Law Text Culture


I am a performance artist and a social justice lawyer. From 2014 to 2017, I developed a performance and installation series entitled Counterbalance, which involved a seesaw. The first phase of the series occurred at a law school and the second phase at a courthouse. In this essay, I share elements of my process creating the artwork and discoveries made through this process. More precisely, I examine how the Counterbalance series revealed the potential for traditional legal institutions to open up to a wider range of performances. I start by describing each project phase. Comparing these phases, I then move to what the Counterbalance series highlights about different legal spaces, their meaning and normative power. Finally, I explore strategies for further developing our understanding of performativity and capacity to deploy its potential within legal spaces.

Somewhere between being and doing, I understand performativity as a powerful capacity that human beings have, to assert their identity through action or to situate themselves within a normative framework while affirming, modifying, or challenging this framework through their actions. The Counterbalance series allowed me to use my performative skills to present a different take on how people can inhabit traditional legal spaces. The fact that a law school and a courthouse welcomed Counterbalance and were willing to go beyond what they had imagined could occur in their respective space comforts me. However, I am aware that my project involved producing discomfort. To reduce discomfort associated with different people behaving differently within legal spaces and make such spaces more inclusive, I suggest developing our performative skills through practices such as physical presence, listening and an emphasis on non-verbal language.