2015 Symposium: On Performance Archives and Documentation


The Society for Theatre Research

New Researchers’ Network

Second Annual Symposium

“Dumb objects, spoken for”? On Performance Archives and Documentation

Friday 19th June 2015

The Shard

17th Floor, Warwick Business School

32 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9SG

The Society for Theatre Research’s (STR) New Researchers’ Network (NRN) is pleased to announce their second annual symposium, which will centre on the theme of Archives and Documentation . In recent years scholars have taken greater interest in the documentation of live performance and the construction and curation of archives. The foundations of these ideas can be found in Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge (1969) and Derrida’s Archive Fever (1995), as well as more recent texts by Carolyn Steedman (Dust, 2001) and Helen Freshwater (‘The Allure of the Archive,’ 2003). Matthew Reason (‘Archive or Memory,’ 2003) suggests that a more nuanced understanding of human memory may offer ways to further explore the relationship between the live performance and its documents, and argues that an honest assessment of the archive must overtly perform the fact that it consists of ‘dumb objects not allowed to speak for themselves, but spoken for’.

These discussions have been recurring themes at the NRN’s events this year, in part due to the development of new technologies which simplify both the archiving and accessing of material. As new researchers, we are at the forefront of the developing field of new and exciting archival technologies, and whilst these new ways of archiving can bring exciting discoveries and increased accessibility, they also bring new challenges and difficulties. For example, digitisation is an expensive and timeconsuming process, and as a result, which archives are catalogued, searchable, and accessible online is an increasingly political matter.

Other questions, raised at an NRN study day at the Live Art Development Agency, relate to the relationship between live performance and the ‘mad fragmentations’ (Steedman 2001) which form the collections of theatre archives. What does it mean to intentionally document a performance? How much can we really learn about past performance through the ephemera (flyers, promptscripts, photographs) which somehow, against all odds, now possess call numbers and item descriptions in our archives? How do those who curate theatre collections decide which of these scraps of paper merit preservation? What does it mean for those of us researching past performance that these processes of selection remain largely opaque?

In a recent talk as part of the STR’s Annual Lecture Series, Prof. Heike Roms acknowledged the trend for theatre and performance historians to abandon the archive in favour of more performative methods of research. While Jacky Bratton has used walking as a research tool in her book The Making of the West End Stage , others have used reenactment or reconstruction as part of their methodology to answer questions about theatre and performance. As a result, Roms asked ‘what is at stake in approaching historical evidence as event?’.

Join us for a keynote from Matthew Reason and subsequent panels, installations and a roundtable discussion addressing the following topics: historical evidence as event; archives in the digital age and the future of the archive; the archivist as curator; the benefits and problems of legalising and copyrighting art work; the performativity of the archive; the detritus of performance; beyond the archive: Walking, Mapping and ReEnacting.



9:30-9:50 – Registration Opens

9:50-10:00 – Opening Remarks, East Lecture Theatre

Emer McHugh and Madeleine Irwin, NRN Committee

10:00-11:00 – Keynote Address, East Lecture Theatre

Chair: Claire Read

Professor Matthew Reason (York St. John University)

Archive, Place, Memory: The Resurrection of Joyce Reason

11:05-12:20 – Panels 1

a) Methodology: Beyond the Archive (East Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Hannah Manktelow

Joanna Bucknall (University of Portsmouth)

Raising the ruins: (re)enactment and ‘remembering’ as a mode of documentation

Naomi Paxton (University of Manchester)

Standing where she stood: is it possible to glimpse the past in the present?

Emma Meehan (Coventry University)

Revisiting Lunar Parables: The Archives of Dublin Contemporary Dance Theatre

b) Performing the Archive (South Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Cath Badham

Steven Paige (Plymouth University)

The Ties That Bind: Reusing Online Archival as an Interdisciplinary Artist

Jindeok Park (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)

‘Archival Choreography’: exploring the transformative impact of the past on the present improvisation

12:20-1:10: Lunch, East Lecture Theatre

12.40-1.30: Special Exhibitions

East Lecture Theatre: Susan Croft (Rose Bruford College), ‘Unfinished Histories‘ 

Syndicate Rooms: Janine Cowell (University of Bristol/University of Exeter), ‘Someday just began’: Meeting, making and mounting memories in the field — an interactive exhibition

1:30-2:15 – Panels 2

a) The Distorted Archive (East Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Madeleine Irwin

Conor Clarke (Plymouth University)


Nikolas Wakefield (Royal Holloway, University of London)

The Secret: or how throwing it away makes it appear

b) Practising Documentation (South Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Janine Cowell

Allan Taylor (Falmouth University)

From presence to performativity: how the still image ‘does’

Rosanna Traina (University of Reading)

Transparency: Liberating the past, empowering the researcher

2:15-2:30 – Break

2.35-3:50- Panels 3

a) Digital Archives (East Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Naomi Paxton

Claire Swyzen (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Tim Etchells’ A Broadcast/Looping Pieces: of memory and making sense of data

Leah Dungay (Plymouth University)

‘That B**** Ruined My Walk’: Exploring Protest through an Online Media Archive

Becca Savory (University of Exeter/NIAS)

Popular performance online: the archive is the medium is the message

b) Archiving Companies (South Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Helen Gush

Catherine Trenchfield (Royal Holloway, University of London)

The Kneehigh Archive & The Asylum – archive and ‘repertoire’

Ella Hawkins (University of Warwick)

From physical to digital: curating an archive for Dash Arts

Sally Barnden (King’s College, London)

Liveness, photography and the RSC’s Dreams, 1954-77

3.50-4.05: Break

4:10-4:55 – Panels 4

a) Documenting Cities (East Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Adelina Ong

Nela Milic (Goldsmiths, University of London/Middlesex University London)

Materialising Site

Beatrice Jarvis (Goldsmiths, University of London/University of Ulster/Kingston University)

(fragments) Das Duett des Leibes und der Stadt Verschieben Stadt

b) Recordings & Notations (South Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Emer McHugh

Rebecca Stancliffe (Coventry University)

The ontological status of the score in live performance and in the documentation and dissemination of choreographic practice

Poppy Corbett (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Archiving the voice: Alecky Blythe and the Recorded Delivery technique.

5:00-5.45 – Roundtable, East Lecture Theatre

Chairs: Chris Dingwall-Jones and Sarah Penny

Hannah Manktelow (University of Nottingham/The British Library)

Reclaiming Regional Theatre History with the British Library Playbill Collection

Helen Gush (Queen Mary, University of London/Victoria & Albert Museum)

‘Active things, speaking’: Reimagining archival material for a Theatre and Performance context

Barbara Roland (ULB)

Speaking for the reality: How to make present the absence

5.50-5.55 – Closing Remarks, East Lecture Theatre

David Coates, NRN Chair