Monday June 13
The Museum in Transition - How Do Performing Artists Affect Historiography?
Over the past years a growing number of dance performances has been exhibited in museums. Curators and choreographers thus challenge the institution of the museum and traditional modes of (re-)presenting visual arts; and as well they produce transitions between time-frames and space of theatre and museum. How do performance practises - like Tino Sehgals choreographing "situations", or Boris Charmatz' "Musée de la danse" - reconfigure concepts of collection and exhibition, of archival documentation and performance of re-enactments? The lecture will examine performances that are situated between the frames of theatre and museum/ installation, like Mette Ingvartsen's "69 positions", and ask if and how performative modes of re-doing the past are affecting the narratives and discourse of historiography. How could we (re-)think the politics of the "re-", - expressed in the practises and terminology of re-production, re-construction, re-working etc. - in terms of theory and practises of historiography?
Wednesday June 15
Presenting the Theatre of Drottningholm
“Drottningholm Court Theater is the grandest theater in all of Scandinavia. If we could grant five stars instead of the mandated three, they would go to this gem of baroque architecture …. The first performance was presented here back in 1766, and the theater reached its apogee under Gustav III. The theater retains its original backdrops and props today. Even the same 18th-century ballets and operas are performed here, the productions authentic down to the original costumes.” [Frommers.com/destinations] My lecture will take place inside the Drottningholm theatre, which was designated a World Heritage Site in 1991. I will address the topic of ‘presenting the past’ in relation to the mythical goal of historical authenticity. I will ask, what is the value of this space as a kind of laboratory to understand the theatre and opera of the 18th century? For certain we cannot replicate, but we can experiment on the basis of different historical premises. To say that this is a ‘baroque’ theatre is already a premise, and use of the theatre is associated with one of the great autocrats of the European Enlightenment, Gustav III. The value of present-day experiment is to challenge our own norms and what we perceive as theatrical common sense. The presence of the Drottningholm Court Theatre is so powerful that work on the stage always feels awkward unless it engages with the unique environment, but in architectural terms the theatre is a field of contradiction. To work on the stage requires engagement with historical otherness, and with the principle that culture is always fluid, shifting and contested. The lecture will be focused around workshop experimentation. Under the musical direction of Mark Tatlow, Laila Cathleen Neuman will present in a historically informed style an aria from a ‘baroque’ Handel cantata. For the performer, is this a matter of submission to a set of gestural rules, or is this about a system where the performer had the freedom to be an auteur? João Luís Veloso Paixão will then explore with me a scene from Pygmalion, an experiment in musical dramatic form by the Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, roughly contemporaneous with the theatre. (The full production of Pygmalion can be seen as part of the conference social programme.) I shall ask how the aesthetics of stage performance relate to fundamental questions raised by Rousseau about the nature of human beings.
Thursday June 16
Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal
Ārai-te-uru: ‘Through the Veil’ - Traditional Māori Storytelling and Transformation
Ka ora ō tūpuna i a koe.
You ancestors will live because of you.
Ancestors are not figures of a time gone by nor are they merely human. Rather, in the traditional Māori worldview, ancestors are both human forebears and the deities of the natural world. More particularly, ancestors are energies, qualities identities that can be continually accessed, connected with and experienced. Ancestors are brought alive time and again through story, ritual and the wielding of sacred objects. The purpose of traditional Māori storytelling, therefore is not to explain the past – because there is no past. Rather, existence represents an ongoing opportunity to bring alive in our experience, to continually awaken in our consciousness the ancestors and related events referred to in the stories. Ancestors are not ‘those who have passed.’ Rather they are people and deities who exist ‘beyond the veil’. Much of traditional Māori storytelling, rituals and performances is, therefore, about ‘passing through the veil’ of our ordinary experience and into a world of passion and power. During the 1990s and 2000s, Charles Royal dedicated himself to the study of the language, histories and traditions of the Māori tribes to which he belonged. As he learnt– through being taught by his elders together with research in museums, manuscripts and archives – Charles was introduced to a radically different way of seeing and experiencing the world than that communicated to him during his upbringing in ‘western’ New Zealand. Charles became committed to the study of his tribal traditions and more broadly indigenous Māori knowledge and emerged with two key ideas – what do we know now of our traditional knowledge and can we utilise this existing knowledge as the basis of new creativity? Since the 1990s, Charles has pursued these two questions through numerous projects particularly with respect to music, performing arts and indigenous philosophy. In this keynote presentation, Charles Royal will present an overview of the key ideas of the past, history and its representation and experience today in the context of his extensive research into histories, traditions and culture of his people. He will speak about his work to create the modern form of the ‘whare tapere’ (tribal ‘houses’ of storytelling, dance, games, music and so on) and he will also discuss these themes in the context of his new role at Te Papa Museum of New Zealand. In advancing the whare tapere in his tribal community and in creating Māori cultural events at the national museum, Charles continues to explore and experiment with notions of the past, history and story.
Friday June 17
History as a Work
According to Aristotle, poetry is more philosophical than history. Poets give shape to their material. They produce literary works that create cohesion and meaning, whereas historians just retell what happened. So, if we want history to include more than empirical facts, we must let a work-productive formation be a key dimension of our historiography. Such formation draws history closer to philosophy; of the historian it requires philosophical thinking, and it helps the reader to think philosophically. But philosophy comes in various forms, one is imaginative, the other is not, and even the concept of the work has a history of its own. Therefore, the question is not only what it means to let history take shape as a work. The question is also what kind of philosophical thinking this formation requires, and what work-form is adequate today. (The keynote refers to Dorthe Jørgensen’s book Historien som værk: Værkets historie (History as a Work: The Work’s History), Aarhus University Press, 2006.)