Michael Burditt Norton

Conference Presentations


The Vulnerable Critic: exploring new structures of criticism and selection in the arts

Presented at ‘On Criticism’ , in conjunction with Royal Holloway and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London


Who owns the canon of the arts today, and what role does critical discourse play in its direction? This presentation is an open, curious interrogation into the practice of selecting in the arts, and what structures inform an individual’s criteria for values and instincts for taste.

Over the last year, I have conducted a critical ethnographic study of over 20 individuals and organisations in the arts looking for methods of selection that create inclusive spaces and aim to break the structures of exclusivity and ownership. The research interrogates how work is chosen by curators, programmers and awarding bodies, and observed the language, space, policy and structures of assessment that are used. The research strives to produce practical, useful next steps for arts leaders, who are often struggling to respond adequately to the necessary demands for inclusion in the arts.

The field work interrogates who the space of the arts is and isn’t for, and identifies the tactics that selectors are using to break from the insidious exclusion that most arts spaces have relied upon. Using aspects of Standpoint Theory and Pierre Bourdieu’s articulation of the field of cultural production, the research challenges selectors to articulate habitus, bias and privilege, and acknowledge limits in scope.

Ultimately, the research argues for a criticism that relies not upon decisive knowing-ness, but rather vulnerable acts of articulation in collective spaces, creating an open, inclusive space for discourse and reflection, where awareness, emotion and empathy all play a role in the selection practice. Through examples of collective selection processes from Das Arts, The Total Theatre Awards and others, the research will highlight what is happening in these spaces now, and how training and discourse among the academic community might respond.


Productivity, disobedience and Co-play: Rethinking Collaboration (again)

On The Moors PEP Conference, University of Plymouth 

This practice-based research uses co-play, or creating along side without engagement, as a collaborative strategy. The work engages with Roland Barthes’ idea of “text” emerging from “work,” and the claim to the death of authorship. The research engages a methodology of productivity, where the evaluative data comes from what is generated in studio. Evaluation of the research is based on our relationship to it as authors, even as the work is passed between each other.

Co-presented with Clara Nizard and Eastman Presser


I Wish My Boyfriend were as Dirty as Your Policies: An Analysis of Modern Day Humorous Placards in Protest. 

Performing Research Conference, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama 

Looking at the current trend of meaningless humorous placards in protest, the research considered  the performative action of protesting with a placard. Through case study analysis, the research considered the intended and unintended implacts of this humour, and how it changes the way we engage with politics, social media and the actual policy within governments and institutions. 




Practice as Research

The Corporate warrior is an ongoing research project that questions the making of meaning and belief in patriarchal conditions. Addressing the structure of governmentality that Foucault lies out, the research is an inquiry into 'Technologies of the Self', or one's ability to dissent from institutional conditioning. Through an active aesthetic of channeling and speaking, The Corporate Warrior represents layers of metaphor. It addresses the autobiographical narratives of family, the American structure of achievement, and the theoretical perspective of 'Bio-politics'. 

The Research examines these bio-political structures auto-ethnographically, where the researcher becomes the subject. The evidence of the performance identifies the ontological position of the subject's own queer resistance to the patriarchal structure of human sciences and other structures of control and sense-making. In the practice, a technology of externalization has developed, placing meaning on objects, locations, and words that did not previously exist. 

An iteration of the practice presented at The Brink Festival

a selection of research notations developed from Automated listening, autoethnograpic exercises, and "warrior training."

Documents of research produced in the practice on flipchart, used to simutaneously produce and dismantle a Corporate Warrior.