Rising Tide

ASTR Working Session Calls for Papers “Trans-cultural, trans-national, trans-species histories in performance”

This post comes to you from Cultura21

Since their first American Society for The Theatre Research (ASTR) Working Group session at the 2010 conference in Seattle, the Performance and Ecology Working Group has spawned symposia, anthologies, and publications. Foremost among those is a new volume that grew out of the 2010 session: Readings in Performance and Ecology, eds., Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May (Palgrave 2012). The Working Group has continued valuable research on numerous fronts, including “Earth Matters on Stage” conference at Carnegie Mellon University (2012) and “Staging Sustainability” at York University (2011).

“The rising tide of this focused research indicate not only a growing concern and mounting artistic will in the realm of ecological sensibility, but also faith in the imagination as a critical aspect of our individual and collective ecological identities.”

This year, as part of ASTR’s “Theatrical Histories” focus, they turn their attention to trans-cultural, trans-national, and trans-species performance in anticipation of a second volume of ecocritical writings on theatre and performance. The questions for the upcoming 2012 Working Group session, that will take place November 1st.- 4th 2012 include:

  •  How do transcultural and transnational performances re-map our understanding of what May has called “ecodramaturgy”?
  •  What constitutes “theatre of species” (Chaudhuri) and how might these trans-species performances rearrange or reinterpret understandings of representation?
  •  How do the material characteristics of artistic sites condition the aesthetics of the work produced?
  •  What kinds of geological and geographical histories emerge alongside socio-cultural storytelling?
  •  How do intersecting histories – indigenous, place-based, community-driven – play out on stage in performance?
  •  How do ecological transitions, transmigrations, transmutations, transformations and transference shape artistic practice and meaning-making in the theatre?
  •  Other questions, approaches and topics that clearly address trans-national, trans-cultural, trans-species topics in performance.

Please send Abstracts as word attachments to both Working Group conveners below by May 31, 2012:

Theresa May, University of Oregon ( tmay33 [at] uoregon [dot] edu)

Nelson Gray, University of Victoria ( ncgray [at] uvic [dot] ca)

 More info: http://www.astr.org/conference/2012-working-session-cfps

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CALL FOR PAPERS/PROPOSALS: Trans-cultural, trans-national, trans-species histories in performance

ASTR/TLA 2012 WORKING GROUP
Ecology and/of/in Performance Working Group (on-going)

“Trans-cultural, trans-national, trans-species histories in performance”

Since our first ASTR Working Group session at the 2010 conference in Seattle, the Performance and Ecology Working Group has spawned symposia, anthologies, and publications.  Foremost among those is a new volume that grew out of our 2010 session: Readings in Performance and Ecology, eds., Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May (Palgrave 2012).  Our Working Group has continued valuable research on numerous fronts, including:  Earth Matters on Stage conference at Carnegie Mellon University (2012); the Staging Sustainability at York University (2011).  Participants in this Working Group have published an array of new material including; Ecology and European Drama by Downing Cless (Routledge). Networks and journals in the field such as, The Center for Sustainable Practices in the Arts Quarterly, the “Fieldworks” issue of Performance Research (eds. Pearson, Roms, Daniels, 2010), and the “Performance and Ecology” section of Theatre Topics (2007) attest to scholars’ acute awareness of environmental politics and ecopoetics praxis in an imminently changing world.  The rising tide of this focused research indicate not only a growing concern and mounting artistic will in the realm of ecological sensibility, but also faith in the imagination as a critical aspect of our individual and collective ecological identities.

In 2012, as part of ASTR’s “Theatrical Histories” focus, we turn our attention to trans-cultural, trans-national, and trans-species performance in anticipation of a second volume of ecocritical writings on theatre and performance.  Our questions for the upcoming 2012 Working Group session include:

  • How do transcultural and transnational performances re-map our understanding of what May has called “ecodramaturgy”?
  • What constitutes “theatre e of species” (Chaudhuri) and how might these trans-species performances rearrange or reinterpret understandings of representation?
  • How do the material characteristics of artistic sites condition the aesthetics of the work produced?
  • What kinds of geological and geographical histories emerge alongside socio-cultural storytelling?
  • How do intersecting histories – indigenous, place-based, community-driven – play out on stage in performance?
  • How do ecological transitions, transmigrations, transmutations, transformations and transference shape artistic practice and meaning-making in the theatre?
  • Other questions, approaches and  topics that clearly address trans-national, trans-cultural, trans-species topics in performance.

Please send a 500-word Abstract as attachment to both Working Group conveners below:

Theresa May, University of Oregon (tmay33@uoregon.edu)

Nelson Gray, University of Victoria (ncgray@uvic.ca)

Session Format:

Working Group participants will exchange papers in advance of the conference via meetings.  Depending on number, participants will read a selection of 3 to 4 papers each and develop questions that arise from the intersection of the ideas and research.  At the conference, these “pods” will discuss their findings and share them with the entire working group.  The conveners will facilitate a discussion leading to a possible frame (for instance, for a volume of essays) and key questions that the working group would like to see addressed as the research moves forward.

Institute of Contemporary Arts : Talks : The Climate for Theatre

8 July 2010 –  £5 / £4 ICA Members plus + £1.20 booking fee per ticket in advance

As theatre makers struggle to create the iconic work about climate change, should they borrow the models of local activism practiced by the anti-globalisation movement? Can theatre that inspires change by virtue of its rootedness in real life concerns also connect and inspire on an international stage? Chaired by Chris Smith, previously secretary of State for Culture and now chairman of the Environment Agency, and with speakers including John Jordan, artist and activist and author of We Are Everywhere, this debate examines theatre makers’ attitudes to environmental concerns. Why, unlike AIDS, the conflict between Israel and Palestine or even the global financial crisis, has climate change not inspired a potentially attitude-shifting piece of theatre? Films and literature have tackled the subject through fiction and polemic; where is the theatrical equivalent?

But is there actually a need for a catalyst, a great inspirational moment, or should we just continue at a local level, building from the grassroots up and up? As climate change activists deal with the failure of the Copenhagen talks last year, there is a move away from global mobilisation towards specific and local targets such as particular fossil-fuel power plants or mines, focusing more on local grassroots campaigns, “to start from the bottom” as the Rising Tide spokesman puts it. Should theatre makers take a leaf from the activists’ book and think local? As a subject that touches the daily business of life, is it more appropriate that theatre that addresses climate change and the need for action should itself be created in a local and practical context, intimately connected to its audience or participants’ daily life?

Held in association with Artsadmin, This is the third of four LIFT Debates that form part of LIFT Club at the ICA. These debates aim to explore our new relationship with theatre in the company of international theatre makers, critics and commentators.

Special Offer

Buying a ticket for this event and for the ICA featured LIFT performances at the same time – Revolution Now, Best Before, FML or Oxygen – entitles the purchaser to a discounted ICA Members price on their chosen performance. Call the ICA Box Office for details.

via Institute of Contemporary Arts : Talks : The Climate for Theatre.

Trash the Tate: Tax Yourself for the Cleanup.

I got invited to a facebook event the other day. It was a protest. It instructed attendees to wear black and march up San Francisco’s Market Street in a statement against the ongoing BP oil spill. And for the first time in my adult life, I found myself wondering “Why protest?” Nothing makes a statement quite like hundreds of thousands of crude oil flooding the gulf. No amount of marching equals the dramatic impact of the loss of marine life and fisheries. The spill is not suffering from a lack of media coverage: it’s a constant point of discussion on blogs, television news broadcasts, The Daily Show. In the same way that the Exxon corporation has become synonymous with the Exxon Valdez spill, so this spill will haunt the reputation of BP, and justifiably so. Why march? Why not, say, collect natural fibers for booms and send them to the gulf, to aid in the cleanup effort?

I had a similar reaction to Rising Tide’s recent “Liberate Tate” action. The organization sent a letter to Tate Modern Museum officials, stating:

By placing the words BP and Art together, the destructive and obsolete nature of the fossil fuel industry is masked, and crimes against the future are given a slick and stainless sheen.

It goes on to threaten:

Beginning during your 10th anniversary party and continuing until you drop the sponsorship deal, we will be commissioning a series of art interventions in Tate buildings across the country. Already commissioned are Art Action collective, with a birthday surprise at this weekend’s No Soul For Sale event, and The Invisible Committee, who will infiltrate every corner of Tate across the country in the coming months.

That No Soul for Sale surprise involved hanging balloons of oil in several Tate galleries and littering them with dead birds, forcing portions of the exhibition to close. The blogs Liberal Conspiracy, Art Threat and Indymedia UK touted the action as powerful and appropriate. In the meantime, museum workers were attempting a cleanup of their own artful oil spill.

PLATFORM London argues:

A decade ago tobacco companies were seen as respectable partners for public institutions to gain support from – the current BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery was previously sponsored by British American Tobacco. Now it is socially unacceptable for tobacco to play this public role, and it is our hope that oil & gas will soon be seen in the same light.

It’s undeniable that many companies see arts sponsorship as helpful rebranding following ecological or administrative catastrophes. My question is: if the Tate were to drop BP sponsorship, ending a 20-some-year relationship, what would prevent another, differently socially acceptable, differently bad, corporation from taking its place? The Tate has not disclosed the specific amount it receives from BP, and its account reports available for download do not specify BP’s contributions, but the museum does acknowledge that fully 60 percent of its funding comes from corporate sponsorships.

The Liberate Tate action is the brainchild of John Jordan, a former co-director of PLATFORM and the co-founder of the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (Labofii). It’s his feeling that arts funding should come from “taxes not corporations,” despite the fact that the British government is reducing arts subsidies. While “Liberate Tate” has no alternative-funding actions planned, Jordan cites’ the Tate’s budgetary silence: “Even if we did find other funders who could take their place, we would never know how much were talking!” In the meantime, “Liberate Tate” will continue to pummel the museum with insurrectionary actions.

I live in California: my taxes don’t fund the Tate. I can similarly not regard the Tate as my neighbor. But I am an employee of a San Francisco museum, and as such I can’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for the Tate, a bit of shock. Seriously? We’re going to punish art institutions for the crimes of its funders? And simultaneously: seriously? BP is just now starting to use natural fiber booms? Why shouldn’t corporations fund initiatives that seek to reconcile their most grievous errors, like Tate’s Rising to the Climate Challenge? Or are the taxpayers to shoulder the burden of cultural advancement, as they will shoulder the burden of the oil spill’s ecological cleanup?

To be fair, Jordan took the issue up with Tate officials directly before beginning the “Liberate Tate” campaign, engaging with director Nicolas Serota via a forum led by the Guardian, and emailing director Penelope Curtis,

Does what takes place outside the citadel that is Tate not feature in the decision-making of the Ethics Committee? If not, is that Committee held back from doing what is right by legal restrictions forcing it to act only in the interests of Tate itself? If so, how can we help change that situation?

This in response to Curtis’ statement that

Without BP’s support Tate would be less able to show the collection in a changing and stimulating way. Given that the majority of Tate’ s funding is self generated, it is necessary for the gallery to work across a wide range of corporate organisations and the sponsorship policy is regularly reviewed by the Trustees. The points you raise are important ones.

Jordan is well versed in disobedience against art institutions: the Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center dropped a workshop led by the Labofii when it became clear the the resulting “tools of civil disobedience” were to be used in COP15 actions. The Art Center feared a clash with the City of Copenhagen, a funder of the museum. Similarly, participants in Labofii’s “Art and Activism” workshop at the Tate Museum learned largely about actions against Tate and its funders, specifically because the Tate stated, in workshop preparations, that it could not host any such actions. The resulting insurrection hung a large “Art Not Oil” sign under the Tate’s “Free Entry” welcome.

In an age where environmental artists are using their skills to solve problems both cultural and ecological, are protest and disobedience really the most useful tools in the box? Or are they just the most dramatic? If there are artists working in soil health, reforestation, and urban gardening, can we not also have administrative artists? Where are the massive bureaucratic art “actions”? And, finally: who would be willing to donate 10 pounds to the Tate for every 5 pounds of BP funding dropped from its budget?

Land Art and changing perspectives


Filming Jan Dibbet’s 12 Hours Tide Object with Correction of Perspective, 1969


Jan Dibbets 6 Hours Tide Object with Correction of Perspective, Maasvlakte beach, 8 February 2009

A year ago this week as part of the Portscapes project, the artist Jan Dibbets had what he called a “second attempt” at his 1969 piece 12 Hours Tide Object with Correction of Perspective; the artist and curators rejected the idea of the event being a recreation. The apparently parallel lines are drawn on the beach and disappear again within the space between two high tides.

The original work became part of the canon of Land Art when it was included in Gerry Schum’s 1969  Land Art TV broadcast, alongside pieces by Robert Smithson and Richard Long. For Schum the attraction of Land Art was its liberation of art from the gallery. He was trying to make a TV-based form of art that suited the more democratic half of the 20th century.

In the second attempt the work becomes more obviously about man’s relationship to the natural world, partly because Portscapes, which we list as one of the 21 highlights of 2009, was a series of commissions by Latitudes on a piece of land that will disappear as part of the new Dutch industrial port complex Maasvlakte 2. And the piece now seems to emphasise the tidal inequalities of that relationship. Just as Dibbett’s illusory parallel lines are seen being washed away by the rising tide, so this beach will soon be gone. That is another perspective shift, of a kind.

Read more about 6 Hours Tide Object… here

Photos: Latitudes, Paloma Polo/SKOR and Freek van Arkel

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Rising Tide Conference REPORT


I was only able to attend one day of the three day conference last weekend in the Bay Area. Entitled Rising Tide, organized by Kim Anno, and jointly hosted by California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and Stanford University, there was a diverse mix of planning, art history, contemporary art, and design/technology.

A few highlights from the early morning session entitled Remaking/Reconceiving: I learned about Form Based Zoning Codes where the public participates in a greater way to decide what goes where in communities/cities. And, I was reminded by Amy Franceschini of the great work by former Super Mayor of Bogata, Enrique Penalosa, who encouraged performance based transformations in sustainability (like using mimes to direct traffic). Here is a short video on his vision for NYC presented last summer:

In the next session,
Bonnie Sherk (creator of T
he Farm), moderated a panel called Material Culture Sustainability. Panel description: What are new materials that artists/designer/architects are experimenting with? What materials have impacts on which industries? Where are the holes in research? What is sustainable business? How is culture sustainable? Stephanie Syjuco presented her Counterfeit Crochet handbags; Lynda Grose presented the work of young designers doing Slow Fashion in her program at Sustainable Fashion Design program at CAA. And, Banny Bannerjee, Director of the Stanford Design program, talked about how human’s are always trying to defy nature, stretch its limits, mimic nature, refer to nature, flirt with nature, evoke nature. He had a great saying: Doing Things Right, Doing the Right Things.

After lunch we got a dose of “Green Capitalism” with Amy Berk presenting her work TWCDC (Together We Can Defeat Capitalism). She showed several projects where they used signage to express anti-capitalist views like a road sign that said “Stock Market Crash Ahead” from 2000; “Capitalism Stops at Nothing” at a BART Station; and STOP BUS(H) in the bus lane in Oakland. She also presented her work bed-in-for-peace project, which she conceived in 2001 in Australia (based on Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s performance). Basically her position was that true revolution is guided by true feelings of LOVE . . . . . and she proves this by driving around San Francisco in a “FRYBRID” car that runs on moonshine and represents the ethos of Marx (Capitalist production only develops the social process of production by simultaneously underminding the original process of all wealth, the soil and the worker). Next on this panel was Simon Sadler who made some great links with Steward Brand/Whole Earth Catalogue, Buckminster Fuller (design is a scientific study not an aesthetic one), and “soft tech” (the limits to growth, and small is beautiful).

In the following session entitled Futures, Amy Balkin gave a beautiful presentation on her Air Park project. She outlined how she researched carbon credits and set up her work, presenting basically signage about her conceptual dealings around who owns the air. A description of the project: Public Smog is a public park in the atmosphere that fluctuates in location and scale. Built through financial, legal, or political activities, Public Smog is subject to prevailing winds and the long-range transport of aerosols and gases. When built through the economic mechanism of emissions trading, the park opens above the region where offsets are purchased and withheld from use. Public Smog first opened briefly to the public during 2004 above California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, and was open over the European Union through 2008. Balkin is now working on opening the park again in West Africa.

In the final panel of the day Shelia Kennedy showed her portable light project, which is going to receive a big award in May (she couldn’t tell us which), maybe the Fuller Challenge? and David Buuck shared about his project on Treasure Island in San Francisco, a tour called “Barge” looking at the paranoid landscapes of post industrial real estate.

There was a great gathering of people and it was a pleasure to finally meet Ian Garrett and see Miranda Wright again, both from Los Angeles with the Center for Sustainable Practices in the Arts who drove up for the conference.

For those of you who attended Friday and Sunday’s presentations, please comment and fill us in.

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Go to EcoArtSpace

The Rising Tide Conference Floats Many Boats

Rising Tide Conference

Last weekend, I was at the Rising Tide Conference: Art and Ecological Aesthetics, hosted by the California College of the Arts and Stanford University and was on a panel talking about the importance of art in any vision of human sustainability. I emphasized the notion that if we’re going to make art that is supposedly also “for the Earth” that we better think about what the Earth might actually need, otherwise it’s just green paint or wishful thinking. It might be helpful to consider art for human and non-human needs from beginning to end (materials, making and where it goes after we’re done with it, and after that). What would the worms and watersheds actually notice and appreciate? They had a very diverse group of speakers and some fun architectural design ideas floating around. Met some great artists in person (finally) who I’ve been wanting to connect with: Linda Gass and Ian Garrett of The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, to name just a few. It’s good to interconnect and jabber at these things but we need more biologists, land managers, business people and public policy experts at these conferences. All of you in those fields, please consider inviting eco-artists and their ilk to your next conference and vice versa. We need to be building ever-larger arks people. NOAA indeed…

Go to the Green Museum