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Collective Works: Questioning Collectivity in Contemporary Theatre

The 16th International Symposium of Theatre Critics and Theatre Scholars

Sterijino Pozorje, Novi Sad

The 16th edition of the traditional International Symposium of Theatre Critics and Theatre Scholars will be held on June 1st and 2nd 2018 in Novi Sad (Serbia) within the frame of 63rd Sterijino Pozorje Festival (www.pozorje.org.rs) and in collaboration with the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC/AICT). It will be dedicated to exploring the multiple ways in which theatre and performance deconstruct, question and conceptualise collectivity. This topic starts from a rejection of the theatre as inherently, necessarily and benevolently collective  – inviting critics, scholars and artists to re-examine structures of producing, making, archiving, and researching theatre.

In theatre and performance, collectivity is clearly connected to modernist and postmodernist practices: the collectives of the post-revolutionary avant-garde Soviet theatre, the emergence of numerous independent, politically motivated companies in the 1960s, anonymous collectives (geheimagentur), or DIY institutions (festivals occupying former industrial spaces), offer just some, historic and contemporary, examples. Yet collectivity also remains a term predominantly associated with Marxist and post-Marxist thinking. In theatre in performance, collaboration often replaces collectivity, as a term used to explore democratic working practices, often at the expense of considering their ideological and political concerns, or issues of capital, agency and power. Recent studies, such as Jen Harvie’s Fair Play (2013), Bojana Kunst’s Artist at Work (2015), Nicholas Ridout’s Passionate Amateurs  (2013) and Gregory Sholette’s Delirium and Resistance (2017), have investigated collaboration as a site of political conflict, pointing to how neoliberalism has reshaped ways and structures of working, authorship and cultural valuation, in areas raging from cultural policy, via funding, to inviting audiences into the rehearsal room.

With this in mind, Collective Works begins with the position that collectivity is not an inherent part of how theatre and performance are produced, made and presented. The symposium investigates how collectivity emerges at the meeting point between structural, artistic and formal characteristics of contemporary theatre and performance. How might theatre and performance offer alternative ways of constructing collectivity? At the same time, what might we critique about the presumed innateness of collectivity in theatre and performance? What alternative practices, from the point of view of infrastructure, audience development, ways of working and forms of criticism can we find in contemporary theatre and performance?

Proposals might engage with one or several of the following topics:

  • Authorship and collectivity, especially in relation to participatory work
  • Collective criticism, in relation to collaborative writing projects, embedded writing and editorial practice
  • Labour, work  and collectivity
  • Collectivity and democracy: hierarchies, power structures and agency in collective theatre making
  • Alternative infrastructures: DIY institutions and artist-led initiatives
  • Performance art and collectivity
  • Rethinking collectivity models of the 20th century
  • Collectivity and discrimination
  • Collectivity and spaces of productive difference
  • Concepts of collectivity in theatre and performance
  • Collectivity and audiences
  • Ethics of collective creation and ethics of participatory creation
  • Funding and collectivity
  • ‘Artrepreneurship’
  • Ecological thinking and collective practices
  • Institutional critique and alternative organising models
  • Collective modes of cultural evaluation and valuation

Submissions can take the form of papers, short performances, performative presentations or workshops.

To apply, please send a short, 300 word abstract or description, a 150-word biography and any technical requirements, by 15 March 2018 to: Diana.D.Damian@gmail.com and Bojanna.Jankovic@gmail.com. Submissions can be sent in English, French or Serbian. If you are submitting a proposal for a short performance or workshop, please provide information on space requirements and, if appropriate, capacity.

If accepted, final papers and presentations (of up to 5,000 words) should be submitted by 1 May 2018.

The Symposium will be held in English, French and Serbian, with simultaneous interpretation; basic tech equipment (projector, DVD player) will be available. Participants will have 15 minutes to present their contribution, which will be followed by a discussion. The papers will therefore be available in advance on the Sterijino pozorje website (www.pozorje.org.rs) and in the symposium material; authors will present the main theses and conclusion of their research.

There is no participation/registration fee for the Symposium. Sterijino pozorje will also provide:

  • Accommodation (up to 4 nights for participants from Europe, and up to 5 nights for participants from other continents) and meals in Novi Sad;
  • Tickets for festival performances;
  • Travel between Belgrade airport and Novi Sad.

For any questions (about technical details, the stay in Novi Sad, etc.), please contact Dušana Todorović (Symposium Secretary): dusana.todorovic@gmail.com. Any questions about Symposium submissions can be sent to Bojana Janković and Diana Damian Martin.

Organisers: Sterijino Pozorje, Novi Sad


International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC)

Novi Sad, Serbia 1-2nd June 2018

Symposium Chairs:

Diana Damian Martin, writer and critic, Lecturer, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London (UK)

Bojana Janković, performance artist and writer, Visiting Lecturer, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London (UK)

Symposium Secretary: Dušana Todorović