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Performance as Research

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The Performance as Research Working Group explores issues related to performance (and creative practices) within scholarly research and is engaged in investigating methodologies where performance (or creative practice) is used as a central part of the research process. See below for our latest Call for Participation and for more information about the group.

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‘Performance as Research and Democracy’ 

Performance as Research Working Group Call for Papers

 

The 2015 annual conference of International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) will be organized by the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Hyderabad (UoH).

 

For the 2015 meeting of the Performance as Research Working Group of IFTR, we are sending out a call for proposals that will respond to the wider conference theme, “Theatre and Democracy”, from a specifically performance as research (PaR) perspective, with a special focus on politics, methodology and performance in a wide sense, including dance, theatre, live art and experimental practices. In Practice-as-Research in Performance and Screen,Baz Kershaw (2009, 15) suggests that ‘the foundational principles of practice-as-research work to a democratically deconstructive and decentering agenda.’ We seek to interrogate the relationship between democracy and performance as research, and welcome proposals exploring (but not limited to) the following themes:

 

1. PaR, politics and society 

What is the relationship of PaR projects to the larger society where they take place? 

How do practitioner-researchers conduct PaR research in and across cultures and institutions, and how are they responding to specific social and political systems?

How are PaR projects involved in democracy and social action in the public sphere?

How can PaR respond to democratic issues of representation and dialogue in terms of culture, gender and sexuality through performance/research design? 

How can we include our non-human counterparts in a PaR ecology, with animals, plants, objects, space, and networks all considered as part of the performance/research process?

Can performance as research projects envision more democratic (or other alternative) institutional structures for society? 

 

2. PaR and performance practice 

What kinds of PaR practice particularly explore and/or challenge ideals of democracy and why? 

Can we locate PaR case studies that aspire to specific qualities of democracy or operate outside of democratic processes?

What power relations are in operation in the production of performances in PaR projects including issues of authority, censorship, access to resources, institutional directives and so on?

What is the status of the various practitioners in performance projects and who has a voice in the dissemination of performance as research?

 

3. PaR, democracy and methodology

What is the relationship between PaR as a methodology and democratic values?  

Is PaR a more ‘democratic’ methodology than others, in areas of research activities and dissemination?

Who are the ‘eligible citizens’ in PaR projects – who is being included or excluded and who is being represented?

How do the democratic ideals of PaR projects compare with those of social sciences and other disciplines? 

How do digital technologies impact on the distribution of PaR projects and what are the issues of participation, inclusion, policy and rights involved in the circulation of materials online?

How can the PaR Working Group devise modes of operation, democratic or otherwise, that encourage dialogue and engagement with the issues of its membership within the Working Group context?

 

We are planning a collaborative session with the Queer Futures Working Group, if you feel your proposal fits within both the remit of Performance as Research and Queer Futures, please identify this in your proposal.

 

The deadline for abstract submissions is JANUARY 31, 2015.

All applicants should follow the instructions regarding abstract submission through the conference website http://www.iftr2015hyd.in/call-for-papers/

 

 

Application Process

The PAR working group at any conference is strictly limited to 25 participants. You can participate in the WG as a presenter or participant. Please mark your preferred role clearly on your abstract submission.

 

To join as a presenter, send an abstract of (maximum) 250 words via the Cambridge University Press website by 31 January 2015. Please copy your abstract to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The process for accepting abstracts will be competitive. The Working Group conveners will review all abstracts and make selections. A maximum of 15 presentations will be selected.

 

To join as a participant, please submit a short letter of motivation by 31 January 2015, directly to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. indicating why you would like to be a participant and what your interest in the topic is. A maximum of 10 participants will be selected. It is required that participants will be registered for the conference.

 

The chosen presenters will then write a 3000 word paper. The papers will be made available to all presenters and participants, before the conference. All finalized papers must be submitted by 5th of May (eight weeks before the conference) and any papers submitted after this date may be excluded from the Working Group.

 

In addition we will be proposing a panel from the working group to the main conference program. If you wish to be considered for the panel, please indicate this clearly in your abstract submission.

 

We remain committed to enabling new members to engage with the Working Group, and we will reserve up to 10 places at the meeting for them. New members may elect to formally present or propose attendance as a participant, which is often a good way to first experience the Working Group. Applicants should submit a brief CV and statement of interest in Performance as Research to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 31January 2014. If new members also want to propose as a presenter, then they must also follow the instructions above for presenters. 

 

There will be spaces for some Visitors who are attending the main conference. Visitors can observe some of the Working Group sessions, and do not have to be available for all of the Working Group sessions. Visitors should contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at least one week in advance of the conference in order to express an interest. 

 

All applicants should also follow the instructions regarding submission through the conference website: http://www.iftr2015hyd.in/ 

 

Information on bursaries for presenting at IFTR is available here (deadline 15 December 2014): http://www.firt-iftr.org/item/380-call-for-bursary-application-iftr-2015-conference-hyderabad-5-10-july 

 

We look forward to your responses to this call!

 

 

Annette Arlander, Jonathan Heron and Emma Meehan

 

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The Performance as Research Working Group explores issues related to performance (and creative practices) within scholarly research and is engaged in investigating methodologies where performance (or creative practice) is used as a central part of the research process. The term Performance as Research (PaR) covers various ways that different cultures, countries and academic contexts frame and name this kind of research. For more information see “What do we mean by PaR?”

Group members presenting at the Working Group sessions (25 people each year) come from all over the world, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UK, US and so on. Each year, up to 5 places are reserved for new members to participate in the group. For more information on how the group works, see “Aims and methods of the Working Group”

The Working Group was instigated by Baz Kershaw and Jacqueline Martin and had its first official working session in 2006. Since then the group has met yearly, with Anna Birch and Mark Fleishmann as conveners from 2010-2013. For more information see “Brief history of the Working Group”

 

Current conveners: Annette Arlander, Jonathan Heron and Emma Meehan. 

Publication sub-group: Bruce Barton (chair), Melanie Dreyer-Lude, Ben Spatz

E-presence sub-group: James Wilson and Juan Aldape Munoz

 

Publications by the Working Group

Bruce Barton, Melanie Dreyer-Lude & Anna Birch (cur/eds.) Experiments and Intensities Vol 3 Mediating Practices(s) Performance as research and – in – through – mediation 2013. 

http://www.experimentsandintensities.com/published/vol-3

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The Performance as Research (PaR) Working Group seeks to reach out to artist-scholars who engage with the range of practices construed as ‘performance’. We are interested in how we, as artist-scholars or practitioner-researchers, discover, uncover, reveal, and distribute our findings through performance. We work to critically encounter the wide variety of methods, conceptual/theoretical frameworks, aesthetic qualities and creative impulses that are knitted together in this research. Members of the Working Group articulate the outcomes of this work in a number of ways, ranging from scholarly writing to immersive workshops, from the transmission of knowledge through performance to experimental approaches to publication.

The groupadvocates for PaR in academic enquiry internationally, as we work to rebalance the perceived split between ‘thinking and doing’ in academia by engaging with artistic knowledge as experimental thinker-doers to enrich the scholarly environment.

 

New Members

The group is open to new members, with at least 5 new places each year, though there will be a maximum of 25 members at a time. Membership in each year is selected on the basis of submissions to produce a complementary mix of media, research interests and geographical spread, plus a consistency of core participants from year to year. In addition, there will be a number of places for visitors in each year. 

 

PRESENTATION AND PARTICIPATION

The PAR working-group at any conference is strictly limited to 25 participants. You can participate in the WG as a presenter or participant, or as a visitor. Information on how to join will be advertised via a call for presentations for each annual meeting at the International Federation for Theatre Research.Please mark your preferred role clearly on your abstract submission.

 

To join as a presenter, please send an abstract of (maximum) 250 words via the IFTR website by the date announced in the call. Please copy your abstract to the conveners at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The process for accepting abstracts will be competitive. The Working Group convenors will review all abstracts and make selectionsA maximum of 15 presentations will be selected.

To join as a participant, please submit a short letter of motivation by the date announced in the call, directly to the conveners at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. indicating why you would like to be a participant and not a presenter and what your interest in the topic is. A maximum of 10 participants will be selectedIt is required that participants will be registered for the conference.

To join as a visitor, please submit a short letter of motivation directly to the conveners at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. indicating why you would like to visit or observe a meeting of the working group. 

The chosen presenters will then be invited to write a 3000 word paper. The papers will be made available to all group members, before the conference. The concept ‘paper’ should be understood as including a range of styles and formats from the more traditional academic writing to performance writing to discursive media-rich formats. All finalized papers must be submitted by the date announced in the call (usually eight weeks before the conference) and any papers submitted after this date will be excluded from the Working Group.

Before the conference, presenters will form sub-groups of 3 or 4 and communicate with each other to plan their session in advance of the conference. Each sub-group will prepare a mode of communicating the research papers that fits within the allocated time slot (practical workshop, performative dialogue, collaborative action etc.). The sub-group presentation usually includes a series of embodied activities that complement the writing and ground its content in felt experience, rather than re-iterating the writing, although extracts from the writings can be included in the presentations. 

 

Participants will be expected to read all of the papers produced by the presenters in advance, to participate in the workshop activities and discussions, and to act as respondent to specific papers or the presentation of a sub-group. Participants have an active role in the Working Group and will be assigned roles within the subgroups in advance of the meeting, so must be available for preparation and participation in sessions.

Visitors can apply in advance to observe some of the Working Group sessions, and may attend one or all of the Working Group sessions. Visitors must be registered for the conference and contact us on  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  at least one week in advance of the conference in order to express an interest. 

 

In addition, we also curate a panel from the Working Group for the main conference program. 

We remain committed to enabling new members and less-experienced PaR artist-scholars to engage with the Working Group, and reserve at least 5 places at the meeting for them. New members may propose a presentation or attendance as a participant, which is often the best way to join the Working Group. 

 

All applicants should follow the instructions regarding submission through the IFTR conference website.

 

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The place of performance or creative practice in research endeavors has evolved in various parts of the world and in shifting contexts, leading to a diversity of terms that evoke the research content of creative work. These include performative research; practice-led research and practice-as-research; artistic research; artistic science and research-creation. These methodologies and discursive areas are shifting depending on the various national and supranational infrastructures within which they function. While some artists have always engaged in research, in the sense that art-making usually is about exploring the world and various modes of expression, the emergence of PaR within academic environments challenges artist-scholars and practitioner-researchers to focus on the role of their research explorations within the structures, values and communities that surround academia.

 

‘Performance’ in performance as research is understood in several ways by members of the group from classical definitions like showing doing (Schechner 2004) via performance as an onto-historical formation of power and knowledge (Mckenzie 2001) or phenomena as the material performances of the world (Barad 2007), to the everyday understanding of performance as the act of performing or the thing performed. 

‘Performance is always already boundless. Yet also performance (and performativity) in both the organic/inorganic ‘worlds’ is never other than perfused by space and time. Every example is incorrigibly particular. Hence boundless specificity is a constitutive paradox of performance and performativity, creating multiple ontologies and epistemologies, ways of being and knowing. The paradox ensures that performance practice as research – defined as the uses of practical creativity as reflexive enquiry into significant research concerns (usually conducted by ‘artist/scholars’ in universities) – will present both highly specific and very broadly applicable results.’ (Kershaw in Riley & Hunter 2009, 4) 

What ‘may appear at first as a reversal of performance studies' focus from an extended consideration of cultural practices back to a narrow notion of performance as aesthetic production, in fact presents a profound re-evaluation of the nature of practice itself and the study of it.’ (Roms in Mckenzie, Wee & Roms 2010, 13)

 

Members of the Working Group have defined performance as follows:

‘An event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people’ (Inma Garin Martinez) 

'A presenting of something to someone in some space. It used to be that each of those elements (performer, audience, thing performed) had to meet physically in space in time. I don't think that is always the case anymore' (James Andrew Wilson)

 


 

‘Research’ in performance as research is understood, if possible, in even more varied ways, depending on the methodologies foregrounded, from action research, participant observation, fieldwork, workshop-based and studio experiments, collaborative research, documentation, articulation through performance, oral dialogue or written debate and more, to the commonsensical idea of finding out something, which is not previously known in a methodical way. 

Performance as research could be understood as part of the performative turn in social sciences, which is characterized as a turn towards embodiment, where performance as the corporeal knowhow of practice, the organizing ethos of practice and the experienced import of practice has gained importance (Davis 2008). Besides this general trend, claims have been made for a performative research paradigm, as a development of, and distinguishable from, qualitative research. Where quantitative research is based on the scientific method and qualitative research is based on multiple methods performative research is practice-led and uses multiple methods. (Haseman 2006). If a performative act does not describe anything (like the constatives) but actually does something in the world, we should try to ascertain what an action (or research) has accomplished. (Bolt 2008). 

‘PAR research requires action or acting in some fashion. Many PAR research methods, such as collaboration, action research, oral history, experimental theatre and dance, constitute such acts.’ (Riley &Hunter 2009, xix)

 

Members of the Working Group have defined research as follows:

‘An investigation or analysis and documentation of a piece of reality which is obscure in order to understand it an communicate this understanding to the relevant academic community.’ (Inma Garin Martinez)

'A conscious search for something with an intent to produce some kind of knowledge' (James Andrew Wilson)

 


 

 

The term ‘as’ (e.g. the same degree or amount; for instance; a specific form or relation; in the way/manner that; in accordance with) in performance as research evokes the is/as distinction, where something either ‘is’ performance or can be studied ‘as’ performance. (Schechner 2004) This can also be seen as a problematic ontology/epistemology binary (Kershaw & Nicholson 2011) that supposes a fixed something that we see as a fixed something else, which cannot the case if both performance and research are performatively produced.

‘Performance as research’ can have many names and be undertaken in many modes. 

‘Perhaps the most singular contribution to the developing areas of practice as research (PaR) and performance as research (PAR) is the claim that creative production can constitute intellectual inquiry.’ (Riley & Hunter 2009, xv)

’The innovative and critical potential of practice-based research lies in this capacity to generate personally situated knowledge and new ways of modelling and externalising such knowledge while at the same time, revealing philosophical, social and cultural contexts for the critical intervention and application of knowledge outcomes. ´(Barret and Bolt 2010, 2)

 

Performance as research can mean various things to various members of the group, including the following:

‘A series of embodied repetitions in time, on both micro and macro levels, in search of a difference’ (Mark Fleishmann, TRI 2012)

‘A methodology to both evidence and articulate a research enquiry, including elements such as artworks, documentation, processes and complementary writing' (Robin Nelson, talk 2014)

‘An event or group of events which are organized in order to understand a concept or idea which is of certain interest to the artistic-academic community’. (Inma Garin Martinez)

'A set of methodologies in which creative practice in some way constitutes the research process, and in which the "result" of the research might also be performative. It is not a single methodology, and thus it demands a personal methodological inquiry on the part of the practitioner/scholar' (James Andrew Wilson)

 

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The Working Group was instigated by its first conveners Jacqueline Martin and Baz Kershaw and had its first official working session at the IFTR conference in Helsinki 2006 after initial meetings in Amsterdam 2004 and St. Petersburg 2005. Since then the group has met yearly, with Anna Birch and Mark Fleishmann as conveners from 2010-2013. They give an overview of the history of the Working Group and describe their experiences in “Interlude 1: Arriving at the Group”

http://www.experimentsandintensities.com/published/vol-3/interlude-1-arriving-at-the-group/

The text is included in the first publication of the Working Group: Bruce Barton, Melanie Dreyer-Lude & Anna Birch (cur/eds.) Experiments and Intensities Vol 3 Mediating Practices(s) Performance as research and – in – through – mediation 2013. 

http://www.experimentsandintensities.com/published/vol-3

 

The following description from the former website gives an idea of the core concerns of the Working Group during that period: 

The Performance as Research Working Group investigates creative-academic issues raised by performance as research across the performance media. It aims to investigate methods of performance as research and, in particular, to explore approaches to developing such methods through reflexive (and, where appropriate, participatory) performative presentations. Relevant issues in this investigation include knowledge types, aesthetic values, contextual responsiveness, practice/theory problematics and training methods. For the purposes of the Group, 'performance' is understood to include a range of media, from theatre through dance to film/video/television, and interlocking research interests, from aesthetic through thematic to contextual.

A number of key issues drive the Group, including the following:

  • The Nature of Performance as Research

    What field(s) of activity does 'performance as research' describe? The Working Group investigates a range of performance as research activities in international higher education institutions.
  • The Significance of Performance

    What knowledge(s) can performance generate and to what extent are knowledge and understanding increased by performance as research? How can the knowledge and experience of practitioners be integrated into university-based research cultures? We are developing a diverse range of case studies to produce knowledges surrounding notions of value. Our aim is to define the objectives, methodologies, procedures and focus of performance within its disciplinary and institutional context as well as to interrogate the appropriateness and effectiveness of the research methods.
  • Dissemination Issues

    What are appropriate modalities through which to communicate about and in terms of performance? The performance as research group will consult on and realize a series of creative projects to advance potential uses of digital technologies for documentation and dissemination.

 

  • Institutional and Academic Frameworks

    What is the meaning and standing of a qualification in performance research? What are the implications of developing bodies of practice and theory specific to performance as research.
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IFTR PERFORMANCE AS RESEARCH WORKING GROUP

28 JULY – 1 AUGUST 2014, UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK 

 

Strata of Knowledge:

Layers of Performance as Research

 

For the 2014 meeting of the Performance as Research Working Group of IFTR, we are sending out a call for papers, workshops and practices that will respond to the wider conference theme, “Theatre and Stratification”, but from a specifically PaR perspective, with a special focus on methodology and performance in a wide sense, including dance, theatre, live art and experimental practices. 

 

We are particularly interested in papers, workshops and practices that will engage with one or more of the following topics:

 

  • Layering knowledge in performance process: the ways in which PaR constitutes what Baz Kershaw calls ‘transdisciplinary innovation in action’ (Kershaw and Nicholson 2011). How, for example, do practitioner knowledges excavate or displace disciplinary and/or institutional assumptions and epistemologies? How do questions, problems, artistic experiments and ‘feedback loops’ work in relation to performance process? Do they need to be layered in a specific order or sequence?
  • Positioning performance as research: how much is the position of performance in a research project still considered of secondary status, as a means of gathering data or an experience which instigates research, at the bottom (or beginning) of a research project? How much is it considered the means of distributing or disseminating knowledge: as an addendum to the process, and of secondary status again. What is the position of performance (or practice or the artwork) in the multilayered process of performance as research?  Where could it be placed?
  • Exposing hierarchies of performance as research: what problems are associated with this methodology? What social and political strata exist in performance as research, for example, who is undertaking the research and who has access? How does the methodology expose issues of inclusivity and difference across cultures? What hierarchies exist in how PaR is perceived by and representedto institutions, practitioners and scholars? 
  • Excavating levels of performance as research: As Mark Fleishman writes, PaR ‘is a series of embodied repetitions in time, on both micro and macro levels, in search of a difference’ (TRI, 2012). How does the research context make and unmake the performance event? What forms of knowledge, in practice, are excavated for the purposes of publication, dissemination and public engagement? How do co-investigators distribute roles and responsibilities? Is collaboration a form of co-authorship, a division of labour and/or a stratification of authority?

 

PRESENTATION AND PARTICIPATION

The PAR working-group at any conference is strictly limited to 25 participants. You can participate in the WG as a presenter orparticipant. Please mark your preferred role clearly on your abstract submission.

 

To join as a presenter, please send an abstract of (maximum) 250 words via the IFTR/CUP/Warwick (TBC) website by 15 January 2014. Please copy your abstract to Annette Arlander, Emma Meehan and Jonathan Heron at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The process for accepting abstracts will be competitive.   The three Working Group convenors will review all abstracts and make selections. A maximum of 15 presentations will be selected.

 

To join as a participant, please submit a short letter of motivation by 15 January 2014, directly to Annette, Emma and Jonathan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  indicating why you would like to be a participant/observer and not a presenter and what your interest in the topic is. A maximum of 10 participants will be selected. It is required that participants will be registered for the conference.

 

The chosen presenters will then be invited to write a 3000word paper. The papers will be made available to all group members, before the conference. The concept ‘paper’ should be understood as including a range of styles and formats from the more traditional academic writing to performance writing to discursive media-rich formats. All finalized papers must be submitted by 2 June 2014(eight weeks before the conference) and any papers submitted after this date will be excluded from the Working Group.

 

Before the conference, presenters will be grouped together by the convenors and will be asked to communicate with each other to plan their session in advance of the conference.  Each sub-group will prepare a mode of communicating the research papers that fits within the allocated time slot (practical workshop, performative dialogue, collaborative action etc.). The sub-group presentation usually includes a series of embodied activities that complement the writing and ground its content in felt experience, rather than re-iterating the writing, although extracts from the writings can be included in the presentations. 

 

Participants will be expected to read all of the papers produced by the presenters, to participatein the workshop activities and discussions, and to act as respondents to specific papers or presentations. 

 

In addition, as has been the case in previous years, we will be proposing a panel from the Working Group to the main conference program.  There is no separate call for the panel, which will be based on the general working group call above.  If you wish to be considered for the panel rather than for presentation in the working group sessions, please indicate this clearly in your abstract submission.

  

We remain committed to enabling new members and less-experienced PaR artist-scholars to engage with the Working Group, and we will reserve up to 10 places at the Warwick meeting for them. These people may elect to formally present or propose attendance simply as a participant. Applicants who wish to be considered for one of these places should submit a brief CV and statement of interest in Performance as Research (and abstract if they wish to present) to Annette, Emma and Jonathan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  by 15 January 2014

 

All applicants should also follow the instructions regarding submission through the conference website.

 

We look forward to your responses to this call - whether igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic!

 

Annette Arlander, Jonathan Heron and Emma Meehan

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