Theatre and Performance in the Post/pandemic Anthropocene
IJPADM 2023 SPECIAL ISSUE 19. 1
If the theatre closures of the COVID-19 pandemic created a caesura in global public life that has been unprecedented in modern times, its lasting effects and transformations only come to the fore in the far less easily definable time of the post-pandemic. The pandemic has fundamentally shaken our core understanding of theatre and performance as based in a physical live encounter, thus allowing for alternative hybrid futures that challenge what remains of performance (see Schneider 2001). Moreover, the hybridity of the post/pandemic by no means marks an actual overcoming of the virus and its impact but instead implies the new realities of living with rather than halting life for the virus. Post – slash – pandemic does not describe a linear time of before, during, and after; instead, the slash captures how a shared global experience of a state of exception has given way to a more fractured and divided social life affected by the wavering oscillation between outbreak (local/regional/national) and containment. For performance makers, audiences, and cultural institutions, the post/pandemic has meant reopening performance venues while navigating ever shifting health regulations, integrating with the further accelerated digitalization of infrastructures and engaging with the grief, precarity and further social rifts that the pandemic has created. If the pandemic offers a time for exploring new, often digital formats of performance, performance in the post/pandemic faces the challenge of capturing the emerging social realities and futures rendered by the pandemic. We would like to propose that these post/pandemic realities and experiences need to be placed within the larger context of the Anthropocene as well as offer a challenge to the Anthropocene’s implicit reliance on the human v. non-human binary and the reiteration to the centrality of the human. In particular, the concept of contagion interconnects these viral theatres of the pandemic with biology’s impact on cultural production.
When Arundhati Roy wrote her much discussed essay “The Pandemic is a Portal” in the Spring of 2020, she argued that the unprecedented speed and scope with which the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped human life globally left a portal for thinking social relations anew: an utopian opening in a dystopian time. In hindsight, the pandemic also opened up a portal between abstraction and lived experience in the Anthropocene. Variously termed as ‘unthinkable’ (Ghosh 2016; Haraway 2016; Braidotti 2017) or defined by Timothy Morton as “the time of hyperobjects” (2013; 44), the discourses of the Anthropocene are dominated by abstraction, highlighting paradigmatic processes on a supra-human scale that evade the human grasp. This points to an emerging role for the arts and humanities of connecting scientific data with lived experience and of reframing the wider debates around climate change and the Anthropocene. Notably, media responses to the IPCC reports have called on science to make its findings more communicable (Ketan, Caring about climate change: it’s time to build a bridge between data and emotion,” The Guardian, June 6, 2017). The COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as a global event that is entangled with the human over-exploitation of the natural world (Brown 2020) and thus crucially in dialogue with the Anthropocene (Scherer 2020; Horn 2021). How does the pandemic with its globally shared experience of crisis provide a foil for embodying, reflecting and/or imagining anew the entanglements between human and more-than-human worlds? How does the pandemic reshape our understanding of the Anthropocene?
This Special Issue seeks contributions from scholars and practitioners that explore post/pandemic performance and its hybrid futures within the context of or as a challenge to the larger debates of the Anthropocene. In doing so, these contributions engage the Anthropocene’s global interconnectivity in the new sense of viral contagion and engage with the hybrid interaction between human and non-human and between digital and material environments.
Here are some themes and provocations:
- How do the new digital performance structures that have emerged during the pandemic continue to develop during the post/pandemic?
- How do artistic devising and rehearsal processes change in the shift from purely digital to hybrid formats?
- How do we reach dispersed audiences with hybrid dramaturgies? And how do shifts from touring to digital dissemination affect the relationship between artists and audiences? How has our understanding of and engagement with public and private space changed through hybrid performances?
- How do hybrid formats challenge our fundamental understanding of theater and its cultural and social functions?
Crossings between Environmental and Digital Ecologies
- How can theatre and performance’s expanded digital toolset/vocabulary contribute to finding new ways of performing the Anthropocene?
- How does theatrical performance explore the fractured temporalities post/pandemic and its movement between outbreaks and containment?
- How do the ideas of virality and contagion help connect environmental and digital cultures? Do viral theatres, like biological viruses, strengthen or threaten the Anthropocentric idea of the human?
- How do theatre and performance engage with data?
- How do digital dramaturgies engage/work with eco-dramaturgies? Can digital dramaturgies offer novel and challenging ways of asking questions about and addressing the climate crisis?
Politics of the Post/Pandemic
- What are the cultural politics of the post/pandemic?
- The COVID-Pandemic has both affected existing activist causes (e.g. Fridays for Future, Black Lives Matter) and coincided with the emergence, reemergence, or amplification of political movements (e.g. renewed work to dismantle white supremacy in theater institutions and more broadly; social protests in Latin America). How has digital performance drawn on or been a part of political activism during the pandemic and post/pandemic?
- How is performance addressing issues of social solidarity and/or polarization that are a part of the global health regulations?
- How are artists addressing the rise of misinformation/disinformation online, and examining competing truth claims in the realm of vaccination and public health?
- How do new digital and hybrid dramaturgies and aesthetics respond to late capitalist, mediatized culture? What kind of politics of digitality do they reflect?
Documenting Post/pandemic Performance
- What may count as post/pandemic (its gestures, vocabulary, embodied and digital expressions) and how can we document its cultural experiences?
- How do our methods of documentation change in the face of the historical shifts currently underway? Do they privilege the need for alternative collaborative archiving formats?
- How does performance live/remain/survive in the equally accelerated and slowed-down post/pandemic sense of time?
Please submit your full article or document including a short bio (75 words) and abstract (250 words) online, via IJPADM’s website by 31st May 2022.
Articles are normally 7-8,000 words.
Documents can take any form: they can be interviews, practice-as-research reports, reflective writings, multimedia essays, creative writings or other. They would normally be shorter than research articles but that is not necessary.
We also welcome relevant reviews of books or events (conferences, exhibitions, performances, other). Reviews are normally 1,000 words. Please send reviews to our Reviews Editor, Dr Jo Scott: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please check the IJPADM website for Instructions for Authors.
All submissions to IJPADM are subject to initial Editor screening and then a rigorous double-blind peer-review process before publication.
The Special issue is being co-edited by the following team of guest editors and in cooperation with the Viral Theatres Research Project:
Miriam Felton-Dansky (Bard College)
Seda Ilter (Birkbeck, University of London)
Ramona Mosse (Freie Universität Berlin/Viral Theatres Research Project)
Nina Tecklenburg (Bard College Berlin/Viral Theatres Research Project)
Carmen Gil Vrolijk (Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá)
If you have questions regarding the scope of your article or document, please feel free to reach out.