Algae Sympoiesis in Performance: Rendering-with Nonhuman Ecologies


  • Sarah Blissett Independent scholar



This article explores an ecodramaturgical approach to performance-making and research with algae. The first part considers the notion of ‘algae rendering’ as a methodological tool for theorising algae ecological relations which highlights links between representations of algae and their material effects. The second part considers how my embodied encounters with cyanobacteria algae, in the form of lichen, inspire new modes of working with algae in creative practice that explore how algae agencies ‘render’ bodies and environments. I also draw on an artistic case study by The Harrissons (1971) to illustrate principles of what I consider examples of ‘algae rendering’ in artistic practice. The third part considers my approach to making-with algae in a series performance experiments that develop the concept of ‘rendering-with algae’ in practice. This work attempts to depart from anthropocentric binaries that mark different algae species according to their use-value for humans as either ‘healthy’ or ‘harmful’ and investigates embodied ways of working with algae as co-creators, inspired by material ecological relations. The fourth part considers how these performance encounters, experiments and analysis together compose an ecodramaturgical framework that generates new thinking about algae-human relationships in performance and in wider ecologies. Drawing on Donna Haraway’s (2016) concept of ‘sympoiesis’, I develop the term ‘algae sympoiesis’ to describe my embodied ecodramaturgical approach to rendering-with algae in this research. The concept of algae sympoiesis explores how humans and algae shape matter and meaning together in performance and seeks to invite new ways of thinking about how broader algae-human material ecologies are performative of environmental change.

Author Biography

Sarah Blissett, Independent scholar

Sarah Blissett is an artist, writer and dramaturg who recently completed her PhD in Performance Studies at the University of Roehampton. Her research explores an embodied ecodramaturgical approach to making-with nonhumans in performance. She is interested in how human-nonhuman ecological relationships can be theorised as matters of cooking in performance to highlight new narratives and materialities of environmental change. Her work has been published online with FEAST journal, Something Other and Whitstable Biennale. Recent projects include curating the ‘Kelp Curing’ research strand of the 2019 Kelp Congress in the Lofoten International Art Festival and an ongoing series of workshops with Modern Art Oxford titled ‘How Nature Builds’. Sarah is a member of the Water Bodies collective.


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How to Cite

Blissett, Sarah. 2021. “Algae Sympoiesis in Performance: Rendering-With Nonhuman Ecologies”. Performance Philosophy 6 (2):117-36.