Bryan Levina Viray – The Bati as movement of sacred gathering in Salubong

Presentation

Bryan Levina Viray

University of the Philippines Diliman

The Bati as movement of sacred gathering in Salubong

This presentation inquires how the narratives of devotion to the Virgin Mary heavily influence the choreographies and compositions of the bati (greeting) dance in salubong (encuentro) in Marinduque and Angono, Philippines. The salubong is a re-enactment of the first meeting of Jesus Christ and his sorrowful mother popularly known as Mater Dolorosa after his death on the cross. As the devotees gather, the dancers greet and wave flags for the Virgin Mary to signify the transformation of her sorrow to joy as the angels sing alleluia. The presentation explores how dancerly attitude in salubong could be an act of gathering for the devotees, and also a source of grounded movement analysis, focusing on the intertwined attitudes – the bodily attitudes, affective, spatial, and the physical dimensions of dance and dancing. The bati as dance movement, conditioned and presupposed by the religious Marian devotion and conceived as contradictory in the everyday flow, is experienced by the dancers themselves as unnatural or dancerly. 

Key words: dancerly attitude, salubong, Marian devotion, sacred gathering

Bryan Levina Viray is assistant professor of theatre and dance studies at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts (DSCTA), College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines Diliman. A recipient of the 2019-2021 One UP Faculty Grant Award in Theatre (Performance Studies) for Outstanding Teaching and Creative Work, his essays on ritual, dance and performance appeared in and published by Routledge, Springer, 2018 CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Journal of English Studies and Comparative Literature, Philippine Humanities Review and Journal of Ugnayang Pang-Agham Tao.

Format of Presentation: The presentation can be an essay reading with showing of video performances, or performative where I can sing the Ave Maria (Regina Coeli) song and demonstrate some of the movement motifs or dance patterns.

Link to the full essay: Bryan Levina Viray, ‘Greeting the Virgin Mary: The Dancerly Attitudes of the Bati in Salubong’, Journal of English Studies and Comparative Literature, 18/1, 2019.

Bryan Levina Viray – Bati as Movement of Sacred Gathering – ADSA Conference 2020 – Video, styling, and video editing by Paolo Guillermo
Viray, B. (2012, April 27). holy week 2011 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1F6zT4wuQU
.
Robni2007. (2010, May 16). Angono Salubong 2010 part4 [Video file]. Retrieved
from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5qa08X4xL8&t=12s.

Caitlin West – Goodbye Shakespeare? Generating relevance via the resistant performances of implied stage directions

Presentation

Caitlin West

University of Queensland

Goodbye Shakespeare? Generating relevance via the resistant performances of implied stage directions

My presentation will address the questions “What do we hold onto? What do we let go?” by considering the role of Shakespeare on the contemporary Australian stage. 

Four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare’s plays still regularly appear on professional and amateur stages, including in Australia. However, as our culture and language continue to move further away from and resemble less and less those of Elizabethan England, the question of whether we can and should bring Shakespeare’s body of work with us into the twenty-first century grows more pertinent. Certain of his plays contain anachronisms, or depict behaviours and beliefs, that are outmoded and make it difficult to achieve contemporary relevance. For example, Much Ado About Nothing, a light-hearted comedy in its own time, contains a storyline of the abuse, shaming and public humiliation of a woman that present difficulties for directors and performers working in a post-“Me Too” world. 

In response to this problem, theatre directors have employed various dramaturgical and creative strategies, such as cutting scenes or lines, adding new text, and used inventive staging practises to reframe the text. In recent years, a trend has developed of deliberately drawing attention to and engaging with anachronisms or issues in the text, rather than excising or “solving” them. By disobeying stage directions embedded in the dialogue of the play, directors overtly challenge, resist or subvert the text’s implied meaning. In my presentation, I discuss the potential benefits of the subversion of implied stage directions via an analysis of recent performances of Much Ado About Nothing. I draw on ideas taken from Tim Fitzpatrick (2011) and Hans-Thies Lehmann (2006) to demonstrate how the subversion of embedded directions allows a performance to enter into dialogue with the play rather than to simply reproduce it in an accessible way. This practice releases us from the need to prove Shakespeare’s inherent relevance, and instead allows us to engage with him in a critical and creative way that is more fruitful for twenty-first-century audiences.

Caitlin West is a theatre practitioner and PhD Candidate at the University of Queensland. She is conducting her research on Shakespeare and his relevance in contemporary Australia, a subject area in which she also completed a Master’s dissertation in 2017. Caitlin has written, directed and performed in numerous independent theatre productions. Her work has been staged in venues around Australia, including Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. In 2016 she directed an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew for Montague Basement, and in 2017 she undertook a directorial secondment for the Bell Shakespeare Company. 

References

Fitzpatrick, T. (2011). Playwright, Space, and Place in Early Modern Performance: Shakespeare and Company. Farnham: Ashgate.

Lehman, H. (2006). Postdramatic Theatre (K. Jürs-Munby, Trans.). New York: Routledge. 

Carly O’Neill – Exit Stage Left: Mid-career transitions of female stage managers in Australia

Presentation

Carly O’Neill

QUT

Exit Stage Left: Mid-career transitions of female stage managers in Australia 

In the course of their work, stage managers are across many different elements of the performance making process – however, at its most fundamental, the key function of the stage manager in the realisation of live performance is the management of change (Ionazzi 1992). Stage managers are critical participants in the Australian live performance industry that generated $2.2 billion in revenue in 2019 (Live Performance Australia 2019) and Australian census data indicate that this industry is being serviced by a disproportionately young, female workforce (ABS 2011). This paper will discuss the findings of a study that characterised the career transition experiences of professional female stage managers in Australia and explored the variety of career development challenges experienced during mid-career and prompt premature exits from the profession. The research presents the experiences of professional female stage managers who have worked within Australia’s peak performing arts companies (AMPAG 2019) and makes recommendations regarding workforce retention strategies, educational models, psychological and social support mechanisms and organisational and sectoral strategies that will lead to increased sustainability within the profession. One of the key findings of the study was that the precarious nature of the work is one of the major factors that drives stage managers out of the profession, and this has never been more relevant in light of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on those working in the production arts.

Carly O’Neill is the Lecturer in Stage Management within the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Technical Production) at QUT. She has 20 years’ experience as a professional freelance stage manager working across most live performance genres, with particular specialisations in classical and contemporary music, and ballet and contemporary dance. Carly was the Senior Stage Manager at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre from 2004 – 2013 and has extensive regional, national and international touring experience. Carly has been the lecturer in stage management at QUT since 2009 and was Technical Production coordinator from 2012 – 2014. She is currently the Study Area Coordinator for the BFA (Technical Production) and continues to freelance as a stage manager and show-caller. 

Chris Hay – Hello, Training: Early Misfires in Australian Actor Training

Presentation

Chris Hay

University of Queensland

Hello, Training: Early Misfires in Australian Actor Training

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the establishment of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) on the campus of the University of New South Wales in 1958 marked the beginning of institutional actor training in Australia. Even the multiple distractions on this path – the last-minute renaming, the relocation from Melbourne to Sydney – are oft-cited. But like all origin myths, the fabled story of NIDA has grown in stature to obscure the many mis-steps that led to establishing “a training school where new talent can be developed” (AETT, 1954). 

In August 1947, the University of Melbourne officially approved the development of a Diploma of Dramatic Art under the leadership of Keith Macartney, now best remembered for founding the graduate Tin Alley Players. The Diploma was a truly unusual development for the time, as the Board of Studies mandated the inclusion of practical work – including speech training, choral speech, movement and mime, acting class, make-up, and practical work in the history of drama. “The policy,” according to Bernard Heinze, “is to encourage a professional habit of thought by training students to carry out their responsibilities to their fellows (in the preparation of productions) as they would expect to in the professional theatre”. 

The University’s courses in Dramatic Art, though, never came to fruition. Throughout their development, those involved stressed that “this is a novel venture for an Australian university” (J. T. Burke, Professor of Fine Arts), and indeed its novelty may well have been its downfall. In this paper, I will use the mis-steps of the Dramatic Art model at the University of Melbourne to complicate the pre-history of institutional actor training in Australia. In so doing, I hope to present the story of NIDA’s foundation as less linear, less of an inevitability, and it instead as a refined compromise. 

Chris Hay is a Lecturer in Drama and ARC DECRA Fellow in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is an Australian theatre and cultural historian, whose work examines the rise of live performance subsidy and the institutionalisation of culture between 1949 and 1975.

Daniel Johnston – Gathering Temporality in Macbeth: Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Time

Presentation

Daniel Johnston

University of Sydney

Gathering Temporality in Macbeth: Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Time

There is an essential ‘doubleness’ in Macbeth. The witches equivocate through their prophecies of the future, while the fictional world of the play has a temporal double on the early modern English stage in performance. Drawing on phenomenology, Matthew Wagner (2012) suggests that Shakespeare places the internal subjective experience of time on stage. From a theoretical perspective, rather than understand time as a series of ‘nows’ this approach examines one’s lived experience of time. Wagner also examines a number of Shakespeare’s texts in terms of temporal dissonance, thickness, and materiality. But when we take an existential context into account—the idea that time stretches from birth to death— Macbeth’s given circumstances involve a set of possibilities for action experienced within time and a relationship of self towards those possibilities. This can be faced authentically or inauthentically. Macbeth resolutely chooses his course of action by seizing power, but he fails to take into account the structure of existence, or rather has it handed over to him. He believes that he no longer has a choice and that all choices ultimately have no meaning. The doomed soldier’s rise to the throne is a lesson for the audience in authenticity. It has been argued that Shakespeare was living through an historical age emerging from a medieval world view into the modern epoch—including and understanding of history and time. This paper tracks a phenomenological interpretation of temporality in the text of Macbeth. But there is also a third time stretched stretching out to our own epoch – as a gathering of doubleness. The task of the contemporary actor approaching the play is to bring these worlds together. 

Daniel Johnston is the author of Theatre and Phenomenology: Manual Philosophy (London: Palgrave). He is Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney and lectures at The University of Notre Dame, Sydney. Previously, he was a Principal Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, UK., a Lecturer at The University of Sydney, an Associate Lecturer at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), and Lecturer at Macquarie University. He holds a PhD in Performance Studies (University of Sydney) and MA (Cantab) in Philosophy (University of Cambridge).

David Berthold and colleagues – Digital Theatre Festival

Presentation

David Berthold and colleagues

NIDA

Digital Theatre Festival 

NIDA’s DTF is a collection of six new works created in the circumstances of COVID-19 and responding to the tone of the times. The works are developed online and delivered to online audiences. 

These works break open the conventional boundaries of story and performance. Audiences are invited into the narrative and can often shape it. Duration is sometimes fluid. The works are delivered on platforms including Zoom, Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and often several at once. They subvert familiar genres including horror, science fiction, farce and tragedy in ways that operate as playful metaphors for contemporary anxieties. They sometimes use the mechanisms of games. Some aspects of the experience play out for a week or more before the live event, while others continue into the next day. The environment of the online audience is sometimes controlled. 

These works are led by top professional artists working at the intersections of theatre, visual arts, digital expression and gaming. They are a mix of experienced and new voices. They lead teams of NIDA students working across the disciplines of acting, voice, writing, design, props and objects, sound, lighting, and stage and production management. 

These works make advantage out of adversity, and point to possible futures of how artists and audiences meet in the digital realm. They offer models how we might gather and engage in performative conversations that reap the best from past and present practices in the service of future modes of story sharing. 

DTF Artistic Lead, David Berthold. David Berthold is one of Australia’s most prominent theatre directors and cultural leaders. As a theatre director, he has directed for most of Australia’s major theatres companies, as well as internationally. As an Artistic Director, he has led transformational change at several significant arts organisations. He was Artistic Director of Brisbane Festival (2015-19), Artistic Directo, La Boite Theatre Company (2008-14), Artistic Director Griffin Theatre Company (2003-2006), Artistic Director Australian Theatre for Young People (1999-2003), and Associate Director Sydney Theatre Company (1994-99). He currently Executive Chair of Playwriting Australia and Director of the Centre for Creative Practices at NIDA. 

Director, Leticia Cáceras. Leticia has directed for most mainstage theatre companies in Australia and her work has toured nationally and internationally. Her productions have received Helpmanns, Green Rooms, Matildas, and Sydney Theatre Awards. She has developed and staged over twenty world premiere Australian plays. Co-founder of nationally-acclaimed RealTV. Her short films have been screened in festivals around Australia and have won awards overseas. Associate Director for Melbourne Theatre Company from 2013 to 2015, Artistic Director of Tantrum Youth Theatre from 2006 to 2008 and Associate Director for Queensland Theatre between 2003 and 2005. She is now artist in residence at a leading VR company. 

Director, Sean Stewart. A ground-breaking global figure in transmedia storytelling and the most experienced and influential writer of Alternate Reality Games in the world. Winner, Primetime Emmy for Best Original Online Programming. New York Times bestseller for many science fiction novels. Engaged on Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence to create a multi-platform complement to the movie, called The Beast. I Love Bees, commissioned by Microsoft, accompanied the release of the video game Halo 2. He was Creative Director at Xbox Entertainment Studios. He is now Creative Director of Magic Leap. Earlier this year, Sean worked on a project with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Google Creative Labs. Sean lives in Los Angeles. 

Director, Pierce Wilcox. Pierce is a writer, director and maker of theatre and opera. He is a directing graduate of NIDA. He’s well known for his libretti new Australian operas – including Notes From Underground, Fly Away Peter, and Oscar and Lucinda – or Sydney Chamber Opera, Victorian Opera and Opera Queensland. He wrote and directed an adaptation of the Russian Futurist opera Victory over the Sun for the Biennale of Sydney. Co-creative lead on PANACEA with Google’s Creative Lab. Artistic Director of Crack X, an annual festival that develops new performance works that sit outside the conventions of text-based theatre. 

Director, Katy Alexander. Katy has 20 years experience in the theatre, visual arts and screen industries. She’s trained with Robert Lepage and The Builders Association in New York, a company mixing new and old tools to extend the boundaries of 21st century theatre. Katy has a PhD in Integrated Media Performance and works the intersection of live performance and new media. She was Live Performance & Screen Director for Hecker for five years and was resident director at the California Institute of Arts. 

Director, Nigel Jamieson. Nigel is a leading international theatre and event director. His work includes the Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony, the Closing Ceremony of 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, the opening events of the 2009 European City of Culture celebrations in Liverpool, and the Opening of the 2017 European Capital of Culture, Aarhus, Denmark. His theatre and opera work has toured the world. Nigel is the recipient of a Greater London Arts Award for contribution to London cultural life, an Australian Centenary medal for his contribution to Australian Culture and an Individual Sidney Myer Award. 

Director, Deborah Pollard. Deborah is a director, artist and academic. She has been Artistic Director of Salamanca Theatre Company and Urban Theatre Projects. Deborah’s performance, theatre and installation works have toured throughout Australia as well as internationally, including Manchester, Bristol and Toronto, Canada. She is the recipient of a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship, the Rex Cramphorn Scholarship, and an Australia Council New Media Arts Board Fellowship. She lectures in practice and theory at the University of Wollongong, where she recently completed her PhD. 

David O’Donnell – Place and relationships in Indigenous theatre: Taki Rua Theatre’s Alpha Street Years

Presentation

David O’Donnell

Victoria University Wellington

Place and relationships in Indigenous theatre: Taki Rua Theatre’s Alpha Street Years

In the recently published book Imagining Decolonisation, Moana Jackson writes about the centrality of place to tikanga Māori (customary values). In his discussion of Indigenous values that could underpin new constitutional models in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Jackson comments that all of these are based on the values of place and relationships (Jackson, 152). 

From 1984 until 1997, Taki Rua Theatre was based on the top floor of an old warehouse in a dark, industrial back street running parallel to Wellington’s entertainment district. This venue at 12 Alpha Street hosted hundreds of theatre productions, hui (meetings), dance works, play readings, festivals, comedy shows and the occasional dance party. Originally founded as the New Depot Collective, in 1991 the space was re-named Taki Rua-Depot Theatre, signalling its commitment to a bi-cultural approach where tikanga Māori was placed equally alongside Pākehā theatre traditions. In 1993 the English name was dropped, becoming Taki Rua Theatre, at the same time that the theatre became solely dedicated to the production of Māori and Pacific performing arts. 

While Taki Rua became the primary place for Indigenous practitioners to say “hello”, by 1996 many people felt that it was time to say “goodbye” to the space, which had become prohibitively expensive to maintain. Amid much controversy, the theatre venue was closed in 1997 in order for Taki Rua to become a fully professional touring company. 

In this paper, I discuss the significance of Taki Rua during its years as a physical theatre space, during which the company produced or hosted several seminal productions. However the space was as just as significant as a meeting place and drop-in centre for Indigenous performing artists, bringing them together in new performance ventures. It was the meetings and informal gatherings in the space that seeded the vision of a self-determining Indigenous theatre company, led by Indigenous practitioners. The hui and gatherings at 12 Alpha Street were ahead of their time both politically and creatively, and helped to set social, political and artistic agendas for Aotearoa in the 21st century.

David O’Donnell is Professor of Theatre, Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

Dennis Del Favero, Susanne Thurow, Lawrence Wallen – Digitally Transforming Theatrical Design Practice

Presentation

Dennis Del Favero, Susanne Thurow, Lawrence Wallen

UNSW, UTS

Digitally Transforming Theatrical Design Practice 

Social practices underpin all creative processes in the performing arts. 

In the production of stage performance, from ideation and rehearsal to delivery, creative processes converge collaboratively, generating a shared framework for a play’s expression, atmosphere and intent. At present, many of these processes are organised through sequestered pipelines, with the creative team independently working on individual components, discussed at intervals, supported by a range of tools such as drawings, software and physical scale models. This approach constrains collective decision making as it relies on multiple communication modes for integrating and manifesting all design streams on stage. The reliance on physical co-presence and isolated desktop interaction produces barriers to unlocking creative and economic efficiencies – especially in times such as Covid19 where gathering in physical space is not possible. 

The paper thinks through ways of transforming approaches in the performance design field, focusing on how new digital technologies can enable collective work in virtual space while at the same time supporting and documenting creative processes. It presents outcomes of the iDesign ARC-Linkage Project that addresses the identified shortcomings of established pipelines by developing a networked 3D cross-platform visualisation system for experimental application at NIDA and Sydney Theatre Company. This system allows comprehensive immersive set design and performance in virtual space, situating creative and technical teams in an infinitely malleable 1:1 scale 3D datascape. It enables real-time creation, development and robust testing of set designs on a digitally twinned stage, supported by an AI system. The latter acts as a virtual dramaturg – recording, monitoring and advising on design activity, based on an industry-attuned accumulative database that features customisable props, set-pieces, lighting settings and OHS protocols. 

iDesign hence charts avenues for reshaping the way design conversations, rehearsal and performance may be staged in the future, projecting new encounters and practices while creating a living archive of design practice – enabling users to virtually learn about the hidden and ephemeral facets of theatrical practice. 

Dennis Del Favero is a world-renowned research artist with a background as set designer for the music and theatre industries. Over the past 20 years, he has directed numerous large-scale interdisciplinary art projects that have explored the relationship between human and non-human systems through experimental reformulation of immersive aesthetics using digital media. His collaborative research has been recognised with eight premier prizes, presented at 121 international first-tier venues, resulting in frontier advances in intelligent visualisation systems. His academic appointments include Chair Professor of Digital Innovation at UNSW and Visiting Professorial Fellow at ZKM (Germany). 

Susanne Thurow is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at UNSW’s iCinema Centre, where her research investigates the capabilities of immersive digital aesthetics for supporting creative processes in the performing arts. Since 2014, she has been co-developing interdisciplinary projects with iCinema’s key collaboration partners, such as Sydney Theatre Company, MAAS and Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (Austria). Her latest book is Performing Indigenous Identities on the Contemporary Australian Stage (NY: Routledge, 2020). Her professional background has been consolidated by work for companies such as Thalia Theater (Germany), Big hART, the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney, Goethe Institut, as well as Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (Germany). 

Lawrence Wallen is currently Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Technology Sydney. From 2009 to 2018, he was Head of School (Design) at UTS and from 2002 to 2012, Professor of Scenography at the Zurich University of the Arts (Switzerland). Lawrence’s most recent monograph entitled The Model as Performance: Staging Space in Theatre and Architecture (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), co-authored with long-term collaborator Thea Brejzek, investigates the history and development of the scale model from the Renaissance to the present. In parallel to his academic writing and art practice, Lawrence has realised stage designs for Opera, Theatre and Dance across Europe and Asia. 

Donna Abela and Alison Lyssa – Writing outside the circle of rightness: two incursions into the mainstream Australian repertoire

Presentation

Donna Abela and Alison Lyssa

Writing outside the circle of rightness: two incursions into the mainstream Australian repertoire

Serendipitously, in 2014, productions of Alison Lyssa’s Pinball and Donna Abela’s Jump For Jordan offered Sydney audiences one of the first, and the latest, lesbian-themed plays to make incursions into the mainstream Australian repertoire. As Duck Duck Goose Theatre Company’s production of Lyssa’s internationally-celebrated Pinball – first produced by the Nimrod Theatre Company in 1981 – took over the Tap Gallery, the Griffin Theatre Company’s premiere of Abela’s award-wining Jump For Jordan packed out the nearby Stables Theatre. Written thirty years apart, each play moved the margin to the centre, claiming the main stage for lesbian bodies and narratives, feminist-informed forms, female subjectivities, and work authored by female playwrights. In this paper, Lyssa and Abela discuss the strategies they employed to write about people held outside of established circles of rightness, and subject to “The Great Silence” (Greenaway 1990) or the erasure of lesbian women and experience from mainstream history and culture. 

Donna Abela is playwright, dramaturge, and creative writing lecturer. She serves on the board of PYT Fairfield (which she co-founded), and along with Vanessa Bates, Hilary Bell, Noëlle Janaczewska, Verity Laughton, Ned Manning and Cath Zimdahl is a member of the alliance 7-ON Playwrights. While at the University of Wollongong, Donna completed her practice-led doctoral thesis titled Dialogic Interplay: a Strategy for Representing Difference and Cultural Diversity on Stage. Jump For Jordan, the creative component, won the 2013 Griffin Playwriting prize and the 2015 AWGIE Award for Stage, and is included in the 2019-2022 HSC Drama Syllabus. 

Alison Lyssa is a playwright and poet, teacher and mentor. As a writer-in-residence at Nimrod, 1982, she discovered dramaturgy’s uncanny ability to ask the right questions. Alison’s first two plays, Pinball, 1981, and The Boiling Frog, 1984, are now online in Australian Plays’ NIMROD 50 Collection, 2020. Pinball was previously published in Michelene Wandor (ed.), Plays by Women vol. 1V, London and New York: Methuen, 1985, and in Bruce Parr (ed.), Australian Gay and Lesbian Plays, Sydney: Currency, 1996. In 2019 she work as dramaturge on Catherine Zimdahl’s brilliant new play Gifted, supported by Playwriting Australia’s Duologue program. Alison has served on the Advisory Boards of Playworks Women Writers’ Workshop and Women Playwrights International. Her play, Who’d’ve Thought?, created with Women and Theatre Project, Telopea, was nominated for the 1991 AWGIE Award for Community Theatre. She has a PhD in creative writing, a certificate in screenwriting from AFTRS and has taught Writing for Performance, Creative Writing and Screenwriting. In 2019 she was a playwright-in-residence at Currency Press, writing a new play, Hurricane Eye.

Emma Willis – Politics and performances of kindness in the time of coronavirus

Emma Willis

University of Auckland

Politics and performances of kindness in the time of coronavirus

Since late 2018, I have led an interdisclinary research hub at the University of Auckland looking at the politics of kindness in New Zealand. The project developed in response to Jacinda Ardern’s repeated invocation of kindness as a guiding political value. In this paper I consider the performative dimensions to a politics of kindness more generally, as well as reflecting particularly on elements of the response from both government and civil society to coronavirus in New Zealand. My interest is not so much in kindness as a kind of consolatory practice, but in kindness as a practice that has radical potential. I will discuss the role that kindness plays when normative systems of governance and care are disrupted, and draw from a range of artistic, community and institutional examples.

Emma Willis is a Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Auckland whose primary research is in the area of theatre and ethics, spectatorship, and theatre and violence. Emma is principal investigator for the University of Auckland research hub, “Agencies of Kindness.”