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Dr Nicolas Whybrow

Dr Nicolas Whybrow

Professor of Urban Performance Studies


Tel: +44 (0)24 765 24925
Email: n dot whybrow at warwick dot ac dot uk

Room G38(a), Millburn House
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7HS


Nicolas Whybrow is Professor of Urban Performance Studies at Warwick, having joined the University early in 2004. Prior to that he held full-time posts at the universities of Leeds, Lancaster and De Montfort, Leicester. At undergraduate level Nicolas studied modern languages and literature before doing an MA in the Workshop Theatre of the School of English at the University of Leeds. Having worked subsequently as a professional performer for a range of small-scale theatre companies in the UK, he opted to undertake doctoral research into the relationship between political commitment and radical theatre-making. He completed his PhD in 1993, also at the University of Leeds.

Research interests

My research interests revolve around site-specific practices and, in particular, performance's intersection with urban contexts. This often takes me into the realms of visual and live art, cultural geography and the built environment and I have written extensively on contemporary artists and architects such as Alfredo Jaar, Sophie Calle, Francis Alys, Aleksandra Mir, Tomoko Takahashi, Richard Wentworth, Rachel Whiteread, Mark Quinn, Peter Eisenman, Anthony Gormley, Daniel Libeskind, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Tacita Dean, Hans Haacke and Christian Boltanski. I am currently writing a monograph entitled Contemporary Art Biennials: the Work of Art in the Complex City (IB Tauris, 2019) and am Principal Investigator on a 3-year practice-based AHRC-funded research project called Sensing the City (2017-2020) which includes working with the Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University. The project is based on devising a model of urban data capture using the human body as sensor and will culminate in an interactive digital mapping of the city of Coventry:

I am also interested in theories and practices of the everyday, as well as in experimental writing that seeks to integrate creative and critical concerns. I have been a regular contributor to journals such as New Theatre Quarterly and Performance Research (including artist's pages and, with Carl Lavery, as issue co-editor of 'On Foot') and for many years I was a member of the editorial board of Research in Drama Education journal, for whom I also co-edited (with Sally Mackey) a special issue on site and place (in 2007).

My book Street Scenes: Brecht, Benjamin and Berlin, for which I received two AHRB research grants, appeared in 2005. A further book entitled Art and the City, which received AHRC research funding, appeared in 2011 and in 2010 I published a curated portfolio of key documents entitled Performance and the Contemporary City: an Interdisciplinary Reader. In Autumn 2014 my edited volume Performing Cities appeared. This has chapter contributions by a range of scholars and artists exploring innovative approaches to writing the performing city (including Sue-Ellen Case, David Williams, Gay McAuley, Freddie Rokem, Mark Fleishman, Heike Roms and Mike Pearson).

In January 2012 I was invited to give a keynote on public art in the city of Turku in Finland. The event marked the conclusion of Turku's shared role (with Tallinn, Estonia) of European Capital of Culture in 2011. More recently I have been invited to give papers at various major European events concerned with the role of art and performance in urban contexts, including Belgrade (Mikser Festival), Copenhagen (Metropolis Lab) and Cologne (International Congress of Geographers). In November 2014 I was a panel and keynote contributor to Stadt Kunst Linz, a public symposium on art in public space at the Architekturforum Oberösterreich, Linz, Austria. The event was broadcast on regional television and a 15-minute radio interview given (in German) to Radio FRO 105.0, broadcast 14th November 2014. In October 2017 I gave a 45-minute public talk about European biennials at a symposium entitled The Biennial Effect: Biennials and Place-making as part of Coventry's first Biennial of Contemporary Art.

I have been invited to give papers at several Performance Studies international (PSi) conferences (in Mainz, Singapore, New York City, Toronto, Utrecht and Hamburg), as well as in a variety of disciplinary contexts (including Media Studies, German Literature, Contemporary Dance, Geography, Sociology, Film Studies, Architecture and Visual Art). In May 2010 I gave an introductory public lecture at the screening of Jean Vigo's À Propos de Nice (1930) and Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927) as part of the British Film Institute's Essential Experiments season at the National Film Theatre.

In 2009 I was awarded an academic fellowship by Warwick University's HEFCE-funded Reinvention Centre to undertake a research project with students doing my 3rd year Performance and the Contemporary City module in the academic year 2009/10. Entitled Performing Venice: Questions of a Sinking City, the project involved embarking on a field trip to Venice and subsequently creating an 'embodied mapping' of the city. Ever since then the city of Venice, and its International Art Biennale in particular, have becomne a focus of research attention for me with chapters and articles appearing in a range of books and journals. In 2015 I was invited to contribute a paper on Alfredo Jaar's installation Venezia Venezia at a conference in Venice entitled 'Sustainable Futures: Survival of the City'. This will take place at Warwick's Palazzo Pesaro-Papafava in celebration of the University's 50th anniversary.

Currently I am closely involved with two of the University of Warwick's Global Research Programmes (GRPs), Sustainable Cities (Sustainable Cities Global Research Programme), where I am thematic lead for its 'Cultural and Social Sustainability' strand, and Connecting Cultures where I am thematic lead for its 'Urban Futures' strand:

In April 2017 I convened a day-long symposium at Warwick Arts Centre funded by both GRPs and entitled Sky Blues City: Imagining a Sustainable Cultural Future for Coventry which explored new collaborative research opportunites arising from Coventry's bid to be UK City of Culture and the city's 10-year Cultural Strategy.

In July 2017 I contributed mounted artist's pages entitled “Watermarked: ‘Venice Really Lives Up to Its Postcard Beauty’” to the exhibition Desert Fictions at Great
War Island, Belgrade, Serbia, 8th-22nd July. The exhibiton was curated by
Dr Marko Jobst, Department of Architecture and Landscape, University of
Greenwich, London and will tour to other European venues.

Teaching and supervision

At Warwick Nicolas's main teaching centres on Live Art and Performance in the second year, which is a practical and theoretical module on contemporary experimental approaches to making work and, in the third year, on the Performance and the Contemporary City option. The latter investigates performance that intervenes or operates directly within city sites, or which draws inspiration specifically from urban contexts. In addition he supervises practical and theoretical projects on the third-year Independent Research Option, as well as convening and teaching a unit on walking and performance in the first year module Contemporary Performance Practices.

Nicolas supervises several postgraduate research students, including practice-based ones, and welcomes applications to study for MA by Research, MPhil and PhD on areas of interest relating to those outlined below.

In 2010 Nicolas was a recipient of the £5,000 Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2015 his module Live Art and Performance was awarded 'pedgaogic intervention' funding of £1,000 by the Institute for Teaching and Learning (IATL) to integrate students actively into the annual Fierce Festival in Birmingham:

Administrative roles

2015-17: Head of School, Senior Tutor, Careers and Alumni Officer, University Senate member, University Academic Quality and Standards Committee member, University Disciplinary Committee member, Faculty of Sciences Board member, Faculty of Arts Board member, Faculty of Arts Research Committee member, Cross-Faculty Global Sustainable Development and Liberal Arts Stakeholder Committee, Faculty of Arts New Building Design Development Group member, Warwick Creative Exchange


BA, MA, PhD (University of Leeds)

Office hours

I am on study leave until the Summer Term 2018


Performing cities front over Nicolas Whybrow

Art and the City front cover

Book cover: Performance and the Contemporary City

Book cover: Performance Research on Foot 

Boo cover: Street Scenes: Brecht, Benjamin and Berlin