““How to Explain Pictures to a Live PARO”: A Performance Revisit with a Therapeutic Robot” presented by Sajadieh


Session Title:

  • Speculative Environments

Presentation Title:

  • “How to Explain Pictures to a Live PARO”: A Performance Revisit with a Therapeutic Robot




  • How to Explain Pictures to a Live PARO is a performative expression of affect and empathy: a peaceful theatrical protest to bring attention to the gun-control policies in America by inviting the audience to watch and explain the pictures on the wall. In the first half of the three-hour-long durational performance, the performer holds, cradles, and dances with the interactive robotic seal PARO, while showing her the lively pictures of the dead students on the wall and the livestreaming gun-control related tweets on the screen; she whispers, screams, and cries all over the performance space and invites the audience to do the same using their words and bodies in the second half. This work is a performative call to the community to make their affective responses explicit, to bring out, to express, and to perform their embodied agitation in a space where words are not sufficient anymore.

    This artwork is a digital performance revisit of Joseph Beuys’ How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965). I define the concept of “Performance Revisit,” as opposed to “Performance Reenactment.” While “Performance Reenactment” functions as a living archive of a well-known performance in history, “Performance Revisit” is a performative response to a historical performance with new objectives and questions in mind. The purpose of making a performance revisit is to ask questions, provoke dialogue, and evoke affective responses in audience. By drawing a line back in history to Beuys’s performance, this work creates a dialectical tension with the past and brings attention to current issues in society. While Beuys performs his anxiety of intellectualizing arts in his performance, How to Explain Pictures to a Live PARO is a performative response to the disturbing anxiety of seeing ever-growing victims of gun-violence and on-going absurd debates between pro and anti gun control policy defendants.