Documenting Performance Field Trip: Collectivity and Transformation in the Archive

Date: Wednesday 18 May 2022

Event date and venue: 18 May 2022, 10am–4pm at MayDay Rooms, London

*Please note the date of this event has changed in support of the strike action happening on the original date.*

This gathering of the Documenting Performance Working Group approaches questions of archiving and materiality, particularly of marginal and activist cultures and histories. Extending our ongoing conversations (‘Wayward Temporalities’, 2019; ‘Speculation and Fabulation’, 2021), in this event the group will continue to query and challenge: the work of reading, thinking, writing about and making performance; documenting social, cultural, and political action; politics of administration and organising in and through archives; and processes of transformation as they manifest and are carried through the performance document. We are interested in expanding on the interconnections between bodies, actions, bodies of work, collective bodies and borders, and their documentation – and the complexities of the performance document as it relates to visibility, refusal, and legibility.

Access to archival materials is arguably an essential part of the process of discovery and contextualisation of creative, social, and political histories. How, then, might archives as sites of embodied memories and discursive acts enable the expansion of notions of evidence and interconnections across time? How might artists, scholars, students, and activists seek to archive both the politics of personal experience and the personal experience of the political? What are the political or educational possibilities of archives of countercultural, social, and protest movements and actions? How might archives and their questioning offer ways to think about unaddressed politics of administration and organising? How might scholars take care to attend to the nuances and complexities of histories, movements, and their documents – particularly those that appear resistant, wayward, or marginal?

Located in the archive collections of MayDay Rooms in London – ‘an active repository, resource and safe haven for social movements, experimental and marginal cultures and their histories’ – the event will be structured as an exploratory study day, reflecting on and responding to MayDay Rooms’ call for collective gatherings that enable, activate, or facilitate fluid connections between site/location/locatedness, the archive, embodied spaces, and contemporary research. Their collections ‘span the period from the late 1960s to the mid 1990s’, with a focus on do-it-yourself countercultures, alternative education, housing and social justice campaigns and other radical cultural and political movements. The event is imagined as an opportunity to enter into an exploratory space, to consider the politics of the archive in relation to social justice and performance, to encounter new and unknown subjects, and think collectively about processes of transformation which emerge through documents of past events, and how their afterlives are subsequently shaped by engagement with them.

The day will be split into two parts: the morning will be spent exploring the MayDay Rooms collections; after a break, we will reconvene to reflect on what and how we’ve engaged with materials in the archive, and the questions that have been raised in the process. Contributions to the afternoon discussion will be facilitated by and responsive to some key prompts from the Working Group Convenors and an invited respondent, but will purposely remain open-ended in scope and responsive to discoveries and reflections relating to the archive materials.

Capacity for this event is strictly limited to a maximum of 15 participants due to venue capacity and Covid-19 protocols. To apply to attend, please submit:

  • a statement of interest in the event  of no more than 300 words;
  • a brief (e.g. 150 word) biographical statement;
  • whether you wish to be considered for a postgraduate student research travel bursary (and if so, where you are travelling from);
  • whether you are currently a TaPRA member. Please note that all participants in the event must either be TaPRA members in good standing or will be directed by the organizers to join via this page: Join TaPRA

Please send the above information to the TaPRA Documenting Performance Working Group Convenors, Harriet Curtis, Diana Damian Martin, and Eleanor Roberts, at by 2 February 2022.   

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