Colloquium 2014

The Performing Economies Colloquium took place April 4-6, 2014 with the goal of bringing together a diverse group of community organizations, scholars, artists, urban homesteaders, students and city officials to investigate how alternative economic models and cultural practices are impacting revitalization efforts in Buffalo. Conceived of as a colloquium rather than a conference, the 3-day event cultivated new networks and partnerships through the intersection of the city’s social fabric and contributions from regional and international participants.

Through discussions, performances, bus tours, shared meals, and improvisation, the colloquium highlighted a range of projects and practices that re-evaluate older strategies of urban development and survival and suggest progressive and radical approaches to supporting the lives of individuals and communities.

The colloquium’s location, Buffalo, NY, was essential to this dialogue. Often considered a shrinking American city in decline since its era of mass industrialization, Buffalo now struggles to reinvent itself. With a population slightly over 260,000, this small but aspiring city is engaging a broad range of initiatives that include local businesses, grassroots organizations, and multinational corporations to advance a new vision of Buffalo, with particular emphasis on the intersection of economic resurgence and cultural practices. This combination of economic and aesthetic interests follows Buffalo’s rich history in both respects and as such offers a fertile landscape for studying the impact of contemporary economic shifts.

Participation included SILVIA FEDERICI, international feminist scholar and activist, MARY MATTINGLY, environmental artist and creator of the Waterpod, RENEE RIDGWAY, Amsterdam-based artist, writer, educator, ANDREW HERSCHER, author of “The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit,” SAMINA RAJA, UB professor and director of the UB Food Lab, MIRIAM PAESLACK, UB professor and author of “Ineffably Urban: Imaging Buffalo,” MARION WERNER, UB professor of Geography, FRITS ABELL, founder of the echo Art Fair

Local organizations included PUSH Buffalo, Go Bike Buffalo, Sugar City, Buffalo Green Code, Massachusetts Avenue Project, Coalition for Economic Justice, Breadhive Worker Cooperative Bakery, Farmer Pirates, Food Not Bombs, Buffalo Barn Raisers, WASH Project, International Institute of Buffalo, Partnership for the Public Good, One Region Forward, Clean Air Coalition


The Techne Trekker, a mobile performance venue, launched at Performing Economies. The unit featured a rainwater water catchment system, mobile garden and solar panels. During the 3-day event environmental artist Mary Mattingly stopped at various locations throughout the city offering short workshops on sustainable building, food production and mobile architecture.

The colloquium was organized by STEPHANIE ROTHENBERG, Associate Professor of Art/Visual Studies, University at Buffalo – SUNY ( and PAIGE SARLIN, Assistant Professor of Media Study, University at Buffalo – SUNY (

Sponsored by University at Buffalo’s Techné Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies, the Gender Institute, the Humanities Institute, the School of Social Work, and the Department of Visual Studies.