Documenting Performance Field Trip: Collectivity and Transformation in the Archive

Date of Event: May 18, 2022 Event Type: Interim Event
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.   

Hear Tell: Reporting, Describing, Narrating

Date of Event: May 13, 2019 Event Type: Interim Event
Venue: Tate Exchange at Tate Modern, London 12-6pm Call for Participation If you hear tell of an event, somebody relates it to you. Hear tell involves both a speaker and a listener, a performer and an audience. It represents an account communicated in speech of something that might have happened. Theatre and performance both involves and prompts such acts of hear telling, discussions, like those described by Joe Kelleher, ‘as to what was seen or heard tell of and what it might mean, what it might be worth, what there is to do with it’ (2015). Taking the form of a study day, Hear Tell circulates around three key actions: describing, reporting and narrating. Each of these terms can be understood as a mode within performance. It also presents an approach to writing and talking about performance, a means by which live events might be articulated, shared and documented. In turning to these terms, we are not rejecting analysis – rather, we are focusing our analytic frameworks on the methods through which we often arrive at analysis. Describing, reporting and narrating might be understood together as forms of address or as mediating steps between event and apprehension, tools for circulation and distribution. On the other hand, each term has its own codes, resonances, and related concepts. The three key terms of this event carry a range of connotations and associations; one of the tasks of the study day is to test the efficaciousness of these associations in relation to theatre and performance. The act of describing might do the work of summoning to appearance a range of subjects with a variety of consequences (as Christina Sharpe points out, ‘fitting the description’ can carry oppressive weight in the case of, for example, racist stop-and-search policing (2016)). Reporting may highlight complexities of objectivity and subjectivity – to make a report is to engage in some way with registers of truth-telling. Finally, narrating might be understood to accompany action and appearance. As Adriana Cavarero argues, drawing on Hannah Arendt, narration can reveal ‘the finite in its fragile uniqueness’(2000), distinct from the universal categories of philosophy, e.g. ‘the human’. As Sylvia Wynter has shown, the historical development of the category of ‘the human’ has underpinned imperialist and white supremacist projects (2014). Might attention to the more contingent practices of describing, reporting and narrating offer different ways in to the recounting of experience? In order to probe the nuances of these terms, the organisers invite proposals for reports, descriptions and narratives. Each contribution should identify with one of these forms and likewise report, describe or narrate an event, object or experience also performing that respective term. The day will be made of descriptions of describing, reports on reporting, narratives of narrating.The project of the event is to do the work of reporting, describing and narrating so central to the making and reception of theatre and performance. It is through this hearing and telling that a critical reflection will emerge. To apply as a contributor, please submit a proposal of no more than 300 words, and a brief biographical statement, to Georgina Guy ( and Johanna Linsley ( by 5 April 2019. All participants must be TaPRA members. If you are not currently a member, you will be asked to join the organization at the interim rate of £15 before the date of the event ( TaPRA is providing two £50 travel bursaries to facilitate postgraduate and non-affiliated artists/researchers to contribute to this event.  The event organizers will award these bursaries based on:

  • the quality of the proposal
  • the benefit to the applicant of participating in the event
  • the contribution of the participant to the Documenting Performance Working Group
If you would like to be considered for a bursary, please signal this when submitting your proposal, briefly outlining how you would benefit from attending and how you meet the criteria as a postgraduate or non-affiliated artist/researcher.

Hear Tell: Describing, Reporting, Narrating

Date of Event: May 13, 2019 Event Type: Interim Event
Tate Exchange at Tate Modern

5th Floor, Blavatnik Building


If you hear tell of an event, somebody relates it to you. Hear tell involves both a speaker and a listener, a performer and an audience. Taking the form of a study day, Hear Tell circulates around three actions: describing, reporting and narrating.

Each of these terms can be understood as a mode within performance. It also presents an approach to writing and talking about performance. The day will be made of descriptions of describing, reports on reporting, narratives of narrating.



Session 1: Describing

Opening Description by Giulia Palladini, University of Roehampton

Burning and invisible words: Chukovskaya on Akhmatova’s Requiem

Emily Orley, University of Roehampton

  A principled hesitancy

Joe Kelleher, University of Roehampton


Session 2: Reporting

Preliminary Report by Georgina Guy, Royal Holloway, University of London

  Bringing Things In: Delivery and Joke Logistics

Emma Bennett, University of Leeds

  Sonic inscription and improvisatory narrative: Richard Ridgway and the mute swan

Ella Finer, writer, composer and curator


Session 3: Narrating

Instigating Narrative by Johanna Linsley, University of Roehampton  

Re-Telling the Chauraasi Archive: Testimony after Trauma

Sharanya Murali, independent researcher

  Narrating Ephemerality: Joseph Beuys and Terry Fox’s Isolation Unit in Print

Tancredi Gusman, Freie Universität Berlin

  The Sober and the Unsound: Narrative, Addiction, Repetition

Season Butler, writer, artist and dramaturg

  17.15 Drinks and Discussion

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