Anita Hallewas – Is something better than nothing?: The dilemma of applied theatre practice in refugee camps on the Greek islands

Presentation

Anita Hallewas

UNSW, Sydney, Australia

Is something better than nothing?: The dilemma of applied theatre practice in refugee camps on the Greek islands

The current refugee crisis has seen tens of thousands of refugees incarcerated on Greek islands in the Mediterranean. Most of these residents live in tents with no electricity or running water for protracted periods of time. It is believed the lack of essential services and government support, publicized heavily in the media, triggered the start-up of hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) so everyday citizens could gather and more actively support refugees arriving in Europe. NGOs offer support from port-a-loos to food, laundry and clothing services to educational support. These acts of gathering and welcoming have been seen across Europe, with immense popularity in Greece, and are mostly funded through small civilian donations. NGO groups also offer psychosocial support and intervention, including theatre and performance based programming. The author visited several Greek islands in 2019 and as a participant observer through a grounded theory approach observed various theatre projects intended to support refugee children, youth and adults. This paper explores the dilemmas associated in how these many theatre practitioners say hello to refugees living on Greek islands, only to very quickly say goodbye to return to their own homes. When the development of authentic relationships is a large and crucial aspect of community applied theatre practice, can short term programming still be of benefit to these communities? Is this is another case of something is better than nothing, or is nothing better than something to best support vulnerable communities such as these? With NGOs bringing in new facilitators seasonally, as well as touring groups arriving ad hoc as funds allow, how do all these welcomes and farewells impact vulnerable refugee communities? 

Anita Hallewas (BA, BTeach Deakin University, Australia, MA University of Victoria, Canada) Anita is currently undertaking her PhD at UNSW, Sydney, Australia, with a research focus in refugee theatre, specifically how theatre might improve the quality of life for those living in refugee camps and the ethical implications related to that practice.  She is an active applied theatre practitioner and is the founding managing artistic director of Flying Arrow Productions a theatre company that specializes in applied theatre programming with a special interest in encouraging intergenerational collaboration.

Goran Duric – Strategic Dramaturgy of Resistance

Presentation

Goran Duric 

Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne 

Strategic Dramaturgy of Resistance 

Whatever the purpose, there is nothing innocent about politics as theatre. Appropriated by political actors to generate power, theatre has unintentionally become complicit in the perpetuation of the status quo. Our understanding of how activists engage with the politics of resistance is ever more urgent. In this paper I take a look at the events surrounding Slobodan Milosevic’s ascent to power in Serbia in the late 1980s, his ouster a decade later as well as the role that the youth movement OTPOR! played in it. 

I aim to examine the idea and application of strategic dramaturgy in protest performances in Serbia through an analysis of performativity of authenticity in political discourse. This paper challenges the dominant paradigm that views Milosevic’s ability to give rise to nationalist fervor and culture of spectacle and display as central to his enduring performance of power. I argue that his appeal to the audience should be rather viewed as a performative site for citations of the archetypal, mythical figure of the long-desired leader, the Redeemer, which continues to hold Serbia in the grip of “hybrid regime” twenty years after Milosevic’s downfall. I strive to understand how the regime in Serbia used social performances – four disastrous wars among others – to force the audience into what Judith Butler calls “mode of belief”, an agreement on authenticity that established Milosevic as a legitimate iteration of the long-desired leader. 

Therefore, I ask whether the perception of authenticity in political representation should be studied as a cultural fiction achieved through “performative coercion”. I intend to use the findings from this analysis as a point of departure for discussing OTPOR! inventive protest actions – most notably their reliance on street theatre –that have been used by movements around the world, from the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States. 

Goran Duric is a Bosnian-born Australian dramaturg and performer, a former refugee and migrant, currently conducting a PhD research in Theatre at the University of Melbourne. His cross-national, interdisciplinary study driven by the latest advances in the research of social movements investigates the effects of the use of performative tactics in the process of framing of social movements. As a dramaturg, he has developed work with several migrant theatres across Australia focusing on issues relevant to the diverse community of refugees, migrants and their descendants from the former Yugoslavia aimed at alleviating the traumatic experience of war, forcible removal and resettlement. 

Molly Mullen and Bōni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho – Disrupting and decolonising the economies of applied performance in Aotearoa

Presentation

Molly Mullen and Bōni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho

University of Auckland

Disrupting and decolonising the economies of applied performance in Aotearoa

Neoliberal capitalism has been actively embedded in Aotearoa New Zealand’s social fabric. For some scholars, it has so fully inhabited the social imaginary that coherent economic alternatives are impossible to imagine.[1] In the arts, a capitalist logic has been infused throughout the creative process and artists’ attempts to pose economic alternatives are dismissed as impotent gestures. Feminist duo J. K. Gibson-Graham[2] offer an alternative way to view critical and creative economic experiments. Gibson-Graham propose multiple strategies for expanding the economic imaginary, decentring capitalism, and for cultivating diverse economic subjectivities and practices. This presentation is interested in the ways performance might enact or expand on these strategies.

In Aotearoa, re-thinking institutions like the economy involves interrogating their relationship with colonialism. Colonial capitalism exploited the tangible and intangible assets of Māori and disrupted the ‘economy of mana’, which was integral to Māori wellbeing’.[3]  This presentation considers the ways Aotearoa applied performance company, Taurima Vibes Ltd. experience, resist and transcend neoliberal & colonial capitalist systems. As a Māori-led applied performance company, Taurima Vibes Ltd. offers two modes of engagement: Facilitation and community brokership. Its work draws on the ideals of manaakitanga and safety, and its director’s grounding in tikanga Māori. This presentation examines Taurima Vibes’ kaupapa and process. Taurima Vibes walks alongside the people it engages with, creating safe, interactive environments for collective creativity. We look at what this means in Taurima Vibes’ creative practice and its approach to resourcing and organising its work, with a focus on the Puāwai Festival, an event aiming to reduce stigma through performance, education, laughter and song.

Bōni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho is Kaiwhakahaere Matua/Founder of ‘Taurima Vibes’ and the current director of Auckland Fringe Festival. He is a member of the HPA National Māori Mental Health advisory panel and holds all works paces within a wellness and  Tīkanga Māori framework, based on cultural protocols and concepts learnt from whānau.

Molly Mullen is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work with a background in theatre education, youth theatre, community arts and children’s theatre. Her research examines the economies of applied theatre and socially engaged arts practice, encompassing issues related to policy and funding, as well as forms of organisation, management and work. 

[1] Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist realism: Is there no alternative? John Hunt Publishing.

[2] Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2006). A postcapitalist politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

[3] Hēnare, M. (2014). The economy of mana. In D. Cooke, C. Hill, P. Baskett, & R. Irwin. (Eds.), Beyond the free market: Rebuilding a just society in New Zealand (pp. 65–69). Auckland, New Zealand: Dunmore.

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