The ‘Documents’ section of Contemporary Theatre Review 24.1 (2014) features a roundtable conversation on the multi-year research project Performance Matters between the project’s three co-directors, Lois Keidan from the Live Art Development Agency (London), Gavin Butt from the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Adrian Heathfield from the Department of Drama, Theatre, and Performance at University of Roehampton. As they discuss in the roundtable, this project addressed the cultural value of performance through a series of workshops, symposia, performances, and archiving projects. In its various guises, it experimented with a variety of research forms and outputs, not only excavating the histories and contexts of a range of performance practices that have had varying degrees of marginal status, but also testing what it might mean to share this research ‘in public’: what kind of public might be assembled, and what encounters might happen as a result? As Heathfield comments in their reflection in CTR, ‘We have not worked with an assimilationist model, or a knowledge transfer model, that assumes that knowledge is in one place or held by one set of identities, and that it needs to be delivered to others.’1 Instead, as Butt puts it, they were more interested in cultivating ‘sites for dialogic transaction’.2
This interest in various forms of publics and working with the dialogic encounters has been extended into a final stage for the project: Crossovers, a series of artists’ films, documentaries, and dialogues. As Heathfield notes elsewhere, there is a contemporary interest in the dialogic form, one that differentiates itself from both the scholarly critique and the artistic statement in its shift away from a single authorial (and authoritative) figure. In particular, Heathfield writes, given performance’s collaborative, often multi-authored, nature, it is ‘highly appropriate’ to draw on a ‘mode of discourse that emerges not simply from the individual but from the space of relation between agents’.3 As part of the Crossovers series, then, Heathfield has worked with photographer and filmmaker Hugo Glendinning on a series of films collected as Performance Dialogues, each staging an encounter between Heathfield, the camera, and a contemporary philosopher: Hélène Cixous, Brian Massumi, Alphonso Lingis, and Bernard Stiegler. The following extract from Transfigured Night, the film with Alphonso Lingis, conveys something of the tone of one of these dialogues:
Accompanying this film series, Performance Matters curated a day-long series of dialogues on dialogue itself (Dialogues: Art, Performance, Film; London: Rich Mix, 30 January 2014). One of these conversations, which takes the film with Lingis as its point of departure, is available to be listened to here in a slightly edited version. Chaired by Gareth Evans, the conversation features Glendinning along with documentary filmmaker Mike Dibb, most widely known for his groundbreaking television series with John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972); writer Deborah Levy, whose recent long form essay Things I Don’t Want to Know (2013) positions itself as a response to George Orwell’s essay Why I Write; and respondent Alan Read, Professor of Theatre at King’s College London (full biographies below). Their wandering and evocative discussion, joined by audience responses, draws on ideas presented in the film but also explores more general questions about conversation and dialogic form. Taking as its point of departure Lingis’s discussion of the significance of the face, this conversation addresses the potentiality of risk and the exposure that is necessarily rendered in conversation with others; but more than this, it is also an evocative demonstration of such exposure: the risking of self that happens when, as the provocation for the event put it, we engage in ‘being social with ideas’.4
– Theron Schmidt
Audio courtesy of the Live Art Development Agency © 2014 Performance Matters
All of the Crossovers films are available for purchase from the online bookshop Unbound.
Mike Dibb is an award-winning UK documentary producer/director, who has been making films for television for many years on subjects ranging from cinema and music to art, sport, literature and popular culture. These include films with writers ranging from CLR James and Raymond Williams to Studs Terkel and Elmore Leonard, as well as the hugely influential BBC series (and subsequent book) Ways of Seeing – with John Berger (UK BAFTA 1972), The Spirit of Lorca and The Fame and Shame of Salvador Dali (both with their Irish biographer Ian Gibson), What’s Cuba Playing At? (on the Afro-Spanish roots of Cuban music), two films on Spain’s great cultural archetypes In Pursuit of Don Juan and The Further Adventures of Don Quixote, and three multi-part ideas-based TV series on the contrasting subjects of ‘Play’, ‘Time’ and ‘Latin-American Culture.’ With Stephen Frears he co-directed Typically British, the BFI/Channel 4 documentary on the history of British cinema. His other feature length documentaries include The Miles Davis Story (NY EMMY award 2001), Keith Jarrett – the art of improvisation, Edward Said – the last conversation and the recently completed Playing against Time, a moving 75 minute ‘medical/musical’ exploration of Parkinson’s Disease, featuring the virtuoso UK jazz saxophonist/composer Barbara Thompson.
Gareth Evans is a writer, curator, presenter and Whitechapel Gallery’s Film Curator. He programmes PLACE, the annual cross-platform festival at Aldeburgh Music, is Co-Director of production agency Artevents and has curated numerous film and event seasons across the UK at the Barbican, ICA, Institut Francais, Arnolfini and Watershed among many others. He conceived and curated the major London season John Berger: Here Is Where We Meet (2005) and co-curated All Power to the Imagination! 1968 and Its Legacies (2008). He regularly hosts events at institutions both nationally and across London. He produced the essay film Patience (After Sebald) by Grant Gee as part of his nationwide arts project The Re-Enchantment (2008-11) and is currently in production with three long form works (Dryden Goodwin for Royal Museums Greenwich; Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair for Soda Pictures; Grant Gee for Flyfilm). He edited the international moving image magazine Vertigo (2002–09) and now edits Artesian and runs Go Together Press.
Hugo Glendinning is an internationally renowned photographer whose work spans collaborations with visual artists on photographic and video works, theatre, dance and performance documentation, and portraits of prominent figures. www.hugoglendinning.com
Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts leaving in 1981 to write a number of plays, highly acclaimed for their “intellectual rigour, poetic fantasy and visual imagination”, including Pax, Clam, Heresies for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Macbeth – False Memories, all published in Levy: Plays 1 (Methuen). Deborah has written five novels: the ManBooker shortlisted, Swimming Home (& Other Stories/Faber), Beautiful Mutants, Swallowing Geography (reissued by Penguin 2014), The Unloved (Penguin), Billy and Girl (Bloomsbury). Her 2012 short story collection, Black Vodka (& Other Stories) was short listed for The Frank O’Connor Award and the BBC International Short Story Award. Her long form essay, Things I Don’t Want to Know, a response to George Orwell’s 1946 essay Why I Write (Penguin) is published in hard back by NottingHill Editions, paperback by Penguin. For BBC Radio 4, Deborah wrote two acclaimed dramatisations of Freud’s most famous case studies, ‘Dora’ and ‘The Wolfman’. Deborah has lectured extensively and was Fellow in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1989-1991, AHRB Fellow at The Royal College of Art 2006-9 where she taught screen writing in the Animation Department. She is currently Visiting Professor in Writing at Falmouth University.
Alan Read is Professor of Theatre at King’s College London. He was Director of the Council of Europe Workshop on Theatre and Communities, and Rotherhithe Theatre Workshop in the Docklands area of South East London, in the 1980s, worked as a freelance writer in Barcelona and as Director of Talks at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in the 1990s and was the first Professor of Theatre at Roehampton University and then King’s College London between 1997 and the present. He is the author of Theatre & Everyday Life: An Ethics of Performance (1993) and Theatre, Intimacy & Engagement: The Last Human Venue (2008). He is the founding consultant editor of Performance Research journal. His latest book is Theatre in the Expanded Field: Seven Approaches to Performance (2013).
- Gavin Butt, Adrian Heathfield and Lois Keidan, ‘Performance Matters: Gavin Butt, Lois Keidan and Adrian Heathfield in Conversation’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 24 (2014), 102-14 (p. 113). ↩
- Ibid., p. 108. ↩
- Adrian Heathfield, ‘Dialogues – Introduction’, in Perform Repeat Record: Live Art in History, ed Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathfield (London: Intellect/Live Art Development Agency, 2012), pp. 435-40, p. 436. ↩
- http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/dialogues-art-performance-film/ ↩