QUORUM 2013-14 included early career and established scholars, artists, and professionals speaking on an exciting, wide range of subjects including ‘missing’ Shakespeare plays, feminist revisions of histories of actor training, early performance art in Wales, and the privatisation of higher education. The committee was able to welcome scholars from international backgrounds including North America, South Africa and Australia, as well as the UK. The final two presentations were given by arts professionals, including a performative lecture by emerging dance/artists Project O, and a panel on new writing with speakers from the Royal Court, the National, and Soho theatres.

For 2013-14, the committee members were:

  • Mojisola Adebayo
  • Emma Bennett
  • Noah Birksted-Breen
  • Caoimhe Mader McGuinness
  • Sarah Mullan
  • Eleanor Roberts
  • Kirstin Smith

Wednesday 9th October 2013

Dr.Dominic Johnson, Queen Mary University

Naked Hitchhikers: The Outsider Photography of William A. Rhoads

William A. Rhoads was an avid photographer of nude male hitchhikers, whom he picked up on California’s Pacific Coast Highway in the 1970s and early 1980s. The men he chose were ones he hoped to have sex with, and photography functioned as a convenient strategy for initiating a sexual encounter and an alibi for validating his pursuit, as well as an erotic practice in its own right. Rhoads neither sought nor secured audiences for his work, beyond an intimate coterie of friends. Since his death in 1981, Rhoads’ works have remained unknown, and only recently have been made available to researchers. They have never been exhibited nor discussed by critics or historians.
Performance studies may seem an unlikely disciplinary lens through which to attend to Rhoads’ idiosyncratic practice. Yet his idiosyncrasy, the particularity of his sexual practice, and his works’ location beneath the threshold of public visibility make him an ideal object for performance studies, as a supposed “anti-discipline” of sorts.
I argue that the photographs occupy an uneasy status between three marginal categories: nude photography, pornography, and outsider art. In this paper, I explore relations between Rhoads’ work and each of these three categories and ask how Rhoads’ slippages between – and beyond – them might rethink and restage the themes of sexuality, classification, and value in art and culture more broadly.

Dominic Johnson is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Drama, at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, Performance and Visual Culture (2012) and Theatre & the Visual (2012). He is the editor of four books, including most recently Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey (2013) and Critical Live Art: Contemporary Histories of Performance (2013). He is Associate Editor of Contemporary Theatre and in 2012 he guest-edited a special issue of the journal on ‘Live Art in the UK’.

Wednesday 30th October 2013

Professor Jane Taylor, University of Leeds

After After Cardenio: an unnatural moment in the history of Natural Philosophy

QUORUM thanks the London Southern African Studies Network for their assistance in hosting this event.

In this paper Jane Taylor considers the making of a new work of theatre, to a commission from Renaissance scholar, Stephen Greenblatt. The work arises from a consideration of a so-called ‘missing’ Shakespeare play, and so addresses questions of making a post-colonial interpretation of a hypothetical classic text. The research discloses a fascinating system of information about the Archive and the origins of modern bio-medical science. More particularly, through consideration of the work of puppetry, there will be analysis of the history of neurology and the body/soul split of Cartesianism and early modernism. So too the question will be raised about metropolitan intellectual history and regional studies.

Jane Taylor is a writer, scholar and curator from South Africa. For the past several decades she has been involved in cultural critique and public scholarship as well as creative writing. Taylor has just taken up the Wole Soyinka Chair of Workshop Theatre at the University of Leeds. From 2000 to 2009 Taylor held the Skye Chair of Dramatic Art at the University of the Witwatersrand. She has for several years been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Chicago, and Mellon Senior Research Advisor at the University of the Western Cape. Taylor has been a Visiting Fellow at Oxford and at Cambridge Universities in the UK; and has been recipient of Mellon and Rockefeller Fellowships. In Fall 2011 she was writer in residence at Northwestern University. Taylor is dramaturg of Handspring Puppet Company and on the Board of Handspring Trust.

Wednesday 13th November 2013

Professor Jennifer Doyle, University of California

Our Allegorical Cop: Notes on Campus Security

In the fall of 2011 (the season of the Occupy Movement), the University of California Police watered seated, peaceful demonstrators at the University of California, Davis with pepper spray. A photograph of “the pepper spray cop” memed its way across art history and popular culture. Jennifer Doyle shares her writing about this image: in “Our Allegorical Cop” she indexed the image with “the literature of responsibility” – internal reports produced by various campuses across the University of California system as responses to police violence. This is the first essay in what may be a longer project considering the administration of affect and expression as the frontline of the privatization of higher education.

Jennifer Doyle is the author of Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art (Duke University Press, 2013) and Sex Objects: Art and the Dialectics of Desire (Minnesota, 2006; finalist for a Lambda Award for writing in art and culture). She writes about contemporary art, performance, gender and sexuality, and is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. She is currently on the Board of Directors for Human Resources Los Angeles, an independent art space. From 2007-2013, she maintained a soccer blog (From a Left Wing) and sometimes provides commentary on the cultural politics of sports for a range of outlets, including a local radio station (KPFK) and news outlets such as the New York Times, the Guardian andFox Soccer. She has also written commentary about the policing of dissent at the University of California for the Nation’s education blog. She is the founding director of Queer Lab, supporting research in gender and sexuality studies at UC Riverside. She blogs about sport and visual culture at The Sport Spectacle (thesportspectacle.com).

Wednesday 27th November 2013

Dr Alyson Campbell, University of Melbourne

Queer Practice as Research: conversations between queer theory and performance

There have been questions raised in the last few years about the ongoing necessity for, and relevance of, queer theory. In the field of theatre and performance, however, a growing field of researchers, notably at PhD level, are usefully and provocatively drawing on queer theory to provide the critical context for their practical work. Unsurprisingly, practice-led work in theatre/performance is finding much that resonates in the turn in queer studies towards ideas of queer temporalities and historiographies (Elizabeth Freeman, Judith/Jack Halberstam) and queer phenomenology (Sara Ahmed).

In this paper I will focus on how these sets of ideas have allowed me to conceive of my current practice project, directing Lachlan Philpott’s biographical play The Trouble with Harry, as creating what Freeman calls an ‘erotohistoriography’ (2010), or an ‘affective history’. It is a method of ‘doing history’ that is felt, corporeally and phenomenologically. Building on the axiom that performance is a local, embodied and affective site, I argue that the value of performance, and likewise of performance practice as research, is that it is supremely suited to engage with ‘history’, including the histories of largely forgotten sexual subjectivities. In The Trouble with Harry the eponymous protagonist is, in fact, Eugenia Falleni: a working-class, female Italian immigrant to Australia at the turn of the twentieth century who is ‘passing’ as a man, Harry Crawford. This project has raised difficult – at times almost paralysing – practical semantic and dramaturgical issues associated with working on historical and biographical material connected with ideas of female masculinity, ‘passing’, ‘gender inversion’, transgenderism, female homosexuality, female husbands, race and class: what ‘history’ are we telling and what assumptions have we made? By placing the specific affective history we have made as creative team in front of an audience – embodied in the shared, temporally ‘bound’ space of theatre – we hope to ‘do’ history differently and in a way that opens up a resonance with contemporary questions of sexual subjectivity.

Alyson Campbell is a Senior Lecturer and Head of Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, The University of Melbourne, and is a director. She is co-convenor of the IFTR’s Queer Futures working group and her research, practice and teaching share a focus on experiential theatre, affect in theatre, gender and queer theories and performance practices, dramaturgy and contemporary British and Australian theatre. She has published work on gay male subjectivities in contemporary performance (Theatre Research International and Australasian Drama Studies), on approaching Martin Crimp’s ‘affective dramaturgy’ as a director (Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance) and on the queerzines of Ruth MCarthy (Performing Feminisms in Contemporary Ireland, (ed.) Lisa Fitzpatrick). From 2008 – 2011 she was director of the Queer at Queen’s research and performance event at Queen’s University Belfast, which formed part of the annual OUTburst Queer Arts Festival. She continues to work closely with OUTburst and collaborates regularly with longtime creative partner, playwright Lachlan Philpott, whose play The Trouble with Harry she is directing for this year’s festival.

Wednesday 11th December 2013

Dr Brian Lobel, University of Chichester

Mourning Glory: Sex, Death and Technology

Mourning Glory explores bereavement, technology and grand narratives around love and loss. Lobel’s recently-completed Mourning Glory trilogy was comprised of three pieces: Or Else Your Friends Will Have To Do It, Purge, and Love Letters & Lehman Brothers, each of which explored bereavement in relationship to a different popular technology – the mix CD, the Facebook account and the email history, respectively. In this presentation, Lobel will attempt to weave together divergent themes of presence, digitisation, boredom, love and the usefulness or place of performance documentation in relationship with contemporary performance theorists such as Garland-Thomson, Auslander, Bauman and Reason.

Brian Lobel is a performer and scholar, who works as a Senior Lecturer at University of Chichester. As a performer, he is interested in creating works which are interactive, personal, adventurous and divergent in their content as well as presentational style. His major works include BALL & Other Funny Stories About Cancer, Hold My Hand And We’re Halfway There, Carpe Minuta Prima, Fun with Cancer Patients, Hora and Cruising for Art. These all have shown internationally and in collaboration with different artists, venues and contexts. Aside from Mourning Glory, Brian is in the middle of a series of work entitled ’I began to wonder’, reflecting on the 10 year anniversary of the completion of Sex & The City. Brian writes on themes including illness, disability, spectatorship, as well as gender and sexuality. Working with Eirini Kartsaki and Rachel Zerihan, Brian has just finished editing a journal on the ethics of one-to-one performance. He is also an Associate Artist with Clod Ensemble’s Performing Medicine, and often works with Forest Fringe.

Wednesday 15th January 2014

Dr Michelle Liu Carriger, UCLA

Tea Time: Japanese Tea Ceremony, performance, history, nation

‘Tea Time’ will commence with a demonstration of the Way of Tea, and then move into a lecture/discussion in which I lay out the basic questions of a new project looking at contemporary international practice of the Japanese tea ceremony (the Way of Tea, or “Chado”) through the paradigm of performance theory. An active tea practitioner in both Japan and abroad since 1999, I now seek to lay out the ways in which contemporary tea practice constitutes historical memory, performative establishment of cultural, national, and gendered identity, and to articulate the stakes of changes in practice (the official inclusion of women from the turn of the 20th century and the official inclusion of ‘foreigners’ since the mid-twentieth century).

Michelle Liu Carriger is currently fulfilling a position as a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London after completing a PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies at Brown University, Providence, USA. In her PhD work (and current book project), she looked at cases of clothing controversy in the 19th century in Britain and Japan as well as considering clothing performance modes by which the Victorian persists into the present (like Gothic Lolita fashion trend and Steampunk). Her second project on Japanese tea is based on her ongoing tea practice in Britain, the US, and Japan as well as on her experience in a one-year intensive training course at the Urasenke Gakuen Professional College of Chado in Kyoto during 2012-2013.

Wednesday 29th January 2014

Dr Ella Finer, Syracuse University London Program

Records: Playing Out, Falling Apart and Beginning (and Ending) Again

The provocation and ‘background music’ for this talk will be O, an artwork in the form of an acetate record made to be played continuously until it is played out. First installed in Newcastle’s Baltic 39 in September 2013, the record was conceived to broadcast a voice’s gradual disappearance in its own time, as a sound work making itself through unmaking itself. Now, after the event of its initial extended play over many weeks, I want to formally frame the time and space of the record’s second short ‘act’ of playing out, while attuning to the project’s methodology as an experiment in listening to time being taken – however subtle or even inaudible the act of sonic transformation might be.

Ella Finer’s practice in theatre, photography and sound explores the relationship of the gendered body and voice. With attention to how the politics of audibility and visibility interact, her performance and installation work often composes the live and the recorded together, layering the two as material elements with their own distinct temporalities. She holds a PhD from Roehampton University, London and has presented her scholarly work at symposia across the UK and internationally. In London she has exhibited work and performed at Raven Row, Bloomberg Space, Flat Time House and Olympia amongst others. Recent projects include an online commission Composition as Explanation for Performance as Publishing, solo exhibition Where We Meet, Volumes 1 and 2 at Galerie8, London Fields; and the experimental ongoing project O at Baltic 39, Newcastle.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Professor Dan Rebellato, Royal Holloway University

Is the Theatre a Zombie?

Neuroscientific ideas have already made a significant impact in the discipline(s) of drama, theatre, and performance. The promise that we can locate the neural source for hitherto mysterious human capacities, such as creativity, humour, free will, empathy, and the appreciation of beauty, offers us the prospect of demystifying great areas of theatre that had previously been the province of philosophical speculation or theatrical anecdote. But how coherent is the neuroscientific picture of the theatre and, indeed, of the human mind? I’ve come to this enquiry through beginning a research project, investigating nineteenth-century Naturalist theatre. In outline, the vision of the world offered by the neuroenthusiasts is the same as the one held by Émile Zola. For him, all human behaviour could be explained causally, as the result of (in principle) determinable social and biological forces. In the second edition of Thérèse Raquin, Zola used as an epigraph Taine’s declaration from his Introduction to the History of English Literature, ‘vice and virtue are products like vitriol and sugar’, exemplifying the reductionist physicalism that is characteristic both of popular scientific thought in the 1870s and the 2010s. But physicalist ideas – including neuroscientific ideas – have a problem in the form of the zombie. A series of philosophical thought experiments have used the idea of the zombie to show some fundamental problems with a physicalist model of the mind. In this paper, I want to explore these thought experiments and think how they might apply to the theatre – but even more, I want to suggest that the theatre itself might be seen as a kind of thought experiment that can contribute to debates about the nature of the human mind and the possibility of genuine freedom. In turn, this will illuminate some of Naturalism’s central contradictions and productive theatrical aporias that characterise this founding instance of the Modern European theatre.

Dan Rebellato is Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Head of the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway University of London. He has published widely on British theatre and on theatre and philosophy. His books include 1956 and All That (1999), Theatre & Globalization (2009),Contemporary European Theatre Directors (2010), The Suspect Culture Book(2013) and Modern British Playwriting 2000-2009 (2013). He is also a playwright, whose work has been performed across the world, on stage and radio.

Wednesday 26th February 2014

Dr Cass Fleming, Goldsmiths University

Genealogies of Actor Training: The work of Suzanne Bing

Wednesday 12th March 2014

Professor Heike Roms, Aberystwyth University

Speaking of Performance

How can we account for the history of performance art through artist interviews, oral history encounters, ‘dialogic discourse’ (A. Heathfield) or ‘infinite conversation’ (H.U. Obrist)? Do spoken words succeed where the archive fails to house the memory of past events? Does the live exchange that occurs in conversation offer an alternative model of a performance historiography that is itself performative in character? How do dialogues between artists and scholars negotiate the thorny issues of authorship and authority, subjectivity and intentionality, and changes in our understanding of what constitutes artistic and scholarly work? And who is allowed to add their voice to the conversation?
‘The Artist Speaks’ declared the art journal, Art in America, in 1966 when it launched its new column of artist interviews. The column is now seen as indicative of the growing importance that was ascribed to artists’ (public) utterances in the context of the ‘dematerialized’ art practices of the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, artists speak still, and many are asked to speak again of their work in the sixties and seventies. An increasing number of projects devoted to the early years of performance art uses the conversational format as a mode of historical enquiry. Several comprehensive oral history projects have focused on performance artists and their memories, eg. European Live Art Archive, Performance Saga, Unfinished Histories, and (my own) What’s Welsh for Performance?. Conversations have served as the basis for major research projects into the work of individual artists (eg. Adrian Heathfield on Tehching Hsieh) or scenes (eg. Amelia Jones on early 1970s Los Angeles). And alongside such scholarly or archival projects, there are curatorial and artistic approaches to the conversation format, foremost among them the long-term, encyclopedic interview series conducted by Hans-Ulrich Obrist.
My presentation will consider why we are drawn to the spoken word and the dialogic exchange in our attempts to account for performance art’s histories. Drawing on Adriana Cavarero and Judith Butler, I hope to refute the common objections to such exchange – that the immediacy of a spoken narration hides the fallibility of memory, and that interviews privilege the artist’s voice as a primary access point to the work – by approaching the conversation as a performative scene that calls immediacy and primacy into question as it conjures them up. I will discuss whether this implies that oral history practices are indeed ‘always reconstructive, always incomplete, never in thrall to the singular or self-same origin’ (Rebecca Schneider) and thus more akin to the way in which performance remains than archival records.
And I will ask whether the currency enjoyed by dialogic discourse today presents a ‘re-do’ of the conversational turn of the sixties and seventies, or whether it may be the result of a different kind of dematerialization that characterizes our contemporary moment, namely that of scholarly-critical work (and the increasing demand on researchers to engage in impactful dialoguing).

Heike Roms is Professor in Performance Studies at Aberystwyth University (Wales). She has published on contemporary performance practice, the history of performance art in a British context, performance historiography and archiving, performance and ecology and performance as a mode of knowledge formation and dissemination. Her edited volume, Contesting Performance – Global Sites of Research (with Jon McKenzie and C.J.W.-L. Wee), was published by Palgrave in 2010. Heike is director of ‘What’s Welsh for Performance? Beth yw ‘performance’ yn Gymraeg?’, a project focussing on the historiography of early performance art. The project was funded by a Large Research Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council AHRC (2009-2011) and won the David Bradby TaPRA Award for Outstanding Research in International Theatre and Performance 2011. She is currently working on a book arising from the research with the working title When Yoko Ono did not come to Wales – Locating the early history of Performance Art.

Wednesday 26th March 2014

Dr Julia Bardsley, Queen Mary University

Inside Medea’s Lab _(i)our

With a desire to construct models of thinking, a mythic female figure labours to reduce the space between thought and its articulation. Oscillating across the speculative and operative, she attempts to map the velocity of ideas; moving flesh into diagram into flesh. She notates the neurological currents of her creative process, formulating erotic equations and etching orgasmic potential onto discs of carbon.Since 2011, theatre artist Julia Bardsley has been channelling her thinking & making through the mythical persona of Medea. Her project Medea: dark matter events is an ongoing investigation into thematic strands specifically related to female sexuality, the neurobiology of creativity and the performative physics of the erotic. In this artist talk, Julia invites you inside Medea’s laboratory to take you through the journey of the project to date and discuss ways in which an audience might be invited to encounter, experience and witness the creative process at the moment of its unfolding.

Julia Bardsley is a theatre artist working with an interplay of performance, video, photography, extreme garments & sculptural objects. Recent works include: The Divine Trilogy: Trans-Acts, Almost The Same (feral rehearsals for violent acts of culture) & Aftermaths: a tear in the meat of vision (London, Glasgow, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, Belgium, Italy); meta-FAMILY (Brazil, UK, Belgium, Slovenia). 2011/12/13 editions of the Medea project include; Medea: dark matter events & medea|batteries + [re]charge|chamber (Deptford X Festival), medea house (Teresina, Brazil) MEDEAROOM (What Matters Festival, London), medea_DARK|ROOM (SPILL Festival of Performance, London) & Me_(i)dea Laboratorium (Arts & Humanities Festival, King’s College London). In preparation for spring/summer 2014 are two exhibitions with accompanying publications; Intimate Souvenirs from Me_(i)dea’s Lab(i)our and u See The Image Of Her i – pinhole photographs.

Between 1991-94 Julia was joint Artistic Director of the Leicester Haymarket Theatre and the Young Vic. In 2001 she was awarded a NESTA Fellowship and in 2007 was given an honorary doctorate from Middlesex University. Julia is a currently a lecturer in drama, theatre & performance at Queen Mary University London.The Medea project is produced by BARDSLEY_POPPY projects & has been supported by Arts Council England, a SPILL/Kings College London commissioning initiative and through a 2013/14 Kings Visiting Research Fellowship with Theron Schmidt & the School of Arts and Humanities.

Wednesday 7th May 2014

Project O: Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small

Benz Punany: A Lecture

‘Project O’ is a collaboration between dance artists Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small that aims to make visible positions of otherness, so that they will eventually no longer seem ‘other’. We are spurned on by the general fallout from being black, mixed and female living in London 2014.

Work to date includes:
Dance show ‘O’
The publication, A Contemporary Struggle, designed and edited by the duo and co-published by Live Art Development Agency
Performance research project for in-between spaces BYBG (Be Your Black Girlfriend)
SWAGGA (currently in development)


Wednesday 21st May 2014

New Writing: Sebastian Born (National Theatre), Chris Campbell (Royal Court), and Nina Steiger (Soho Theatre)

Changes in the landscape of contemporary playwriting: 2000-2014

A discussion on contemporary playwriting with Sebastian Born, Associate Director (Literary) of the National Theatre, Chris Campbell, Literary Manager at the Royal Court, and Nina Steiger, Associate Director at Soho Theatre.