Sinais de Cena CfP

Call for papers (nr. 4) Performance, Ecology and the End of the World

Performance, Ecology, and the End of the World

(coord. Gustavo Vicente)

The reflection on the potential of performing arts to rethink humanity’s relationship with the natural domain has been gaining clearer contours since the end of the 20th century. The challenge launched by Una Chaudhuri in 1994, through her article “There must be a lot of fish in that lake: toward an ecological theater” –[i]  which demanded from theatrical practice a consistent response to the environmental crisis – is, by many, considered the kick-off of the field of knowledge associated with what we today call Eco-performance or Eco-theatre. Since then, a growing number of authors have been delving deeper into the terms (material, philosophical, cultural, and/or political) through which artistic practice can be articulated with ecological thinking (e.g., Baz Kershaw, Wendy Arons and Theresa May, Alan Read, Vicky Angelaki, Carl Lavery, Lisa Woynarski), developing new questions and conceptual perspectives around the capacity of the performing arts to bring about a change in attitude towards the way we live on Earth.

One of the main issues addressed by this interdisciplinary field is the anthropocentric tradition of the theatrical medium itself, within which humanity has occupied the central role of artistic questioning, relegating contemporary practice to the sphere of culture, as opposed to a savage idea of nature that exists “outside” the world. Some more recent practice has attempted to break with this bipartite logic, insofar as it has sought to consider the natural environment, not only through its biological attributes but also ethical ones – recognizing, in this way, the complexity inherent to human understanding of the network of ecological relationships in which it is necessarily integrated and the intrinsic value of other forms of life.

Another emerging question is how artistic practice deals with the ontological paradox that is established between performance and ecology since the realization of the former is often opposed to the preservation of the latter. The traditionally urban and consumerist culture of which the performing arts are part is complicit in the same system of resource exploitation that puts the planet’s environmental health at risk. In this sense, the fundamental challenge is no longer so much the question of how we can theatricalize the various facets of nature, but how it can per-form us. In general, this vision has translated into the building of artistic experiences in which the audience is seen as a community based on the shared responsibility of acting in a system of co-existence with the material reality that surrounds it.

More recently, the recognition of the fatality of a climate catastrophe has been producing countless dramaturgy and creative processes around the imperative of the end of the world. Brian Kulick’s book released in 2023 – Staging the End of the World: Theater in a Time of Climate Crisis –[ii]  seeks to precisely account for the multiplicity of perspectives that the performing arts have brought about the end of times, as we conceive it, and about the possibilities of adapting to a necessarily dystopian future. In this context, the practice of performing arts has embodied a plurality of manifestations that vary between the representation of the affective, social, and political dimensions associated with the collapse of humanity and the agency of forms of imagination about the worlds to come.

In this edition of Sinais de Cena, we invite the academic and artistic community, among others who are built around a curious spirit concerning these matters, to write about the performing arts action possibilities – not only about the symbiotic correspondences between performance and ecology but also about the way in which end-of-the-world narratives have opened spaces for imagining possible futures. Being receptive to all types of epistemological views on the topic and sub-themes that may branch from this, we are equally available to welcome perspectives that are built on or through artistic practice, around stage performances or experimental research processes in contexts of institutional programming or of an informal nature, without restrictions of a conceptual order or in terms of formal writing possibilities. Basically, open to the diversity of topics and ways of knowing that point to the formation of an artistic-ecological thought invested in recovering the collective meaning of things.

All texts should be sent, until July 31, 2024, to:

Papers must be submitted in accordance with the following submission rules:

[i] Chaudhuri, U. (1994). “There must be a lot of fish in that lake: Toward an ecological theater”. Theater, volume 25, issue 1, pp.23-31, Duke University Press: Durham.

[ii] Kulick, B. (2023). Staging the End of the World: Theatre in a Time of Climate Crisis. Methuen Drama, Bloomsbury Publishing: London.