Performing Work

9 November 2022

Led by:

  • Philippine Hoegen – a visual artist and researcher at the Professorship Performative Creative Processes, HKU, Utrecht, and Caradt, Avans University, Breda, with the project Performing Working. Working mostly with performance, Hoegen explores the ways in which we continuously create versions of ourselves and what their existence means for our understanding of ‘self’.
  • Nirav Christophe – professor in Performative Making Processes at HKU Utrecht School of the Arts; writes theatre texts based on improvisations by actors, libretti for opera and texts for music and dance theatre. Learning to distinguish your inner voices, playing with them and switching between them at lightning speed, is for him the basis of the creative process.
  • Carolien Stikker – trained as an artist specialized in photography and worked as an artist and art teacher before she started a practice for psychotherapy. She is trained as an integrative humanistic therapist, with a specialization in Voice Dialogue. This method is based on the idea that we all have different aspects and “voices” that are part of how we function. The therapy is directed at investigating which voices are prominent, when they were developed, and which voices have been able to show themselves less. Through self-examination, clients gain insight into the individual system that they have (unconsciously) formed.
Intended learning outcomes (more on programme level):

Part of Marres’ Workshops ‘Training the Senses’.

Learning objectives (course specific):

To discover and analyze the different versions of ourselves – a version of us when we work as opposed to a version that might not be as prevalent.

Objective statement:

A lawyer who is defending her client, and an instrument maker who is tuning a violin will most probably refer to their activity as work, while the musician playing the same violin or a belly dancer taking the stage will probably refer to their work as performance. Most of us would not find it hard to see the performance of the latter two as work, but we might not have considered that most of the work we all do is in some way a performance, and that we tend to call upon different versions of ourselves to perform that work.

This Training the Senses session we will train the sense of ourselves, looking at who we are when we perform work. It is devoted to the working practices and gestures of everybody and anybody in whatever form of work they do. In the session, we will search for, and give the stage to, one or more of our working selves, using techniques including voice dialogue and polyphony, performative exercises, embodiment and interaction. In the course of the session, we will pay special attention to the collection, storing and sharing of these selves in writing, image and movement.

Type of course:

extracurricular course

Target group:

general audience

Teaching method:




  • Warm-up exercise: stand in a circle and mimic the gestures made by the leader. Starting from small facial expressions, moving on to more elaborate gestures that convey stronger feelings.


  • People are instructed to walk around the room, stopping when anyone stops, and walking again if someone starts.
  • The topic of different inner voices is introduced. The participants are instructed to walk around the room once more, saying “I’ll say this to you one more time…” proceeded by what they really want to say in that moment, or imagining a scenario that they want to respond to.
  • The inner voices topic is expanded by the following instructions: the participants are asked to imagine the voices in their heads when they do work – what does this voice sound like? what do they say? what are they like? They are asked to close their eyes and imagine the voice speaking. Then they’re asked to open eyes and go in the room where this version of them would feel the most comfortable in. Afterwards, they’re asked to go back to where they were before and look at the spot where they just were and imagine this inner voice personified and standing there.

There are 5 tables with chair, each table having a set of notebooks and pens, and 5 situations/scenarios written on paper. The participants are asked to go to each table, read the scenarios and write a sentence and a gesture responding to the scenario but by using this personified inner voice that was discovered beforehand. The following situations are presented:

  1. (a ritual) what is the first thing your mind does, and says, when you arrive at your workstation?
  2. (a question) you meet your colleagues/studio or house mates/fellow students at the coffee machine, someone says to you: “did you watch the match?” How does your voice react to this question?
  3. (a problem) you are about to enter an important meeting and you have not prepared for it. How does your voice react to this problem?
  4. (a situation) you are bored at a certain moment during your work/with your work. What does your voice do/what does your voice say?
  5. You have the ‘golden idea’, and you need to get ‘them’ (clients, colleagues, classmates, studio mates, family members, the performers/workshop givers, etc.) on board. How does your voice go about that?

After writing a sentence and a gesture for all of the questions, the participants are asked to sit down again and now imagine an inner voice that is the complete opposite to the one they just wrote with. This inner voice would be something more hidden, a self that is rarely utilized. Then the same procedure repeats, where people find a place in the room for this inner voice, then go back to the spot they were before and look at the space they left, imagining the inner voice standing there. Then they are asked to respond to the scenarios again, this time from this different inner voice’s perspective.

  • The end of the session involves two actors, who stand on a stage and are instructed to act out the sentences and gestures that everyone wrote down beforehand. Each actor represents one inner voice – the professional one and the rarely used one. Participants chose which sentences they want acted out and dictate them to the actors. The actors are filmed.
  • The end discussion involved comments including how one person found it hard to find one single voice to represent their working self, or one who completely could not come up with a second rare voice. It was also mentioned how the actor’s performance was sometimes very accurate to what the person wanted to convey, and sometimes completely different from it.
Assessment of learning:




Additional biblio sources (available at Marres):