by Freudian psychoanalysis and as an evocation of various kinds of collective practice – whether political, educational, artistic or spiritual – that are freely chosen and determined by those who take part, beyond familiar forms of belonging or organisation. Taking the dream as foundational for the theory and practice of free association, the day unfolds through a series of participatory sessions that engage with both the collective and the dream as intelligent things. Led by psychoanalyst and social theorist, Dr Raluca Soreanu (University of Essex) and Dr Simon Bayly, Reader in Drama, Theatre and Performance (Roehampton), the day will be primarily shaped through the shared contributions of participants in response to joint tasks and readings.

Questions that we hope to hold in mind during the day include:

How do collectives act, in moments when their actions appear to us as surprising forms of wisdom, aimed at preserving something valuable, including themselves? 

How do dreams act, so that through their composition, they appear as repositories of a particular form of knowledge or wisdom? 

What can the practices of free association tell us about normative constraints that tacitly shape ways of being, talking and acting together? 

How might reflecting on dreams, collectives or the figure of the ‘wise child’ allow a more expansive insight into the relationship between mastery and stupidity, failure and success, the professional and the unprofessional, sincerity and fraudulence in the experience of research within the academy?

The morning and afternoon sessions are designed for a maximum of 20 participants, so please book early. Preparatory readings and information will be distributed in advance to registered participants. In the event of these sessions being over-subscribed, a waiting list will be maintained should places become available. The evening seminar is a public event open to all.

Art, Performance & Free Association is the fourth in a series of six intensive study days over two years, hosted by the University of Roehampton. The days are designed for creative arts and critical theory candidates at doctoral level, and are open to technē researchers and associates at all technē partnership institutions and other interested PhD researchers within those institutions.

Each intensive day combines seminars, workshops and talks and hosts an international guest theorist or artist. Each day is organised around key concepts in interdisciplinary thought that impact upon the study of art and performance: materiality, the sonorous, political imagination, free assocation, mobility and temporality.  

This event is funded by technē. Please only book if you are certain to attend. Lunch is included. Please note that places are limited and technē Scholars & Associates will be given priority booking. If you are a doctoral candidate at a partner university but not a technē-funded student, you will be asked for a donation of £5 on the door to cover your lunch. If you would prefer to eat lunch elsewhere, there are numerous other options available on the University of Roehampton campus.

The suggested reading for this event will be emailed to you on registration.




10:45-11:45amSocial Dreaming Matrix

Does anyone dream any more? Of course everyone does and each is an expert in their own dreams. Yet to confess to dreams, to stand by them, to make them meaningful seems either a narcissistic delusion or a privileged refusal of the many overwhelming daily realities that ought to more properly concern anyone. Yet dreams continue to be dreamt, mostly leaving the waking dreamer with next to nothing or occasionally with powerful and enigmatic images that last a lifetime. Dreams have historically had a profound connection with creativity, imagination and the values of divergent and non-conformist thinking so often attached to acts of scientific, artistic and political invention. Rather than taking the dream as the royal road to the individual unconscious or as a loose metaphor for less-than-conscious processes of thinking and creating, the two morning sessions seek to explore the value of dreams as points of departure for a socialized form of enquiry. Teaching ourselves and practising the art of social dreaming, the aim is to ask not simply what can be made of dreams, but what might be made from them in relation to the waking activities of artists, researchers, writers and thinkers.


12-1pmSocial Dreaming: Reflective Space

In this session, we free associate and reflect while grounding ourselves in the dreams and dream-images that the dreamers brought in the previous session. We explore the particular ‘wisdom’ of dreams, in that they reveal something important about the social world.


2:15-4:15pm The Dream of Irma’s Injection & The Dream of The Wise Baby

In this session, we will undertake close readings of two key dream-texts, the first well-known as the primal scene of Freud’s elaboration of his own theory of the dream and the practice of free association, the second, an enigmatic fragment from the work of Sándor Ferenczi, a central figure in the early history of the International Psychoanalytic Association. Participants are invited to bring their own associations to these texts and to their many subsequent re-readings and re-interpretations in light of their experience in the morning sessions. 


5-6.30pmEvening Seminar

On the Wise Crowd: Orphic Times of ProtestRaluca Soreanu  Starting from a curious dream, the ‘dream of the wise baby’, which is captured in the works of psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi, we imagine what a wise crowd might look like. In situations of protest, collectives appear to us both creative and traumatically wounded. We reflect on socialities of radical mutuality, socialities of connection, socialities of psychic resonance, putting bodies and body parts in new forms of contact and new juxtapositions. In particular moments – which we will call ‘Orphic’ – something that is very likely to be destroyed, crushed, killed off, or damaged can be spared, through small acts that appear to us nearly as effects of clairvoyance. We can make sense of such acts by referring back to Ferenczi’s ideas on the Orpha fragment of the psyche, which captures a particular kind of traumatic ‘wisdom’. By looking at the Brazilian uprising in 2013, we trace a collective that is able to create symbols and artefacts, to mourn, and to traverse Orphic times.


Dr Raluca Soreanu is Reader in Psychoanalytic Studies at the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex. She is a practising psychoanalyst, effective member of Círculo Psicanalítico do Rio de Janeiro. Previously, she was Wellcome Trust Fellow in Medical Humanities at Birkbeck College, London. She is the author of Working-through Collective Wounds: Trauma, Denial, Recognition in the Brazilian Uprising (Palgrave, 2018), which formulates a theory of collective trauma, drawing on the work of Sándor Ferenczi. In the past four years, she has studied the Michael Balint Archive, found at the British Psychoanalytical Society. Her most recent project is a monograph looking at psychic splitting and temporality, The Psychic Life of Fragments: On Splitting and the Experience of Time in Psychoanalysis (forthcoming, 2020). She was part of the Waiting Times project, supported by the Wellcome Trust, and exploring the connections between time and care.

Dr Simon Bayly is Reader in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Roehampton, working broadly in the fields of performance and the practices of organization and collectivity. He directed the London-based live arts company PUR, active between 1992 and 2008 and has a long-standing interest in the psychodynamics of groups, studying for postgraduate qualifications in psychoanalytic approaches to organization at the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust and the Institute of Group Analysis. He is currently researching a philosophy of meeting, gathering and assembling in a project supported by a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship. Publications include the book A Pathognomy of Performance (Routledge, 2011) and essays on the meeting as a social genre, the project as the unit of contemporary work, the anxieties of dramaturgy, the value of waste and the forces of vibration.

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