Elements of Performance Art. The Ting: The Theatre of Mistakes

‘Working without a watch and without a tape-measure, the performance artist may come to rely on a sense of “performance time”- where yards are expressed by strides and feet by paces, where minutes are expressed by counts and, where time and space are expressed by any means that may be devised.’

Instigated by Anthony Howell, a poet and dancer and founder of conceptualist magazine Wallpaper, The Ting: The Theatre of Mistakes was a UK-based collective formed in 1974, which disbanded in 1981. Their foundational work was generated through a series of openly advertised events at which, from 1974-1976, attendees co-developed a series of game-based exercises via instructional rules informed by spatiotemporal mechanisms, which were collectively named The Gymnasium, and thoroughly recorded in a suite of eponymous notes.

Their sole publication Anthony Howell and Fiona Templeton’s Elements of Performance (refined by activities developed via The Gymnasium from 1974-76) was self-published and distributed by Ting in 1976 in an initial edition of 60 and in 1977 in a revised edition of 800. The Ting: The Theatre of Mistakes’ ethos and methods of production are outlined in the publication against six convergent elements: conditions, body, aural, time/space, equipment and manifestation with a total of 42 exercises to be structured via chance allowing for multiple formations and focalised structures. Designed as a comb-bound instructional manual with an introductory manifesto, Elements of Performance Art offers a unique insight into how Ting advocated the temporal liveness of performance art be created via instruction and chance with cross-disciplinary activities. It remains an out-of-print but influential publication within the history of inter-disciplinary and is arguably the first manifesto for Performance Art in the UK.

Jason E. Bowman will curate a career survey of The Theatre of Mistakes in 2017. For the PARSE conference he has invited Anthony Howell to workshop, with a series of participants, a re-activation of exercises from Elements of Performance Art. Bowman and Howell will subsequently be in conversation regarding Elements of Performance Art, temporalities and inter-disciplinary concepts of time.


Jason E. Bowman is an artist with a curatorial practice. He is MFA: Fine Art Programme Leader at the Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg and a member of the PARSE working group. He was a co-researcher on the Swedish Research Council funded project, Trust and the Unfolding Dialogue (Principle Investigator, Esther Shalev-Gerz), for which he edited the volume, Esther Shalev-Gerz: The Contemporary Art of Trusting Uncertainty and Unfolding Dialogues (Art and Theory. Stockholm, 2013). He curated the inaugural European career survey of the practice of Yvonne Rainer in live dance, film, teach-ins and public readings (Tramway, 2010) and in 2017 will curate a career survey of the work of the Theatre of Mistakes in live performance, artefact and document. He is currently Principle Researcher (co-researchers Mick Wilson and Julie Crawshaw) on Stretched, a three-year long inquiry via the curatorial into artist-led cultures, also funded by the Swedish Research Council. Jason E. Bowman will curate a career survey of The Theatre of Mistakes in July 2017 at London’s Raven Row Gallery.

Anthony Howell. A former dancer with the Royal Ballet, Anthony Howell was an editor of Wallpaper Magazine and founder of The Theatre of Mistakes, which performed at the Paris Biennale, the Theater for the New City and the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. He is editor of Grey Suit: Video for Art and Literature. His solo performances have been seen at the Hayward Gallery and at the Sydney Biennale. He teaches Tango for Balance – for people with Parkinson’s Disease. His seminal work The Analysis of Performance Art is published by Routledge. He is also a poet whose first collection, Inside the Castle was published in 1969.  His novel In the Company of Others was published by Marion Boyars in 1986. His articles on visual art, dance, performance and poetry have appeared in many publications. He is a contributing editor of the Fortnightly Review.