Institute of Environment, Health and Societies

Center for Contemporary and Digital Performance

2006. 2007. 2008. 2009. 2009-10 . 2010-11 .2011-12. 2012-13 . 2013-14 . 2015-17 . 2018-19 .

Interdisciplinary Performance Research Laboratories and Lectures 2018-19

Fall Series: October/November 2018, on Wednesdays, 4pm - 5:30 pm, Drama Studio - Gaskell Building, Brunel University London`

Wednesday  October 17, 2018

16:oo- 17:3o

Drama Studio, Gaskell Hall

Adam Alston (GSA, University of Surrey)

"Immersive theatre in austerity Britain"

Adam Alston is Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies at the GSA, University of Surrey. He is the author of Beyond Immersive Theatre: Aesthetics, Politics and Productive Participation (Palgrave Macmillan 2016), and co-editor with Martin Welton of Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre (Bloomsbury 2017).

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October 31, 2018

16:oo- 17:3o

Drama Studio, Gaskell Hall

Broderick Chow (Theatre, Brunel University)

“Idle Training: Scenes of Pleasure at Muscle Beach, 1934-1958 (and what came after)”

In the popular imagination, Southern California is where you loiter, wait, hang out. Skate and surf cultures index a performance of leisurely pleasure, whose erotic subtext was documented by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey’s abandoned film San Diego Surf, saturated by heightened arousal that never culminates in intercourse, nor seems to want to. An alternative genealogy of this performance labour-leisure can be located in the original Muscle Beach. Occupying the Santa Monica pier from 1934-1958, Muscle Beach was home to a number of male and female athletes who passed their time training in weightlifting, gymnastics, and high-flying adagio and hand-balancing. I argue that the temporary utopia of Muscle Beach is sustained by a mode of performance akin to Giulia Palladini’s conception of “foreplay”, a labour of pleasure that projects toward yet hesitates or avoids its climax as artwork/event. I use the “performance practice” of Muscle Beach to think through the entanglement of arousal and bodily pleasure with structures of leisure, labour, and production. Originating in a period characterized by unemployment and “free-time”, the precarious performances of perfected bodies aim to arouse the attention of an audience at the same time that they suggest an embodied arousal sustained and circulated by the performers. I suggest that the experimentation with physical relations (supporting, holding, and taking care of the other’s body), points to a polymorphous politics of queer kinship outside the time of factory and family, despite, or perhaps because of, the ideal, hegemonic bodies on display.

Broderick D.V. Chow is Senior Lecturer in Theatre at Brunel University London. He researches across performance studies and sport history and was Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded Leadership Fellows research project Dynamic Tensions: New Masculinities in the Performance of Fitness. He recently completed a monograph manuscript that proposes a new understanding of the history of men’s fitness as theatre history, under review with University of Texas Press. He was a visiting scholar at the H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, University of Texas at Austin in February 2017 and April 2018. He is the coeditor (with Eero Laine and Claire Warden) of Performance and Professional Wrestling (2017) and is an amateur Olympic weightlifter and a BWL level 1-qualified weightlifting coach.

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November 14, 2018

16:oo- 17:3o

Drama Studio, Gaskell Hall

Aristita Albacan (Independent Scholar, Cluj, Romania)

"With love, against corruption: Creative strategies/tactics towards political sustainability"

Discourses in the field of politics - whether articulated by way of social theory, philosophy or performance - appear to have been, in recent years, short-circuiting themselves around the idea of power, aiming to articulate its new ways of manifestation. They are often translated in psychological terms, especially at individual level, into a sense of slow, but steady dis-empowerment. The response, present almost everywhere in Western culture, is a drift towards populism, nationalist, xenophobic and even fascist tendencies, all exploiting notions of hate and fear. In aiming to counteract such tendencies, the focus has been on critiquing ‘the bad”, the “morally wrong”, the post-factual aspects of such political discourses, aiming to cope with the phenomenon through rationalisation. The results, however, have not proven too empowering, so far. Notwithstanding the importance and usefulness of such critique, I suggest, a focus on love as a productive principle for re-empowerment at individual/societal level. I propose love as a concept to be explored both theoretically and by way of performance. Not its erotic or romantic aspects, but in its ethical dimensions, as a coagulating factor through which social bonds and the place of the individual within them are re-discovered and possibly re-built. In sum, love as a way towards social and political sustainability. Starting from Grzinic’s (2012) discussion of the shift from biopolitics to necropolitics and Butler’s (2007) articulation of doubting love, and following on Fromm’s (1956) notion of love as an activity that implies care, responsibility, respect and knowledge, as well as Levinas’ (1961) and Baudiou' s (2012) attempts to articulate an ethics of love connected to politics, I articulate a theoretical framework for discussing current examples of performances in Eastern and Western Europe (ranging from Uninvited Guests [UK] to the Women in Black [Srebenica, Serbia] to Va Vedem din Sibiu [Romania]).

Aristita I. Albacan is an independent theatre scholar/practitioner. She specialized in Letters and Theatre Directing at Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania and holds a PhD in Theatre and Media studies awarded by Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. She worked as an associate lecturer for the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany (2003 – 2005), and then as lecturer in Theatre and Performance at the University of Hull, UK (2006 – 2016). During her affiliation with the University of Hull, she held the position of Director of Studies for Theatre and Performance (2008-2014). She also initiated and co-coordinated the Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Practices Research Cluster (2010-2013). Her research interests are connected to intermediality, spectatorship, contemporary performance making processes with a special focus on the avant-garde(s), experimental and participatory practices, and applied theatre, on which she has published several studies in the past 15 years. She also specializes in Robert Lepage’s theatre and is the author of the monograph Intermediality and Spectatorship in the Theatre Work of Robert Lepage: the Solo Works (2016). As a theatre practitioner, she has developed contemporary performances in various settings in Romania,Germany, United States and the UK in the past 25 years.

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November 21, 2018

16:oo- 17:3o

Drama Studio, Gaskell Hall

Janet O'Shea (Professor and Vice Chair of Graduate Affairs UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance Vice President of Awards and Prizes, Dance Studies Association)

"Oppositional Civility, Far-Right Fight Clubs, and Agonistic Democracy: Martial Arts as a Model for Politics"

Janet O'Shea has spent the last few years writing about physicalized opposition in combat sport, exploring how full contact martial art practices such as sparring and grappling differentiate themselves from violence even as they use the components of violence. In her forthcoming book, Risk, Failure, Play: What Dance Reveals about Martial Arts Training, she suggests that martial arts provide an opportunity for practicing disagreement with respect, engaging a sense of oppositional civility that neither assumes all viewpoints are equally valid nor that opposition is inherently suspect. As such, when handled with reflection and intention, martial arts have the potential to act as a space where, in Chantal Mouffe’s terms, participants can rehearse agonistics. In the face of rising right-wing populism, opportunities to practice radical democracy are both rare and necessary. Two recent, unrelated events complicate, and potentially deepen, this consideration of combat sport as a site of agonistic respect: the so-called “civility wars,” the effort to use politeness to squelch protest in the United States and the appearance of far-right mixed martial arts leagues or “fascist fight clubs.” In this talk, Janet investigates these recent events, considering if and in what ways, martial arts and combat sport can operate as a practice of radical democracy.

Janet O’Shea is author of Risk, Failure, Play: What Dance Reveals about Martial Arts Training (2018, Oxford University Press) and At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage (2007, Wesleyan University Press). Recipient of a UCLA Transdisciplinary Seed Grant to study the cognitive benefits of Filipino Martial Arts training, she gave a TEDx Talk on competitive play and has offered keynote presentations at the Martial Arts Studies conference and Dance/Performance in Interdisciplinary Perspective Symposium. She is professor of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA.

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Winter Series 2019 - February 27; March 27, and May 8, 2019, on Wednesdays, 4pm - 5:30 pm, Drama Studio - Gaskell Building, Brunel University London

February 27, 2019

16:oo- 17:3o

Drama Studio, Gaskell Hall

Mark Coniglio (composer and software writer, Berlin/Germany)

"Interactive Performance"

Mark Coniglio (born 1961, Omaha, Nebraska) is a media artist, composer, and programmer. He is recognized as a pioneer in the integration of live performance and interactive digital technology. With choreographer Dawn Stoppiello he is co-founder of Troika Ranch, a New York City based performance group that integrates music, dance, theater and interactive digital media in its performance works. He is also the creator of Isadora, a flexible media manipulation tool that provides interactive control over digital video and sound. His career began with a five-year tenure as a producer for American Gramaphone Records, during which time he received a performance of his work by the London Symphony Orchestra. He studied at the California Institute of the Arts with electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick and received his degree in music composition in 1989. He taught courses in Interactive Music and was on the staff of the Center for Experiments in Art, Information and Technology at CalArts from 1990 to 1994. He also worked as an assistant to film composer Danny Elfman before leaving Los Angeles for New York City in 1994. Coniglio’s work with Stoppiello has been recognized with several honors. Their evening-length work Future of Memory was awarded a 2003 Dance Audience Bessie Award, an honorary mention at the 2004 Prix Ars Electronica Cyberarts Competition, and a 2005 “Eddy” Award from Live Design Magazine in New York City. Coniglio is a two-time recipient of the Digital Artists Fellowship at Dance Theater Workshop, and was selected to facilitate that program in 2005. Recent collaborations outside Troika Ranch include creating video environments for Laurie Anderson's new "Homeland" concert in New York City, serving as video artist for the production of "Die Süße unserer traurigen Kindheit" by composer Hans Tutschku, and creating a wireless camera system for choreographer Judith Jamison for a performance by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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March 13, 2019

16:oo- 17:3o

Drama Studio, Gaskell Hall

Erika Hughes (University of Portsmouth)

"England through the gift shop: Heritage sites and the performativity of souvenirs"

March 27, 2019

16:oo- 17:3o

Drama Studio, Gaskell Hall

Arabella Stanger (Sussex University)

Studies of choreographer Merce Cunningham have been consistent in attributing to his dance environments properties of civic situations involving democracy, the individual, and freedom. This talk begins by asking how the complex of political metaphors that cloud Cunningham’s practice might be disaggregated in a way that is attentive to this work’s historical contingency and situatedness. By drawing from Henri Lefebvre’s (1974) theorization of spatial sociality and Saidiya Hartman’s (1997) critique of the racializing apparatus of U.S. liberalism, I propose a rethinking of the politics of Cunningham’s work in relation to cultures of liberal idealism developed at Black Mountain College – Cunningham’s spring and summer residence over three years between 1948 and 1953 and the site for the foundation of his company. When considered in the light of the utopian practice with which his early work shared a material context within the surrounds of a Jim Crow rural South, Cunningham’s choreographic modelling of a distributed relationality in space can be understood to produce a certain kind of social imaginary where communal harmony resides in the protection of individual liberty and where spatial availability is figured as the guarantor of a white settler conception of the land of the free. By focussing here upon the choreographic arrangements of Black Mountain College’s dining rooms, I examine a set of spatial ideals concerning land, community and racial dispossession in order to propose that Cunningham’s on-stage world of figures who move together as separate but equal presences in space should be understood as a historically specific practice of white ideality.

Arabella Stanger is Lecturer in Drama: Theatre and Performance at the University of Sussex, where her teaching and scholarship move across dance, theatre and performance studies. Her current book project excavates the histories of spatial and racial dispossession underwriting idealistic dances of the Euro-American theatre dance canon and forthcoming publications include articles on visual artist Sondra Perry and choreographer Michael Clark. She is embarking on a collaborative research project exploring contemporary dance and whiteness and on new research into rebellious bodies at sea.


May 8, 2019

16:oo- 17:3o

Drama Studio, Gaskell Hall

Early Career Research Day: Claire Hampton (Wolverhampton) & James Rowson (Royal Holloway)

Hampton: "Selfie Histories: Portraiture, Photography and Grandad’s Pout"

This paper begins to frame a historical and cultural contextualisation of selfie taking. Considering a variety of modalities, including renaissance art, early photography, and mid 20th Century photos, the work attempts to chart a genealogy of the contemporary selfie. Drawing comparisons across time periods, mediums and perspectives, the analysis considers the plurality of theories, practices, and experiences that have shaped the selfie phenomenon. Employing a performance studies methodology the research offers a critical analysis of three (seemingly disparate) examples of self representation; Self Portrait (1548) by Caterina Van Hemessen, Self Portrait in Mirror (1945) by Diane Arbus and a photograph of my Grandparents that I found in a box. What frames this paper is a distinctly feminist approach. It mobilises scholarship by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson that was conceived as a means of discussing autobiographical narrative and subjectivity in performance, I employ this as a critical framework in order to problematize traditional assumptions about women’s autobiography, and specifically selfies, as merely personal or narcissistic. My research is distinctly auto- ethnographic and in places deeply personal. Through this analysis I will begin to extrapolate on the relationship between an auto-centric methodology and autobiographical content and consider the efficacy of my work as a multimodal ‘selfie’; auto-academia that represents, critiques and disrupts.

Rowson: "Theatre That’s Not Afraid: New Russian Drama and Teatr.doc"

Since the turn of the millennium, a collection of theatre makers in Russia have staged real-life events and performed suppressed and marginalised voices to engage with the political and social realities of contemporary Russia. The work of these dynamic theatre practitioners has been collated under the idiom of New Drama, a broad term that includes plays written and performed throughout the twenty-first century that interrogate contemporary cultural identities and articulate important political anxieties that have emerged in Russian society under the Putin regime. Drawing on new material not readily available to an English-speaking readership and my own experience of attending New Drama productions in Russia, this talk explores how the manifold New Drama repertoire has provided one of the most provocative and exciting artistic responses to the increasing authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin’s presidency. I contend that New Drama resists and provocatively subverts the established, normative discourses propagated by the Kremlin and state media sources by foregrounding the experiences of marginalized citizens. In doing so, these innovative productions frame dissent against the Putin regime as an ardent rejection of official state-sanctioned rhetoric, and provide an important locus for anomalous political debate and the creation of a nascent oppositional public sphere in twenty-first century Russia.

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Spring Series 2018

18 April & 13 June 2018 -- 2:oo - 9:oo pm - Artaud Theatre

Department of Arts & Humanities -- Brunel University London

IraqiBodies, in Rite of Exile, choreography/performance by Anmar Taha & Josephine Gray, 2016-17

Shadows of the Dawn: Migration and the Indeterminacy of Community and Immunity

Coordinated by Johannes Birringer


Over the past two years, a few researchers at Brunel University London formed a working group – Transcultures-Survival (Hosts and Guests) – and began to network with others equally concerned with survival politics and a critical understanding of migration and hospitality.

The aim of the 2018 research workshops is to incite debate and knowledge exchange between fields – theatre, social works, education, human geography, political science, ethnography, media arts – on pressing questions regarding notions of imagined communities (originally argued in 1983 by Benedict Anderson) during the current resurgence of ethno-nationalism, exemplified by xenophobic hostilities, divergent responses to the so-called refugee crisis, Britain voting to leave the European Union, the election of Donald Trump, the rise of right wing populism on the European continent. During two symposia-workshops in April and June 2018, participant researchers and practitioners will consider interlaced thematic focal points that deal with community and immunity.

• Natural History of Migration/Immunity and Biopolitics/Racism and Patriotism/ Institutional and Systemic Sexual Violence

• Security, Nationness, Ethno-futurism, and the Theatre of Resistance

The planned activities include scholarly presentations / shorter provocations, workshops and practice-based performances or fieldwork demonstrations (film) to be presented over the two symposia in April and June 2018. The format and compositional method of the Series are intended to be open and innovative as well: curatorial propositions will be solicited from invited guests and volunteer participants. The event is open to the public and anyone interested in the subject, and it is free of charge.

18 April & 13 June: 2pm - 9pm- Artaud Theatre, Brunel University

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Symposium 1 - Wednesday 18 April 2018

13:30- 14:oo Arrivals at Artaud Performance Center, Brunel University London

14:oo Opening Address

• Johannes Birringer, DAP-Lab, Theatre, Brunel University London

• Maria Kastrinou, Anthropology, Brunel University London

Maria Kastrinou welcoming the guests

14:15 – 16:oo Workshop 1

• Yohai Hakak (Social Works, Brunel University): Muslim Parenting Discourses in the West: Democracy and Psychology for Maintaining Communal Boundaries

• Emma Wainwright (Education, Brunel University): ): Social housing: stigma, welfare and dependency

• Anne Chappell (Brunel Department of Education): Institutional responses to supporting victims of sexual violence.

16:oo – 16:15 Coffee Break

16:15 -18:15 Workshop 2

• Goran Sergej Pristaš, BADco., Zagreb (Croatia) “Time Bombs, and Institutions need to be constructed”

• Tomislav Medak, BADco., Zagreb (Croatia) & Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University: “Time Bombs, and Institutions need to be constructed”

• Daniele Rugo (Brunel) film project on refugees (both Syrians and Palestinians in Shatila and Bourj Hammoud)

18:15 Refreshments

18:45 -21:oo Workshop 3 and Performance

workshop: conducted by IraqiBodies

20:00 Rite of Exile

* Iraqi Bodies' visit is supported by the Swedish Arts Grants Committee

Panel workshops with Emma Wainwright and Anne Chappell (left), Tomislav Medak, Sergej Prsitas and Daniele Rugo (right), with a film still from documentary film by Rugo (center). Above center: Johannes Birringer in post performance discussion, with Anmar Tahar and Josephine Gray after Rite of Exile

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Symposium 2- Wednesday 13 June, 2018

Artaud Performance Center, Brunel University London

14:oo Opening Address • Johannes Birringer, DAP-Lab, Theatre, Brunel University London

• Maria Kastrinou, Anthropology, Brunel University London

14:15 – 16:oo Workshop 1

• Mark Neocleous (Political Science, Brunel University London) "Imagined Immunities"

• Joanna Zylinska (Goldsmiths) "End of Man" – dealing both with 'the shadows of the dawn' in the sense of the finalist narratives about human extinction and a new tomorrow, and with community and immunity via the analysis of the current turn to populism and of the various forms of social “encystment.”

• Fouad Marei (Freie Universität Berlin): "Rituals of Identity: The Passionate Theatrics of Sectarianism, Conflict and Resistance"

16:oo – 16:15 Break

16:15 -18:15 Workshop 2

• Maria Kastrinou (Anthropology, Brunel University) "The guests of Lesbos: Hospitality among Syrian refugees in Greece"

• Adam Ramadan (Human Geography in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Birmingham University) "Palestinian refugees in Lebanon"

• Effie Plexousaki (Social Anthropology, Lesbos, Greece)

• Mariza Dima (Film/TV/Media/Games Design, Brunel University) "Draw My Life: A Perception of Migration through Anonymised Children's Drawings & Data"

18:15 Refreshments

Workshopdiscussion with participants (left), Fereshteh Vaziri talking about her plays about exile [right] and Niloofar Bijanzadeh directing the warm up [center]

18:45 -21:oo Workshop 3 and Performance


Fereshteh Vaziri Nasab (playwright, Frankfurt), with Niloofar Bijanzadeh (actress, Darmstadt), and Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso (director, London): on theatres of resistance, moderated by Johannes Birringer

Poetry reading: Nouri el-Jarrah, and his newly published BOAT TO LESBOS - Elegy to the daughters of Na'sh

[unfortunately, Nouri withdrew and could not attend]

Stage Presentations:

The young school children in front of Art Arsenale, after performing in Letters to the Unknown Friend from New York, theatre installation, Kiev, Ukraine, 2017-18. photo courtesy of Olga Danylyuk

Film: Olga Danylyuk (Ukraine): Letters to the Unknown Friend from New York (Children of militarized conflict)

Interactive Sound Art Performance: Lambros Pigounis (Greece): Sacrificial Mirror

Lambros Pigounis performing in Sacrificial Mirror [The Ritual], Off-Europa Festival, Leipzig 2017

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For more information contact 01895 267 343 .........Admission free..........

Location: Artaud Performance Center, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH

All Research Seminars are co-produced with and the special DAP-LabTV:

Research Seminar playlist on youtube by Marlon Barrios Solano & Johannes Birringer.

Research Seminar on Dance TECH TV LIVE



(c) 2018 Johannes Birringer