Call for Participants:

Syncopation, Synchrony, and the Art of Listening to Others


The Existential Psychology Group with the Performance Philosophy International Network seeks participants to create a Key Group for the 5th biennial Performance Philosophy conference, which will be held in Helsinki, Finland, from June 9-12, 2021.

The Performance Philosophy network aims to create a non-hierarchical and inclusive conference. Instead of individual keynote speakers, the conference invites proposals from key groups.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Performance Philosophy Problems 2021- How does Performance Philosophy Collaborate?”. The conference organizers ask, “What kinds of problems does work in the field of performance philosophy lead us to encounter and to articulate, and what tools does it provide to deal with them?” Artists, philosophers, scholars, artist-researchers and performance philosophers, regardless of their particular genre, school or discipline, are invited to articulate kinds of problems that can be addressed by collaboration between philosophy and the performing arts, broadly considered.

The Existential Psychology Group aims to create a Key Group presentation that considers the problematics of “problems” themselves. A problem, just like a patient, is so much more than “something to be solved”. The Existential Psychology Group was created within the Performance Philosophy network to address the entanglements of performance, ethics, hermeneutics, dialogue, drama, poetry, and the practical philosophy that is therapy, focusing on the existential questions of making meaning at the crossroads of existence: what does it mean to be free, to choose, to be responsible, and aware? Looking toward Gadamer’s “fusion of horizons,” we celebrate the event of understanding between participants in any performance, such as the performance on the “stage” of therapy, as the co-creation of new knowledge that looks beyond the individual and has an integrity and life of its own. A “problem”, such as the presenting problem of a mental illness or condition, can only be understood within the conversation and the performance of therapy, and as such, cannot be treated as an object of study, but more like a co-creation that takes on new life. How does the creation of such new understanding impact each participant’s freedom, access to choices, responsibility, and awareness of the horizons and boundaries of their own existence?

One of the major problems that therapists and counselors face is how to listen, and this question is exacerbated today by the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth is not new, but its now-widespread implementation during the pandemic has prompted varying responses, from criticism that it can only ever offer “therapy lite”, to enthusiasm for new forms of communication it might engender. The Existential Psychology Group proposes that we welcome the potential “problem” of listening and understanding during this unprecedented and historical moment as an opportunity for scrutinizing what it means to listen to others at all.


Does listening transform as a performance practice when the physical body is mediated through technology? What are we listening to—the person or the technology? Can we truly listen through such mediation, or do we merely hear? Or, how might our listening (interpreting) get in the way of our truly hearing (pre-reflectively, as to sound rather than music)? In Listening, Jean-Luc Nancy holds that “To listen, as well as to look or to contemplate, is to touch the work in each part—or else to be touched by it, which comes to the same thing” (p. 65). How can we listen so as to open and hold open, rather than produce meaning, and how might technology help us to better do that?


How does the necessity of communicating through technology exacerbate the boundaries of time, space, and the body that both define our isolation as well as open up our intersubjectivity? How do we and how must we differently listen, attune, and attend to one another during this time?

To this all, we offer the notion and experience of syncopation. Syncopation is rhythm patterned on mis-matching; it displaces accents so that strong beats become weak and vice versa. But as the gaps of syncopated rhythms continue, they synchronize. What at first feels awkward and backward becomes smooth, snappy, intriguing. Considering the art of listening and understanding that forms the basis of the practice of existential psychology and therapy, how is syncopation a kind of synchronization, and how might considering listening and understanding from amidst the demands on technology we are experiencing during the pandemic open our ears in new and different ways?


This is an inclusive group. All who desire to participate are welcome. We envision this group as an ensemble or a choir; singing together requires listening intently and intensely to voices of difference. In singing together, let us listen for other forms of expression. We seek key group participants who could bring performances, texts, images, or any other creative, scholarly, or practical offering to the collaborative creation of a group presentation for the conference. Please send a letter of interest of no more than 300 words with your contact information to:

Elisabeth Laasonen  Belgrano, PhD:  elibelgrano@


Claire Maria Chambers, PhD at

By November 10. Upon receipt of your letter the group organizers will send you details regarding next steps.

The interested participants will meet online to discuss the creation of our abstract around November 25.

At that point, duties will be assigned and the proposal written.

The proposal for the Key Group will be submitted to the conference website no later than Dec. 15.

Please visit the Performance Philosophy conference website for the conference-wide CFP (links below).

Note that bursaries are available for BIPOC folks.


Further information:

Existential Psychology group

Performance Philosophy  Network 


If you are not already a member, please consider joining the Performance Philosophy Network!

Performance Philosophy 2021 conference CFP




Layer on layer.

A tone stretching into infinity

- as life itself. 

Listening and sounding

- as acts of meaning-making -

marries sacredly around and into 

the safe line of extended


for the Other.

Expanding physically, mentally, spiritually, existentially...


Words and sound synchronice

through past memories,

overspilling presence,

and future imaginations.

Feelings, dissonances,


cold, warmth,








collaborators in ALEPH:

Amori Mori Jorge Alcaide

Elisabeth Laasonen Belgrano

Jonas Nilsson

Mark D. Price

Juan Carlos Poblete

Drew Sky

Recorded and edited in continuum in Kulturtemplet/Gothenburg, Manchester/Bolton


A new organisational model: key groups in a key role

The thematic focus the conference is matched by its strategic aim: to develop non-hierarchical interaction and self-organisation between participants and to increase inclusiveness. This is why, in addition to individual and panel presentations, the conference is introducing a new organisational model in which the habitual ‘keynote speakers’ will be replaced by collective agencies, key groups (KGs).

The KGs will be created around a common problem. Each group may consist of artists, scholars, researchers, educators and other experts from within or outside academia. Already existing working groups, including those from other associations, are welcome to apply. The conference will facilitate the functioning of the KGs through a range of practical, financial, direct and in-kind support. In return, the KGs are expected to commit to working before, during and after the conference.