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Spectacle and Spectatorship

Research under this theme considers theories, experiences and representations of authorship, presence and spectatorship in order to interrogate the audience/performance relation.

In her research Silvija Jestrovic has demonstrated an on-going concern with the structural aspects of representation, reception and spectatorship in terms of semiotic theory, the relationship between reception and space and her interests in depictions of exile. She has recently completed an essay entitled ‘Reading into Soundscapes: Between Ma and Concretization’ where she proposes the notion of reading-into as both a deliberate strategy and a form of somewhat involuntary imposition of a semiotic impulse. In this enquiry she asks questions such as: do works that differ significantly on various formal and other levels require different modes of reception? Is the listener/participant completing and negotiating what is already inherent in the structure of the work? Or is the agency of the listener/participant more liberal and unpredictable? How does reading into relate to existing theoretical frameworks concerning aesthetic reception? How do un-readable elements of the work that try to escape semiotisation shape modes of engagement? In another project under development Author Dies Hard, Jestrovic focuses on various aspects of authorial presence on the level of text and performance. Playing on Roland Barthes’s famous essay “Death of the Author”, which serves as a point of departure to explore various aspects of authorial (im)mortality from its aesthetic and ideological aspects to politics of reception and its cultural reverberations, the project aims to tackle notions of intertextuality and interperformativity, ghosting, presence/absence, authenticity and fictionalisation, censorship and celebrity.

Nicolas Whybrow has a particular interest in the relationship between artworks, cities and spectatorship. His next book project is entitled Contemporary Art Biennials: the Work of Art in the Complex City (2018). Utilising the term ‘complex’ in multiple, interconnected ways, but in essence to refer to the intricate, contingent and varied constitution of urban locations on the one hand and the integrated siting of curated networks of public art under the auspices of biennial-style cultural events on the other, it will examine six such urban situations in diverse parts of Europe. The aim is to establish how such public installations 'work' in their given contexts as part of a complex prescribed by the format of the curated biennial event, taking into account the extent to which such events may be said to contribute enduringly to their particular socio-cultural circumstances. The study will also consider how sited artworks, which can be very varied in form, may be facilitated effectively to ‘converse’ with one another, whereby the commonality provided by urban place (and its inhabitants) and an active spectator potentially paves the way for a relationship between artworks to be established.

Jim Davis is currently developing a collaborative research project with Patricia Smyth and Iryna Kuksa on the ways in which spectators were depicted visually in the long nineteenth century, particularly in relation to the physical representation of visceral and emotional responses. The work builds on concerns evident in a book of essays Shared Visions, co-edited with Patricia Smyth, on the relationship between theatre and visual culture. A forthcoming book chapter, ‘Shakespeare and the visual arts’, considers the ways in which different forms of visual representation of Shakespeare, from oil paintings to manga comics, shape spectator perception. While each depiction captures only a frozen moment, it is often interpretative as well. Illustrated editions have consistently re-imagined the plays for readers, while poster art has often pushed audiences towards particular interpretations of theatrical performances. Davis argues that visual responses to Shakespeare reflect their period of creation, demonstrating that each age finds new ways of visually mediating Shakespeare’s plays to contemporary readers and audiences.

  • Selected Publications on Spectacle and Spectatorship:

    Davis, Jim, ‘Shakespeare and the Visual Arts’, The Shakespearean World, ed. Jill Levenson & Rob Ormsby, Routledge (forthcoming 2016)

    Jestrovic, Silvija, ‘Reading into Soundscapes: Between Ma and Concretization’, Recherches Semiotiques/Semiotic Inquiry (forthcoming 2016)

    Whybrow, Nicolas, “Folkestone Futures: an Elevated Excursion”, Studies in Theatre and Performance, (forthcoming 2016), special issue to commemorate 25 years of the journal.

    Whybrow, Nicolas, “Watermarked: ‘Venice Really Lives Up to Its Postcard Beauty’”, “On Ruins and Ruinations” issue, Performance Research, 20(3), June 2015, pp.50-7.

ruins

Nicolas Whybrow: “Watermarked: ‘Venice Really Lives Up to Its Postcard Beauty’” [Performance Research, 2015]