“Since , O Mazda from the beginning, Thou didst create soul and body, mental power and knowledge , and since Thou didst bestow to mankind the power to act , speak and guide , you wished that everyone should chose their own faith and path freely.”

Zaratostra - Yasna 31, Verse 11

One who always thinks of his own safety and profit, how can he love the joy-bringing Mother Earth? The righteous man that follows Asha's Law shall dwell in regions radiant with Thy Sun, the abode where wise ones dwell.”

Zaratostra Yasna, Verse 2

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Abstract for the Symposium by Associate Professor Peter Eckersall

Port B: ‘site as stage’—the audience runs amok in the archive

Since 2003, when Port B was founded by Takayama Akira, this Tokyo based company have made interdisciplinary art works at the borders of what we generally accept as theatre. These include experimental theatre productions, art installations and works called ‘tour performances.’ Documentary performance techniques are used; techniques that use documents, interviews and site research to create new information and uncover hidden aspects of the past. Documentary performance often dwells on the connections that people have to places and tells personal, in many cases, revelatory stories. 

This paper examines ‘The Complete Manual of Evacuation—Tokyo’ (Takayama, 2010) an artwork taking as its central image the 34.5 km Yamanote train line circling around Tokyo. At each of its 29 stations an evacuation zone was established. ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ is described as:
A communicational system that enables the audiences to come into contact with communities that usually remain unseen in the shape of our present-day cities …. The dialogue starts via Internet and then spreads to several districts in Tokyo. (A venture with the aim of disrobing theatre.) A theatrical architecture, designing a new form of encounter.
Participants register on line and complete a questionnaire (still available at: http://hinan-manual.com/); depending on their answers, they would be directed to one of the 29 stations.  Once there, they could meet ‘communities’ such as homeless people and migrants and explore the buried histories and cartographies of each site.

In ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ an interactive network of temporary ‘sites as stage’ is created and the role of the audience is cleverly transformed.  Who is an audience in these works?  There are paying ticket-holders, people who interact with them at evacuation sites, and even the people in the teeming city that surround them.  And how does ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ narrate transcultural identity? Jacques Derrida writes in Archive Fever: ‘There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory.’[1]  He indicates that the stakes are high over the memorialisation and excavation of sites and people’s histories.  This paper will explore how ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ might enable the countering of such a fulsome ideological contest where dominating powers put their singular claims on identity.  Participating in this carefully created ‘site as theatre’ enables the audience to run amok and see artefacts and people in different relationships to space and power.

Peter Eckersall is Associate Professor in Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.  Peter’s research interests include contemporary Japanese theatre, experimental performance and dramaturgy. His major publications include Theorizing the Angura Space: avant-garde performance and politics in Japan 1960-2000 (Brill Academic, 2006) and forthcoming Kawamura Takeshi’s Nippon Wars and Other Plays (Seagull Books, 2011).  He is dramaturg for Not Yet It’s Difficult whose performance and media works are well known in Australia, Asia and Europe.  Peter is presently a visiting fellow at the International Centre, Interweaving Performance Cultures at Freie University, Berlin. 

[1] Jacques Derrida Archive Fever, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 4, note 1.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Abstract for the Symposium by Dr Mammad Aidani

We are sedimented: Perceptions and identity amongst the Iranian Diaspora

Centered on the idea of sedimentation this paper discusses the displaced narratives of Iranians in Australia and the ways in which they perceive and give meaning to the positive and negative emotions which they have
formed about themselves, their experiences of displacement, and cultural Otherness. 

The paper argues that these perceptions and the meanings attached to the experiences are the sedimentation of geography, culture,history and linguistics. This sedimentation has shaped the psyche, memory and emotions of Iranians living in the diaspora. I argue that the perceptions of the Iranian diaspora are not only rooted in a sedimented cultural identity but also in the body’s perceptions of phenomena.

Dr Mammad Aidani is an interdisciplinary scholar specializing in phenomenological philosophy and narrative existential psychology. He is based in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.  He is also a playwright and theatre practitioner . His research examines the cultural meanings of suffering and the types of identities and modes of belonging that shape the local world of diaspora communities. He is the author of Welcoming the Stranger: Narratives of Identity and Belonging in an Iranian Diaspora (Common Ground 2010). His plays have been staged both in Australia and internationally.  His recent Journal articles have been published in the Journal of Intercultural Studies ( Routledge, 2010)   and The International Journal of the Arts in Society (Common Ground 2010).  His current research focuses on “ sedimentation, perception, consciousness and the body:  The ways of suffering amongst Iranian diaspora men.”

Abstract for the Symposium by Dr James Oliver

Ways of Seeing, Being and Becoming: identity as performance of place and belonging

This paper explores how people act on and do identity in contexts (or sites) of place-based belonging, with particular focus on contexts where colonial contact has informed a legacy of cultural (and territorial)  assimilation, appropriation, and alienation; including processes of population decline and migrations.

With a particular focus on embodied and spatial negotiations of place, this paper explores the ontology of ‘being in place’ as a modality of identity that informs and subverts the national imaginary, where sites of identity are a stage (as both platform and process) of understanding and informing identities.

The paper employs examples of identity, place and alienation in an ethnographic journey from the Scottish Hebrides to the Australian continent.

Dr. James Oliver, McCaughey Centre, School of Polulation Health, The University of Melbourne.

James is a Research Fellow in the School of Population Health at The University of Melbourne. He was awarded his PhD in 2003 at The University of Sheffield, where he was supervised by social anthropologists Sharon Macdonald and Richard Jenkins. The thesis explored the identity negotiations of young people in relation to the Gaelic language, culture and place, in Scotland. This work was funded by UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, as was his subsequent postdoctoral fellowship at The University of Edinburgh. Subsequent to this he has worked across a range of projects and practices broadly relating to place, culture and identity; including, amongst homeless people in Glasgow, in arts development for the Scottish Arts Council, and more recently amongst marginalized communities in Melbourne. His work is developing with increasing reference to arts practice and research, with continuing relevance to the social relations and productions of culture, place and identity.