IFTR Belgrade Conference Report

20 July, 2018 by Andrew Filmer | 0 comments

IFTR Belgrade Conference Report

In July 2018 the Theatre Architecture Working Group met during the IFTR World Congress in Belgrade.

For this meeting we invited proposals that engaged with the main conference theme of ‘Theatre, nation and identity: between migration and stasis’ and which investigated how theatre architecture and/or the relationship between theatre and architecture might be understood through the associated concepts of migration, mobility and stasis. Twenty-seven proposals were received and twenty-one presenters attended our meeting. A number of new members joined us for the first time in Belgrade, further strengthening the Working group’s interdisciplinary nature. A highlight of this conference was the launch of two publications: Performing Architectures: Projects, Practices, Pedagogies, edited by Working Group co-convenors, Andrew Filmer and Juliet Rufford (and featuring contributions from a wide range of past and present members), and Event-Space: Theatre Architecture and the Historical Avant-Garde, written by new Working Group co-convenor Dorita Hannah. The anthology, Scenography Expanded, which was also released, included contributions from Working Group members, Hannah and Thea Brejzek. Brejzek also launched a book she co-authored with Lawrence Wallen on The Model as Performance.

We met for the first time on the Sunday before the official start of the conference for a tour of the Palace of Serbia (the former Palace of the Federal Executive Council of Yugoslavia). This tour, and a screening of Slovenian artist Jasmina Cibic’s art film Tear Down and Rebuild (2015) – filmed within the building – were arranged by Miljana Zeković and Visnja Zugic, members of Ephemera Collective based in Novi Sad. Many thanks for Miljana and Visnja for arranging this fascinating tour and screening for us.

Monday was a busy day with two presentation sessions in the morning followed by a Sponsored Panel in the afternoon. Sidsel Graffer (Norwegian Theatre Academy) opened our first session with a presentation examining discourses of preservation and rehabilitation in the context of the redevelopment of the National Theatre, in Oslo, Norway. Cathy Turner (Exeter University) discussed performance and environmental and cultural activism in the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha, held on the outskirts of Chennai, India. Magdalena Golaczynska (University of Wroclaw) discussed issues of site and representation in the productions Łemko (2007) and Transfer! (2006) which address post-World War II forced migrations in Central Europe. In the second morning session we heard a joint paper from Visnja Zugic (University of Novi Sad) and Attila Antal (University of Theatre and Film, Budapest) that discussed the difficulties of a long-term project based in the Hempt House in Novi Sad. The Hempt House was suddenly redeveloped as a fast food restaurant over the summer of 2017. This presentation was followed by two PechaKucha presentations; the first, by Stephen Bain (University of Tasmania), addressed the performance of fiction in urban spaces as a strategy for unsettling reality and the second by Efrat Shalom (Technion IIT, Haifa) explored the relationship between urban and theatrical images in Tel Aviv’. In the afternoon our Sponsored Panel on ‘Architecture, Mobility and Spatial Knowledge’ featured Dorita Hannah (University of Auckland) discussing her installation PHONEHOME in the context of other performance design work exploring migrant and asylum seeker experiences, Helen Stratford (University of Sheffield) discussed her performative interventions in a non-functioning market building in the city of Celje in Solvenia, and Hari Marini (Queen Mary University of London) examined graffiti production in the urban ruins of Athens.

On Tuesday Adela Bravo Sauras (Universitaet der Kuenste, Berlin) described her recent project My Hands. My Mother’s in the context of her ongoing research on ‘Architectonic Theatre’. Rafael Magrou (ENSA Paris-Malaquais) examined the concept of the fourth wall and its application to analysing the boundaries between actor and spectator in Joël Pommerat & Eric Soyer’s Ca ira (1) Fin de Louis. Katalin Bagosi (Technical University of Cluj Napoca, Romania) presented on her recent design work exploring how theatre space might operate as an extension of the scenography of a performance.

Wednesday saw four more PechaKucha presentations: Andrew Filmer (Aberystwyth University) introduced his proposed project with artist Simon Whitehead called A Clear Cut, David DeGrow (University of Toronto) presented his analysis of the impact of Section 37 of Toronto’s Planning Act on theatre architecture, Kristiina Reidolv (Tartu University) introduced plans for the Vaba Lava Performing Arts Centre in Narva in Eastern Estonia, and Romana Bošković Živanović (University of Novi Sad) discussed the situation of the planned redevelopment of the former Home of Culture in Ravno Selo.

On Thursday morning, Nadine Civilotti (University of Mainz) discussed performative practices of perception and subjectivation in Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sven Mehzoud (Massey University) outlined his new project for a migration exhibition in Mildura in regional Australia that works with both gallery and public spaces. In the afternoon, Magdalena Kozień-Woźniak Cracow (University of Technology) introduced us to her notion of ‘interference’ in theatre architecture and its application to the design of a non-exclusive space for community. Magdalena also presented the work of Evelyn Lima (The Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro) who had to withdraw from the conference. Our final speaker of the conference was Sampreeti Malladi (University of Hyderabad) who presented her work exploring the complex migratory dialogue between Indian dance and temple and theatre spaces.

Friday saw a productive working group meeting largely focussed on improving communication between Working Group members and sketching out plans for future meetings and publications. We also discussed changing the Working Group name to Theatre & Architecture in which the ‘&’ signals the more relational and therefore interdisciplinary nature of the group and its members. We have established a Facebook Group and members are encouraged to share news via the IFTR News Feed and via the Working Group’s mailing list and page on the IFTR site. We are pursuing new opportunities for publication, for workshops and for possible grant applications. We are also planning an interim meeting in Prague next July to coincide with the 2019 Prague Quadrennial, and to meet during the IFTR conference in Shanghai.

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