Esa Kirkkopelto

Finland °1965
research interests: performance philosophy, performer training, post-structuralism, posthumanism, Contemporary performance, artistic research, methodology
affiliation: Professor of Artistic Research, Uniarts Helsinki

2019 – Professor of Arttistic Research, Malmö Theatre Academy, Lund University

2017 – 2018 Head of the Centre for Artistic Research (CfAR), Uniarts Helsinki

2016 Title of Docent, Aesthetics, University of Helsinki

2007- 2017 Professor of Artistic Research, University of Arts Helsinki, Theatre Academy.

2004 - 2017 Convenor or "Other Spaces" live art collective

2012-2015 Responsible leader of the “Doctoral Programme of Artistic Research” (Theatre Academy Helsinki, Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy, Aalto University)

2011-2014 Responsible leader of the “Asian Art and Performance Consortium” (Theatre Academy Helsinki & Academy of Fine Arts)

2009-2011 Responsible leader of the “Actor´s Art in Modern Times” research group (Theatre Academy Helsinki, University of Helsinki)

2007-2011 Member of the Steering committee of the “Doctoral School of Music, Theatre and Dance” (Sibelius Academy, University of Helsinki, University of Tampere, Theatre Academy Helsinki)

2009-2012 Member of the “Figures of Touch” research group (Aalto University, Helsinki University, Theatre Academy Helsinki)

2004-2007 Post doctoral position at the department of aesthetics, University of Helsinki

2004 – Founding member of the "Other Spaces" live art collective

2002 PhD in philosophy at the Université Strasbourg 2.



research expositions

research expositions (collaborated)


Exposition: Actor Self vs. Character Self: An Empirical Exploration (01/01/2012) by E. T. Hetzler
Esa Kirkkopelto 10/11/2012 at 12:21

I am pleased that the author engages so straightforwardly his subject, i.e. classical questions related to the actor’s practice considered from the point of view of the actors themselves. These questions, as the author points out, have not lost their actuality or relevance.

The actor’s distance or separatedness in relation to the “character” is supposed already at the beginning (even in the title) and this presupposition  - a real hypothesis - conditions also all the questions presented. This methodological choice clearly undermines the results.

A relation between methodology and outcomes remains unclear. What the “majority” proves here in general? – What do actors usually think about their own work? – The theoretical truth concerning the basis of actor’s technique? – The judgement concerning what their work should be or how it should be discussed? These are all different things. The conclusions remain open partly because the motives are not clearly stated.

Is an actor a beholder of a specific knowledge concerning his or her art?
The research produces a huge amount of information but the conclusions drawn remain a bit modest since the initial focus remains unarticulated.

I would have expected a more “qualitative” analysis of the answers the respondents have formulated by themselves. These answers are in my mind the richest and most potential part of the material. Now, very little attention is paid to the way the interviewed put their words, articulate their experiences. Instead, the focus resides in the contents of the questions (this MAY be due to the method chosen but I cannot say this for sure). The interviewed people are now discussing their issues by using the vocabulary and terminology suggested by the author. Even though the interviewed are asked to “describe” their work, they are not encouraged to change the terminology, the discourse dominating their practice (and you do not need to be Foucauldian to ask this!). As a result, the discourse risks to remain captured by the dialectics whose guidelines are already set in Diderot, if not in Plato (cf. “puppet” paradigm) instead of trying to find a way out of it.

In my mind the greatest potential resides in the anomalies and inconsequence of actors’ talk: in the artistic logic, which cannot (and in my mind should not) be reduced to “everyday” discourse (which here seems to be synonymous for “empirical”). The state where an actor finds him or herself as separated from his or her character is certainly not an everyday state of mind! However, the actors are not asked to describe this state / or they are compelled to speak about it as if they were “themselves” beside their character. The artist’s point of view is missed on the discursive level. This clearly undermines the status of the research as “practice-based” or “artistic” research.

Despite my criticism I bear a deep sympathy towards Mr. Hetzler’s research as well as his personal commitment. There is no doubt about the importance and sincerity of his endeavour.

Exposition: A Work on Progress (01/01/2011) by David Overend
Esa Kirkkopelto 21/11/2011 at 17:17

I found this exposition artistically and intellectually interesting.


The exposition consists mainly of a lengthy commentary (or a report) of a participatory installation. I am not sure if the participatory installation described was very original or remarkable as an individual artwork or performance. Similar types of creative venue have certainly been set up elsewhere. The novelty or originality of this exposition is nevertheless in its auto-reflective potential that the textual commentary opens up very well. The commentary is well written and, I think, accessible even for a non-specialist reader. The quotations are well chosen.


The work itself, as well as its context, are in my mind sufficiently documented. As a whole, the exposition forms a clear and instructive introduction to the current intellectual discussions concerning the political potentialities of the performing arts and to the practical ways an artist can deal with them. It does not make any break-through in its area, but that is probably not its intention.


I think we have here a fine example of practice as research. It gives a sufficiently reliable idea of its accomplishment. It is self-critical and it opens itself to the exterior evaluation and critique. It is easy to agree and disagree on its details, suggestions and hypotheses. The questions it raises are theoretically and practically relevant both for theoreticians and artists, as well as for artist-researchers.


Some critical remarks:


Some quite obvious aspects of the event are not taken into account in the commentary. Mainly the fact that it not only makes its participants its ‘users’ but it also stages them as such. That may be one reason why the situation also raises reservations amongst the audience. The role it suggests to (or even imposes on) its participants is quite ambiguous and problematic. The concept of ‘user’ should have been opened since, at least in my mind, the critical potential of the work is dependent on it. How can it be distinguished from ‘consumer’, for instance?


The risk the whole project runs it that the ‘Aladin´s Cave’ turns into ‘Plato´s Cave’. Theoretically, the author seems to be quite conscious of this risk. Yet, on the level of practical analysis this does not become as clear. What is the role of the operators? Even though we know what they do empirically (they assist, help, etc.) everyone knows also that the whole event has its designer. The play is planned by someone else, by some kind of ‘master-mind’. How does the event deal with this quite obvious aspect?


It seems that the event is not at any occasion interrupted. It has no outside dimension inside of it. Everyone is more or less compelled to perform. What kind of consequences might this solution have?


The exposition design is clear enough. Since the event described is so complex, the clarity and simplicity of the exposition is well founded. Maybe I would have like to see a wider selection of pictures. Some how they work better than a video clip.


At one moment, the performance suggests to its participants: ‘Anything is possible’. Yet, as a reader of Derrida, the author should know that this not enough. What is only worth of waiting is the arrival of the impossible, the surprise. On the basis of the given exposition, I am not completely sure if the performance allowed this.

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