CFP: NRN Symposium on Archives and Documentation

Friends, readers, researchers! Lend me your abstracts!

There’s just over a week left to submit abstracts for the second annual STR New Researchers’ Network Symposium. This year, based on conversations arising at our other events, the committee has chosen the theme of Performance Archives and Documentation.

In case you need some extra incentive to submit, we’ve secured Professor Matthew Reason as our keynote speaker, and we’re hosting it at THE SHARD. Yes, that Shard. It promises to be an excellent event, and we hope that you can be a part of it! Abstracts are due by Friday 20 March. All details below and at http://strnrn.org/cfp-2nd-annual-symposium-on-archives-and-documentation/ I can’t wait to read your abstracts!

“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. The symposium will also feature a keynote address by Prof. Matthew Reason (York St John University).

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 time-consuming 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, prompt-scripts, 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?’.

We invite proposals for papers that may consider, but are not limited to, 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 Re-Enacting

The NRN Committee welcomes proposals for papers of up to fifteen minutes from new scholars, postgraduates, and early career researchers, on any aspect of the conference theme, broadly interpreted.  Abstracts of up to 250 words should be submitted tonrn@str.org.uk by 20th March 2015. Successful applicants will be contacted by 20th April. The papers will be arranged into panel groups sharing a common theme; although we anticipate receiving a majority of proposals as single papers, we will also accept proposals for three-paper curated panels.

For queries, please contact Claire Read and Nora Williams on behalf of the NRN Committee:nrn@str.org.uk

For more details on the NRN, see www.strnrn.org

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