CfP (Conference): Audience, Experience, Desire

Audience, Experience, Desire: Interactivity and Participation in Contemporary Performance & the Cultural Industries

Fri 29 ­ – Sat 30 January 2016

University of Exeter, Drama Department

Deadline for proposals: 20th November 2015

To apply, please send a paper abstract or performance outline of max. 250 words, and indicate any technical requirements you may have. Contact Becca Savory Fuller & Bec Fraser:

Keynote speakers:
Josephine Machon (Middlesex University London)
Tassos Stevens (Coney)
Adam Alston (University of Surrey)

The 2nd International PhD and Early Career Researcher conference in Drama at the University of Exeter, is concerned with the relationship of interactive and participatory performance to contemporary culture in the UK and internationally.  We aim to engage in dialogue that spans theory and practice, offering perspectives from both academic and artist-led research & practice.

As Lyn Gardner recently noted, the past decade has seen a proliferation of Œimmersive, Œparticipatory, and Œinteractive performances in the UK: a trend paralleled by a growing Œexperience industry offering a range of theatricalised events ­ from Secret Cinema to Zombie Apocalypses, Whodunnit mini-breaks and branded, site-based adventures.  Meanwhile as one of the UK¹s best known immersive theatre companies, Punchdrunk, approach their 15th year, the trajectory of their company development describes a route from innovative outsiders to mainstream producers, and marks a growing cultural and commercial interest in Œexperience design.

How can we understand this trend in the context of broader contemporary culture?  What kinds of politics and aesthetics are inherent in these various modes of interactive performance?  Claire Bishop (2012) suggests that the participatory trend in contemporary arts indicates a return to the social, as artists increasingly seek to engage and collaborate with their audiences in the making of their work.  Jen Harvie (2013) similarly expresses the hope that this participatory turn represents, at its best, an emergence of art that is socially engaged, even democratic.  But are we also witnessing a new form of seductive tourism?  What kinds of value are placed on the notion of Œexperience?  Might these practices also represent a commercialisation of the pleasures that we derive from moving on a spectrum between the made up and the real, as Mauyra Wickstrom has observed in her analysis of theatricalised, immersive corporate spaces (2006)? Finally if, as Henry Jenkins argued (2006), audiences now are ‘demanding the right to participate’ in media and cultural life, how can we interrogate the politics and aesthetics of participation in our own practices, as artists, researchers and teachers?

We welcome proposals for papers of up to 20 minutes, practice-presentations or performances (with limited production requirements) that broach these themes.  We are actively seeking a mixture of practitioner and academic responses.  A limited number of travel bursaries will be available to support applicants from outside Exeter.

Proposals may consider, but are not limited to:

  • Genealogies of interactive, immersive or participatory performance
  • Performance in relation to digital culture and/or participatory media practices
  • Interactive methodologies in performance research, teaching and/or dissemination
  • Immersive theatre and contemporary capitalism
  • The politics and/or aesthetics of audience interaction and participation
  • Value and desire in relation to ‘experience’ and performance
  • The fetishized experience; the commodified experience; theatre as tourism
  • The audience-as-performer: identities, roles and relationships of power/authorship
  • Play and fantasy in interactive / participatory performance
  • Ritual and liminality in interactive / participatory performance
  • Kinaesthetic and embodied experience in relation to story and/or meaning-making
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