Keynote Lectures (and biographies) for the 2012 TaPRA Conference
Interweaving Performance Cultures: Rethinking ‘Intercultural Theatre’.
The lecture deals with the question, whether the term =intercultural theatre‘ can still be used as an adequate and productive heuristic tool for describing and analysing performances that combine elements from different theatre traditions. The shortcomings of and problems involved in the concept are discussed. By taking recourse to Zé Celso‘s production of Euripides‘ The Bacchae in his Teat(r)o Oficina in Sao Paulo in 1996, it is reflected on a suitable replacement for the term ‘intercultural theatre‘.
Professor Dr Dr h. c. Erika Fischer-Lichte is director of the Institute for Advanced Studies on „Interweaving Cultures in Performance. (since 2008) and spokesperson of the International Doctoral School „InterArt Studies. (since 2006), both at Freie Universität Berlin. She had guest professorships in the USA, Russia, India, Japan, China, Norway. From 1995 to 1999 she was President of the International Federation for Theatre Research. She is a member of the Academia Europaea, the Academy of Sciences Goettingen, the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. She has published widely in the fields of aesthetics, history and theory of theatre, in particular on semiotics and performativity, contemporary theatre, and interweaving cultures in performance.
Performance Art (in) History – Archives, Memories, Re-enactments
This keynote considers performative approaches to the researching and writing of performance art histories. The talk draws its material from
“What‘s Welsh for Performance?”, a major research project run by Heike Roms, which aims to approach the history of early performance art in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s with the help of performative forms of engagement. The project employs a range of such approaches: among them oral history conversations with artists staged in public; reunions between artists, curators and audience members around a shared performance event or location; ‘in-situ’ interviews at sites of particular importance to the history of performance art; re-enactments of performances in their original setting in front of past eyewitnesses; and interactive installations for soliciting audiences’ memories. The talk will evaluate how such performative approaches produce and present historical evidence in the present.
Dr Heike Roms is Senior Lecturer in Performance Studies at Aberystwyth University (Wales). She is director of ‘What‘s Welsh for Performance? Beth yw ‘performance‘ yn Gymraeg?”, a major research enquiry focussing on the historiography of early performance art. The project was funded by a Large Research Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council AHRC (2009-2011) [under the project title =.It was forty years ago today – Locating the early history of performance art in Wales 1965–1979‘] and won the David Bradby TaPRA Award for Research in International Theatre and Performance 2011. Heike is currently working on a book entitled When Yoko Ono didn’t come to Wales: Locating the History of Performance Art for University of Wales Press.
The Survival of Performance Studies in the 21st Century
As global capitalism continues to squeeze fields from the academy that do not fit its narrow, utilitarian notions of appropriate higher education, there is little doubt that the present attack on the Arts and Humanities will increase and that theatre and performance studies programs that are already marginal within the university will become easier targets for elimination. In the previous century, most universities in the West could preserve strong Humanities programs, in part, because many people assumed that the kinds of truths that could be discovered through a humanistic education could not be investigated and specified through science. The institutional reality of C.P. Snow‘s .two cultures. in the academy provided legitimating cover for a range of artistic and humanistic programs, from philosophy and music to history and performance studies. The knowledge revolution of the last twenty years, however, is fast eroding the high wall that used to divide the humanities from the sciences. At the center of this epistemological sea change has been the evolutionary and cognitive sciences; their discoveries will put increasing pressure on many of the guiding principles of performance studies.
Those scientists and humanists grappling with the implications of the .cognitive turn. are questioning and undermining three of the old dualities that used to provide pole stars of opposition for the old .two cultures. paradigm: experimentation vs experience, objectivist vs relativistic truth claims, and the separation of nature and nurture. English professors are now doing scientific experiments and biologists are borrowing from phenomenology to support truth claims that they recognize are neither objective nor relative. Working together, musicologists and neuroscientists have exploded strong versions of what used to be called .the social construction of reality.. The Lockean premise that the mind at birth is fundamentally a .blank slate,. awaiting the inscriptions of culture – a premise that anchored much of Western thought for three centuries as well as the two cultures paradigm for most of the twentieth – has been replaced by the understanding that nature and nurture are so invariably intermixed that they cannot really be separated. For performance studies, this collapse of the old dualities destabilizes many of the assumptions of anthropology, theatre studies, and rhetoric that helped to initiate the field and radically undermines the high theory of the 1980s and `90s that now informs much its practical and scholarly work. In the light of the cognitive revolution, we can neither return to the apparent safe havens of Goffman, Turner, and Huizinga, nor build upon the swamps inadvertently created by Derrida, Phelan, and Butler.
In the face of these mounting practical and epistemological problems, we need new captains and navigators to steer the ships of the Performance Studies fleet in new directions. Most of my speech will envision our academic field in the year 2060 and invite the audience to take a look backwards at the major reversals and small progress of the field during the previous fifty years. It will be apparent, however, that whether Performance Studies survives at all will probably depend on the decisions we make in the next twenty years.
Professor Bruce McConachie is chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Theatre Arts, and former Presidents of the American Theatre and Drama Society and the American Society for Theatre Research.His major publications include Theatre for Working-Class Audiences in the U.S. (1985); Interpreting the Theatrical Past (with Thomas Postlewait, 1989);Melodramatic Formations: Theatre and Society in the U.S., 1820-1870 (1992); American Theatre in the Culture of the Cold War: Producing and Contesting Containment, 1947–1962 (2003); and Engaging Audiences: A Cognitive Approach to Spectating in the Theatre (2008).