PANEL 6: Unauthorised Personnel

Friday 19th January 2018 – 14:00-15:30PM – Embassy Theatre


  • Live Art, Dead Art: Ethics, Audiences, and (Dead) Animal Bodies in Taxidermy-Performance. Francis Wilson

In contemporary Western culture, most countries have laws surrounding human bodies after death: where they can be, what can be done with them, orders and processes required or forbidden. A more vague, but almost equally sensitive (and in ways more divisive) subject is that of dead animal bodies. While ‘shocking’ the audience becomes more difficult as culture changes, the ethical treatment of animals becomes a more contentious issue.

As a taxidermist and live artist, I work with animal bodies, deconstructing and ‘re’-constructing them in front of an audience. Working with dead animal bodies in a live context offers a different confrontation with animal death than the taxidermy seen in museums. In my practice, I have always taken certain approaches both personally and with universities and venues in the name of ethics: writing ethics statements, being transparent about where I source animal bodies, offering opportunities for open discussion with audience members. Though I’ve been personally approached and criticised in private conversations with audience members, I have never experienced outrage from an audience or institution. To conclude, however, that this is due to my approaches would be an inconclusive assumption at best.

Personal beliefs aside, these tactics taken in the name of ethics do little to address or directly approach some of the more basic questions of my practice: Is my work difficult or ethically questionable? Why, and/or for whom, is it difficult? Is the difficulty ethical, or purely visceral (disgust), or do they overlap? What role does cultural context have on the supposed difficulty? Our human relationship to animals is constantly in flux, complicated by speciesism, domestication, and ecological concerns. Some of these questions may be ultimately unanswerable; Steve Baker refers to many works incorporating animal bodies not as answers to these questions but as ‘questioning entities’ themselves. As a solo practitioner, there is a large degree to which I am guessing how to most tactfully deal with the animal body issue when creating work. In this presentation, I explore my own body of work and relationships and experiences with audiences, institutions, and the dead animal body.
Francis Marion Moseley Wilson is an American live artist currently based in Glasgow, UK as a practice-based researcher at the University of Glasgow.Her practice is concerned with using elements of taxidermy to create confrontations between audiences and animal bodies. She has performed internationally, in the US, UK, Germany, and Canada.

  • How do we practice the end of the world? Yaron Shyldkrot

For philosopher Timothy Morton (2013) the world has ended. We can even name the date when it happened. Granted, the planet has not exploded, but according to Morton, the concept of ‘world’ is no longer operational. Metaphysically, the world is so vast and we are too enmeshed in it, that the world – at least as a concept – is no longer thinkable and no longer imaginable. This is in part due to global warming and climate change that along with melting glaciers have ‘melted our ideas of world and worlding’ (Morton 2013, 103). And what is left after this ending? For Morton it is Intimacy, an opportunity for new alliances between humans and non-humans and a loud call for an engagement with our – often unmentionable and disregarded – ecological coexistence here on Earth (Morton 2012).

In this performative presentation I seek to respond to Morton’s call. Informed by my own work as a practitioner-researcher and building on the work of Morton and Salome Voegelin, I explore how performance, and specifically sound in performance, help us to better embrace or at least reflect on our coexistence with the non-human. I will play with robotic voices and environmental sounds in order to propose how sound can draw our attention to the inaudible and inaccessible, and demonstrate (in practice) how we might speak to the non-human and listen to the environment. By reflecting on the boundaries and interrelations in this ecological coexistence, I seek to conceptualise sound as a significant performative tool that can alter and affect how and what we perceive. I will consider how sound (in performance) invites us to open ourselves up to what remains inaudible and ignored, how it can reveal other slices from our environment, and how it might help to form the new alliances Morton called for.

Yaron Shyldkrot is a practitioner-researcher undergoing a Practice-as-Research PhD at the University of Surrey, exploring the composition of uncertainty and performance in the dark. He holds an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice from RCSSD and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) and the editorial board for The Journal of Arts Writing by Students (JAWS). As a performance maker, he works as a director and dramaturg and co-founded Fye and Foul, a theatre company exploring unique sonic experiences, darkness and extremes.

  • Reason and Resonance and Sea Monsters: The semantic limits of conventional radio dramaturgy. Farokh Soltani Shirazi