2011-12

Below are details of QUORUM 2011-12, which included an inspiring programme of early career academics, artists, and arts professionals.

The QUORUM Committee for 2011-12 were:

  • Sylvan Baker
  • Charlotte Bell
  • Harriet Curtis
  • Rachel Gomme
  • Wendy Hubbard
  • Michelle Nicholson-Sanz
  • Daniel Oliver
  • Christine Twite

Wednesday 5th October 2011

Professor Nicholas Ridout, Queen Mary University

‘I am an actor. I am sincere’: amateur theatre and amateur politics in Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise

In Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film, La Chinoise, a group of young people devote their Parisian summer holiday to playing at revolutionary work. The playful task of staging their Maoist cell is also the ironic labour of the film itself. Somewhere in the difference between theatre and politics, there is a little gap into which the actuality of being political takes place.
Reader in Theatre and Performance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, Nicholas Ridout’s work is concerned primarily with a political understanding of the theatrical event as an instance of cultural production, an affective experience and a mode of social organisation. Current projects include a book on work in modern theatre. Provisionally entitled Passionate Amateurs: Theatre, Communism and Love, this book takes the figure of the amateur – understood as the person who makes theatre out of love – as a way of developing a theoretical and historical account of the idea of community in twentieth and twenty-first-century theatre and performance. He has contributed to Contemporary Theatre Review, Frakcija, Art’O, Theatre Research International, TheatreForum, PAJ, TDR and Performance Research. He was the guest editor of Performance Research 10.1: On Theatre, and is currently working as co-editor, with Rebecca Schneider, on a Special Issue of TDR, on Precarity, for publication in Winter 2012.

Nicholas Ridout was the co-founder, with Sophie Nield, of the London Theatre Seminar, and participates regularly in the conferences of organisations including ASTR (for which he is chair of the Program Committee for the 2011 Conference in Montreal), ATHE, IFTR / FIRT and PSi (for which he was one of the co-organisers of PSi#12: Performing Rights, at Queen Mary in 2006). In 2010 – 11 he was Visiting Professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University and a guest speaker at the first Andrew Mellon Summer School in Theatre and Performance Studies at Harvard University.

 

Wednesday 19th October 2011

Professor Catherine Boyle, King’s College London

Translating the Theatres of Cultural Extremity from Latin America

The paper will present and explore a model for translation of ‘cultural extremity’ that can be used in academic research and in professional theatre. Three research questions inform the project from which this paper is derived: i) the linguistic translation of culturally distant theatre; ii) the ‘transportation’ of plays from one form of cultural extremity to a cultural expression that can be read and understood by a British audience; iii) the development of a process of translation and transmission that honours both the linguistic and the corporeal, setting as its target an exploration of the whole process of translation through to performance, engaging in a series of interpretative acts.
The two plays that will be discussed are are: Babilonia, by Armando Discépolo (1929); Las brutas (1980) by Juan Radrigan (Chile). Both use a type of linguistically extreme and undecipherable Spanish and explore humanly extreme situations of marginality – mass immigration (Babilonia) and geographic and social isolation (Las brutas). Translation into English demands a command of a series of dialects and language registers, and this poses a series of questions about the translation process as dialogue for performance is developed. The process developed allows for an understanding and a new command of the movement of language and performance ‘traditions’ as the new play takes shape, and the methodologies seek to be transferrable to other performance environments.

Catherine Boyle is Head of the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at King´s College London. She has developed methodologies for the study and practice of theatre in text and performance, incorporating ideas of cultural transmission and translation into the investigation of theatre practice, particularly in Latin America. This has led to a number of translations and theatre work, most notably with the Royal Shakespeare Company for their Spanish Golden Age Season, for which she acted as academic consultant and translator of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Los empeños de una casa as House of Desires (2004). A co-edited book (with David Johnston), The Spanish Golden Age in English. Perspectives on Performance (2007), derived from this experience, and seeks to explore the ways in which the ‘academic’ and the ‘creative’ meet in the performance space. Catherine is Principal Investigator on the Research Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council on Spanish and Spanish American Theatres in Translation. A Virtual Environment for Research and Practice more commonly known as Out of the Wings. She also runs the ‘Translating Cultural Extremity Project’ working with theatre practitioners interested in testing the possibilities of translating experiences that seem remote from ours.

Wednesday 2nd November 2011

Broderick Chow, Brunel University

Solidarity and the Orange Alternative: the problems of performing resistance

Since the decisive emergence of the phenomenon often called ‘Global Anti-Capitalism’ with the ‘Battle of Seattle’ protests that congregated around the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference of 1999, scholars in theatre and performance studies have attempted to conceptualise the diverse practices of this ‘new’ model of resistance using the tools of their discipline. A prominent subsection of this scholarship has focused on what Shepard, Bogad & Duncombe (2008: 2) call the ‘ludic antics’ of street protest: the use of ‘play,’ street theatre, pranks, clowning, and absurd humour as a weapon against the powerful. Theorists of these social movements, as well as activists themselves, cite a broad spectrum of influences, from the Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the Carnivalesque to Huizinga’s theory of play, to the writings of Guy Debord and the Situationist International.

One practice of great influence demands further scrutiny. For many activists, the absurd and humorous happenings attributed to the Orange Alternative during the long decade preceding the fall of the Polish Communist Party in 1989 are a direct forebear of their own practice of protest. Furthermore, the contribution made by Orange Alternative to the eventual victory of the working-class populist party Solidarność, or Solidarity, over the communists is cited by many as proof that, whatever its name, tactical frivolity, tactical carnival, radical clowning or performative protest, simply works. But to what end can we say such practice works? In the post-communist era, as Klein (2009) has shown, Poland has forsaken its totalitarian shackles for ‘macroeconomic’ ones, as the Balcerowicz plan effectively amounted to a ‘shock therapy’ which dashed Solidarity’s hopes for Polish-owned industry and crippled the country, raising sharply the level of inequality and plunging nearly another 50 percent of the population below the poverty line. The composing of the Manifesto in 1981 and the actions of the Orange Alternative offered a viable ‘alternative’ to the ideological struggle of 1980s Poland, offering a space for the expressions of political passions other than those attached to the Catholic, workers movement Solidarity. Orange Alternative’s tactics helped promote spontaneous assembly and reclaiming of public space during the ‘stan wojenny’ (martial law, literally ‘state of war’). However, the tactical frivolity of Orange Alternative could not provide a viable alternative to the state. I consider this history in terms of Laclau and Mouffe’s arguments on the role that ’empty signifiers’ play in political action.

Once the elf costume has been taken off and the giant puppet put away, one must consider what one’s praxis has contributed to the construction of a new social reality. In this paper, I situate the practices of Orange Alternative as a form of artistic critique within the history of the Polish Revolution of the 1980s. In doing so I challenge ahistorical readings of the movement that suggest a kind of automatic and transcendental association of humour with resistance; what M. L. Bruner (2005) calls carnivalesque protest against the humourless state.

Broderick Chow is a lecturer in Theatre Studies in the School of Arts at Brunel University, West London. He has also (variously) been a stand-up comic, writer, actor, performer, installation artist, and song-and-dance man. Broderick’s research centres around the concept of political interventions through popular performance forms. He has written about stand-up and comedy based performance art, parkour (free-running), professional wrestling, musical theatre, and protest as performance. He has conducted practice-based research in stand-up comedy and is currently pursuing a new research project into the labour and work economy of musical theatre performance. Broderick and fellow Canadian artist Darren O’Donnell will be presenting a plenary at the American Society for Theatre Research conference in Montreal, QC, on precarity and impermanence in the working lives of socially engaged artists. Recent practice includes a walking/running event in Stratford, East London based on a ‘wolfpack’ methodology, combining elements of parkour and dérive, in conjunction with Brazil/UK company Zecora Ura. Broderick is also working on a piece entitled Work Songs, a physical comedy piece about the crushing alienation of office work.

In 2010, Broderick became the first (but not the last!) doctoral graduate of the Central School of Speech & Drama, University of London, with his PhD thesis: How to do things with jokes: relocating the political dimension of performance comedy. He is especially interested in exploring new methods of ‘training to be an artist’ and so has undertaken and continues to train in parkour and professional wrestling.

 

Wednesday 23rd November 2011

Dr Graham Saunders, Reading University

The Freaks Roll Call: Live Art and the Arts Council 1968-1973

One outcome of the Arts Council’s 1967 Theatre Enquiry was to decide policy following the growing number of submissions to its Drama Panel termed ‘experimental’: loosely defined, this encompassed work that was multi-media based; devised rather than written and often performed outside established theatre spaces. Despite the Arts Council’s Chairman, Lord Goodman, writing in 1969 that, ‘the very word “young”…strikes a note of terror in all establishment bosoms’, initiatives including the New Activities Committee (that culminated in the seven regional ‘Gatherings held between 1969-70) and the Experimental Projects and Experimental Drama Committees began a tentative recognition of  alternative performance practices.

Through  an examination of reports, minutes, and general correspondence from the Arts Council files, this talk will attempt to outline how the Arts Council  defined and assessed what it understood  by ‘Performance Art’, (as it was then termed) during a period when the formal boundaries between fine art, film, poetry and drama were becoming increasingly questioned as categories. I will also give consideration to some of the ideological problems thrown up by a situation whereby a government-funded arts body attempted to accommodate artists whose work promulgated disruption by challenging formerly established norms of performance.

 

Wednesday 7th December 2011

Siddhartha Bose, Queen Mary University (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow)

Practising the Grotesque: the Artist-Critic and the Global City

This presentation will use theory, performance excerpts, and video in order to examine, and contextualise, the modern grotesque in relation to the contemporary global city. As a poet, playwright, performer, and theorist, my interest in the theatrical implications of the grotesque stems from continental Romanticism that locates the modern industrialised cityscape as the primary site for the grotesque. In the famous Preface to his play Cromwell, Victor Hugo claims that the drama of the grotesque is ‘everywhere’ in modern life. Similarly, Baudelaire chooses to aestheticize a rotting corpse in Paris in ‘Une Charogne’ (‘A Carcass’) while linking the grotesque to theatrical activity in his essay, ‘De L’Essence du Rire’ (‘The Essence of Laughter’). Since Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, artists have recreated and responded to the stimuli and shock of urban living. As a practitioner, I am interested in the potential afterlives of the grotesque in contemporary global cities, where the industrial urbanism of the 19th and 20th centuries has been replaced by a fragmented and hybridised globalisation, which in turn has seen the rise of hyper-modern megacities that are co-dependent on each other. These cities reflect each other and the citizens who inhabit them develop a grotesque inter-city subjectivity. Consequently, the questions I will grapple with are plural and problematic. How can poetry, performance, and film respond to, interact with, and reflect this globalised grotesque? Does writing, performing, and thinking about the inherent instability, hybridity, and fragmentation of the grotesque require a multidisciplinary approach that merges art and theory, poetry and theatre, film and music? Is the theatre of the grotesque now necessarily diasporic and transnational?

This presentation will articulate these questions, while simultaneously examining the city in a manner that shifts from the Eurocentrism of Benjamin, Lefevbre and others to the global perspectives of Suketu Mehta and Rana Dasgupta. In particular, by visualising the dramatically grotesque juxtapositions in megacities like Bombay/Mumbai, I will explore the extent to which the rise of the ‘third world city’ (Dasgupta) is itself a grotesque phenomenon, one that in being ‘indifferent’ to ‘the history of western ethics and aesthetics’ will be ‘more than simply the source of the things that will define the future but actually is the future of the western city’ (Dasgupta). What emerges is an alternative (post)modernity of the city, which further broadens the possibilities of performing the grotesque. I will also claim that the grotesque as urban agglomeration and concept escapes conceptual framing and that we must creatively engage with it in order to give it critical validation.

Siddhartha’s work has appeared internationally in magazines and anthologies including City State: New London Poetry (Penned in the Margins, UK), Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (Bloodaxe, UK) and The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry by Indians (HarperCollins, India, 2011). Siddhartha’s debut collection of poems, Kalagora, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2010. He has been featured on BBC World Service (TV), BBC Radio 3 and was included as one of the ‘ten rising stars of British poetry’ by The Times. He has performed at numerous festivals and venues including Latitude, Alchemy, DSC South Asian Literature Festival, London Word Festival, the Battle of Ideas, New York University, Southbank Centre, and the Royal College of Art.

Siddhartha trained as an actor and makes short films. He has written, performed, and toured a one-man play, also Kalagora, which was developed with Penned in the Margins and theatre director Russell Bender (Ecole Jacques Lecoq, Bristol Old Vic, National Theatre), with funding from Arts Council England. The play recently completed an acclaimed month-long run at Edinburgh Festival 2011. Siddhartha is currently developing a full-length play with WhynotTheatre, Toronto.

 

Wednesday 14th December 2011

Tom Cantrell, University of York

Verbatim Theatre: The Actors’ Perspective

The popularity of verbatim theatre shows little sign of abating. This form of documentary theatre, which is composed entirely of the words of real people, has risen to become the most urgent and powerful form of political theatre. However, despite the proliferation of research into verbatim theatre, the actors’ perspective has been almost entirely overlooked. From the actors’ experiences collected in Playing for Real and from interviews with over 30 actors for my forthcoming book, it is clear that playing a real person using their own words makes significant demands on the actor. This talk will consider the rich and innovative processes actors have devised to prepare for these roles, and explore whether appropriate vocabularies can be found to articulate them. I will be looking at plays such as Alecky Blythe’s The Girlfriend Experience, Max Stafford-Clark’s Talking to Terrorists as well as the Tribunal productions at the Tricycle Theatre.

 

Wednesday 17th January 2012

Dr Bridget Escolme, Queen Mary University, and Dr Aoife Monks, Birkbeck College

Working Wearing Feeling Acting

Scholars and practitioners in theatre and performance discuss the relationship between work and clothes in their writing and practice. What constitutes workwear in performance? How does costume situate the performer in relation to work practices? What is the nature of work on the stage and is the act of wearing clothes itself a form of labour? Speakers will show and tell the clothing that has informed their work. This Quorum is part of an ongoing conversation about the work of costume in the production of affect and its relationship to labour in culture and performance.

Aoife Monks: Aoife Monks (Birkbeck) specialises in theatre and performance studies. Her research includes: costume, fashion and materiality in the theatre, the histories and cultures of cross-dressing, the work of contemporary female theatre directors, emigration and tourism in the performance of Irishness, The Wooster Group, oratory and theatricality, contemporary uses of Shakespeare in performance, death, ghosts and objects in performance, Naturalism.She publishes and works through practice as research.
Bridget Escolme: Bridget Escolme’s (Queen Mary) research interests include early modern performance practice, contemporary performance of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the role of the audience, theatre for young people and Theatre in Education.
Bridget Escolme researches and teaches historical theatre and its contemporary production, particularly early modern drama and the ways in which original and current staging practices produce space and subjectivity.
Recent published work, particularly Talking to the Audience, has explored the relationship between performer and audience in Shakespeare production; her current research is for a book, Madness and Theatricality, which explores the ways in which current performance conventions reproduce and revision ‘mad’ figures from the theatrical past.

 

Wednesday 1st February 2012

Sue Mayo, freelance artist and practitioner, Goldsmiths College, University of London

What Kind of an Artist Am I Anyway? Journeys through applied, engaged, anchored and floating practices

At a professional development day for artists working in the applied field. I asked a group of participants whether or how they described themselves as artists. I received 5 completely different replies, and that started me off on the train of thought that I’ll develop in this Quorum. Taking an autobiographical route, I will look at some of the people and events that have startled me into moments of understanding of what kind of an artist I am. Working since 1977 in a wide range of contexts, with community groups and actors, in schools and with playwrights, on tour and in long, located relationships, I will look at practice and experience, and reflect on the research questions that I am now engaged in; Is an applied theatre project a potential site for experiencing community? ; How do different art forms open up possibilities for relationship building? ; Is the process/product binary that emerges in applied practice a false dichotomy? ; what is the place of the artist in all this?

www.suemayo.co.uk

Wednesday 15th February 2012

Dr Tiffany Watt-Smith, Queen Mary University

The Curious Case of Monkey F: Theatricality and Experimentation in the Age of Objectivity

In 1881, the neurologist David Ferrier began work on an experiment to map the cerebral cortex of a living primate he called Monkey F. Over the following eighteen months an intriguing and theatrical encounter unfolded between scientist and ape, in which the roles of silent observer and emotional performer were constantly being switched This paper takes Ferrier’s laboratory notebooks as its starting point, to discuss the emotionality of the modern physiological experiment and the relationship between theatrical audiences and scientific observers in an age of objectivity.

http://www.drama.qmul.ac.uk/staff/wattsmitht.html

 

Wednesday 29th February 2012

Dr Lara Shalson, Kings College, London

All Together Now: On Group Shows and Durational Performance

This paper considers the recent development of group shows of durational performance as exemplified by exhibitions such as the Manchester International Festival’s Marina Abramovic Presents (2009) and 11 Rooms (2011). Durational performance has often been described as providing resistance to an ever-accelerating pace of life. This paper examines this assumption. Considering the phenomenon of the group show of durational performance in relation to a range of theories of time – from E.P. Thompson’s analysis of time-discipline under industrial capitalism, to Henri Bergson’s philosophy of duration, to Hartmut Rosa and others’ thoughts on time in the information age – this talk will consider how durational performance and the curatorial practices that surround it might both participate in and respond to contemporary experiences of time as multiple and (relentlessly) continuous.
Lara Shalson is a Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies at King’s College London. Her research focuses on the politics of performance and live art, with particular emphasis on practices of endurance. Her writing has been published in Colloquy: Text Theory Critique, Contemporary Theatre Review, TDR: The Drama Review, and Theatre Topics. Lara is currently completing a book about the performance of endurance across a range of art and political contexts, from civil rights protests to performance art.

 

Wednesday 14th March 2012

Frank Bock, independent artist and psychotherapist, and Martin Hargreaves, Trinity Laban, London

Dialogue as a Site for Aesthetic Practice

In this practice-based session Frank and Martin will continue their ongoing series of encounters exploring the possibilities of conversation as a staging of discursive practice.

Frank Bock is an independent artist and psychotherapist. He was a founder member of the Featherstonehaughs Dance Company and worked with them from 1987 to 1998. With Simon Vincenzi, he was co-creator and director of Bock and Vincenzi, a project-based company that created six productions. From 1999-2007 Bock and Vincenzi researched and developed a body of work under the title ‘invisible dances’, in which memory, communication, death and disappearance were recurring themes. From 2008-2001 he worked as Creative Associate with the Cholmondleys Dance Company. He has also worked with Graeme Miller, Wendy Houstoun, Miranda Pennell, Bobby Baker and Rosemary Lee. Since 2006 Frank has practised as a psychotherapist, working in private practice, and with MIND as an assessor and clinical supervisor.

Dr Martin Hargreaves is the editor of Dance Theatre Journal and leads the MA Dance Theatre: The Body in Performance at Trinity Laban. His research interests lie between hysteria and boredom, and his current practice centres around the reconstruction and reimagining of seminal performance works from the 1960s.

Wednesday 28th March 2012

Professor Gillian Rose, Open Universit

Visual Research Methods and Contemporary Visual Culture: Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Across the social sciences, one of the most striking developments over the past decade or so has been the emergence of what are now being called ‘visual research methods’ – that is, research methods that in one way or another work with ‘visual images’. However, rather than accepting the narrative of many VRM scholars which simply sees the development of VRM as the inevitable consequence of the search for better data, this seminar examines the proposition that the rise and rise of VRM is as much to do with contemporary visual culture as it is with any dynamic internal to the social sciences.

Gillian Rose is Professor of Cultural Geography at The Open University. Her research interests lie broadly in visual culture, with an interest in visuality as a kind of practice, done by human subjects in collaboration with different kinds of objects and technologies. The long-term project, ‘Doing Family Photography: The Domestic, The Public and The Politics of Sentiment,’ which approaches family snaps by thinking of them as objects embedded in a wide range of practices, resulted in a book published by Ashgate Press in 2010. Gillian is also the author of Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Interpreting Visual Materials, (second edition, Sage, 2007), and ‘The question of method: practice, reflexivity and critique in visual culture’ which has been published in The Handbook of Visual Culture (Berg, 2012).

 

Wednesday 16th May 2012

Dr Margherita Laera, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Queen Mary University

Labour, Affect and Value in Derek Walcott’s multilingual Odyssey

In the summer of 2005, the Nobel prize-winning poet Derek Walcott directed a version of his play, The Odyssey: A Stage Version, that featured an international cast from Italy, Spain and the Caribbean islands of St. Lucia and Trinidad. The production, accompanied by a Calypso band and performed in the actors’ four native languages, was co-commissioned by the Ortigia Festival in Syracuse, Italy, and the Festival de Mérida, Spain. Given that very few of the actors were polyglots, the process of creating this text-based performance was arduous, making the illusion of smooth communication across languages a hard-won product of their labour. I was involved in the project as Production Assistant and Subtitle Manager, and remember it as a period of intense collaboration that drew strong affective responses from all involved. However, despite the creative team’s efforts, attendance was poor, many audience members left half-way through the show, and reviews were often negative, specifically blaming the multilingual aspect of the performance.

In this paper, I piece together my memories to reflect critically upon the processes of labour – including what Erin Hurley calls ‘feeling-labour’ (Theatre & Feeling, 2010) – involved in rehearsing, performing and ‘spectating’ this multilingual production. I analyse the ways in which labour, affect and value are entangled in theatre-making, and consider what might have upset the transaction of value between labourers (the creative team) and ‘consumers’ (audiences) on this occasion. I examine how this piece, while establishing a site for intercultural exchange and social creativity, was implicated in the mechanisms of global capitalism and its relentless drive to expand the marketability of its products across national boundaries. But in paying little attention to the labour/affect/value nexus operating among its audiences, this work produced use value (what we might call ‘feeling-value’) for its creative team, while it proved inefficient in its exchange with audiences. Ultimately, this paper asks: for whom, or what purpose, was Walcott’s multilingual Odyssey performed?

Dr Laera is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, at Queen Mary, University of London.

Wednesday 13th June 2012

Asad Raza, producer of The Unilever Series 2012: Tino Sehgal

The future will be so Socratic

This talk will focus on the live encounter within contemporary art, in which conversational partners co-produce new meanings, knowledge and possible realities through questioning and speculative intuitions. In 2010, Raza produced a large-scale experiment and enactment of the art of conversation, in the form of Tino Sehgal’s piece This progress at the Guggenheim Museum. An exploration of this and other Sehgal works will be the basis for a talk about the function of conversation within the format of the visual art exhibition.

Asad Raza is producing of The Unilever Series 2012: Tino Sehgal, an exhibition for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, opening on July 24th. He is currently working on a book about curating, conversation, and selection in the 21st century with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director of the Serpentine Gallery, London. Raza also contributes articles to Tennis Magazine.

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