Theatre, Performance and Philosophy Interim Event 2019 (Joint event with Applied and Social Theatre)

Full Name: Dr Nik Wakefield

Venue and Date: University of Portsmouth 6th April 2019

What were the main points that emerged from your interim event this year?
Our joint interim event brought together two working groups: Theatre, Performance and Philosophy alongside Applied and Social Theatre. The seemingly divergent routes of applied and philosophy complemented each other through finding a middle ground between theory and practice. The theme was ‘Magic, Exits/Endings and Water: How does performance Escape?’. The main points that emerged in relation to those themes were around how concepts and experience might be experimented with socially through performance. We discussed wellbeing and sympathy vs empathy in terms of composed relations between identities that are always already historically conditioned by hegemonic power structures. These ideas were engaged with practically in terms of how we hosted delegates.

Because weekend events can conflict with notions of work/life balance, our event was family-friendly. With a dynamic mix of children, practitioners, senior as well as early career scholars, cultural workers and postgraduate students, there was an engaging diversity of perspective. In the closing discussion, the conversation moved toward questions around the limits of instrumentalised art as well as language, specifically linguistic positions that prevent reconstructions of less violent spaces of relation. The mix of talks from different academic methods, as well as participatory installation and performance lecture, all contributed to creating a productive range of ways to engage with the themes.

Types of contributions (papers, performances, workshops, etc.)
In terms of scheduled presentations, we invited two scholars to give keynotes and one artist to give a performance lecture. Throughout the day a participatory installation was available in a breakout space as a tactical form of communal engagement. The day began with Philosopher Federico Campagna, who discussed his recent book Technic and Magic: The Reconstruction of Reality (Verso 2018). Campagna focussed his keynote on the political metaphysics of reality. This engaging talk introduced magic as a reality system that can offer less violent structures of experience. A video of Campagna’s talk can be viewed here Professor Tim Prentki offered the next keynote, focussing on endings and exits in applied contexts. Professor Prentki analysed projects in Applied Theatre in terms of philosopher Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s work on endings. The scholarly contexts of the keynotes overlapped, producing lively dialogues around the politics of institutions, governance and social creativity. Matt Smith’s installation Puppet City allowed participants, children included, to play with how urban environments might be constructed, and on the day the values of wellbeing and accessibility emerged as alternatives to privatisation and profit. Artist Vivian Chinasa Ezugha offered a performance lecture on water, examining the everyday politics of collecting water in places where it is not available inside the household. Her talk creatively grounded the earlier, more conceptual discussions in lived experience. The day ended with a lively conversation around the day’s themes. Identity and location emerged as key aspects of magic and exits.

Number of Delegates: 25

How many were new to TaPRA? Unknown, approximately 5

Did you have any non-UK participants? No

Any additional points or feedback not covered above?

Collaborating with another working group was fascinating, and we would recommend this to other working groups. The hosting institution, University of Portsmouth, provided space as well as budget to cover technical support for our weekend event. University of Portsmouth postgraduate students Tejal Mandalia, Jemima Fahy, Georgia Stradling and Phoebe Ranger volunteered to help host delegates. With an installed environment in White Swan building across two studios, the event was welcoming and also provided ample time for discussion between more formal talks. Colleagues at the university are keen to host more TaPRA events.

Overall budget awarded: £700 + 100 for PG support

Amount spent: £464.20 + Applied costs, see their interim report

Breakdown of costs:

Catering £150

Federico Campagna Travel and speaker’s fee £244.20

Vivian Chinasa Ezugha fee £70

Tim Prentki travel and fee £ Applied costs, see their interim report

PG travel support £ Applied costs, see their interim report

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