Call for Papers: International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) 2019, Shanghai 8-12 July. ‘Theatre, Performance & Urbanism’, Performance in Public Spaces Working Group Read more
Performance in Public Spaces
We seek to address the inherent interdisciplinarity of public, site-situated performance practices. We are interested in the intersections between performance acts, performing bodies, public and semi-public environments, mediated environments, cultural politics and landscapes.
The Performance in Public Spaces Working Group was founded in 2011, with the aim to draw connections between the political, cultural and aesthetic implications of performance practices staged in public spaces. Our members contribute a broad range of international perspectives to our working group sessions, and we welcome new members.
The Working Group seeks to address the inherent interdisciplinarity of public, site-situated performance practices. We are interested in the intersections between performance acts, performing bodies, public and semi-public environments, mediated environments, cultural politics, cultural landscapes, and cultural histories. The group explores a broad range of methodological and theoretical perspectives on performances in a variety of public fora, rather than in traditional theatre and performance venues. Our areas of research encompass both digital and physical public spaces, and range from site-based artistic practices to cultural performance phenomena.
We are a welcoming group of established and early career researchers with a broad international base, including members from Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, U.K., and U.S.A. Our members approach performance research through both practice and scholarship. Our sessions centre on traditional research paper presentations but may also include performance presentations or workshops.
We are interested in place-based research practices, and at each IFTR conference we look for opportunities to make connections with the wider host city by taking sessions out into local public spaces. In recent years, these have included artist-led guided walks, walks led by urban planners, and meetings with local site-based arts practitioners. We welcome proposals for site-based research presentations or workshop activities.
Questions threaded across our research activities include, but are not limited to, the following themes:
Who is included in notions of the ‘public’? Who is excluded?
What are the political dimensions of performance staged in public spaces? What are the social and cultural dimensions?
What notions of ‘value’ do performances in public spaces uphold? What notions of value do they critique or undermine?
What are the methodological challenges of researching performance in public spaces? Where might new methodologies deepen our understanding of these phenomena?
How do these practices navigate the ethics and risks associated with performance actions in public spaces?
What do we understand by, and how do performances engage with: the accidental audience, the informed audience, the blurring of performer-spectator roles?
What are the possibilities and limits of reading performances in public spaces as cultural interventions; as the reclamation of space, place and site? Or of reading them as an occupation, as an act of seizure?
Work Plan: 2018-21
The current aims of the Working Group are as follows:
To plan, edit and publish a special issue of Theatre Research International, drawn from contributions by past and present group members.
To continue to encourage participation in the working group, through online networking, research development, and interim events.
To engage more deeply with each IFTR host city by pre-circulating a reading specific to local public spaces and/or performance practices; co-ordinating an artist-led walk in the city; and dedicating a session to discussions in response to these.
To hold an internal working group meeting once a year, in order to support members with ongoing research projects.
To plan a broader publication agenda emerging from the above.
Convenors: 2018 - 2021
Dr Holly Maples, Brunel University: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Swati Arora, Women's and Gender Studies Department, University of the Western Cape: email@example.com
Dr Rebecca Savory Fuller, Arts University Bournemouth: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us on Twitter: @IFTRpublicperf
Conference hashtag: #IFTRPiPS
Our working group at IFTR Belgrade had a small but vibrant group of participants and guests. Our research papers covered areas of performances in public spaces including historical and contemporary protest performance, virtual and live social media performance campaigns, heritage sites, live art, public institutions, and guerrilla theatre. A particular highlight was the session with guest speaker Dijana Milošovic, Artistic Director of Dah Theatre, who led a guided walk of Belgrade city centre. Her talk focused on the city’s changing political landscape in relation to historical memory, inscribed through the fluctuations of street names, and the migration of Belgrade’s ‘walking statues’ or disappearing monuments. She reflected on the performances Dah Theatre have created for these sites in the public spaces of the city, from the period of the Yugoslavian conflict to the present day. This event was extremely popular with conference participants and had around 40 people in attendance. Milošovic also met with the working group to present an account of Dah’s In/Visible City project, staged on public buses, revealing the hidden histories of cross-cultural exchange traced along their routes.
The discussions and debates which arose from our working group sessions included definitions of the “public”; the ethical and political ramifications of performing in public spaces; and notions of the “social sphere” found in live, physical, embodied, and virtual public spaces. We interrogated claims of risk, intervention, and the performance of power found in public spaces; and found links between our diverse research areas through questions surrounding notions of the public, and local or national identity. We began planning for an edited volume to be produced by the working group, and are progressing the publication of a special issue in Theatre Research International on the performance of public space.