Infrastructural Performance

Reclaiming Social Relationality in Times of Structural Precarity


  • Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt University of Copenhagen



Infrastructural performance, structural precarity, neoliberalism, performance art, collectivism, self-organisation


As freelance workers are living in inconstancy and increasing social isolation, a crucial question arises: how can solidarity be reclaimed through a critique of structural precarity? Precarity as a consequence of neoliberal working conditions is analysed and problematized across academic disciplines. Departing from Lauren Berlant’s description of structural precarity and Judith Butler’s elaborations on performativity, I propose the term infrastructural performance in order to portray artistic strategies which criticize inequality and organize collectively. I analyse the infrastructural performance of the performance art collective cobratheater.cobra to show how precarity has provoked organisational and artistic reconfigurations in the independent performance art scene. I demonstrate how features within the neoliberal work ethos such as the repetition of the artistic signature, individualisation, and the imperative of mobility are dismantled by the group’s infrastructural performance. I conclude that infrastructural performance criticises structural precarity through collective actions of infection, exposure, and disobedience. It is a new form of collective artistic organisation, which proposes the possibility of change in social and economic conditions. At the end of the article, I speculate how infrastructural performance might change the conception of the art work itself.

Author Biography

Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt, University of Copenhagen

Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt is a PhD fellow enrolled at the Department for Theatre and Performance Studies, Institute of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen since Feb. 2016. In her PhD, she examines the notions and practices of work within artistic education in the frame of the Bologna Process seen in the perspective of a contemporary work ethos. She holds a BA in Comparative Literature and an MA in Modern Cultural Studies from the University of Copenhagen and has been a guest student at Applied Theatre Studies in Giessen 2007–08. From 2011 to 2015 she was artistic research associate teaching to the BA-programme “Dance, Context, Choreography” at Inter-University of Dance /University of the Arts in Berlin. She has published the book Who’s There? Subject on Stage in Reality and a number of peer reviewed articles in journals such as Danish Kultur & Klasse and Peripeti. Furthermore, she has worked and toured internationally as a performance artist for the last decade, and from 2014–2016 she was the curator and artistic director of the international performance festival WORKS AT WORK in Dansehallerne, Copenhagen.
Further details on teaching and publications:


Berlant, Lauren. 2011a. “Austerity, Precarity, Awkwardness.” Supervalentthought.Files.Worldpress.Com.

Berlant, Lauren. 2011b. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke University Press.

Berlant, Butler, Cvejic, Lorey, Puar and Vujanovic. 2012. "Precarity Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with…." TDR: The Drama Review 56 (4, Winter 2012 (T216)): 163–177.

Brown, Wendy. 2015. Undoing the Demos. New York: Zone Books.

Butler, Judith. 2017. Acting in Concert: a conversation with Judith Butler. Ed. Jean-Philippe Cazier: Verso Books.

Bürger, Peter. 1974. Theorie der Avantgarde. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Gerlach, Carolin. 2016. Caro von Cobra auf Kampnagel. Private script.

Henriksson, Minna, Erik Krikortz and Airi Triisberg. 2015. Art Workers – Material Conditions and Labour Struggles in Contemporary Art Practice. Berlin/ Helsinki/Stockholm/ Tallinn.

Kunst, Bojana. 2015. Artist at Work. Proximity of Art and Capitalism. New York: Zero Books.

Lorey, Isabell. 2012. Die Regierung der Prekären. Wien/Berlin: Turia + Kant.

Lorey, Isabell. 2006. “Governmentality and Self-Precarization. On the normalization of cultural producers”. (18. April 2016)

Marx, Karl. 1887 (1867). Capital. A Critique of Political Economy, volume 1. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Raunig, Gerald and Ulf Wuggenig. 2016. Kritik der Kreativität. Linz, Berlin, London, Zürich: transversal texts.

Schmidt, Cecilie Ullerup. 2017. "Fællesskab i Mursten." Teater1 177:46–48.

Shukaistis, Stevphen. 2016. The Composition of Movements to Come. London: Rowmann and Littlefield.

Stimson, Blake and Sholette Gregory 2007. Collectivism after Modernism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Weeks, Kathi. 2011. The Problem with Work. Durham: Duke University Press.




How to Cite

Schmidt, C. U. (2018). Infrastructural Performance: Reclaiming Social Relationality in Times of Structural Precarity. Nordic Theatre Studies, 30(1), 5–19.



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