These following talks were given on 8 February 2017 to launch the new Journal of Embodied Research. The transcript has been edited for clarity. To hear the audio recording, please visit the original post.
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)
Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors
Training Grounds Editor: Dr Sara Reed, Coventry University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Against the Canon (Issue 11.3)
This will be a special issue of the journal which addresses the forgotten or marginalised contributions made by various collaborative artists and practitioners to the development of performer training during the twentieth and twenty first centuries. Many previous publications on training have tended to focus on canonical figures and the dominant historical performer-training narratives. Less attention has been paid to collaboration as an important characteristic of avant-garde performance training, and to the complex collaborations through which pedagogy and work has been developed and disseminated. This journal issue will intentionally centralise these collaborative exchanges, thereby shifting the focus away from canonical individual figures and towards frequently overlooked or under-recognised collaborators, practitioners and pedagogues.
We invite contributions that might challenge the manner in which traditional performer training histories often still seek to capture the ‘purity’ of established methods and also to identify individual owners of successful techniques. This issue will seek to challenge the ways in which practitioners such as Stanislavsky, Copeau, Laban, Grotowski and Lecoq are often uncritically revered as ‘Master Teachers’ and the ways in which this obscures or negates the existence of wider networks of artists who contributed to the development of these training practices, many of whom were women. To this extent we are not looking simply to critique existing canonical figures, but to bring forward the work of those who are usually ignored.
In addition, this edition will also explore strands of performer training that emerged for artists whose needs, and/or identities, have been poorly catered for or marginalised by the dominant trainings and institutions in the twentieth century. This might cover the emergence of performer training and talent development by companies such as Talawa, Graeae, Candoco and Tamasha or organisations such as WAC Arts, The Diversity School Initiative, Identity School of Acting and The Mono Box in the UK, as well as practices elsewhere in the world that challenge and disrupt conventional and canonical processes of training.
The special issue proposes to contest traditional linear, colonial and/or patriarchal histories by encouraging an exploration of hidden acts of non-linear cross-fertilisation in the development of training practices, recognising the alternative forms of pedagogy developed outside the mainstream, and considering related critical and ideological ideas. The re-positioning of generally marginalised or overlooked artists and their work can also be seen to follow from a larger, and older, feminist project, from the rise of the #MeToo campaign, and from the need to de-colonise the performer training canon. Proposals may also look to Post Colonial studies, Queer studies and Disabilities Art in terms of critically considering the reasons for exclusion and omission from the mainstream and the training needs of a more diverse community of performers.
This guest edited issue welcomes submissions using alternative forms of historiography and documentations, and diverse critical approaches, that may be better suited to explore non-linear cross-fertilisation in the development of training practices, and the emergence of new forms of training that often existed outside the dominant historical models.
The special issue will:
- re-position and re-examine generally marginalised or overlooked artists/pedagogues and their work.
- examine the ways in which gender, race, disability, sexuality, social class and economics function to marginalise practices and practitioners.
- question how diverse collaborations and training approaches have been distorted and blocked by social, cultural and industrial forces.
- encourage contributions that engage with the ways in which we document and acknowledge previously overlooked collaborative exchanges.
Expressions of interest
We are particularly interested in (but are not limited to) submissions in the following areas:
- Articles and Sources that draw critical attention to those pedagogues, practitioners and trainers whose collaborative contributions have been historically overlooked or denied. This can be groups of practitioners, or individuals.
- Articles and Sources that question the single authoring of training methodologies and conventional notions of ‘ownership’.
- Articles and Sources that explore the development of performer training outside of mainstream provision.
- The role of post training professional mentoring in challenging traditional modes of training.
- Articles using creative forms of historiography.
We welcome submissions from authors both inside and outside academic institutions and from those who are currently undergoing training or who have experiences to tell from their training histories. To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue in any one of the ways identified above please email an abstract (max 250 words) to Cass Fleming and Mark Evansat: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org. Training Grounds proposals are to be made to Sara Reed, (email@example.com) with copies to Mark and Cass.
Our deadline for these abstracts is 16th June 2019.
Theatre, Dance and Performance Traininghas three sections:
- “Articles” feature contributions in a range of critical and scholarly formats (approx. 5,000-7,000 words)
- “Sources” provide an outlet for the documentation and analysis of primary materials of performer training. We are particularly keen to receive material that documents the histories and contemporary practices associated with the issue’s theme.
- “Training Grounds” hosts shorter pieces, which are not peer reviewed, including essais, postcards, visual essays and book or event reviews. We welcome a wide range of different proposals for contributions including edited interviews and previously unpublished archive or source material. We also welcome suggestions for recent books on the theme to be reviewed; or for foundational texts to be re-reviewed.
Innovative cross-over print/digital formats are possible, including the submission of audiovisual training materials, which can be housed on the online interactive Theatre, Dance and Performance Trainingjournal blog: http://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/
- 16th June 2019:250 word proposals to be submitted to Cass Fleming andMark Evans at: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com.
- Early July 2019: Response from editors and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution.
- Early July 2019 to end October 2019: Writing/preparation period and submission of first drafts.
- End October-End of December 2019:Peer review period.
- January 2020:Author revisions, post peer review.
- September 2020: publication as Vol. 11, Issue 3.
We look forward to hearing from you.
5 tips to make the most of a blog entry
Topos is a year-long artistic collaboration between Cumbria Youth Dance Company and Wired Aerial Theatre, to create a suite of new work – 1 dance film & 2 performance pieces – on the theme of mountains. Exploring the relationship between Labanotation (a way of recording dance movement) and topos (a similar notation method used by climbers to record their routes), dancers will work on the Cumbrian fells and in the studio to explore the transition between vertical & horizontal, producing 3 unique pieces of choreography for sharing at Kendal Mountain Festival, in the gardens at Brantwood, Coniston during John Ruskin’s bicentenary celebrations, and at Lakes Alive festival. The first performance has already been seen on stage at The Lowry as part of U. Dance NW 2019.
Part of the project will involve the young dancers creating blog posts describing their training and explaining how they are using the inspiration of their native Cumbrian fells to create contemporary dance.
So: to celebrate this project and to kickstart the TDPT collaboration here are 5 top tips for developing a good blog entry:
- Think carefully about how you combine your media. Do you have images and/or short video you can use to complement your ideas in writing?
- Be simple and natural with your writing – blogs can be informal and are often all the more engaging when they are.
- Think of your audience – who are you speaking to? In this example – for TDPT – it is a mix of readers from all over the world, so don’t assume everything will be understood and explain local terms or jargon (briefly though!)
- Keep things short and sweet. Blogs are often read while people are doing other things – so keep the message simple.
- Above all – have a clear focus, so you know what you are trying to say. For this project it could be answering a simple question: How can mountains and nature inspire a training in dance?
And remember – I’ll be around for the next few months as part of the project team to help and advise. So please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.
Jonathan Pitches (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(TDPT co-editor and academic at Leeds University)
Towards Contemporary Acting Techniques, Practices & Methodologies
Post-doctoral Researcher Dr Kiki Selioni, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Labanarium and MCF have taken the initiative to organize a Conference in Athens. The conference The Makings of the Actor aims to offer a platform to dialogue about the skills and knowledge necessary to develop the contemporary actor. The Conference will be the pilot event towards the establishment of the International Centre for Actor’s training that will officially open the next year 2020 in Athens supported by many institutions. Its mission is to gather international practitioners and researchers to discuss the needs of contemporary performance practice through conferences, performances, and workshops taking place internationally.
Contrary to the between-ness of our global realities, the vast majority of professional/conservatory-based training programmes in Europe, the UK, US, and Australia with a few exceptions have not yet embraced multi-, inter-, intra-cultural realities in their structure or pedagogical practice. Assumptions about what acting ‘is’ continue to be shaped by conventional modes, models, techniques, and structures that often resist both critical and/or creative self-examination (Zarrilli, Sasitharan and Kapur, 2016: 336).
The conference wants to address these perspectives and invites contributions addressing the following questions:
- what constitutes outstanding acting?
- The role of ‘talent’ in acting training
- How to train skills and dexterity
- How do we train and teach to reach all of the above
Our main goal is to open the discussion about this crucial issue of how to develop an actor today and to open a platform where for the first time we can as practitioners discuss our practices in order to create a community that can reach solutions.
Pr. Sergei Tcerkasckki Head of an Acting Studio in Russian State Institute of Performing Arts (he will also deliver an intensive week Workshop about Stanislavsky’s system) 100 years of the Stanislavsky System and Modern Actor Training
Pr. Andy Lavender in Theatre & Performance at the University of Warwick. Head of the School of Theatre & Performance Studies and Cultural & Media Policy Studies, University of Warwick.
Dr. Tom Cornford, Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Sulian Vieira Pacheco, Assistant Professor, Department of Performing Arts, University of Brasilia
Avra Sidiropoulou Assistant Professor at the Μ.Α. program in Theatre Studies at the Open University of Cyprus
Pr. Nikos Geladas School of Physical Education and Sports Science National and Kapodistrian University of Athens ·
Dr. Katia Savrami Assistant Professor of Choreology at the Department of Theatre Studies at the University of Patras, Greece.
Pr. Rob Roznowski Head of Acting and Directing in the Department of Theatre. Professor Michigan State University, USA.
Ramunė Balevičiūtė Associate Professor in Theatre Studies, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre
Call for Papers, Teaching Demonstrations and Performances 17-26 July (Except Sunday 21th)
We welcome submissions from acting/voice/movement teachers, actors coaches, theatre practitioners, actors, directors, training practitioners, theatre researchers, practice and academic researchers within varying aspects of practice.
For papers please send your abstract of 200 words for your oral presentation (20 min) in a Word doc form, including title, institutional affiliation, your brief CV and email address. The paper presentations will be 20 min they are followed by a 10 min discussion with the audience/participants.
Submissions of teaching demonstration must be in English and can be up to 4 pages (including references and figures) in a Word doc form, including title, institutional affiliation, your brief CV and email address. The first 2 pages are expected to describe your system. The third and fourth pages are expected to be used for images, references, and technical requirements. You should expect wireless network access. A number of 8-10 students will be provided for all accepted demonstrations. The Demonstration allows practitioners/researchers to demonstrate their works in teaching in a dedicated session of 60-70 min. they are followed by a 20 min discussion with the audience/participants.
Performances will take place at Michael Cacoyannis Foundation Theatre Hall. Proposals must outline the planned work accurately in 2 pages in a Word doc form and must include title, brief Cv, technical requirements, images, and video. Performances running must be 20-90 min. and they are followed by a 20 min discussion with the audience/participants.
Please send your submission until 15th May 2019 to email@example.com
If an official invitation is required earlier for research funding purposes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ensure that you submit your abstract as early as possible.
Submissions based on an implemented and tested system that innovative approaches related to conference’s areas of interest, (including but not limited to):
Voice speaking training
Dance and movement training for actors
Martial arts, stage combat
Acting coaching on screen
Actor and musical productions
Improvisation techniques and rehearsal process
Theory and/or Practice
Performance as Training
Psychology of the Actor
Presence and Truth on Stage
Ecstatic and Ritual Acting
Metaphysics and Physics in Actor’s presence
Acting in Education
Actors in Industry and their continuous training
Amateur/Professional Actors skills.
Skills and dexterities in Acting
Acting/Coaching Teachers and their skills.
Choreography in Acting
Conference Attendance Fees: €200
Student and unwaged €100
Workshop Monday 22 July to Friday 26 July 14.00-19.00
Modern Stanislavsky System in the Mirror of Chekhov’s “The Seagull”
This two-part workshop gives an experience of work according to the different phases of Stanislavsky’s System development. Starting from the intensive practical overview of different approaches to work of an actor on himself/herself it moves forward to scene work.
Rehearsal techniques (Etude technique, Method of Physical Actions, Action Analysis) are discussed and experienced. Closer examination of Treplev’s play in play reveals how Action Analysis might be applied not only for psychological drama but to the nonrealistic playwriting (here, to symbolic drama) as well.
Participants: €400 Student & unwaged: €300
Attendants: €200Student & unwaged: €100
For info and booking please send your application and brief cv to: email@example.com
The full call is here
This special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) is interested in the training of performance and live artists – its forms, histories, pedagogies, geographies, institutions and anti-institutions, and its legacies. To speak of ‘training’ in this context may seem surprising as the term evokes notions of tradition, technique and canon that performance and live art have frequently challenged or abandoned altogether. And biographies of performance and live artists often imply that their artistic formation occurred despite rather than because of the formal training they received at art colleges and universities. Yet, the making of performance and live art requires many skills and knowledges, whether embodied or conceptual, compositional or professional, and such skills and knowledges have been the subject of a multiplicity of approaches to their nurture and development.
Training for Performance Art and Live Art is interested in tracking the approaches to training in performance and live art as they have emerged both within and outside the contexts of formal education. The histories of performance art and live art are deeply imbricated with those of education and its institutions. Many artists who have shaped performance and live art have also been committed teachers and activists educators; pedagogical approaches to their teaching emerged alongside the performance practices themselves; educational institutions offered material support for the making of performance works and provided a living for its artists; and the integration of performance into their provision has led to changes to the organisational structures and procedures of art schools and universities. At the same time, performance and live artists have devised radical artist-led modelsof anti-training, created non-institutional spaces of learning and adopted events and publications as alternative forms of curricula.
This call for contributions invites textual, visual or performative submissions (see below) that examine the role that training and education have played for performance and live art. We are particularly keen to receive proposals that explore the theme from an historical perspective; and those that discuss local, translocal, national or transnational contexts for the pedagogical and training histories of performance and live art. We also encourage contributions that evaluate the legacies of these histories, and that assess their continuing relevance and potential for re-activation in the context of today’s predominantly normative, market-driven educational provision. Contributions that explore the methodological implications of documenting and researching what has gone on in the training spaces of performance and live art are also welcome.
We also welcome suggestions for recent books on the theme to be reviewed; or for foundational texts on the topic of performance and live art training to be re-reviewed.
Innovative cross-over print/digital formats are possible, including the submission of audiovisual training materials, which can be housed on this online interactive Theatre, Dance and Performance Training blog: http://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/
Areas of interest for the Special Issue include (but are not limited to):
• distinct pedagogical approaches to the teaching of performance and live artists
• experimental and alternative modes of training in performance and live art
• models of anti-training in performance
• the role of educational institutions in the emergence of performance art and live art
• the role of anti-institutional, counter-educational or deschooling initiatives in the emergence of performance art and live art (eg. anti-universities; artist-run schools; cooperatives; workshops; laboratories)
• approaches to learning and ’unlearning’ in performance training
• models of the ‘self-taught’ performance artist
• training as continuing artistic practice
• translocal or transnational exchanges and collaborations (eg. festivals; residencies; magazines; mail art) and their impact on the pedagogies of performance and live art
• the impact of key teachers on the development of performance and live art (eg. John Cage; Joseph Beuys; Allan Kaprow; Suzanne Lacy; Alastair MacLennan; Marina Abramović; Anthony Howell; Alanna O’Kelly; Doris Stauffer; Roy Ascott; Rose Finn-Kelcey; etc)
• publications on the pedagogy and training of performance and live art (eg. Anthony Howell; Charles Garioan; Marilyn Arsem) and their impact
• artists books; charts; games or kits as alternative curriculum models for performance and live art
• alternative spaces and models for intergenerational exchanges in the framework of teaching and learning performance and live art
• the documentation of teaching practices in the field of performance and live art
• research approaches to the histories of training in performance and live art
• the impact of the ‘pedagogization’ of performance and live art on artistic development
• institutional legacies of performance art training
• strategies for the re-activation of past pedagogies for the future ofperformance and live art
About Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)
Special Issues of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) are an essential part of its offer and complement the open issues in each volume. TDPTis an international academic journal devoted to all aspects of ‘training’ (broadly defined) within the performing arts. It was founded in 2010 and launched its own blog in 2015. Our target readership comprises scholars and the many varieties of professional performers, makers, choreographers, directors, dramaturgs and composers working in theatre, dance, performance and live art who have an interest in the practices of training. TDPT’s co-editors are Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London).
Submitting a proposal:
To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue please contact Heike Roms for an initial exchange of ideas/thoughts or email a proposal (max 300 words) to Heike Roms at firstname.lastname@example.org
Firm proposals for all three sections (Articles, Sources or Training Grounds) must be received by 1 May 2019 at the latest.
Please identify the intended format for your proposed contribution; and whether you would like it to be considered for the “Articles”, “Sources” or “Training Ground” section and/or the blog.
1 May 2019: Proposals to be submitted to Heike Roms email@example.com
31 May 2019: Response from editor and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution
June to End August 2019: Writing/preparation period
Start Sept to end October 2019: Peer review period
November 2019 – end January 2020: Author revisions post peer review
June 2020: Publication as Issue 11.2
Please join us for the inaugural event of the Stanislavsky Research Centre based at the University of Leeds.
‘The Inner Creative State: Practical Stanislavsky for the 21st-Century Actor’
A Practical Lecture/Presentation to celebrate the launch of the Stanislavsky Research Centre, by Bella Merlin, PhD.
May 7th 2019 (5-7.30pm) Alec Clegg Studio, stage@leeds, University of Leeds
In our increasingly digitized and visual industry, actors have to adapt their skillsets constantly for different media, styles of storytelling and myriad roles. How might we develop our ‘inner creative state’ so that we can remain professionally flexible, imaginatively available and emotionally thin-skinned?
In this practical lecture/presentation, Bella Merlin draws upon recent experience in film, theatre and actor training to share how Stanislavsky’s ‘toolkit’ provides a sound bedrock for developing our ‘inner creative state’. Using the fundamental principles of Active Analysis, along with tools including a ‘constant state of inner improvisation’, the ‘creation of the living word’ and ‘dual consciousness’, Merlin addresses how practice-as-research can take us deeper into our acting processes.
Bella Merlin, PhD. is an actor, writer and Professor of Acting and Directing at the University California, Riverside. Her publications include The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit (NHB, 2014), Konstantin Stanislavsky (Routledge, 2018), and Facing the Fear: An Actor’s Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright (NHB, 2016).
Tickets are free but registration is essential:
The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception with more details about the Centre’s programme of activities.
We look forward to welcoming you to Leeds.
Paul Fryer (Director)
Jonathan Pitches (Deputy Director)
School of Performance and Cultural Industries
Alec Clegg Studio
University of Leeds
Monday February 11th, 5-7pm
Organised by the Performance Training, Preparation and Pedagogy Research Group
Join us for an exciting evening dedicated to Directing including:
a talk by Professor Simon Shepherd (Central School of Speech and Drama) and sharing of work in progress of Phaedra I — by Persona Theatre Company and directed by Dr Avra Sidiropoulou, Open University of Cyprus, followed by a roundtable discussion with the creative team.
Phaedra I — is a solo multimedia portrayal of a modern-day Phaedra, bearing all the ambiguities of a restless, contemporary woman who oscillates between the desires of the body and the attraction to the void, suffocating in her socially imposed roles within the ruins of a decaying metropolis. The production’s use of 3-D mapping, video projections and minimalist aesthetics yields a highly poetic visual journey through Phaedra’s stations of personal and public history. Phaedra I—is being realized with the kind support of the J.F.Costopoulos Foundation.
Simon Shepherd will ask ‘What do directors direct?’, building on his previous reflections on the specific role of the director. This, will be argued, is as distinct from the activity of directing. In answering this question, the talk shall suggest the key things directors need to be able to do, and consequently what they have to learn.
Please RSVP to Linda Watson, Linda Watson, L.M.Watson@leeds.ac.uk, by Thursday the 7th of February.
An international symposium presented by DAMU and The S Word
Legacy and the live tradition: acting, directing, thinking…
8th to 10th November 2019, @ Theatre Faculty, Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU), Prague, Czech Republic.
DAMU and The S Word present a symposium on the theatrical legacy of one of the most influential personalities of 20th century theatre and his relationship to Konstantin Stanislavsky.
Under the auspices of Jan Hančil, rector of AMU and the minister of Education of The Czech Republic, the symposium will bring together scholars and theatre practitioners; explore Brecht‘s influence on the work of directors and acting teachers, and the relationship between Brecht and Stanislavsky; trace the influences on the approach to directing theatre in various countries, to playwriting and consider Brecht‘s politics and theatre as highly social art. A Comparison with Stanislavsky‘s approach to theatre training, the development of modern theatre directing, and dramatic, alternative and authorial theatre will also be explored.
Guest speakers, paper presentations, workshops and panel debates will take place in three focus areas:
Brecht, his legacy and modern theatre practice will examine Bertolt Brecht’s influence in the fields of theatre directing, modern stagecraft, scenography and playwriting and his continuing impact on the modern theatre.
Brecht, Stanislavski and the actor focusing on comparison and aspects of actor training and the actor’s work as reflected in the brechtian and stanislavskian traditions. We will explore new developments and interpretations in each of these and their influence and impact on contemporary state of the art psychology, neuroscience and theatre studies.
Brecht’s Theatre practice and criticism (historical and theoretical background and new research achievements)
Guest speakers, paper presentations, workshops and panel debates will take place in three focus areas:
Brecht, his legacy and modern theatre practice will examine Bertolt Brecht’s influence in the fields of theatre directing, modern stagecraft, scenography and playwriting and his continuing impact on the modern theatre.
Brecht, Stanislavski and the actor focusing on comparison and aspects of actor training and the actor’s work as reflected in the brechtian andstanislavskian traditions. We will explore new developments and interpretations in each of these and their influence and impact on contemporarystate of the art psychology, neuroscience and theatre studies.
Brecht’s Theatre practice and criticism (historical and theoretical background and new research achievements)
Professor Stephen Parker (Honorary Research Fellow, University of Manchester, UK.), author of Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life(Bloomsbury) described by The London Review of Books as a “superb biography of a great iconoclastic writer”.
Professor Jean-Louis Besson (Professor Emeritus, University of Paris-Ouest-Nanterre-La Defense), author of over 100 publications,translations, articles and papers, including “Brecht and the centaurs” and “Brecht in Hollywood”.
Special Guest speaker:
Thomas Ostermeier the distinguished multi-award-winning international theatre director, whose work is often seen at the Schaubühne, Berlin.
Guest speakers/workshop leaders include:
Professor David Barnett (University of York), author of A History of the Berliner Ensemble (Cambridge University Press), and Brecht in Practice(Bloomsbury).
Stephen Unwin, theatre director and author of The Complete Brecht Toolkit (Nick Hern Books), and A Guide to the Plays of Bertolt Brecht(Methuen).
David Zoob (Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, UK.), author of Brecht: A Practical Handbook (Nick Hern Books)
NB. speakers are subject to final confirmation.
We now invite proposals for the following:
paper presentations (20 minutes), workshops (40 minutes) and panel presentations of a minimum of 3 speakers (60 minutes).
Submissions (not more than 300 words) should be accompanied by a short biographical note, and must be received by 14th June 2019
Please send by email to Prof. Paul Fryer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Selected papers from this event will be published in a special edition of the journal Stanislavski Studies (Taylor & Francis) in Autumn 2020.
The Stanislavsky Research Centre, and The Department of Theatre Studies (University of Malta) in collaboration with The University of California Riverside.5th, 6th, 7th April 2019 @ The Valletta Campus of the University of Malta, Valletta, Malta.
Please join us for the 4th international S Word symposium.
Programme includes: Keynote speakers, Prof. Laurence Senelick (Tufts University) and Prof. Vicki Ann Cremona (University of Malta), a special presentation by Prof. Sergei Tcherkasski (St. Petersburg Academy), 25 papers and 8 practical workshops covering a wide range of topics including Stanislavsky and Yoga, Active Analysis, Grotowski, Stanislavsky in contemporary teaching and training, Boleslavsky and Scenic Realism.
Our symposium shows a dual ambition.with presentations that reflect on Stanislavsky’s work within the social, cultural, and political milieus in which it developed without however forgetting the ways in which this work was transmitted, adapted, and appropriated within recent and current theatre contexts. The Symposium’s reach, therefore, is both historical as well as contemporary, and participants are encouraged to think of Stanislavsky both as an instigator of modern theatre as well as a paradigm for performance practices within twenty-first-century training and performance scenarios.
Selected papers and other material from this event will be published in a special edition of the journal, Stanislavski Studies, in March 2020.
Registration for this event is now open online:
Standard Registration Fee (until 29 March 2019 midnight CET): EUR 225.
Members of SCUDD, ATHE and FDS: EUR 160.
Concessions (including students, unemployed, pensioners): EUR 100.
This event is generously supported by the School of Performing Arts of the University of Malta.
The School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds is currently seeking applicants for 4 Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDA) to begin in October 2019.
We are seeking highly motivated individuals, with academic and professional experience and a willingness to contribute to the research needs of our partners, to undertake fully funded doctoral research, supervised by members of academic staff and industry professionals in the following projects:
For more information and deadlines for the applications, please click on the links above or visit: https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/performance-research-degrees/doc/scholarships-7/page/1
In February of 2018, Peter Hulton generously came into my office at the University of Exeter to provide an interview on Dartington and the College of Arts. In true style, this was not so much an interview as a well-planned riff by Peter on three primary themes: training, the Dartington project, and the Drama and Dance field. Having been a key member of staff since the inception of the three originally certified degree programs at the College, Head of Department and Principal of the College, Peter offers a unique context and perspective on the pedagogy and structure of DCA. Moreover as creator of Theatre Papers and Arts Archives, Peter Hulton has influenced the entire discipline and methodologies of practice research and he touches upon these projects in the second half of this recording.
A succinct version of this interview can be found in the Special Issue of TDPT (9.3) “Training Places: Dartington College of Arts”.
The Future of Training: Practice and Publication
Wednesday 31st of October, 15:15-17:15
University of Leeds, School of Performance and Cultural Industries
Alec Clegg Studio
Jane Collins, Jonathan Pitches, Ben Spatz and Kelli Zezulka will talk about recent developments in performer and theatre training practice as well as the publications opportunities in the journals they respectively represent as editors (see below for bios and abstracts).
The event is open to all, particularly suitable for emerging scholars, early career researchers, those interested in practice-based research, and Halloween revellers.
The event is FREE, please RSVP to Linda Watson: L.M.Watson@leeds.ac.uk.
Organised by the Performance Training, Preparation and Pedagogy Research Group
Sally J Morgan, Jess Richards, Mark Jeffery, Rona Lee, Roger Bourke, Emma Butchart, Gillian Wylde.
This is a composite article, prompted by Mark Jeffery in a callout to past staff and students of the Dartington College of Arts Visual Performance degree (VP). Mark provided a set of questions that contributors could choose to respond to. The resulting commentaries have been edited by Jess Richards and Sally J Morgan and constructed into a single text that attempts to combine the memories of many. What we have here is by no means the whole story of Visual Performance at Dartington. Many later voices are not present, so this is only half a story. This is the tale of intentions and impacts, one that can, and should, be added to. If you would like to add your part of the story through word, images, or other audio-visual content, please contact Bryan Brown at B.Brown@exeter.ac.uk.
(Sally J Morgan and Jess Richards)
“Broken Bits of Time” handmade slate clocks (2014) by Jess Richards
0. How to do it
(Gillian Wylde, VP student 1997- 99, VP Lecturer 2000 – 2010)
#Feel the fear and do it anyway. Eliminate all forms of self-expression. Make un-training your instruction and don’t make any art. Take up post-colonial theory and fuck up imperialist narratives and colonial impulses. Take up queer theory it’s your job, and opt for alternative world making activities, anti-fascist counter culture desires. Tune in to voices of all women. Seek out low budget mysticism in everything. Try a new position for example: read more Gertrude Stein. The rules are that there are no rules. We are thinking about thinking. Do it more wrong. Make it worse.
(Sally J Morgan, Lecturer, Art and Social Context 1984-1990, foundational Head of Visual Performance 1990 -1992)
Very good things sometimes come out of very bad things. The bad thing in this case was when Dartington College of Arts decided to close its cutting-edge art degree, Art and Social Context in response to a financial crisis. The good thing was that the continuation of a unique approach to creative arts education was enabled at Dartington College of Arts when Visual Performance came into existence.
Laced through Dartington’s DNA was the conviction that the arts had a function beyond the ‘self-criticism’ that the modernist critic, Clement Greenberg propounded in the 1960’s (Greenberg 1961).
There is a symbolic moment that sums up the turn of the tide that became the wave that Dartington surfed like no other. In 1966, British artist John Latham held an event at St Martins College of Art, London, in which he and his students ripped up a copy of Greenberg’s Art and Culture. Chewing it page by page until it became liquid, they spat it into glass vials to produce the artwork Chew and Spit: Art and Culture. During the same year, Barbara Steveni, then married to Latham, set up the Artist Placement Group (APG), with the aim of placing artists in ‘non-art locations’ to make art in response to them. In contrast to Greenberg’s position, the motto of the APG was the context is half the work, and its major tenet was, to quote Graham Stevens, that ‘an artwork changes fundamentally in where, who with, and how it is made’.
These two events were powerful markers of change. Chew and Spit might be seen as the symbolic moment of rebellion; a visceral spurning of Greenberg’s modernism and an embracing of the things it forbade: those being politics, the ephemeral, transdisciplinarity, the theatrical, the ‘now’. The Artist Placement Group was the practical response, the ‘blue-print’ for a different way of understanding art; for no longer seeing it as a product or commodity, but as a process in which anything might be possible. Political and socially engaged art was emerging in this period as a form of art-world revolution. For British visual artists in the late sixties, such as Albert Hunt, John Fox and Stuart Brisley, the line between art and political action was mutable. New, process-orientated works became a possibility. Variously described as Happenings, Environments, Actions and Performances, and typified by Joseph Beuys’s Social Sculpture projects, these are artworks in a constant state of process. They cannot find, and do not desire, stasis. They emphasise the lived-experience of the perceiver and emphasise affect over form and materiality.
This then is the place from which Visual Performance developed; moulded by a particular historical moment in which traditional boundaries were dissolved and new boundaries established. The legacy of that time, for me, is that like Vito Acconci artists like me saw art as ‘doing’. Like Stuart Brisley we allowed that art may be political and social. Like John Latham we saw art as being a ‘state of radiant energy’. Like Yoko Ono we believed that art may exist as an experience in the mind of the participant. Like all those artists, our approach at Dartington was open-minded and curious. We were not confined to form or medium, our practices were unified by a conceptual approach and a search for affectivity at the point of connection with an audience, where there is, as Julia Kristeva noted in relation to the visual works of the sculptor and theatre-maker, Robert Wilson, ‘an intrication of the roles of the artist and the spectator, erasing the borders between the self and the other’ where ‘the traditional categories – painting, sculpture, stagecraft, etc. – no longer correspond to reality’ (Kristeva 1994, 64-65).
The timing for the inception of Visual Performance is an important part of this story. The College’s financial crisis of 1990 was the catalyst, and Sam Richards has covered this very well in his book Dartington College of Arts, Learning by Doing: A Biography of a College (Richards 2015). However, there were other important factors that made this the right initiative in the right place and time, and I’d like to expand on that a little here. As one of the annual DCA prospectuses stated, Art and Social Context staff and students had, ‘persistently chosen to make performance and installation art … and to collaborate with specialists in music or theatre’ (Dartington College of Arts 1992, 8).
This was certainly the case during my time there. I had arrived in 1984 to be a lecturer in painting on the Art and Social Context course, and I was particularly interested in political community action and cross-media collaboration. I had done a lot of this on the streets of Newcastle, Salford and London. I was used to working with theatre-makers and musicians and trying to find the hybrid spaces in-between.
I wasn’t the only one who was excited by this approach. There was a lot of two-way traffic between the Art and Theatre departments in particular. My colleague Rose Garrard ran fine art-based performance art projects in which she introduced gallery-based performance approaches to art and theatre students alike. Rose was an established art-based performance artist with an international profile. She came from an art school background and, like most artists of her ilk, she saw performance art and theatre as different disciplines. Whilst there isn’t enough space in this article to fully explain the distinctions between the two art-forms, they are important to this discussion, so I’ll try to convey the facts succinctly. Performance art, as understood in the art world at that time, vehemently disassociated itself from theatre. The form developed from a position best explained by the art critic, Lucy Lippard in her influential book ‘Six Years: The Dematerialisation of the Art Object’ (Lippard, 1973), in which she observed that visual art had moved away from objects as its end, and towards the enactment of concepts. The manifestation of this was that, beginning in the 1960s, Events, Happenings and Environments took the place of sculptures and paintings, and the active body of the artist became a vehicle of artistic expression. Early exponents included Allan Kaprow, Yoko Ono, Chris Burden, Joseph Beuys and, in Britain, Stuart Brisley.
Brisley was particularly opposed to the ‘theatrical’ in performance art. He defined performance art as real-time action. This term was a signpost to what differentiated performance art from theatre: that being the enactment of actual risk through an unscripted process of what I would describe as ‘controlled unpredictability’. A performance art work of this kind might be described as an event for which resolution must be found, but cannot be fully anticipated. In this scenario, no performance could ever be repeated, was normally shown in an art world context, and was to be judged as ‘art’ rather than ‘theatre’. Most of what I would describe as ‘hard-core’ performance artists of the time would have agreed with Northern Irish artist, Nick Stewart, when he complained that too many people conflated performance art with theatre, saying, ‘there is a difference (…) theatrical-based work tends to undermine the philosophical basis of visual arts ideas’ (Stewart 1995, 166).
Rose Garrard was certainly of the same view as Stewart, and she had a great influence on the development of art-based performance at Dartington. She was well-established in this field, with a practice going back to the mid-seventies. At that time, she was considered the UK’s leading female performance artist, and if Stuart Brisley was the Godfather of British performance art, then Garrard was certainly its Godmother. She had been a visiting lecturer at many of Britain’s leading art schools and had taught many of its practitioners. Her approach was intense and challenging, and I learned a lot from it.
I too ran cross-departmental projects in that period. After having been invited by theatre students to run ‘installation for performance’ projects, I began to work more closely with some of them who were interested in taking a visual approach to their work. I had been ‘outside-eye’ or examiner for a number of them, including Christine Malloy and Jo Lawlor who went on to be successful theatre and film-makers as Desperate Optimists (their name being based on my one-time description of them). I had also collaborated on a huge outdoor project with Theatre of Public Works Director, Pete Kiddle. I worked with art students Jules Dorey, Lizzie Coleman and Margie Fortune and with theatre students who included Andrea Phillips, Dave Izod and David Richmond. The collaborative partnership that had the biggest impact on me, however, was with Melanie Thompson.
Thompson was a Dartington graduate who had specialised in dance and had gone on to form the company Intimate Strangers. Her show Chine was described as having ‘a kind of irresistible logic and fascination yet remains inexplicable’ (Performance Magazine 1988). We started to work together when the then Head of Theatre, Roger Sell, teamed us up to run a cross-departmental project in Utrecht. The two of us went on to have a series of collaborations. The most significant of these for me, was a 1989 site-specific work entitled Frontiers. The participants were a group of second year students drawn from the theatre and art departments. The site was a decayed, brick cattle-shed in a paddock full of waist-high grass, lost in the woods on the Dartington Estate. I began by walking the site with the students looking at its visual and spatial possibilities. We decided that the audience would be drawn from point to point by encountering incidents on the way to the Cattle Shed. The students constructed installations, from which they developed the performance element. This was exciting to me because it was the first time that I had experienced the possibilities of performance that began from the visual rather than the dramatic, and I completely fell in love with it as a form that fell between fine art and theatre.
On the evening of the performance, the audience were met at dusk by a solitary guide and led through a gap in a dense hedge, down an overgrown bank, into a series of ‘accidental’ encounters with the student performers. At this point the separation of audience from performer dissolved. No longer safe in the seats of a theatre, the viewer had the sensation of accidentally witnessing a partial narrative for which they had to provide their own conclusions. It was akin to coming across a fleeting incident in the street, where you must imagine where the story has been and where it will go based on this moment in front of you.
Like Alice, they had slipped through a hole into a magical dimension. Here installation art and performance transformed the ‘now’ and the ‘real’ to produce Freud’s unheimlich. Literally translated as the un-home-like, the audience was offered the chance to experience Freud’s ‘uncanny’, where what we thought we knew was transformed in subtle and disquieting ways. This is where spillage from dreams, fears or longings, infects us, calling all reality into question.
The extraordinary and beautiful sensation of the unstitching of perception that this project produced in me was to turn into a passion for this way of working through discipline-hybridity. Students who did that project with us included Kirsten Lavers, John Bunker and Diana Collins. They, together with theatre students such as Christine Malloy, Jo Lawlor and others, formed a cross-departmental cohort exploring this uncharted state between art and theatre in remarkable and breath-taking ways, thus laying the foundations for what was to come.
Of course, this approach had not sprung up at the College out of nowhere. It built on a history of experimentation across artforms at Dartington. In 1964 John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg’s interdisciplinary collaboration Story was presented on the Estate. Painter and experimental artist, Robert Rauschenberg recognised something familiar in Dartington’s ambience, noticing that the people there had ‘that Black Mountain beatnik kind of look’ (Kostelanetz 1970, 81).
The comparison was not unfounded, like Black Mountain, the Dartington experience was intense, incestuous and tumultuous. There was nothing there other than studios, a bar, acres of woodland, and a river that people drowned in. You could get as obsessed as you wanted and make weird stuff in ruined outhouses half-hidden in the woods. Frankly, there was nothing else to do but make art. The community was no more than three hundred people. In this environment where there was no boundary between art-life, social-life and home-life, interdisciplinary experimentation in wild and undisciplined ways was an almost inevitable outcome. The College was an isolated artistic hothouse. The Theatre Department brought the most current alternative theatre and dance companies, such as Forced Entertainment, Goat Island and Theatre de Complicite, to Dartington. Most of the students and staff attended these events. Practicing artists were invited to run intensive projects, including Dartington alumna Debra Levy (who was later short-listed for the Man Booker prize twice for her novels Swimming Home  and Hot Milk ) and Irish performance artist Nick Stewart. New York Wooster Group member, Nancy Reilly ran a cross-departmental project with first year students using the unconventional theatre methods she’d developed when working with Wooster Group. Influential avant-garde dancer/choreographers were also a part of our experience. Mary Fulkerson worked with students to use ‘real’ movements drawn from the banal moments of their own lives. These were repeated, condensed, exaggerated and minimised with an intensity that made the work seem auto-ethnographic.
As intimated earlier, this way of being an artist exploring the edges across disciplines and between art and life, had found its time. Live Art was coming into being in Britain, and it was a way of working that chimed with the Dartington approach. Originally coined by RoseLee Goldberg, the term was reclaimed and redefined by the Arts Council’s Performance Art Advisory Group under the leadership of Lois Keidan (Heddon and Klein 2012). Keidan was, and still remains, a very active and generous supporter of Live Art as an ‘area of practice that cuts across and subverts traditional art form boundaries’ (Keidan 1991, i). She twice commissioned works of mine to be shown at the ICA in London, and she had a passionate vision for the building of an inclusive, cross-artform approach to performance works. Along with Nikki Milican, the Director of the National Review of Live Art, she facilitated a range of practices that might otherwise have died in the UK for want of care. In a 1991 Arts Council of Great Britain (ACGB) discussion paper, she reported that the ACGB had effectively renamed performance art by proposing ‘that we in Britain change our terminology from the “restrictive practice” of Performance Art to the flexibility and responsiveness of the term Live Art’ (Keidan 1991, 2). Her position was that, ‘Performance/Live Art … came from across a range of disciplines, producing ‘works based on image and concept that are not bound by traditional contexts’ (Keidan 1991, 2).
All of these factors primed the environment for the establishment of Visual Performance, but as I intimated earlier, the catalyst for its inception was the cataclysmic effect of the financial crisis that hit the College in 1990. The senseless closure of Art and Social Context annoyed me immensely, and I joined the small group that had been put together to design a ‘performance oriented’ curriculum, bringing with me the none-too-secret intention of ensuring that a visual approach to performance would be firmly knitted into all future offerings. Ric Allsopp suggested the name ‘Visual Performance’ and I proposed that we should capitalise on Dartington’s long history of experimental collaboration.
Once I got the curriculum-design group and the College management, in the person of the Principal, Dr Janet Ritterman, to agree that Visual Performance was going to be a ‘thing’, I set about constructing a course that would span art-based performance art through to performance design and scenography. I turned to Rose Garrard to help me develop the performance art modules, and Roger Bourke to work on the scenography elements. Garrard was the perfect person to do this with. As noted earlier, Rose was well-established in this field, with a record of performance art practice going back to the mid-seventies. She was a charismatic artist who had a great influence on the development of performance art as a subject in the Art Department. Her approach was intense and challenging, and I learned a lot from it. Roger Bourke had a background in experimental performance design and installation. Like me, he had trained as a painter and he had an intensely visual approach to experimental theatre-making. Later he turned to complex, beautifully performative installation, which threw up the kinds of questions that became a hallmark of his approach. In 2018, he wrote of his practice:
In conceiving installed and performative spaces as ‘intermediary spaces for the spectator’s intrusion’, the question becomes – how to make this space manifest the materiality of its own construction and thus draw the spectator into processing their own act of ‘spectation’? Both artist and spectator have to live with, and within, the knowledge that ‘somebody began it’ – in the ‘in-between’ – in the middle of their own production as agent – in the interstices of intention and interpretation. A Polish artist once asked me “what my problem was.” Temporarily a little put out, I finally realised that, for him, defining “the problem” was the key to developing an artwork. Specific strategies, procedures, exercises, etc., must derive from ‘knowing the problem’. In this case, strategies and procedures might include: exploring tactile, kinaesthetic and proprioceptive experiencing of defined spaces; testing the proximal, distal and panoptic; exploiting presence and absence in physical (hard) material and in the fluid materialities of light and sonic resonance; and construction that reveals construction. It might also include: working in the liminal through perceptual changes of orientation – strategies of detachment/ disorientation – what Husserl called ‘epoche’; building dialogues between the immediacy of the experienced moment and the past and future horizons of memory and speculation. Finally, it might engage in an exploration of ‘slippage’ – conflating perception and knowledge creation by, what I might call, ‘frame dragging’ imagery through processes of association and displacement.
We were all three different, but all three of us had worked on cross-departmental projects before. It all made sense to us.
Would there have been Visual Performance at Dartington if they hadn’t closed Art and Social Context? Yes, I think there would have been, because it was already there, but it wouldn’t have been a different degree, it wouldn’t have had that name, and it might not have attracted the kind of student who chose Visual Performance as a specialist degree. It would simply have been another way that we did things across and between the existing departments. As it was, the need to save the things I loved about Dartington, in some way or other, gave me an imperative to make a place for the things we’d been doing: a space for a way of being. The word ‘training’ was an anathema to us. The only training we imagined was the ‘un-picking’ of training. We were training them to be.
I was always surprised when people said they didn’t know what Visual Performance was. I never understood why they seemed to want it to be a thing – one thing – a penned-animal-of-a-thing, a neat answer that you could pin on the wall. The vision we had was for an inclusive approach to all things visual in performance. We imagined it producing performance designers, performance artists, video-makers, costume-designers and lighting designers as well as hard-core performance artists. It was meant for people who thought in images, and wanted to make them concrete through performance, whatever form that performance took (and we had a very fluid notion of what that might be). It would be a way of being, not a defined form. The thought of its first graduates becoming, as they did, highly successful stand-up comics (Chris Dangerfield), live-artists (Mark Jeffery), novelists (Jess Richards), production managers (Dave Baxter), video-artists (Karolyn Hatton), costume designers for film (Julie Butterworth) or community artists (Emma Butchart), as well as art-based performance artists (Francesca Goldsworthy), was a joyful prospect.
In the spring of 1991 we were ready to recruit our first students. I was the course leader and Roger Bourke my deputy, Rose Garrard was employed half-time, and ex-Art and Social Context student Diana Collins was offered part-time work. Later that academic year we appointed Tim Brennan and Gillian Dyson to the team. All of us were ‘out there doing it’. All of us made performance works that were witnessed by our students. The sense of an artist’s colony was very real. We were all in this together.
On a warm day as spring turned towards summer, I waited for my first interviewees, Jess Richards and Dave Baxter to arrive. Jess didn’t like to talk, but she had a portfolio of beautiful drawings and screeds of writing. She frowned at me in a young and serious way. She wanted to be somewhere where people were interested she told me. Dave wanted to build things like sets and installations, and he was political like the Art and Social Context students I’d had before. I liked them both and accepted them on the spot. The next interview was with a slender young man with ginger hair and loads of nervous intensity, Mark Jeffery. When I told him that he was ‘in’, he leapt up and down squealing and hugged me, apologising immediately afterwards. Later a blonde girl from Sunderland, who knew what to do with the colour red, looked surprised when we said we liked her work. Her name was Emma Bluett (later Emma Butchart).
(Jess Richards, first recruit to Visual Performance)
I was the first student to be offered a place on the Visual Performance course at Dartington. I was very silent when I was there, preferring to ‘speak’ by ‘writing’. This method of communicating was encouraged there, just as those who spoke visually or musically or through the movements of bodies were also encouraged. We were young artists working within and across creative disciplines who were being trained (and constantly questioning that ‘training’) to express ourselves in wild, noisy, silent, still, dangerous, simple and complex ways. The materials we worked with were as varied as fire, liquid, power tools, photocopiers, glass, gravy, razorblades, white fabric, light…
My song is a spell, and is something I learned. Not what to sing, but how to sing. The risk and magic of words, written on clothing, pegged on lines or caught by the spine of a book. A song can be spoken or heard or sung. Shouted or chanted or told as a story. It can create a picture. It can be completely silent. Each iteration takes a risk as small as an egg or as wild as an illusion of flight.
Can you hear the song of your body, all blood, bones and heartbeat? There’s a song inside you, the one that tells you the sky will fall or the oceans will rise or the whole world is fighting or it’s just you who’s fighting. If it is, fight well.
Consider the height and the breadth of the sky between this light and dark forest, and that place of the past: a tilt-yard with no horses, a ploughed field under rain. Remember silently shouting that anger is evil and anger is good, and let the sky fall, if it dares.
The whole ethos of Visual Performance was experimental – partly because of how the course had been designed, and partly because it was new and passionately led, and we were new and passionately driven. It was all right ‘not to know’ what we were doing, as long as we were actively ‘not doing’ or ‘doing’ something. We learned from mistakes, discomfort and problems as much as we learned from breakthroughs. Learning by creative practice intermingled with learning by observing, participating, developing skills, discussing theories and methods. Objects and text, sound, light and bodies ‘performed’ as we imbued all things ‘visual’ with meanings or opinions and ideas – all tested out on critical audiences of other students and faculty members within muddy fields, up trees, in derelict buildings, domestic environments, music rooms, rooftops, rivers, corridors and studio spaces.
On the Visual Performance course, any notion of ‘training’ could also be argued as a process of ‘untraining.’ As students, we unlearned what we believed that we knew – a process which often resulted in the realisation that in life as much as in ‘art’ no one really ‘knows’ anything at all. From this place of ‘not-knowing’, we discovered what we cared about, as artists. These passions drove us to individually and collectively, find our ‘voices’.
Twenty seven years later, I still prefer to ‘talk’ by ‘writing’. I am the author of three literary fiction novels which are published by Sceptre, Hodder & Stoughton. These novels were written in response to questions which I explored within the content of each narrative, and I still use artistic and performative processes within my creative writing practice.
What if… there was an undiscovered island, just off the edge of a map? (Snake Ropes, 2012)
What if… an old woman was several people and not just one? (Cooking with Bones, 2014)
What if… love was a substance? (City of Circles, 2017)
I can trace this ‘questioning’ or ‘speculating’ – asking ‘what if…’ and the use of artistic and performative processes within creative writing back to my early experiments with written, printed, spoken and recorded texts which were used within durational performances and installations at Dartington. My education in Visual Performance trained me to ‘learn’ or ‘explore’ by ‘doing’ – to write texts using performative methods, and constantly ask the ‘art’ or ‘writing’ object that was emerging as a ‘product’ what it wants to become. Unlike most ‘creative writing’ training, where ‘product’ (e.g. the short story, the poem, the novel, etc) is more important than the ‘process’, in my creative practice, both ‘process’ and ‘product’ are of equal importance.
(Mark Jeffery, first cohort Visual Performance)
I now write this at the dining room table, 27 years later, in my Chicago home. When I till and turn over my art making as if it’s a field, the roots and soil from the Dartington Estate are still present, still present in how I remember and connect my making now, to my making then.
Over the three years on the Visual Performance course, and being part of the first cohort to go through the degree, you embody your teachers: Sally Morgan, Roger Bourke, Rona Lee, Tim Brennan, Sally Tallant, Nancy Reilly and Rose Garrard. In moments of ghosts that pass through you, practice is present, practice is allowing the anxiety of making to run through and past you in ways of multiple accidents and towards the unexpected.
I frequently think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice who would often take over my young queer body. In my Alice-self I would grow large and small. Heartbeats that take over a working-class farm labourer’s body. What was I doing in this art school? How were the instructions, the lectures, the workshops alerting each day my performing body? How was I taking on the instructions I was given, how now as an associate professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago do I understand the instructions I give from my training with my performing visual performance, Dartington body?
Back then, I would look at myself in the mirror and see an artist often unsure, not knowing what I was doing or why I was doing the things I did. A young adult would shake his hands in shivering and my hands would turn themselves as if they were birds trying to escape and fly from my performing body.
As a 19 year old queer artist, I tilled the field in the studio by looking at the words fear and control that my life-long mentor, Lin Hixson (Director at that time of Goat Island Performance Company from Chicago) told me to explore when I first met her. Sally Tallant told me to take a workshop in Bristol with Lin and fellow co-founder of Goat Island, Matthew Goulish in 1993 when I was a second-year student.
If this Chicago field had not been tilled, if this Alice hole had not been opened up, if this meeting of jumping high from the ground with my knees to my chest, shaking my hands and falling onto concrete had not happened, where would I be today?
I remember what it felt like, back then…
On the ground, in your studio you learnt to pick up concrete cinder blocks and turn them over, drill holes in them and ask people to enter your studio and take a sip of wine, spit into another glass and mix this wine with the blood from your hands, from cuts and sores from your sissy hands, mixing it with milk and taking a sip insert the fluid from your mouth into the hole you had drilled into the cement block. Lick and kiss the hole with your mouth and tongue. Lick and kiss the concrete blocks over and over. Blood and scars around your lips, your nose, your cheek bones, until the blocks form a makeshift pool, that you fill with powered calves’ milk and it becomes a resting place you slowly let your performing body enter into. Your performing body, queer, red hair, entering the cold of the milk and scar and blood and kisses and fear. Parts of your body submerged, parts of your body remembering the loss of your mother when she left you at 3 years old, parts of your body recalling and hovering over the milking parlour where your father milked the cows morning and night.
The young adult performing body quivers and shakes not knowing the visual, not knowing the ground he is performing on, not knowing what he is learning and learnt, not knowing 27 years and tears later that the ground was also shaking and that the ground of Visual Performance would last. On a Visual Performance field, the training is in always asking questions, of always moving forwards, of always finding what is new, current, what happened before you, what happens now and what strikes you as questions, as research. What is the performing body you left behind, submerged in milk, but forever seeing the milk drip, the blood drip, keeping the head now upwards, asking, always trying and never quite completing what needs to be asked.
(Emma Butchart, first cohort Visual Performance)
Throughout my time at Dartington, undertaking the newly formed Visual Performance course, I think I carried all the ghosts of my grandparents, but more particularly, the Nanas: the women of the family with me. Not consciously at first perhaps, but they were there, as protection, comfort, guides.
An early group activity in the first few days, performed to the new cohort found me clinging to my ghosts for fear of losing who I was, forgetting myself. Being pulled along by strangely dressed and dyed creatures into some kind of self-expression, that could take any form, there were no specific rules. What if I got sucked into some alternative sphere or realm and misplaced my increasingly important identity?
I could hear my ghosts asking, ‘What are these kids doing?’
‘Where do you think this will get you?’
My vocal contribution to the performance was something along the lines of, ‘Why will they like me? I’m from Sunderland.’
Never before had I been so acutely aware of my voice, my North-Eastern English accent setting me apart from the more softly spoken southerners around me. It seemed so loud, so harsh, it felt like it ran around the room, looking for somewhere to hide… muttering, ‘stop listening to me!’
The ghosts just laughed, that’s ‘laugh’ with a flat, Sunderland ‘a’ sound! ‘Don’t be so bloody daft!’
Later… ‘Why is your work always about, well, you… stuff about you?’
At the time this comment from another student stung. It felt dismissive and critical. I suppose my Dartington world continued to feel alien to me with my background in the industrial North, all green, countryside, cows, sheep and farms and so I looked inside myself, asked the ghosts for inspiration, for their stories.
Finding out about them, asking questions, listening to the tales, collecting images. Exploring and celebrating the everyday, repetitive actions, the tasks and daily rituals performed by these women in my past. Why shouldn’t the work be about them, about me?
New ghosts, Nancy Reilly, Rose Garrard, Alison Marchant, Cindy Sherman joined my noisy crowd, often arguing, pulling, dancing, questioning and laughing with the Nanas. Bold, inventive, committed, imaginative, challenging ghosts that helped me see things differently.
Some keep asking, ‘Why are you doing that?’
Others reply, ‘Why not?’ in that great, big flat-vowelled voice.
“I’m Wearing my Dead Father’s clothes’. Excerpt: ‘A Life in Diagrams 1” (1993, Dartington) Sally J Morgan
(Sally J Morgan)
In the midst of all this my father died. My grief was a flood that broke everything in front of it and my life fell apart. I felt badly treated by the College management in this period, and I left, not because I’d lost any faith or excitement about Visual Performance, but because the Principal had called me in to discuss the amount of time I was spending with my father who was rapidly dying from a brain tumour. Roger Bourke took over the leadership of the course, and Rona Lee joined the team along with Sally Tallant.
(Rona Lee, core team-member Visual Performance 1993-2000)
It is interesting to consider ideas of training and legacy with respect to Visual Performance, as these are concepts that are in some ways at odds with the fluidity and discursivity that was key to its success. I remember talking with other staff once about the idea that the course should be deliberately disbanded every seven years to sustain a sense of immediacy and avoid institutionalisation; we imagined of course that reinvention would follow. Little did we anticipate the corporatisation of higher education that would follow and the pressures of resource rationalisation, auditing and bureaucracy to which the sector would be subject.
I joined the teaching team for Visual Performance in 1993, at a point where several of the staff that had piloted the course were moving on, and left in 2000. A period during which the identity and ethos of the course was subject to constant energetic, antagonistic, creative and intellectual debate, generating a climate of discussion and experimentation, in which students and staff alike participated.
Identity politics and ideas of performativity formed a central tenant within many of those exchanges: gender, sexuality, race and the body operating as both informing discourses and areas of study in themselves:
The body as sign, the body as material, the abject body, the hybrid body, the queer body, the female body, the uncanny, post-colonialism, feminism, queer theory, the carnivalesque, homovestism, gender trespass, subject / object, binaries, self / other / otherness, presence / absence, performativity, live presence, task-based action, duration, voyeurism, the gaze, the phallus, psychoanalysis…
Another important area of enquiry was site and context based work, along with related forms of participatory, situated and socially engaged practices; seeded through staff-led, local, offsite work in the first year and culminating in a semester long period off campus in the third year, where students pursued self-designed and directed projects (the assessment of which was based on their capacity to reflect on the experience and find appropriate forms to represent it). Activities which along with the teaching that supported them gave rise to ways of working, which understood art making as a social practice, audiences as constituted around different subjectivities and the artwork as a permeable entity. Fostering in turn work with objects and materials, technology, space and time working with ideas of immersion, the haptic and the sensory:
Audience as reader, performance/artwork as text, view and viewed, spectator / collaborator / participant / witness, absorption, locus, palimpsest, dialogic, the everyday, art / life, place, phenomenology, space, object / objecthood, time, immersive experience, materials, metonymy, inter-action/ activity, event…
Common to all of these different enquiries was a pedagogic approach that encouraged independence of thought along with reflexive interrogation of form, content and process.
Strategies, juxtaposition, deconstruction, pastiche, authorship, montage, collage, text/textual, inter / cross / disciplinarity, modern / post-modern, rules, logic, rogue element, agency…
Another dimension of this nexus was something that might be termed an ethos of practice, rooted in questions of social change, power and community which for some became a lived politics of making, teaching and working together. Dartington was, in my experience, unique in terms of the amount of work that staff, faculty and visiting, made and showed there, using it as a production and testing space in collaboration with and alongside students; sharing resources, giving assistance, exchanging skills, attending to the work and each other.
Messy, bloody, milky, muddy, funny, sexy, loud, dangerous, obscene, gentle, careful, tender, quiet, ugly, fractious, rhythmic, atonal, macho, ritualistic, empowered, queer, feminist, intimate, kitsch, green, detailed, subversive, disruptive, uncanny.
“Anteroom” (2005) by Mark Jeffrey, Judith Leemann and Judd Morrissey.
Sally J Morgan is Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts at Massey University, New Zealand. She has a long career as a conceptual artist who has shown internationally in galleries such as the ICA, Arnolfini, and venues across the USA, Germany, France and Japan.
Jess Richards is a writer, whose three literary fiction novels are published by Sceptre, Hodder & Stoughton. She is a Senior Tutor in Creative Writing at Massey University, New Zealand. Since 2015, she has performed in collaboration with Sally J Morgan as Morgan+Richards in galleries/venues in the USA, New Zealand and Ireland.
Gillian Wylde was a student on the Visual Performance course at Dartington between 1997 and 1999 and went on to teach on that course from 2000 to 2010. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Falmouth University. Her work has been shown at the ICA and Glasgow Film Festival and at international venues in Baltimore, Hong Kong, Lithuania, and Norway.
Roger Bourke spent many years at Dartington in the role of Field Director for Visual Performance and then Fine Art – Time Based Practices. His installation, video and sonic media works have been exhibited in the UK, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, France, Romania, Canada, China, Japan and Ireland.
Mark Jeffery is a Chicago based performance/installation artist, curator of the biannual In>Time Performance series and Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute Chicago. He was a member of the internationally renowned Goat Island Performance group from 1996-2008.
Emma Butchart worked in Community Arts in the north east of England after graduating from Dartington, then from 2004-2015 she worked in pre-school and primary school education. She now works at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park as the Grounds Learning Programmer, developing engagement with a wide range of audiences.
Rona Lee is Professor of Fine Art at Northumbria University, UK. Her performative work has been widely exhibited in national and international organisations, including the Amsterdam Light Festival, Gallerie Nord, Cerritos Art Gallery, and many venues across Europe and in the USA and Canada.
Examples of Sally J Morgan’s work can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/sallyjmorgan
Jess Richards’s website can be found here: http://jessrichards.com/
Gillian Wylde’s work can be viewed here https://www.instagram.com/gillianwylde/ and here: http://15minuteswithyou.org.uk
Roger Bourke’s website can be found here: https://rogerbourke.org.uk/work
Mark Jeffery’s website can be found here: http://www.markjefferyartist.org/
The organisation Emma Butchart works for can be found here: http://www.comptonverney.org.uk/art/
Rona Lee’s work can be found here: http://www.ronalee.org/ and http://florencetrust.org/
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Heddon, Dierdre and Jennie Klein. 2012. Histories and Practices of Live Art. London: Palgrave McMillan.
Keidan, Lois. 1991. Discussion Document on Live Art. Discussion Paper, London: ACGB.
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Kristeva, Julia. 1994. “Robert Wilson.” Art Press 64-65.
Lippard, Lucy R. 1973. Six Years: the dematerialisation of the art object from 1966 to 1972. New York: Praeger.
Richards, Sam. 2015. Dartington College of Arts, Learning by Doing: A Biography of a College. Totnes: Longmarsh.
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Dartington College of Arts Prospectus. 1992.
Intimate Strangers ‘Chine’Review. 1988. “Performance News.” Performance Magazine. London. Feb/March. 6.