TaPRA 2024 Theatre, Performance and Philosophy working group

Deadline: Wednesday 10 April 2024

Uncertain Groundlessness – the dizzy, the ungrounded, the subterranean, and other risky (dis)orientations

Aaaaaaaaargh… So flippantly, we have bottomed up, upside down – a strange situation, discernible perhaps as an experience of groundlessness.

A free-falling or floating condition that slips away from hegemonic conventions of stability, catching on the present moment’s ubiquitous sense of disorientation. According to many contemporary thinkers, such as Hito Steyerl (2011), Claire Colebrook and Cary Wolfe (2013), this groundlessness is a feature of the Anthropocene, as the sweeping away of any ground-control on which to found social lives, politics or meaningful relations with the environment.

This disposition threatens to extinguish that which distinguishes “us”, to topple up the naturalised (human) myth of a subject, ground, presence or origin from which all was thought to be/come (Wynter 2003). Can then groundlessness be celebrated as a field of dispossessions where things are thrown into a spectrum that requires radical reorientation? A vertiginous slip, spin or switch in which complex and diverging entities, forces and timelines return to the bottomlessness, or profundity, of un-knowing?

The unground might just tip us into the void of being – not a particular or single dimension, but the intensity of space without familiar topological or spatiotemporal ground – the place of all relations.

It follows perhaps that ontological groundlessness can be the originary moment the makes possible the extraordinary intrications of trans*/matter/realities (Barad 2015). It can reveal what philosopher Édouard Glissant calls the “abyssal” (1977) – a relationality touched by blackness that bears witness or testifies to things that cannot be grounded, arrested, or owned as property. It can trace the spilling of cells, fugitive from the grounds of some-body into all matters of incubations and intoxications of becoming (Mel Chen 2023).

And not only that: it can also evoke the material sounding nature of movements – leaps, gasps and gaps – that make relations possible. Kicking the ground away may become the common ground for a new set of wild directions and desires (Halberstam 2020). It can define a turn away in “waywardness” as “the practice of the social otherwise, the insurgent ground that enabled new possibilities” (Hartman 2019). Or an encounter with the limits of thought and knowledge that can release reason to intuition. It can be an exposure to being otherwise, an experience of subterranean undercurrents, an expedient for untethered wonderment…

Getting down with this landscape may lead us to question how to “explore the thresholds where the social meets the geologic, the inorganic, the inhuman” (Clark and Yussoff 2017). Venturing beyond the ground and into the wet, muddy and risky business of the underworld, or the undercommons according to Harney and Moten (2013), requires entanglement with a cascade of material relations and temporalities invisible up on the ground.

For Elizabeth Povinelli, the subterranean evokes a threshold between order and disorder where ‘deep pasts and deep futures’ collide with the order of extractivism, colonialism and environmental violence (Farrier 2019). It also conjures the disorder of death, the human form degraded in darkness, the compost heap of what remains. Are these darkly matters the alternative register in which to think and practice, an ecotone (Strand 2023) different from the regimes of visibility that are burning up the world?

In free fall, in unsighted lines of flight, deaf to settled tonalities, things can wriggle through the wrinkles of the surface into the depths; they can leap from the ground needed to recognise a certain subject as always the function in philosophy. This groundlessness may inform the thinking of fantastic philosophies – ground-breaking philosophies – where concepts fall forever short of the illusion or allusion to self-will and the dependence on a higher ground.

Beneath, beside and beyond ground logics, a supplementary politics, which is not a dismissal or denial, but a refusal of self-safety and a way of with-holding tensions, energies and disorientations. Can this dizziness, uncertainty, unpredictability and anxiety yield in other environments? Can we navigate this flippancy, and what risks are worth taking individually and collectively?

We are seeking proposals keen to engage with some versions, perversions or aversions of these possibilities.

We will be hosting a drop-in proposal support session on Friday 22nd March from 12.00 to 1.30pm via Zoom. To join the session, please email philosophy@tapra.org.

In community,
Annalaura, Jenny and Vânia

Conference structure
Northumbria University will host the TaPRA 2024 annual conference in central Newcastle-upon-Tyne (UK) as a hybrid event from 4 to 6 September 2024. We welcome online and in-person delegates.

Process for submitting a proposal
Please email a submission with the following elements by midnight on 10 April 2024 to the Working Group convenors at philosophy@tapra.org:

  • 300-word max abstract
  • 100-word max biography
  • Confirmation on whether you plan to attend online or in person
  • Any specific requirements relating to space or AV technology

Please note: You may only submit a proposal to one working group (or to the TaPRA Gallery) for this conference, proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

TaPRA will inform you whether or not your proposal has been accepted in mid-May 2024. Registration will also be open from mid-May 2024, which will ask for accessibility and dietary requirements. A draft schedule will be ready by the end of June 2023. Registration will close on 1 August 2024. Accommodation options in central Newcastle with special rates will be available to all delegates.

Conference costs
There are two main delegate types (standard and concession, definition below) and all fees include one-year TaPRA membership of £35 (standard) or £17 (concession). Early bird rates only apply to in-person full conference fees.

In-person fees: (early bird/late bird)

  • Full conference fee: £250/£300 (standard) and £180/£230 (concession)
  • Day rate: £130 (standard) and £100 (concession)
  • WG Convenors and Exec: £198 (standard) and £17 (concession)
  • Life members: £163

Online fees:

  • Full conference fee: £110 (standard) and £90 (concession)
  • WG Convenors and Exec: £108 (standard) and £17 (concession)
  • Life members: £73

A day rate is not available for online delegates.

Concession definition
Concession rates apply to all students, postgraduate researchers (MA or PhD), unwaged, unaffiliated, and retired researchers, and staff on contracts of either less than 0.6FTE or else fixed for less than 12 months. These categories apply to the delegate’s circumstances on the first day of the conference.

Each Working Group manages a bursary to cover the fee and some expenses, offered on a competitive basis. Preference will be given to those without access to any institutional funds. This process is open to accepted presenters only and will be managed by the Working Group convenors post-confirmation of acceptance.

Please note: only one proposal may be submitted for a TaPRA event. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Participation. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the event; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the event venue.

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