Audience, Experience, Desire: Interactivity and Participation in Contemporary Performance & the Cultural Industries
Fri 29 – Sat 30 January 2016
University of Exeter, Drama Department
- 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 immersive, participatory, and interactive performances in the UK: a trend paralleled by a growing experience 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 UK’s 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 experience design.
Audience, Experience, Desire asks: 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 experience? 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 are excited to present a programme of cutting-edge research from national and international scholars and practitioners in the field of theatre and performance, with panels that include: the work of the actor in interactive performance; performance and digital culture; play and gaming; power and agency; the political economy of participatory arts; phenomenological approaches to the audience/performer experience.