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Proposal accepted for Studies in Theatre and Performance – Performance and the Right: Strategies and Subterfuges

Abstract

The signature of digital culture is a compulsion to connect with realities and experiences outside of our community. Optimally, pervasive connectivity allows us to stretch our real self by playing identities as a means of establishing empathetic relations with multiple histories, ideas and perspectives. The growing influence of identitarian tribal affiliations on the left and right – exacerbated by the immersive worlds we build online – inhibits discursive acts of imagination. This article argues the imaginations of audiences can be trans-ed by inviting them to participate in discursive thinking events in immersive theatre. I apply Amelia Jones’s conception of trans- as a term ‘implying exceeding, moving towards, changing; going across, over or beyond’ (2016:1) to analyze the complex web of connections participants scaffold in the performances Operation Black Antler by Blast Theory and Hydrocracker (2019) and One Day, Maybe by dreamthinkspeak (2017) between bodies, times, historical and national narratives. I will explore how trans- manifests as a performative dialectic where (sexual, gender, racial, etc.) identities become dramaturgically fluid and unfixed, and consider how this mode of participation can effectuate forms of discursive thinking that are contingent on participating in acts of empathy rather than of conflict. Hannah Arendt’s writings on representative thinking – perceiving political realities outside of one’s community by bringing examples to mind ‘that are not actually present’ (1981) – provides a critical framing for trans-participation in my argumentation. I argue trans-participation constitutes a thinking event which allows individuals to experience perspectives as a strategy of challenging right-wing national narratives of the people versus the elites. Trans-participation complicates rhetorically crude conceptions of post- truth by allowing people to play identities that connect them to the far-right ideology in Operation Black Antler and competing national narratives of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in One Day, Maybe inside fictional worlds.

References

Arendt, H. (1981) The Life of the Mind. London: Harcourt

Jones, A. (2016) ‘Introduction’, Performance Research, 21:5, 1-11

Article. Crisis Acting in the Destroyed Room in Performance Research: Staging the Wreckage

I have been notified by the editors that my article has been accepted for publication. This edition of Performance Research will be published in August 2019.

Abstract


The ubiquity of the internet immerses us in waves of traumatic information, leaving us desperately crawling through media wreckage to make sense of the world. This article appropriates the term ‘crisis acting’ from the alt-right political lexicon to analyse how interacting with media forces us to affiliate with communities and distorts perceptions of reality to conform to the norms and precepts of those communities. Media wreckage denotes the fragmentation of hegemonic narratives occasioned by the internet acting as the dominant scaffold of human relationality. I use this critical framing to argue that the corrosive effects of immersive online networks are performed in Vanishing Point’s The Destroyed Room (2016). The performance is a semi-improvised conversation between three actors who debate the ethics of watching videos depicting IS executions, the 2015 Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris, the refugee crisis and scenes of natural disasters. Crisis acting is a conspiracy most famously propagated by the alt-right activist Alex Jones, host of the online broadcaster InfoWars. Jones spread a disinformation campaign that survivors of high school shootings in the US are government agents working for the New World Order. Conspiracies act as information contagion in public discourse. Crisis acting in the New World Order imaginary is a narrative of control and dominance by omnipotent forces. The narrative is created by re-purposing extant media content into believable (if entirely fictitious) versions of reality. I adapt it’s meaning in this article to explore how The Destroyed Room stages a collective failure to establish global empathetic relationships in digital spaces with media content, a process I describe as ‘crisis acting’. Terror, social media and climate breakdown constitute the three pieces of media wreckage that are staged as dialogue in The Destroyed Room. I argue that constructing narratives of reality with media wreckage turns us into crisis actors who cannot imagine ways of performing in the world as political agents outside of digital spaces.

Paper accepted for Radical Immersions Conference

I will be presenting my paper ‘Communities of Crisis: Digital Spaces, Crisis Acting and Media Wreckage in The Destroyed Room’ at the DHRA conference Radical Immersions: Navigating between virtual/physical environments and information bubbles 8-10 September.

Abstract

The ubiquity of the internet immerses us in waves of traumatic information, leaving us desperately crawling through media wreckage to make sense of the world. This paper appropriates the term ‘crisis acting’ from the alt-right political lexicon to analyse how interacting with media forces us to affiliate with communities and distorts perceptions of reality to conform to the cultural, political and/social norms and precepts of those communities. Media wreckage denotes the fragmentation of political, social, economic and cultural narratives occasioned by the internet acting as the dominant scaffold of human relations. I use this critical framing to argue that the corrosive effects of immersive online networks are performed in Vanishing Point’s The Destroyed Room (2016). The performance is a semi-improvised conversation between three actors who debate the ethics of watching videos depicting IS executions, the Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris, the refugee crisis and scenes of natural disasters. Crisis acting is a conspiracy most famously propagated by the alt-right propagandist Alex Jones, host of the online broadcaster InfoWars. Jones spread a disinformation campaign that survivors of high school shootings in the US are government agents working for the New World Order. Conspiracies act as information contagion in public discourse. Crisis acting in the New World Order imaginary is a narrative of control and dominance by omnipotent forces. The narrative is created by re-purposing extant media content into believable (if entirely fictitious) versions of reality. I invert it’s meaning in this paper to explore how The Destroyed Room stages a collective failure to establish global empathetic relationships in digital spaces with media content, a process I describe as ‘crisis acting’. Terror, social media and climate breakdown constitute the three pieces of media wreckage that are staged as dialogue in The Destroyed Room. Each piece of wreckage is exhumed in my paper to argue that constructing narratives of reality with media wreckage turns us into crisis actors who cannot imagine ways of performing in the world as political agents outside of digital spaces. Online interactivity elides our identities with the media content we share, comment and re-purpose in our networks to construct communal perceptions of reality. This process that fails to produce a cogent political dialectic. Theories of the ‘postdigital’ (Bay-Cheng, 2016; Causey, 2016) provide a conceptual framework for exploring how online interaction is performed in The Destroyed Room as a series of competing narratives. These narratives interweave the identities of each character with the subjects of the media wreckage that become staged through their dialogue. The consequence of constituting the human subject as an ‘inforg’ (Floridi 2014) is to limit visions of humanity’s future to the mediated versions we create online.

References

Bay-Cheng, S. (2016) Postmedia Performance. Contemporary Theatre Review, [online] 26(2). Available at: https://www.contemporarytheatrereview.org/2016/postmedia-

Causey, M. (2016) Postdigital Performance. Theatre Journal, 68(3), pp.427-441


Floridi, L. (2014) The Fourth Revolution. How the infosphere is reshaping human reality. Oxford University Press

Article. Good Night, Sleep Tight (Remix) in International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media.

This article explored the affordances of VR as a performance medium. ZU-UK’s participatory piece Good Night, Sleep Tight acts as a case study to discuss the relationship between artists and technologists, the status of VR as an art form, and the potential interactive technologies have for creating intimate encounters between actors and audiences. The article can be accessed here. It was published in a special edition of IJPADM entitled Performance and VR Practice: New Work for New Environments.

Abstract

Good Night, Sleep Tight is an interactive virtual reality performance created by theatre and digital arts company ZU-UK. It was previewed at Gerry’s Kitchen in July 2017. Combining VR and binaural technologies, participants are put to bed and transported to a dreamscape composed of childhood imagery and aerial cityscapes. This artistic position remixes the audience’s experience and the artistic processes of Good Night, Sleep Tight to proffer a critical engagement with the aesthetics of VR. Theories pertaining to VR and theatre are emerging but not yet fully established. The discourse between technologists and artists is key to understanding how VR is a new artistic medium requiring a language not solely redolent of gaming or theatre. The format of this article reflects ZU-UK’s contention that VR experiences are best designed as collaborations between artists and audiences who construct an imaginary world through interactive media. The seven scenes below concentrate on different aspects of the rehearsal process and the final performance from the perspectives of the ZU-UK directors, VR technologists, and participants. Interspersed throughout the article are fragments from the Good Night, Sleep Tight script and a description of the piece from the reader’s perspective, who acts as ZU-UK’s imaginary audience member.

Editorial. Is the World After All Just a Dream? in Proceedings from the Document Academy

I wrote this editorial with Dr Lyn Robinson following the second DocPerform symposium in November 2017. The full article can be accessed on the Proceedings from the Document Academy website.

Abstract

DocPerform is a multi and interdisciplinary research project based at City, University of London. Led by members of the Department of Library & Information Science, it comprises scholars and practitioners from the fields of performing arts and library & information science. The project concerns conceptual, methodological and technological innovations in the documentation of performance, and the extent to which performance may itself be considered to be a document. The collection of papers in this special issue of Proceedings from the Document Academy are selected from the second DocPerform Symposium, held at City, University of London, 6–7 November 2017. This editorial introduces those papers and provides disciplinary and historical context for DocPerform.