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November 18, 2014: William Fleming

Restaging the Forty-Seven Rōnin: Performance and Print in Late Eighteenth-Century Japan

As two of the principal spheres of cultural production in early modern Japan, performance and print naturally developed a close relationship. In the case of pictorial fiction, which rose to enormous popularity in the mid- to late eighteenth century, this relationship is particularly complicated, with performance informing many aspects of such works. This talk explores this dynamic through an examination of a “comicbook” parody of the play Chūshingura, or A Treasury of Loyal Retainers (1748). Almost from its premiere, Chūshingura became the definitive version of the story of the forty-seven rōnin, a group of masterless samurai who carried out a sensational vendetta at the dawn of the eighteenth century. The play quickly became the most popular in the repertoire, and inspired numerous adaptations and parodies. As one such parody, the comicbook considered in this talk has a debt to the stage that is, on the surface, obvious. Yet it is precisely as a parody of a play that it offers valuable insights into the relationship between performance and the printed page. There are many ways one might retell a play in fiction, but the author and illustrator instead rely extensively on kabuki visuality, performance practice, and even specific performances. At the same time, the comicbook, like other works in its genre, is a richly allusive, witty, and palimpsestic text in its own right that is by no means reducible to a representation of the stage. Kabuki and other forms of performance are appropriated as organizing principles, but the end result is an altogether unique form of performance that weaves together many of the diverse strands of Japan’s eighteenth century.

William Fleming is assistant professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures and Theater Studies at Yale. His writings have appeared in journals including Sino-Japanese StudiesAsian Theatre JournalJapan Forum, and The International Journal of Comic Art. He is currently working on a book exploring aspects of the reception of Chinese fiction in early modern Japan, and his co-authored catalogSamurai and the Culture of Japan’s Great Peace, written in conjunction with an exhibition he is jointly curating at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History (opening early next year), is forthcoming in February, 2015.

November 11, 2014: Kate Kokontis

Cultivating Critical and Humane “Young Intellectuals”:

or, how some formal and conceptual mandates from performance studies have contributed to NOCCA’s Integrated Humanities curriculum

 

In this talk, Dr. Kate Kokontis will discuss how an innovative interdisciplinary humanities curriculum – which was created collaboratively by scholars with backgrounds in fields such as performance studies, critical race theory, history, and literature – has been implemented at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. The Integrated Humanities program is a four-year course that meets Louisiana state requirements for History and English/Language Arts (ELA) coursework; it is a unique, and uniquely interdisciplinary, high school humanities program framed around four years of world history or global studies.  Students read literature, examine visual culture, study the arts, look at primary documents, and read social and political theory that is situated historically or thematically within our field of study at any given time, so that their encounters with the arts, governments, economies, religions, social life, and cultural production are contextualized.  It is, at its heart, a critical cultural studies program.  The faculty members have PhDs in humanistic and social science disciplines and expect a level of intellectual rigor and critical thinking that is in keeping with what students do in colleges and universities.  Dr. Kokontis will attend both to the particularities of the curriculum itself – its content, arc over four years, interdisciplinary structure, team-teaching model, pedagogical approaches, implementation of differentiated learning, and examples of the questions and projects that students engage – and to the ways in which it is both indebted to, and aspires to challenge some of the limitations of, the epistemological, pedagogical, and political frameworks that are articulated within critical humanistic disciplines in universities.

Kate M. Kokontis earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley in 2011, a post-baccalaureate certificate in painting from Studio Art Centers International | Florence in 2005, and her B.A. from Yale in 2004. Currently she teaches and develops curriculum at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), a public arts conservatory high school.  There she is Assistant Chair of the Humanities department, and was founding member of the Academic Studio.  She teaches Integrated Humanities, and is very involved in the Plessy Project, an endeavor shared by the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation, the Crescent City Peace Alliance, the NOCCA Institute, students, and other community organizations to commemorate and continue the long history of the Black freedom struggle in New Orleans and beyond. She is working on a novel and an academic book project emerging from her dissertation, “Performative Returns and the Rememory of History: genealogy and performativity in the American racial state,” and is involved in anti-racist organizing in New Orleans, within and outside her home institution.

November 4th, 2014: Lars Jan

HOLOSCENES: Spectacle, Climate Change, and Experimental Plumbing

 

HOLOSCENES

created by Early Morning Opera

conceived and directed by Lars Jan

produced by Mapp International Productions

+ + +

For nearly four years, together with an expansive team of artists, engineers and scientists, I have been developing HOLOSCENES, a large performance installation that is a visceral, visual, and publiccollision of the human body and water. HOLOSCENES is born from my concern that our troubled relationship to water will become the central issue of the 21st century.

Sited in public space, HOLOSCENES features a totemic aquarium-like sculpture inhabited by a rotating series of performers carrying out an everyday human behavior gathered from video submissions from around the world. Filled and drained by a custom-designed hydraulic system, the aquariums flood with up to twelve tons of water a minute, transforming the movements of the performers within.

We’re using the aquarium of HOLOSCENES to weave the unraveling story of water — the rising seas, melting glaciers, intensifying floods and droughts — into the patterns of the everyday. The ebb and flow of water and resulting transfiguration of human behavior offers an elemental portrait of our collective myopia, persistence, and, for better or worse, adaptation.

— Lars Jan, October 2014

BACKGROUND

Civilization has evolved primarily within the geologic epoch of the Holocene, the period since the last ice age approximately twelve thousand years ago. However, there is debate as to whether we have already entered the Anthropocene — an epoch initiated by the industrial revolution and characterized by man’s impact on the earth over these dozen decades at a scale previously measured only in the thousands of years. The projected rise of sea level is central to this dramatic shift in the biosphere, foreshadowed by receding glaciers, melting polar ice caps, and the countless catastrophic floods of recent memory.

The development of HOLOSCENES has been informed by a broad spectrum of issues critical to a consideration of climate change, including those surrounding water; climate data, paleontology, and modeling; and the social and cognitive evolution of human capacities for decision-making, long-term thinking, and empathy.

SUPPORT

HOLOSCENES is co-commissioned by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

HOLOSCENES has received generous support from the Surdna Foundation, The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The MAP Fund (a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), Awesome Without Borders, the Panta Rhea Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and many individual donors.

Additional research and critical residency support has been provided by Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (Toronto), the Experimental Media Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) (Troy, NY), and the Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) UCLA (Los Angeles, CA).

www.holoscen.es

www.EarlyMorningOpera.com

www.MappInternationalProductions.org

 

LARS JAN is a director, writer, and artist. He is the founding artistic director of Early Morning Opera (EMO), a genre-bending performance + art lab, whose works explore emerging technologies, live audiences, and unclassifiable experience. His work has been presented by The Sundance Film Festival, Whitney Museum, Guggenheim Museum, and BAM Next Wave Festival, and supported by the NEA, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Surda Foundation, MAP Fund, and many others. He is a TED Senior Fellow.

 

October 28, 2014: Patrick McKelvey

Ron Whyte’s Bureaucratic Drag

In the 1970s, disabled artists, activists, and their allies repurposed the material culture, stock characters, and mise-en-scène of bureaucratic institutions to produce a new performance genre: bureaucratic theatre. This emergent form circulated across a diverse array of theatrical institutions and locations, from Upper West Side foyers to political protests at conferences for vocational rehabilitation professionals. This talk focuses on one such example of bureaucratic theatre, a multi-year epistolary project in which playwright Ron Whyte and art critic Gregory Battcock assumed the identities of senior university administrators at Onassis University, a fictitious institution of higher learning. Tellingly, Whyte and Battcock began this performance of bureaucratic drag in the months preceding the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which included provisions that allowed – or compelled – people with disabilities to enter the labor market. McKelvey argues that in their staging of bureaucratic drag, Whyte and Battcock rehearsed ambivalences about efforts to transform people with disabilities into workers and performed a complex politics of affective attachment to social institutions in the age of their material deprivation. Whereas the activist performances that populate the annals of disability often mobilized against the glacial pace and inefficiency of bureaucratic procedures, Whyte and Battcock mined both the theatrical and temporal meanings of such drag, and refused to relinquish it.

This work is excerpted from McKelvey’s dissertation, which examines the intertwined cultural, institutional, and theatrical histories of efforts to professionalize people with disabilities as artists in the United States since the 1970s.

 

Patrick McKelvey is a PhD Candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown Univeristy. He has published reviews in Theatre Journal and Modern Drama, and his essay, “Choreographing the Chronic,” is forthcoming in a queer dance studies anthology published by Oxford University Press.

October 21, 2014: Jason Fitzgerald

Presence as Technique: Joseph Chaikin and Authenticity
This presentation will attempt to place Joseph Chaikin’s notion of “presence” in relation to forms of radical humanism and personal “authenticity” that permeated the 1960s New York counterculture of which Chaikin was a part. Debates over theatrical “presence” often falter over a tension between aesthetic effect or technique, on the one hand, and reality or authentic “being present,” on the other. Because the latter sense of “presence” has been thoroughly critiqued by post-structuralism, the persistence of presence as a term of theatre and performance art continues to trouble theorists of these forms. I will attempt to argue that Chaikin’s concept of “presence” derives from his attempt to secularize and permanently complicate any stable concept of authentic subjectivity. By suggesting a relationship between what Chaikin calls “presence” and what Victor Shlovsky calls (in Benjamin Sher’s translation) “enstragement,” I hope to point toward a compatibility between Chaikin’s presence and a permanently problematized humanism. This argument represents the latest phase of my dissertation project, which relates experimental theatre aesthetics from the U.S. 1960s to countercultural notions of authentic humanism.
Jason Fitzgerald earned his MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama, and he is currently a PhD Candidate in Theatre at Columbia University. His book and performance reviews have been published in Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, PAJ, and Public Books. He is also a part-time theatre critic and dramaturg in NYC.

October 14, 2014: Caleb Smith

Race and Performance in the Prison Archives: ‘The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict’

This presentation will introduce the working group to “The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict,” an 1858 autobiography by Austin Reed. Unpublished during the author’s lifetime and recently acquired by the Beinecke Library, the manuscript is the earliest known prison memoir by an African American writer. Reed’s narrative describes his life as an indentured servant, an inmate of the nation’s first juvenile reformatory, and a prisoner at New York’s Auburn State Prison, the model of the industrial penitentiary in the antebellum period. The presentation will focus on scenes of performance in the memoir and explore some of the problems involved in reading the memoir as a kind of performance.  More about Reed’s manuscript can be found in this New York Times piece:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/12/books/prison-memoir-of-a-black-man-in-the-1850s.html?_r=0

Caleb Smith is professor of English and American Studies at Yale and the author of The Prison and the American Imagination (Yale UP, 2009) and The Oracle and the Curse (Harvard UP, 2013). He is working on an edition of Austin Reed’s “The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict,” to be published by Random House in 2016. He has written about contemporary media and the arts for Avidly, BOMB, Paper Monument, and other venues, and he is co-editor of No Crisis, a special series on criticism in the twenty-first century, to appear from the Los Angeles Review of Books in 2015.

caleb.smith@yale.edu
http://calebsmith.commons.yale.edu/

October 7th, 2014: Peter DiGennaro

Check Your Head: 

Somatic, Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Techniques in Performance Art Education and Practice

In an effort to inspire and strengthen innovative thinking, problem solving skills and authentic expression from students while working outside of the typical system of dichotomized and/or binary goal sets, Pete DiGennaro engages the neuro-somatic practice of synaesthesia in tandem with the formal technical and compositional studies of “mixing” the elemental topography of a performance context.  This knowledge and practice is then used to engage and couple the personal social, cultural, political and historic contexts which art and the artist experiences and addresses.

At the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, CT, his class “The Rhythm is the Rebel” brings together students of disparate disciplinary, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to collaborate and inform each other’s explorative practices and expository artwork.  A group performance/installation effort is the culmination of each semester’s work.  The study of synaesthesia is a distinct study and practice point for directly transmitting personal experience through one’s art and to the artistic witness, as well as transmuting and transgressing personal binaries in order to engage a clearer and wider personal understanding of the subject matter, one’s own experience of it and its possible causal relationships to the world. Likewise, this past summer, Mr. DiGennaro directed a program of students and teachers at the Neighborhood Music School working from both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches as they drew from World Music sources in their personal and collaborative efforts  - embodying other cultures’ compositional structures, as well as the rhythmic and melodic topography of other instruments. Furthermore, NMS’ yearlong Rock Program under his direction engages students of all ages in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary curriculum through Ensemble work.  While studying both the historical and cultural significance of genres and performers, as well as the somatic relationship of people to art, students in both programs are, ultimately, practicing the contextualization and recontextualization of  both original material, pedagogy and different scenarios in order to develop creative problem solving skills, innovative thinking and the constitution to express and publicize it within a social context.

 

Peter DiGennaro is a New Haven based writer, musician and sound designer teaching primarily middle school and high school age students through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary curriculum at both the Educational Center for the Arts and The Neighborhood Music School where he is also Director of the NMS Summer Rocks! Program.  As an Artist-Instructor, Mr. DiGennaro’s work centers around the examination of social, cultural and political phenomena through artistic movements and, most importantly, practices.   In particular, Mr. DiGennaro engages a synaesthetic approach to teaching and art practices.

In addition to his 20 years of teaching and performing, Mr. DiGennaro is a member of the National Association of Music Educators, has scored many film, theatre and, most of all, dance projects (Elm Shakespeare, CPTV, HartBeat Ensemble, Wesleyan University, Pedro Allejandro and others) and is the Director of Vesper Studios in the Westville Artist Village in New Haven.  He has worked in the Wesleyan University Dance Department for the last fifteen years as a music consultant and accompanist and taught at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts from 2005 – 2011.  In 2007 and 2008, he taught songwriting in Cape Verde, Africa through “CCY in Cape Verde”, a program sponsored by the Capital Region Educational Council and the Department of Sports and Culture of Cape Verde.

September 30, 2014: Wills Glasspiegel

Icy Lake, a short film and discussion with director and Yale Phd student Wills Glasspiegel

Filmmaker Wills Glasspiegel shows his recent documentary short, Icy Lake, that traces the quirky transit of a “tribal house” dance song from mid 90s New York into the contemporary moment via YouTube. Through Glasspiegel’s film, “Icy Lake” ( the song) becomes a thread that knits together disparate DJ and dance subcultures across time. After the short film, Glasspiegel opens up a discussion about the relationship between his academic projects and his ongoing work as a visual artist and documentarian operating in subcultural spaces across the world.
Wills Glasspiegel received his BA from Yale in 2005 in English and his masters at NYU in Media, Culture and Communications. He is currently a second-year PhD student in African American Studies and American Studies at Yale. As a journalist working in and out of the academy (and as an academic working in and out of the public sector), Glasspiegel produced work on the Nollywood film scene in Nigeria for NPR’s Morning Edition, covered the Chicago footwork story for NPR’s All Things Considered, and produced several hour-long radio documentaries with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Glasspiegel spent the late 2000s developing his interests in the the computerization of African and African diaspora culture, focusing most on the digitization of traditional musics in Sierra Leone (bubu music) and South Africa (Shangaan electro), projects that have led him to the study of footwork in Chicago, Glasspiegel’s hometown.  Glasspiegel’s work at Yale focuses on footwork, a style of black electronic music and dance from Chicago. For a window into the world of Chicago footwork, Glasspiegel’s short documentaryMaking Tracks (2013) is available from VICE: http://thump.vice.com/videos/thump-video/making-tracks-chicago-footwork-pitchfork-boiler-room-battlegroundz

September 23, 2014: Ayesha Ramachandran

From Theatre to Atlas: Cartography as Performance

 In the sixteenth century, collections of maps were frequently described as “theatres of the world”—the first world atlas, compiled by Abraham Ortelius, is called Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570). But by the end of the century, the term had been replaced by a new one: “atlas,” named after Gerhard Mercator’s 1595 Atlas or cosmographic meditations. This talk traces the conceptual shift—in cartographic practice and in the mapmaker’s identity as an author—signaled by the turn from theatre to atlas. But rather than suggesting a movement away from the underlying theatrical metaphor, I argue that the conception of the mapbook as an “atlas” marks a deeper embrace of cartography itself as performance. Mercator’s Atlas identifies the image of the world with a muscular man on its famous title page. But why does a human body become the symbol for a cartographic portrait of the world? What does this conjunction tell us about the literary history of the world atlas as a textual form? Drawing on recent work in the history of cartography and the notion of text as performance, I suggest that mapmaking in the early modern period drew on emerging notions of theatrical space and textual performance even as it influenced the imagination of early modern drama.

 

Ayesha Ramachandran received her BA from Smith College (2001) and her PhD in Renaissance Studies from Yale University (2008). Her research and teaching focus on the literature and culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, primarily on Europe’s relations with an expanding world. She has just completed a book-length study, “The World-Makers: Global Imagining in Early Modern Europe,” which explores the reshaping of the concept “world” and its implications for theories of modernity across a range of disciplines. She has published articles on Spenser, Lucretius, Tasso, Petrarch, Montaigne and on postcolonial drama. She was awarded a Junior Fellowship at the Harvard Society of Fellows in 2007.

September 16, 2014: Rebecca Prichard

Carnevale by Rebecca Prichard - Race and Gender in Performance

In her account of Black London in the eighteenth century Gretchen Gerzina writes “By the eighteenth century the work of all kinds of artists – Hogarth, Reynolds, Gillray, Rowlandson – as well as work by poets, playwrights and novelists… reveals that not everyone in that elegant, vigorous, earthy world was white….there were black pubs and clubs, balls for blacks only, black churches, and organisations for helping blacks out of work or in trouble. Many blacks were prosperous and respected…others..were successful stewards or men of business. But many more were servants or beggars, some turning to prostitution or theft. Alongside the free black world was slavery, from which many of these people escaped” My play Carnevale  explores the lives of two black female ex-slaves in Venice in the eighteenth and twenty first century and is is a fantastical mash-up of languages and contemporary and early modern worlds.  By mixing contemporary representations of race and gender with historical representations, the play aims to critique modern day trafficking and slavery and also raise questions about the way race, gender and sexuality are constructed in ’the (neo)colonial context’. In this session I will discuss the role of language and visual imagery in creating reflexivity around race and gender and ways to create counter narratives to the dominant discourses around race, gender and trafficking.

Biography:

Playwright Rebecca Prichard is currently under commission to The National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company. She has written plays for BBC Radio 4 and her play Parallax was performed at The Almeida Theatre in 2012 and shortlisted for the Brian Way Award in 2013. Dream Pill was performed in 2010 at the Soho Theatre and 2011 at Latitude Festival and The Edinburgh Festival and toured Scotland in 2012 and was shortlisted the Human Trafficking Foundation Awards in 2011. Rebecca’s  first play Essex Girls was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in 1994, as part of the Royal Court Young Writers Festival. The script was later published in Coming on Strong: New Writing from the Royal Court Theatre (1995). Fair Game, a free adaptation of Games in the Backyard by Israeli writer Edna Mazya, was commissioned by the Royal Court and first produced there in 1997. Yard Gal which won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright, was first produced at the Royal Court in 1998, and was co-produced with Clean Break, a theatre company specialising in work with ex-offenders. Her play Delir’ium was performed at The Royal Court and Tricycle Theatre in 2003  and Futures produced at Theatre 503 in 2006.

Rebecca has been appointed as the Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery Fellow at Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition for the 2014~15 academic year.  Prior to this, she was a lecturer in the theatre studies department at Essex University (2011~14) and an AHRC fellow at Lancaster University from 2007~2010.

Image: Matrixial by Christine McPhee