PANEL 3: Practice (messing with) Research

PANEL 3: Practice (messing with) Research

Thursday 14th January 2016 – 2:30PM-4:00PM – Rehearsal Room 2


  • Cloud Seeding: The Poetics of Clouds and the Creative Process. Philip Stanier and Penny Newell


Philip Stanier and Penny Newell are currently collaborating on a practice-as-research project which explores the relationship between Clouds and Utopian thought for the ‘Utopia 2016’ event, produced by Culture at Kings College London. The umbrella project ‘The Naming of Clouds’ consists of several different outcomes: A durational performance of stranded cloud walkers occupying a public courtyard; a performance exploring the possibilities of walking on clouds and the potential Utopian impacts of this on humanity; a pamphlet that presents the research dimension of the project in the form of a commissioned drawing, and that invites the public to contribute back into the project through their own drawings; an online presence; and a public talk on the formation of the project itself.

The collaboration merges Penny’s research into the cultural, artistic and scientific history of clouds and Philip’s professional performance practice. This paper is an exploration of the process of our collaboration, the meeting of our respective practices and conceptual frameworks, and the development of a shared language and understanding of a shared field of interest from different perspectives and approaches.

The paper takes the form of a record of discussions between Penny and Phil that occurred during a series of visits to The Science Museum, The National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Initially intended as a means of surveying the collections for information and works related to Clouds, these walks allowed Phil and Penny to discuss the project, their understanding of Clouds, and the developing and changing perception of Clouds in Art as seen through these collections. As such, the paper is both an account of an emerging collaborative practice as research project, the formation of a common language, a walking tour of London’s galleries and museums, and a History of Clouds in Art.

Penny Newell is researching her PhD thesis at KCL, exploring the cultural, artistic and scientific history of clouds. Penny has received support from Tipping Point, Dark Mountain, and ARC Arts Centre. Penny was the first ever Arts and Humanities representative for organising the Royal Meteorological Society Annual Student Conference.

Philip Stanier is head of the Department of Performing Arts at the University of Winchester, and has published on the subject of contemporary performance. Philip is also Artistic Director of the Strange Names Collective. Philip was a recipient of an Artsadmin bursary, was selected for the NRLA, and has toured nationally.

  • Homo Academicus: The Musical – challenging the inaudibility of academic knowledge. Farokh Soltani


The advent of practice-oriented research methods in the academic study of drama and performance has instigated an increase in the flexibility of institutionally-acceptable forms of presenting knowledge; the University of London’s criteria for a PhD thesis, for example, has changed from a rigid ’100,000 written words’ to include a variety of possible material, the only caveat being that ‘[the] work must be accompanied by an adequate and approved form of retainable documentation’ which examines the work and highlights its contribution to knowledge. Interestingly, however, out of numerous forms of ‘retainable documentation’, a written thesis is the sole form which is considered ‘adequate’ for this purpose. In this presentation, interrogate this judgement by asking the question: why is the recorded voice not considered an adequate form of preserving knowledge? By drawing from Michel Cerres and Jean-Luc Nancy, it is argued that the preference for the written form is underpinned by ocularcentric assumptions about what constitutes knowledge, which are in turn based on a reductionist understanding of the acts involved in scholarship; therefore, by making the ‘acceptability’ of knowledge dependent on the written form, institutional scholarship excludes itself from critical engagement with a wide range of ideas. There then follows a hypothetical critical exploration of audible forms of knowledge preservation.

Farokh Soltani spent the first quarter-century of life as a jack-of-all-trades in the Iranian culture industry, doing everything from writing sitcoms to sound design for films, theatre and one particularly annoying ad for mobile phones. He then moved to the UK to study Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where he still remains today, conducting a critical research into the practical conventions of radio drama. Other interests include baking, dramatic writing, and recreational phenomenology (not necessarily in that order).

  • Hear Me Roar: Queer Utopian Negativity and the Potential of Performance. Joe Parslow & Meth

This paper will explore the intricate relationship between practice and research from the perspective of a researcher who, whilst not explicitly a practitioner of that about which they are writing, is still intimately bound up in that practice. Working in collaboration with drag performance artist, Meth, I will talk through and in and around the multifarious instances of connection that emerge, can emerge, or have the potential to emerge in the moment of performance.

This paper will employ theoretical analysis alongside examples of performance (and performative analyses alongside examples of theory) to begin to understand how a utopic investment in drag performance might allow us to consider the ways in which queer communities have the potential to emerge. Drawing on theorists such as Dolan (2005), Edelman (2004), Muñoz (2009), and Berlant and Edelman (2014), this paper will construct a lens of queer utopian negativity as a critical mode of engaging with modes of being and belonging as well as performance practices.

Cruising on the line between hope and anger, this paper will explore the ways in which we might glance queerly at performance to consider what performance does or can do in the face of homophobic violence and the increased closure of LGBTQ spaces in contemporary London. Employing lip-synching, theoretical analyses, and the constructed lens of queer utopian negativity, as well as the critical interplay of performer-researcher and researcher-performer, this paper will strive to perform the various ways in which we, as researchers and performers, might resist and refuse the failings of the present.


Joe Parslow is a PhD Candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. His research focuses around drag performance, and the potential ways in which queer communities can and do emerge in contemporary London, particularly around performance. Alongside his research, Joe is the Co-Producer of a drag performance event called The Meth Lab. He also manages The Family Fierce, a collective of alternative queer performers working in the field of drag, burlesque, cabaret and performance art. Joe has taken on a leading role in the campaign to save The Black Cap in Camden (London), a legendary gay bar and drag performance venue which was closed down in April 2015.

With a look reminiscent of a clown on acid going to the met gala, Meth has earned an infamous reputation around the world for her bizarre and beautiful spin on drag. Having performed across Europe (Berlin, Helsinki, Zagreb) and America (New York, Philadelphia, Austin, LA) and calling London her home Meth has stormed the international drag and cabaret scene in a relentless revolutionary charge of strange and seductive extravagance. A master of lip synch performance, a host and compere with scathing wit and the co-producer of the internationally acclaimed Drag show, The Meth Lab, Meth has shared the stage with drag royalty such as Bianca Del Rio, Alaska 5000, Sharon Needles and Michelle Visage, and appeared on World of Wonders YouTube network with James St James and Hey Qween! TV. Meth is a member of the queer performance collective The Family Fierce and a star of the London Live’s Docu-Soap series Drag Queens of London.