Our very last meeting of this academic year will take place on 2 June. The focus of this meeting will be on human-animal interactions in performances and performance studies. We will be listening to two speakers, Susan Richardson and Mariel Jana Supka, who will talk to us about what it means to ‘become’ or ‘become with’ the animal (see the abstracts below). The meeting will be held from 6.30-8 pm in room S2.39 at King’s College London.
We hope that you can all join us for this last meeting!
Susan Richardson (poet) – ‘Writing on All Fours‘
Abstract: My next collection of poetry, to be published in 2015, is themed around human-animal metamorphosis and it explores our dys/functional relationship with the wild. My sources of inspiration include human-animal shapeshifting tales from a number of different cultures, from Inuit to Celtic, Native American to Norse, as well as the work of visual and performance artists including Marcus Coates and Oleg Kulik, and extensive personal experience of both shamanic journeying and shamanic trance dance. For the Being Non/Human discussion group, I will intersperse an overview of the research I have undertaken over the past two years with performances of new poems that explore a range of questions: where is the borderline between humanity and animality? What are the animal possibilities of the self? Is it feasible to believe that exploring the ‘becoming animal’ theme through poetry may help to reestablish the connection with the animal parts of ourselves and with the wider natural world, where we are just one animal among many, that Western culture has lost? Can revisioning myths and fairytales help to enable this reconnection? My performance/presentation will aim to convey, too, how the human-animal metamorphosis theme can be reflected in the form and language of the poem. Linguistic transformations will take place, mirroring the subject-matter. Language will slip and slide and shapeshift, with verbs becoming nouns and adjectives morphing into verbs. Dramatic monologues, written in the first person, will transform into third person poems, and vice versa. Tenses that may trap a stanza in the present or past will start to loosen their grip.
Mariel Jana Supka (PhD Student, University of Roehampton) –‘Improv[is]ed Dwellings: Encounters with ‘Alien’ Animals in Performance Arts’
Abstract: Non-native animals are commonly described as harmful to the environment. Government bodies and other interest groups advocate their elimination, frequently using an aggressive and criminalising language, which adopts military metaphors and builds on xenophobic sentiments. This representation develops people’s sense of cultural and geographical belonging through an emphasis on differences, and a romanticised image of an unspoiled natural countryside. Although non-native animals in many cases do constitute a serious challenge to existing ecosystems, the current discourse in both lay and scientific contexts seems to a large extent informed by philosophical and political interests that originate outside the realm of ‘care for the environment’. In my PhD research project, I seek to unpick this discourse and investigate to what extent the presence of non-native animals may also facilitate a rethinking of cultural uncertainties about the ecological changes these animals represent. My project aims to develop new strategies to engage with live non-native animals in performance arts, building on a critique of prevailing concepts of nature-culture dualism and the dominating anthropocentric engagement with non-human agents. I will propose an artistic strategy to experiment with alternative human-animal relations in dwelling practices, which seeks to interrogate common hierarchical understandings of human-animal relationships. Building on Donna Haraway’s concept of ‘becoming with’ (2007: 3), which concerns a practice of interspecies engagement, I propose an exploration of possibilities for shared constitution of living conditions, by humans and non-humans. These explorations will take place in the form of different performance arts projects, which will take place in the habitats of non-native animals such as the Chinese Mittencrab. Human and animal performers will contribute to the creation of architectural artefacts.