Paper Presentations # 1 – Session 1B

NZ – 1.30pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 11.30am | SA – 11am | QLD – 10.30am | NT – 10am
WA – 8.30am

Chaired by Daniel Johnston

Links to join all conference sessions can be accessed via the program pages of the ADSA conference website

Tessa Rixon – The potential of authenticity in reframing the relationship between performance, audience and vision technology in digital performance

This presentation explores the potential of authenticity theory to reframe the integration of vision technologies (projection, digital screens, motion tracking, live camera technology, Virtual and Augmented Reality systems) within the scenography of Australian theatre and performance, offering a new perspective to guide the inclusion of technology on our stages.

Despite decades of experimentation and instances of international acclaim, we as Australian makers and designers are still searching for grounded, rigorous methodologies to guide our use of vision technology to best tell our stories. This is due to a lack of conversation, as well as, in part, a discomfort and concern that lingers; a resistance from some to technology’s ‘otherness’ on the embodied live stage. For many, live theatre and vision technology “remain uneasy ‘bedfellows’” (Dixon, 2019, p.131). If live performance is to thrive in this era of rapid digital innovation, our practice and research must disrupt preconceived notions of technology’s role within scenography and test new methodologies of making.

This presentation offers authenticity as an ideal principle to reframe the creation of performances entangled with technology. Through case studies of Australian digital performance – Laser Beak Man, by Dead Puppet Society, and Wireless by Lisa Wilson and Paul Charlier – I demonstrate the positive impact an authentic approach to the integration of vision technology can have on creative practice, audience engagement, and scenographic research. Building on the concepts of New Media Dramaturgy (Eckersall et al., 2017) and new materialism (Bleeker, 2017), I argue that in accepting the agency of the inorganic in “digital performances” – performances which cast technology in a key role in content, technique and aesthetics (Dixon, 2007), consciously and intentionally entangling vision and sound so they become indistinguishable from the form and operation of the work (Salter, 2010) – we must now ask: can vision technology possess authenticity, and what impact could this attitude have on existing conventions of design process and product? I draw on authenticity’s success within cultural, performance and audience studies, where it has been pivotal in understanding complex issues of creation and perception, then break down its three core constructs – truthfulness, believability, and emotional engagement – for application in scenographic practice. Authentic digital performance is one response to the tension between theatre and technology, and present a scenographic mindset that disrupts existing perceptions and perspectives on technology’s function in live performance.

Bleeker, M. (2017). Thinking That Matters: Towards a Post-Anthropocentric Approach to Performance Design. In J. McKinney & S. Palmer (eds.), Scenography expanded: an introduction to contemporary performance design (pp. 125-136). Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.
Dixon, S. (2007). Digital performance: a history of new media in theater, dance, performance art, and installation. Cambridge.
Dixon, S. (2019). How Does Theatre Think Through Incorporating Media? In M. Bleeker, A. Kear, J. Kelleher, & H. Roms (Eds.), Thinking Through Theatre and Performance (pp. 131-144). Methuen Drama.
Eckersall, P., Grehan, H., & Scheer, E. (2017). New Media Dramaturgy: Performance, Media and New-Materialism. Palgrave Macmillan.

Tessa Rixon is a practitioner-researcher in intermedial performance, digital scenography, and Australian design. As Lecturer in Scenography at the Queensland University of Technology, Tessa’s work promotes new modes of integrating established and emergent technologies into live performance, exploring the potentiality of authenticity within digital scenography, and showcasing Australian performance design practice and histories. Her latest research explores the impact of the pandemic on digital pedagogies within the creative arts, and the role of technology within ecoscenography.

Gabrielle Lennox – Plays and Players: Bartle’s Player-type Theory in Ergodic Theatre

Ergodic theatre offers a new way of categorising and understanding immersive theatre. In ergodic theatre – the term I use to classify a sub-genre of immersive theatre – the traveller – the word I use to substitute audience – works to form their path through the storyworld. Ergodic theatre invites the traveller to step into the storyworld of the play and create their own narrative; individual ecologies are created. With this change in traveller’s ecology, we need new tools with which to analyse audience behaviours. We need an approach that evaluates how travellers interact when they are active individual participants within the performance totality. I argue that instead of simply adapting Theatre and Audience Studies to fit ergodic theatre’s new ecology, we should turn to Digital Game Studies to analyse traveller actions, expectations, and desires. Specifically, I apply Bartle’s Player-type Theory to analyse travellers in ergodic theatre to help understand better what they want and need in performance. Digital games and ergodic theatre share a similar ecology making ludology a valuable resource for theatre-makers. Bartle’s theory helps inform ergodic theatre by recognising the traveller’s heterogeneity and prioritising their enjoyment and diverse needs.

Gabrielle Lennox is a Drama PhD Candidate at the University of Queensland. Her thesis explores audience experience in immersive theatre through the lens of video game theory and dramaturgy. Gabrielle graduated from the University of Queensland in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Drama and Studies of Religion, and in 2019 graduated with First Class Honours in Drama.

Merophie Carr – Going feral – four years of living with an audience 

This paper interrogates the often-stated idea that a performance can ‘activate’ space. I define a performing arts project in a public space as creating a vast and ever-growing network of conversations, recorded materials, opinions and theories. Some of these may never be known by the artistic team. My research uncovers and prioritises the ‘feral’ stories that are a critical element of this process.

Recognising the feral within a performance ecology involves defining our audience as participants, ethnographers, critics, comedians, liars, and contributing artists – a “community of storytellers and translators” (Rancière 2007). In this paper, I draw on notions of feral from Wallace Heim, who characterises performance as an exchange: “That initial exchange, and its setting and narrative, can be recounted and storied. Those stories can continue to reverberate as uncontrollable extensions of the work, with new meanings emerging in unexpected, untraceable places; they become feral” (2003, p. 183). This notion of feral and uncontrollable challenges the comfortable assumption of ‘equality’ and ‘community’ as expressed by Ranciere and many others in relation to participation.

The paper draws from my recent PhD project which investigated a dramaturgical research process revealed through the tracking and re-storying of feral conversations created by ‘Weekly Ticket Footscray’. In this project, dancer David Wells continues to perform at Footscray Train Station to create a fifteen year ‘slow theatre’ performance. In this paper I discuss how my focus on feral conversations gave me insight into the complex ecology of our performance, including a growing interest in the stories that are impossible to catch. This is a literal de-centering of performance, as I turn away from the performing artist and listen to, watch and participate with audience.

Heim, W. (2003). Slow activism: Homelands, love and the lightbulb. In B. Szerszynski, W. Heim, & C. Waterton (Eds.), Nature performed: Environment, culture and performance (pp. 183-202). Blackwell Publishing/The Sociological Review.
Rancière, J. (2007). The emancipated spectator. Artforum International, 45(7), 271-280.

Merophie Carr is a teacher, theatre director and academic with a particular interest in participation, non-traditional performance environments and creative practice. She is performance director of ‘Weekly Ticket Footscray’, a fifteen-year performance project at Footscray Train Station that began in 2016. She has directed work for a range of companies and artists including; Green Room and Helpman award nominated  Personal with seasons at Artshouse Melbourne, the Sydney Opera House and extensive touring throughout Australia in 2018. Merophie completed her PhD at Monash University in 2020 and currently teaches at Deakin University.