Migration and Documentation

Deadline: Thursday 13 April 2017

Questions of migration are among the most contested in contemporary culture. In the current political climate, investigating the performative role of the document in controlling the movement of bodies across borders has particular urgency. The troubled status of documentation as identification affects performances of self at the most intimate levels, producing vulnerability and precariousness in direct relationship to the certainty and transparency it claims to uphold. In the case of queer asylum seekers fleeing persecution, as Emma Cox writes, ‘Europe’s evidence-obsessed immigration jurisdictions’ demand that the most private aspects of identity ‘appear’ in public, bolstered by documentation (2016).

The role of the document in producing legal performances of the self has been a rich area for exploration by artists. In their 2009 exhibition NAME Readymade, for example, the three artists working under the name Janez Janša (also the name of the right-of-centre Slovenian politician and former prime minister) displayed a series of personal documents, including passports, tracing the bureaucratic processes involved in making a legal name change. The ‘authenticity’ of these documents, the sanctioned multiplication of public identity they represent, and thus the radicality of this artistic gesture, lies in their efficaciousness in the face of authoritative bodies such as customs and border officials.

In a very different register – and in line with the Working Group’s commitment to interrogating how we do the work of making, writing and thinking about theatre – we might also consider how documentation facilitates the migration of concepts, styles and artistic conventions between disciplines and institutions. As Paul Allain and Jen Harvie observe, many scholars and makers now ‘migrate across both platforms, investigating ideas and practices in the academy as well as in the profession’ (2006). Performance has always moved beyond located modes and positions – into visual art and curatorial practices, digital and philosophical spheres, and a range of other adjacent traditions and subjects. How does documentation both attend and limit such seemingly abstract migrations?

For the 2017 TaPRA conference, the Documenting Performance Working Group invites proposals for papers, provocations and performances addressing the relationship between migration and documentation. Approaches might depart from questions such as:

  • How do documents narrate, construct and/or inhibit the movement of bodies across borders and performances of identity, both officially sanctioned and otherwise?
  • How is migration explored in contemporary and/or historical creative practices and what affordances do such examples offer for exploring the role of the document?
  • How does performance migrate across formal and institutional boundaries and to what extent are such expansions enabled or limited by associated documentation?

The Working Group is keen to involve a range of presentation modes, which might include but is not limited to the following formats:

  • Papers, presentations and discussions of work-in-progress (15-20 minutes)
  • Provocations or other shorter modes of response (10 minutes)
  • Instances of performance practice or short workshops/demonstrations (1 hour)

Please email all abstracts (no more than 300 words in length), an additional few sentences of biographical information and precise details of the audio-visual technology you will need to make your presentation to Working Group convenors Dr Georgina Guy (georgina.guy@rhul.ac.uk) and Dr Johanna Linsley (johanna.linsley@roehampton.ac.uk). The deadline for the submission of proposals is Thursday 13 April 2017.

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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