Intersections 2017 – Panel 4

Panel 4: “Making References Work”

Friday 20th January – 11:30-13:30 – Embassy Theatre

  1. Digital performance practices and cartharsis: links to repoliticization (Denise Ackerl)


In a performative lecture I would like to give a reflective account of one of my most recent performance projects. It is part of my practice-based research where I look into forms of resistance in the digital space from a feminist performance perspective. In a series of seven speeches, a declaration of independence followed by six resignation speeches, referencing found multiple applications within text, set-up and locations and dates used for contextualization. Here the link to the project:
Here I used referencing and its manipulation as the main strategies for the articulation of a catharsis to overcome the feeling of paralysis caused by previous events such as the Brexit referendum. The performance videos were produced during a research residency at the British School of Rome in July this year and are only available online.  This allows the viewer to directly follow up on the visual and historical references through links right next to it. Some of these links risk becoming invalid due to the non-guaranteed nature of the Internet as a source of information and knowledge, an observation, which will be also part of my analysis. The first speech, recorded in front of a green screen, went live on 14th July (French National holiday) and references two different declarations of independence (Vietnam and USA). The background features the Vittorio Emanuele Monument in Rome, which was devoted to the unification of Italy and myself as a selfie-taking tourist, creating a double presence of me as speaker and witness at the same time. Less than 24 hours later followed my first resignation, referencing David Cameron’s speech on the day after the referendum with the British School of Rome in the background. The other five resignation speeches reference personalities such as the Pope or Roy Hogdson (head of English football team).


(B. 1987 Vienna) I am currently doing a practice based PhD at Chelsea College of Art where I look into strategies of resistance in the digital space from a feminist performance perspective. My work is located in the context of post-fordism and cyberfeminism(s) which signifies feminist appropriation of information and computer technology on a both practical and theoretical level. In my online interventions I investigate ways of re-territorializing a previously shrinking autonomous political sphere and repoliticize it. Previous to my PhD I did MA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and studied Painting and Economics in Vienna.


  1. Nothing comes out of nothing: improvisation, relationality and reference (Gwilym Lawrence)


It is widely accepted throughout contemporary performance studies that our creative endeavours draw on and emerge out of our daily lives; they comprise a rich, complex web of immediate surroundings, the influence of collaborators, subjective personal experiences, our gender and race identities, memories, and other artistic works with which we are familiar. As the CfP for Intersections states, ‘acts of reference are unavoidable in creative and critical practice and in everyday life’. Yet despite the established intertextuality of artistic works, many practitioners of improvisation argue that improvised performance is conjured out of nothing; that it constitutes either the revelation of some pre-cognitive, pre-cultural self or the channelling of a mystical, external creative force. Further, there is a significant lack of critical contemporary writing on improvised performance, leaving the increasingly outdated voices of Viola Spolin and Keith Johnstone (amongst others) to dominate the discourse.
Emerging from my ongoing practice-research on improvisation within site-specific performance, the proposed paper offers a timely critical counter-reading of improvisation. Counteracting the exceptionalism and rapture with which many improvisers refer to their work, the paper draws on the writing of anthropologists Tim Ingold and Elizabeth Hallam to dispel the culturally entrenched belief that improvisation involves making something up “out of nothing”, and that it necessarily involves the creation of entirely novel content. Rather, following Ingold and Hallam, the paper argues for improvisation as a deeply relational act that is always necessarily drawing on our immediate surroundings and our past life, experiences and memory; and that it is, rather than a pre-cultural form of expression or the channelling of divine inspiration, a learned practice through which one is always drawing on, and making reference to, the intricate tapestry of culture, memory and relations from which we are made up.


Gwilym is a second-year AHRC-funded PhD candidate in Drama and Geography at the University of Manchester. He previously completed the MA in Advanced Theatre Practice at Central (2014). His current practice-research doctoral project draws on improvisation, site-specific performance and more-than-representational theories of geography to create a series of walking tour performances in the Peak District village of Hope.


  1. Building Affection: Referencing HIV in queer performance (Ben Burrata)


Reflecting upon making Outbox Theatre’s performance of Affection, I will draw upon theories of ephemera, trace and gesture to engage with how HIV can be referenced in contemporary devised performance. Affection was created with eight LGBT identifying professional actors and was performed at The Glory in London and Stan’s Café in Birmingham in September/October 2016. This practice research began from a series of interviews conducted with men living with HIV across the queer community in the UK. The rehearsal process investigated and began to develop a queer dramaturgy that allowed the company to tell these stories in dynamic and contemporary theatrical ways. I will look to how traces and references of HIV are found in queer people and how this can be represented through the body in performance.


Ben Buratta is Artistic Director of Outbox Theatre and Lecturer in Applied Theatre Practices at Central. Ben’s background is in actor training, theatre-making and applied practice and he has directed extensively in theatres across the UK. He is currently embarking on a practice based PhD project exploring ways of disrupting hetero-normative rehearsal systems and inventing a queerer dramaturgy.