This issue of Interventions both unravels the celebratory axiom that theatre is the artistic collaboration par excellence, and explores other ways of thinking through what theatre or performance might offer to scrutinising the forms and structures of collaboration in diverse contexts. Each contribution teases out some way in which theatre serves as an analytic method of seeing collaboration where it may not otherwise be apparent. This issue raises questions about what mobilising collaboration enables and what it obscures, both in performance-making, and in the wider social and political contexts in which theatre and performance operate.
Hillary Miller’s ‘Hidden Vacancies’ traces a large-scale installation project that masks ‘the relations between real-estate and inequitable resource provision’. In her analysis of Coney Island’s Art Walls, Miller conceives of the project as theatre (rather than, for example, visual public art), allowing her to frame the arc of a story of transformation, in which a powerful property developer is re-cast as a benevolent co-curator. As theatre, then, the Art Walls’ conditions of possibility – namely, the collaboration between curatorial and real estate redevelopment interests – are exposed.
In ‘Vulnerability and the Lonely Scholar’, digitally ‘transauthored’ by the international research collective After Performance, theatre forms a shared critical anchor, countering the paradigm of solitary scholars who, paradoxically, study fundamentally co-creative practices. Theatre allows the group to re-animate the affects of vulnerability that accompany the open-endedness of meaning shared by theatre-making and scholarly writing. After Performance write and read together online – across multiple time-zones and cultural intersections – and through a ‘return to theatre’ remind us that their publication is itself a work-in-progress – and always will be.
While After Performance also perform the issues they are attending to through exposing elements of their text’s production, in ‘Dyspraxic Collaboration: Inattentivity and Retroreleventiation’, Daniel Oliver and Luke Ferris use live, recorded and re-performed scripts and video to attest to the processes through which meaning becomes, in their words, ‘retroreleventiated’. In this they are suggesting that – particularly in the case of the neurodiverse methods that underpin their work– messy creative processes become retro-actively rationalised and hierarchised. Performing a process of inattentive collaboration (rather than retrospectively describing it) is therefore a necessity; and as a reader you are invited to enter into this creative process as participant, rather than as spectator.
While collaboration most often refers to a mode of production, the term’s relationship to shifts in labour and to the job market is rarely unpacked. Elyssa Livergant and the Precarious Workers Brigade focus on issues of labour in the cultural industries and higher education at a time when workers in both sectors are under severe attack. Theatre serves to draw out the ways practice and training have been leveraged by regimes of power, and this interview also offers resources to support alternative approaches to the prevailing employability agenda.
Theatre and performance as method, then, function in this issue to draw attention to the modes and agents of collaboration in play; to the conditions of possibility that support collaborative practices; and also to the ways artistic and scholarly projects collaborate ‘outside of themselves’, amidst economic, discursive and political structures over which the collaborators in question may seemingly have little control. In thinking through the thematic of this issue, we were keen to avoid valorising the creative potential of collaboration at the expense of attending to these more complex problematics. Collaboration is explored here not only as a strengthening or cumulative factor, but as one that also involves elements of risk, compromise, collusion, confusion, irritation and waste.
Ella Parry-Davies and Elyssa Livergant
Editor’s note: Over the past three years, Interventions has blossomed as a platform for commissioning new forms of scholarship and dialogue, thanks to the imaginative and collaborative editorial work of my founding co-editors: Adam Alston, Johanna Linsley, and Elyssa Livergant. As they finish or have finished their final editorial initiatives, Adam, Johanna, and Elyssa will be stepping down over the course of this year, and I am very pleased to be joined by Ella Parry-Davies, Broderick Chow, and Aneta Mancewiz on the Interventions team. My deepest thanks to Adam, Johanna, and Elyssa; and welcome, Ella, Broderick, and Aneta!