Dr. Fiona Wilkie
University of Surrey
site-specific, place, performance
Out of Place: the Negotiation of Space in Site-Specific Performance
Theatre has a long history of experimentation with a variety of spatial configurations and relationships, but it is only in the last two decades that the label 'site-specific' has been applied to theatrical performance, denoting a new mode of place-bound practice. The term, emerging from the visual arts of the 1960s, has come to suggest performance occurring beyond the theatre building and foregrounding its chosen site as instrumental . in the development of form or theme.
Located at the intersection of performance scholarship and theoretical explorations of place, the thesis examines the means by which a performative engagement with place and space is created and understood. This examination is concerned with finding and testing critical tactics in direct response to the methodological strategies of performance makers. It therefore engages with a number of both scholarly and less stable modes of performing place in order to stage an epistemological enquiry into the kinds of knowledge that site-specificity produces and requires. These modes include cultural theory (and particularly de Certeau's pedestrian tactics), touristic practices, archaeology, travel writing and literary fiction.
Part One of the thesis seeks to orientate the reader within these fields and debates by means of two, contrasting rhetorical figures: the map and the excursion. These figures serve to initiate a dialogue between theorizing space and documenting practice, informing the closer analytical readings of the second part· of the thesis. Part Two is structured via a metaphor of exploration, whereby the four concepts of rules, memory, rhythm and hybridity are proposed as analytical manoeuvres through which the complex relationships between place and performance can be illuminated.
Finally, it is argued that the process of negotiation - between performance, audience and place, and between site-specificity and 'theatreness' - is doubly significant as both the discursive methodology of the thesis and the explorative strategy of the sitespecific theatre practitioner.
Experienced researcher, manager, editor, writer and teacher. Author of Performance, Transport and Mobility: Making Passage (Palgrave) and Theatre & Travel (Bloomsbury, forthcoming), as well as many articles and book chapters on various aspects of contemporary performance and art.