Performance Research: Staging the Wreckage Publication ‘Crisis Acting in The Destroyed Room’

I have an article published in the latest edition of Performance Research


My article ‘Crisis Acting in the Destroyed Room’ looks at how theatre can stage the internet’s fragmentation of public narratives into media wreckage using Vanishing Point’s production The Destroyed Room as a case study. 
I use the alt-right conspiracy theory crisis acting as a critical frame to argue that online media wreckage immerses us in stories of trauma with no meaningful dialectic to explore the deeper political implications of this information.

UCU Strike

I’m striking from one of my jobs this week. Here’s why:

  • I have 10 years of lecturing experience. I have published articles in respectable peer reviewed journals. I have a PhD. I have organised conferences. But I have to work in 3 HEIs on temporary contracts.
  • The obsession with lecturer’s producing ‘world leading research’ means the barriers to entering the job market are far too high. Give us job security and we’ll write as many books as you want. University leaders need to nurture talent, not expect it to come knocking at the door
  • The brain struggles to function properly when one has to complete complex but totally unrelated tasks every day. Morning: Marking dissertations. Noon: Skype tutorials. Afternoon: Research and prepare teaching materials.Evening: Teach for 3 hours (this is a typical day for me!)
  • Job applications for part-time, temporary posts are far, far too common. But there is not differentiation between permanent and full time contracts on the job descriptions. If you haven’t published a monograph, forget about it
  • For theatre departments there is the added necessity of needing ‘industry experience’. This has been creeping into employment criteria for a while and is now common. (When was I supposed to make shows? During my masters’? When I spent two years as a teaching assistant because I couldn’t get any other work in theatre? When I was working full time during my PhD? Inbetween teaching, reasearch and admin? Should I STOP lecturing so I can become a BETTER lecturer??? I chose not to be an actor. I want to work in academia. I had to work 30 hours a week and do my PhD on weekends for 3 years. I am devoted to teaching and research. I’m not ashamed of this, but my career path is starting to become a hindrance. )
  • Admin overload. Sorry, I know everyone says this, but the amount of form filling/emailing/event organising/marketing/meeting prep/assessment boards is out of control. I feel guility asking administrators to to do admin roles because there is no limit to what academics are now expected to do.
  • Higher Education will crumble if the marketisation of knowledge continues for another decade. Fighting insecure work is defending the life of the mind

Prejudice Against Single Parent Families Remains Rife

This came through my letterbox on the weekend. It’s really upset me.

The Christian People’s Alliance are peddling the all too common hatred of divorced couples and children who grow up in one parent families. Arguing that children who live with one parent do not grow up in a ‘loving environment’ is deeply insulting. My parents divorced when I was three but I can still remember the arguments and sense of permanent tension when Dad was at home. Divorce is one of the most traumatic experiences a married couple can go through. It is a decision no-one reaches lightly, and yet single parent families are often discussed in terms of failure.

I was raised Catholic so I know how damaging this prejudice is. I was often treated as a problem child by my teachers, whilst my mum was often patronised or ignored by everyone in the church. There remains an implicit contempt for people who had my upbringing in wider society and it goes largely unchallenged.

We need to start thinking seriously about why single parents are treated as outcasts. Why do we still talk about divorce in terms of failure? Why do we still talk about children who grow up in single parent families as problems? Why are these experiences not part of the conversation when we talk about equality?

‘You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on’

It’s been a hectic few months and its not over yet! Since September I’ve presented at three conferences where I’ve discussed my research into digital immersion and audience as networks.

The conferences were: Radical Immersions, Watermans Art Centre; Performance and the Archive: Presence, Absence, and Digital Memory; University of Galway; and Zip-Scene: Interactive Narratives – the Future of Storytelling and Immersion in mixed reality mediums and performing arts, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest.

I’ll be writing about all three events in a longer post next week. My brain is melting with ideas…not least on the fascinating intersection between gaming cultures/technologies/narratives and digital theatre practices.

Here is some more information about Radical Immersions: https://lnkd.in/gpZ4G7P

And archivist Erin Lee has written a great precis of the Galway event: https://lnkd.in/g7sBHKv

In the mean time I’m teaching performative writing at Arthaus in Berlin this weekend. This is a new part of my teaching role at Rose Bruford where I was recently made module coordinator of the Vade Mecum/Performative Writing course, which acts as the ‘spine’ to all of the masters’ programmes. I’ll be working with the students on ideas of autobiography, autotopography, and creative approaches to documentation using Caryl Churchill’s play Here We Go.

Full steam ahead!

Radical Immersions Conference

This conference was organised by the Digital Research Humanities Association and looked at the impact new (and not so new) technologies are having on the ways art is produced and received by audiences. Speakers also explored concepts of immersion as they relate to information (or filter) bubbles on the internet.

Some of the questions papers addressed included:

What is the internet doing to our perception and experience of reality?

How can or should art respond to the paradigm of surveillance capitalism?

Why do we still talk about VR like it’s a new technology?

What realities should be immerse ourselves in to avert climate catastrophe?

One of the conference organisers Dani Ploeger kicked off proceedings with two provocations: ‘VR is dead’ and ‘The World Isn’t Real’. Those of us who have been following the post-truth conversation will be familiar with the second statement, but the first is some ways more shocking. VR remains a cutting edge technology in the cultural imagination despite the fact that it has existed since the early 1990s. Devices like the Occulus Rift are supposed to be bringing it into the domestic sphere, but the cumbersome headset remain a barrier to becoming fully integrated into our daily lives. I agree with Dani that the polymorphic medium of the internet has turned the real world into a virtual experience where our sense of the real is being constantly reconfigured.

Dani Ploeger opening the conference

The truth is dead. Everything is true. Nothing is real. The real is an illusion.

My paper ‘Communities of Crisis’ was based on my article ‘Crisis Acting in the Destroyed Room’ that is being published in Performance Research: Staging the Wreckage next month. I describe the internet as an amorphous network of digital spaces littered with media wreckage to analyse what the alt-right crisis acting conspiracy theory tells us about the ways political discourses and identities are constructed online. Vanishing Point’s devised performance The Destroyed Room is used as a case study of the breakdown of dialectical thinking on the internet.

Panel discussion

In his keynote address Matthew Fuller made the important point that immersion in media is commonly framed as a negative experience because the boundaries of personhood are supposedly softened. Using Professor Bad Trip’s graphic art as an example, Fuller invited us to think of immersion as becoming water-logged ‘but perhaps finding capacities at the edge of transition’. Like being under-water or reading a novel, the phenomenology of immersion allows us to experience reality beyond ourselves whilst expanding our sense of self.

Maria Chatzichristodoulo gave a history of immersion in art and theatre starting from fluxus movement of the 1950s and sixties up to today with companies such as Punchdrunk and Coney. Focusing on the meaning of ‘radical’ in the context of immersion, Maria made me think about how one becomes many ‘I’s’ in immersive environments. This has a radical potential in moving the paradigm of the self beyond humanistic conceptions of the individual towards conceiving of the human as an informational-ecological entity that exists in symbiosis with pervasive systems.