The Embodiment of Authority: Perspectives on Performances
10–12 September 2010, at the Department of Doctoral Studies in Musical Performance and Research, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland.
“Performance’s only life is the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representation of representations [···].”
Peggy Phelan’s statement from the early 90s, slightly surprisingly reflecting Hegel’s aesthetics, emphasises the definitive “live” quality of performance as its ontology. Interestingly, both the concept of “live” and the diverse authorships around “saving”, “recording”, “documenting” and “representing” have recently been problematised in the versatile field of performance studies. In the current mediated world it seems to be more and more relevant to ask how far the ephemeral moment of the “present” actually reaches. How does one generate, define and redefine performance through the complex act of “documenting” – through recording, replaying, observing, theorising, writing and remembering? If the (hierarchical) difference between the “original” and the “representation” still casts a shadow on the study of performance, how, why and in whose interests does it have to be there?
The Embodiment of Authority Conference will be part of the recently formed international network of innovative discussion on the study of performance in the arts. One of the key aims is to look for common denominators, to link different trends in an area that seems to be developing into a major field of research in many countries. The social practices of performing, rehearsing, documenting and theorising, as well as the deconstruction of the creative process in performance, lie at the very heart of the conference.
One of the questions to be addressed is that of “authorship” and collaborative creativity in art. In musicology, for example, the research tradition linking authorship exclusively to composers has been subject to concerted and serious challenge since the 1990s (and sporadic action since the 1960s), and many influential scholars have extended the focus of study to the creative actions of performers and listeners. In The Embodiment of Authority Conference, the multi-material aspects of the creativities of the composers, performers, listeners and other agents such as sound technicians or even patrons (cf. Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos), are taken into account in the act of performance.
Performance is a forum for social action, embodied interaction and shared authority. The conference will include papers discussing authorial interactions among composers, performers, directors, actors, listeners/spectators and others involved. In musical performance, for example, interaction operates on several different yet overlapping levels – the reciprocal encountering between the performers, composer-performer interaction in rehearsal processes, and the multifaceted interlinkage of the composed voices in the score – which collectively constitute the interaction between the performers, the composer and the score.
Recently, as the various acts and agencies around performance have become a target of scholarly interest, the complex split between theory and practice has been challenged, as have the dominance of the visual and the depolitisation of the issues of gender, the body, sexuality, race and ethics. Closely intertwined in these endeavours is the criticism of the idea of a singular, disembodied authorial ownership of the socio-material meanings surrounding performance. The Embodiment of Authority Conference will focus on performance through the analysis of multi-material research data (field notes and observation, audiovisual recordings, interviews, musical scores, stage scripts and field notes) and the application of interdisciplinary methods. Investigations reaching beyond the empirical/theoretical dualism will be particularly welcome. After decades of individualism and Diaspora an era of looking at “best practices” together and making institutionalisation possible is on the horizon. One day soon, performance studies could become more than a heterogeneous field of individualism (alongside the established mainstream). On this note, the keynote speakers, Nicholas Cook (Professor of Music, University of Cambridge, UK), Della Pollock (Professor of Performance and Cultural Studies, University of North Carolina, US) and Allen S. Weiss (Associate Adjunct Professor of Performance Studies and Cinema Studies, New York University, US), have alluded in their preliminary (email) correspondence to issues such as performance as critique, performance as a reproducing/representing/resisting/resolving process of interaction, and the capacity of performances to multiply origins, confuse genres, valorize polyphony, and exacerbate conflicts and paradoxes.
As a concrete act of confusing genres The Embodiment of Authority Conference also offers an arena for critical reflection on the performative qualities of scholarly and artistic writing about the arts. The sensuous experiences are assumed to generate “somatic” approaches to writing and language in general, but how do the writers negotiate the mutant relationship between knowledge, embodiment and authorial positions in these fleshy terms?
The conference welcomes proposals for:
papers (20 minutes maximum, with 10 minutes discussion)
demo/lecture/performance sessions (30 minutes maximum, with 15 minutes discussion).
Scholars and artists are invited to submit proposals addressing the following themes (as well as other themes that fit in with the conference profile):
processes of embodied interaction in performance
shared and shifting authorities in the practices of performance
multi-material approaches to studying performance
practice-based methods of analysis
the question of corporeality/representation in performance
critical ethnography of performance
the diverse roles of interdisciplinary performance studies in societies.
The proposals should be a maximum of 300 words long and should include the name and affiliation of the participant, the title of the presentation and information about the equipment required.
Please fill in the on-line submission form and submit it as instructed. The new, extended deadline for the submission of abstracts is Sunday 23rd May 2010.
The proposals will be peer-reviewed anonymously. Successful contributors will be notified via email by late May 2010.
The conference site is the Department of Doctoral Studies in Musical Performance and Research at the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland.
Address: Töölönkatu 28, 00260 Helsinki.
For further information please contact Dr. Taina Riikonen, email: taina.riikonen (at) siba.fi