Adrian Heathfield

Adrian Heathfield, Professor of Performance and Visual Culture


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Adrian's work focuses on the cultural and philosophical resonances of performance art, experimental theatre and dance. He is the author of Out of Now, a monograph on the work of Taiwanese-American artist Tehching Hsieh. His edited collections include Ally (on collaborative performance works by Janine Antoni, Anna Halprin and Stephen Petronio), Perform, Repeat, Record (with Amelia Jones), Live: Art and Performance, Small Acts and Shattered Anatomies. His numerous essays have been translated into ten languages.

He conducted the three year European Union funded creative research project Curating the Ephemeral (2014-2016) on immaterial art and museal practices. In the first two years of this research Adrian was Marie Curie International Fellow in the School of Arts at Columbia University, New York. He was previously co-director, with Gavin Butt and Lois Keidan, of Performance Matters, a four-year AHRC funded research project on the cultural value of performance (2009-2013).

Adrian was curator of Doing Time, the Taiwan Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017), a curatorial adviser and attaché for the 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016) and an artistic director with the collective freethought of the 2016 Bergen Assembly, Norway. He co-curated the Live Culture events at Tate Modern, London (2003) and a number of other performance and durational events in European cities over the last eighteen years. He has worked with many artists and thinkers on critical and creative collaborations.

Recent visual works include two documentary films - Outside Again and Spirit Labour - both co-directed with photographer Hugo Glendinning.

Adrian has received numerous research awards, and was President of Performance Studies international (2004-2007).

Research interests

Adrian's research has focused on performance as an interdisciplinary phenomenon spanning live art, experimental theatre, contemporary dance, installation, moving image and sited art works. He draws from thought in the traditions of continental philosophy, phenomenology, visual and cultural studies. Specific foci over the last fifteen years have included: ethics and aesthetics, theories of corporeality, memory, trauma and death, the document and the archive, dialogue as critical practice, materialities, affect theory and notions of temporality. His written work has questioned the ethics of encounter between the spectator and the art work, elaborating its significance through debates on the status of sensory experience within cultural knowledge, relations between time and economy, the politics of commemoration and shifts in the perception and presentation of mortality. His practice-as-research work has spanned the curation of performance events and exhibitions, the writing of dialogues and convening of symposia with renowned artists and thinkers, and the creation of films and performance lectures all shown in international cultural sector contexts.

Consultancy work

Adrian has taught performance practice and theory and he has given keynote lectures in many different contexts internationally. His work as an educator extends beyond university environments into the cultural sector internationally, where he often creates practical workshops involving established and emerging artists. He has worked in numerous arts institutions and locations including: Columbia University, New York; Mapa Teatro, Bogotá; UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro; Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm and Motion Bank, Frankfurt; Theater Academy of Finland, Helsinki; Impulstanz and Tanzquartier, Vienna; Nordscen in Vilnius, Lithuania, Danish National Theatre School Copenhagen and Bergen, Norway; Goat Island Summer School in Chicago and Bristol; and Tate Modern, London. He has run collaborative workshops with Tim Etchells (Forced Entertainment), Lloyd Newson (DV8) and the choreographer Jonathan Burrows.


Adrian has supervised PhD and MRes theses in areas as diverse as: the clown and laughter, trauma theory and testimony in arts practice, feminist performance and catharsis, performance activism and the city, space and dance-theatre, the relations between photography and performance, choreographies of exposure, medical discourse and the performing body, postdramatic theatre, sonic installation and the witness, performance and the object, masochism and performance, and national identity in post-colonial theatre. He is currently supervising theses on materialism and waste; sculpture, installation and the senses; nature and film-making aesthetics; ethics and poetics; the politics of experimental dramaturgy; Taiwanese contemporary dance; Irish performance herstories; and movement practices in the museum. He welcomes applications from research students wishing to study in any area of contemporary live, performance and interdisciplinary art, particularly projects focused around issues of embodiment, time, spirit, performative writing, curation, mortality, and the liminal. Adrian has supervised seventeen doctoral theses to completion.