Documenting Performance WG convenor callout 2022

Date Published: November 5, 2022
Expressions of interest by 12 December 2022 (5pm, UK time)

The Documenting Performance working group at the Theatre and Performance Research Association is looking to appoint new co-convenors to steer and facilitate the work of the group over the next three years. Co-convenors can be at any stage of their career, and we are looking for those whose specialism and area of research and practice is interconnected with that of the working group. We welcome scholars, artist scholars and all those engaged actively in research. 

The Working Group was founded in 2011 as a platform for investigation which acknowledges and contributes to an increasing range of scholarly and artistic activity concerned with performance and its documents, including archival encounters. At its centre is a concern for how we do the work of reading, thinking, writing about, and making theatre and performance; how documentation determines our ways of working, as scholars and artists; and the affect of the circulation of documents between institutions and epistemologies. At stake, then, is how documentation shapes and determines the performance field. The Working Group is a community invested in the conceptual, practical, and creative possibilities of Documenting Performance. Here, performance is conceived in an expanded sense and might include theatre, dance, live art, curatorial, installational, participatory and visual projects, as well as particular modes of critical engagement. 

Recent areas of interest include Use and Mis-Use (TAPRA 2022), Speculation and Fabulation (20221) and Wayward Temporalities (2019). Documenting Performance also held two recent interim events: a collaboration with May Day Rooms archive (Collectivity and Transformation in the Archive, 2022) and with Tate Modern (Hear Tell: Reporting, Describing, Narrating, 2019).

The Theatre and Performance Research Association is a not-for profit company limited by guarantee. It exists in order to facilitate, sustain and promote excellence in research through and into all aspects of theatre, the performing arts, and performance studies.

You will have a demonstrable commitment to equitable and inclusive practices in Theatre and Performance research and will bring this commitment to enabling individuals and groups who are historically underrepresented in the discipline of Theatre and Performance Studies to become involved in Working Group activity. You will also have a specialism related to the work of Documenting Performance. 

Key duties include:

  • Facilitating and steering working group activities at the annual TAPRA conference, and through additional interim events as desired.
  • Administering the working group, including at the annual conference, identifying research foci and themes, launching calls for papers and presentations, selecting presenters, scheduling and chairing events, ensuring an inclusive culture in the group, and reporting on group activities. 
  • Planning and disseminating information about the working group.

All convening roles within TaPRA are voluntary and TaPRA recognises that this brings into focus structural challenges and inequalities in relation to working practices and institutions of research. The benefits of undertaking this role include:

  • Opportunities to set and lead research agendas by identifying topics and themes around clusters of shared research interests
  • Opportunities to gather together, encounter, and be part of new collaborative networks of researchers, including with fellow convenors, working group participants, and TaPRA members internationally
  • Opportunities to bid for TaPRA research resources to facilitate working group events outside of the annual conference gathering
  • Building your academic experience in research leadership
  • Opportunities to influence the practices, cultures, and conversations of performance research by providing a key part in how a major research association operates. This includes opportunities to become more involved in decision-making and conversations amongst TaPRA members on important issues, and options to participate in research prize nominations and shortlisting committees.

The outgoing co-convenors of the Documenting Performance working group will work with the new co-convenors to provide a supported hand-over, including facilitating discussions on assembling a team who will make a good fit together in terms of shared investments in ethics and practices of research. 

Please complete this form if you are interested in self-nominating for the role

Deadline: 12 December 2022 (5pm GMT)

We will aim to make a decision by 23 January 2023

In the form, we will ask for:

  • a short summary (up to 500 words) of how you see your work relating to that of the working group, and what you hope to see in the work of the group over the next few years.  If preferred, you can submit this in an alternative format (audio or video).
  • an additional short (e.g. 150 word) biography.
Successful applicants will be invited to discuss with the outgoing co-convenors possible teams (most likely a team of 2-3 people) before full hand-over. 

Researchers actively engaged in the diversification of theatre, performance, and research practices are particularly encouraged to apply. 

Post-event reflection: Mayday Rooms 2022

Date Published: August 12, 2022

Post-event reflection: “Transformation and Collectivity in the Archive”, Mayday Rooms 2022

Documenting Performance Working Group

A group of researchers sitting around a large table

The Documenting Performance Working Group at Mayday Rooms, 18 May 2022

On 18 May 2022 a group of interdisciplinary performance scholars based in the UK gathered for the Documenting Performance field trip, “Transformation and Collectivity in the Archive”. Designed as an event for exploratory research and collective thinking, the activities centred on cultural and political materials found at Mayday Rooms, an “archive, resource and safe haven for social movements, experimental and marginal cultures and their histories” based in central London.

Following an introduction to the space by Mayday Rooms staff collective members Łukasz Risso and Lamya Sadiq, the Documenting Performance Working Group co-convenors Harriet Curtis, Diana Damian Martin, and Eleanor Roberts posed a series of key questions to participants. With a focus on encountering performance in and with the archive, and processes of collective transformation that take place through engaging with the performance document, these served to help frame discussion points which emerged throughout the day.

During the morning, invited guest speakers Istanbul Queer Art Collective (comprised of the artists Tuna Erdem and Seda Ergul) presented documentation and reflections on their work Moebius Stripping (2019). This performance centred on the artists cutting into pieces documentation submitted to the Home Office to “extend their ‘leave to remain’ in the UK“, creating a performance and display of destroyed and transformed immigration paperwork. In discussion with the artists, this enabled the elaboration of intersections of the archive, performance, and power, which participants returned to in multiple ways through event discussions.

Participants were then invited to explore Mayday Rooms’ collections, which resulted in individual and collective engagement with key materials, including those representing specific cultural and political movements of housing, labour, women’s and Black struggles in the US and UK, and radical performance histories Scratch Orchestra and Queeruption. With the freedom to move between collections in an exploratory way, participants were able to encounter unfamiliar and potentially unexpected performance histories from the 1960s to the present.

In a final plenary discussion, participants reflected on not only the specific histories and materials themselves, but also the methods, processes, politics, and affective dimensions of conducting archival performance research. This included ideas of “official” and “unofficial” histories, how archives produce and enable cultural access and legitimation, and the positions of distance and privilege occupied by the archival researcher. The day closed with collective reflections on how we “do” performance research in and with archives, and the protocols and cultural norms that inform how archives are organised. Particularly, participants commented on the benefits of engaging with an archive which works very differently than major institutional sites and repositories, with a strong ethos of DIY engagement and accessibility.

Some take-aways:

“Honestly, it was one of the best TaPRA events I have ever been to. I came away so nourished and grateful. The very idea of setting up an away day in a radical archive – as opposed to a seminar room – and then facilitating an exploration followed by food (so good) and a conversation, instead of the traditional mode of conference papers, felt very inclusive and generative. I also loved how institutional hierarchies appeared (to me) to be dismantled in this collaborative way of doing and thinking, and really appreciated hearing from the Istanbul Queer Art Collective, too.”

“That the archive is a really interesting and brilliant space and that so much of my own thinking and research is furthered by collaborative actions – like rummaging through a box with someone else!”

“It was a fantastic day and wonderful to be back in a room again with other researchers. I particularly valued the provocation from IQAC, which got us off to a strong start and really clarified the potential of group engagement with the archive.”

“An expanded approach to the concept of the archive; previously untested methodologies of archival research; a more communal, generous engagement with archived materials.”

– participant feedback, “Collectivity and Transformation in the Archive”, Mayday Rooms 2022

“Transformation and Collectivity in the Archive” was organised by the Documenting Performance Working Group convenors: Harriet Curtis, Diana Damian Martin, and Eleanor Roberts


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