The 2016 Cambridge AHRC DTP Conference on ‘Time and Temporality’

The 2016 Cambridge AHRC DTP Conference on

Time and Temporality’

The inaugural Annual Cambridge AHRC DTP Conference will bring together students from within the current Cambridge AHRC DTP cohort and from partner institutions of international standing to facilitate the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and the development of collaborative networks. The Cambridge AHRC DTP is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK (AHRC) and exists to provide studentships and personal and professional development at PhD level in the following broad AHRC-designated subject domains: history, thought and systems of belief; creative and performing arts; cultures and heritage; languages and literatures.

The conference will be held 14th-16th September 2016 at Peterhouse, Cambridge.

Annunci

Julia Brown (ANU) on Temporality and self-as-being in the course of treatment for chronic schizophrenia

When most people think about what schizophrenia is, the ‘psychotic’ symptoms dominate the story. When thinking about why a majority of people being treated for schizophrenia carry extra body weight and smoke cigarettes, it is anti-psychotic side effects, cravings and lack of self-discipline that might come to mind (the latter two explanations more readily at hand due to wider population health models). However, my anthropological research into clozapine-treated schizophrenia suggests otherwise. In order to investigate experiences of ‘health’ in clozapine-treated chronic schizophrenia, I am conducting a qualitative, longitudinal, multi-sited ethnographic study in two clozapine clinics in Australia and England.

 

Basing myself in the space where clozapine patients are most immersed in the biomedical culture concerned has meant considerable input from clinical staff, both as participants and in the recruitment of patient participants. Critical insights emerged both inside of formal clinic time and outside of it, during consultations and informal meetings leading up to and between clinic time. My position as an independent researcher is necessarily compromised by inter-disciplinary collaborations, particularly in the UK where further supervision and legal sponsorship was required from the lead psychiatrist of the clozapine clinic involved. As a non-clinical medical anthropologist conducting research with medically vulnerable people, access to my field sites took over a year to obtain, and mandatory clinical staff training sessions. My formal fieldwork spans 18 months, consisting of 2 phases of interviews (audio-recorded and transcribed) and observations in each setting during clinical time (4 ‘blocks’ of fieldwork in total). It was not until I had completed my first block of fieldwork in the UK that final HREC approval could be granted in Australia.

 

The temporal-spatial underpinnings of my fieldwork have not only been necessary for ethical safeguarding, they have become instrumental to my personal and analytical boundary making in what is otherwise a pervasively confronting area of enquiry. As Dalsgaard and Nielsen (2013) assert in regards to ‘episodic fieldwork’, ethnographic insights evolve over periods of ‘being present’ (8) long enough to become part of the field, but also being absent in order to account for the ‘event’ of being inside or outside the formal field site (14). It is also through relationship building with clinical staff outside of clinical operations and clinical time that allowed me to think through my ideas in clinically relevant ways. Despite most of my time being spent outside the clinical setting, I have felt continually immersed in the field.

 

The analytical relevance of time and temporality did not emerge until the completion of my first two blocks of fieldwork. It has been challenging to compartmentalise my own time so that transcribing interviews and the process of analysis can also take place episodically; I needed to adopt clinical distancing (and sympathies) in order to work productively. Moreover, I have found that clozapine patients’ renewed ability to ‘focus’ and experience wellbeing during moments that suspend past or future point to notions of temporality. My AHRC DTP paper will discuss how Heidegger’s (1962) notion of ‘ecstatic temporality’, as standing free from clinical time and provisions, helps to elucidate why non-concordance to ‘health’ provisions in addition to clozapine so often occurs.

Jack Belloli on ‘The Beanfield’ by Breach Theatre

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of reliving one of my most memorable experiences as a theatre-goer from 2015 – but maybe ‘reliving’ shouldn’t be the word.

I received my copy of the script for The Beanfield, the inaugural production of the emerging performance company Breach. In their opening ‘Notes on the Text, the company make it clear that ‘this text can hardly hope to capture the show itself – which exists between film and performance, in a space created and shared by its audience’ (Breach 8). They inherit an established way of thinking about performance ‘itself’ as that which is experienced in a finite space and, slightly more implicitly, for a finite time. Appeals like this have often, reductively, been used to privilege live performance over its reproduction in technological or textual forms. Breach do not go that far: the company frame themselves as a collaboration between two theatre-makers and a video artist, so that recording is already built into their practice, and they acknowledge that the text has the prestige to be ‘its own thing’ rather than just ‘an approximate record’ (ibid). Philip Auslander, who was among the first theorists to critique the more reductive appeals to “the magic of live theatre”, notes that such appeals may nevertheless be ‘necessary for performers’ at some level, to motivate what they do (2-3).

I wonder, however, whether we can go further than Auslander, and whether a production like The Beanfield models a way to do so. The event in the space with the audience is already a re-enactment of multiple re-enactments: the film in front of which the actors perform shows them both rehearsing and staging a parodically small-scale re-enactment of the 1985 “Battle of the Beanfield”, a violent (and under-remembered) encounter between traveller convoys and armed police officers diverted from the miners’ strike. The travellers were on their way to Stonehenge to establish the annual Free Festival: that festival was itself figured as a New Age revival of ancient customs and is still being restaged, albeit now in a carefully state-managed and commodified form, in 2015. The bulk of the ‘live’ performance of The Beanfield by the actors is a fictionalised account – insofar as it is described as happening to ‘you’, not the actors – of being at the 2015 solstice, in which appeals to its immediacy keep being made: ‘you try to hold that moment in time / That instantness of the instant’ (35).

I find the dramaturgy of The Beanfield so effective because it stages the exhaustion of this kind of this belief in the ‘instant’. What if there were no longer any “now” in performance? More precisely, what if we changed our understanding of the relationship between temporality and authenticity? On these terms, authenticity would no longer being grounded in what can be felt as true “in the moment” but as the expression of sustained commitment, of working out what needs to be done to hold different moments of time in relation to each other rather than appreciating the moments themselves. And it’s on these terms that the politics of The Beanfield can be accounted for. Rather than being worried that the theatrical event makes nothing happen in a way that resisting police violence doesn’t, because its liveness dissipates as soon as we leave the theatre, the piece acknowledges that the travellers and police themselves were already participating in uncertain repetitions, unsure whether anything was happening or not. It also helps to bring theatre-makers and non-practitioner performance theorists like myself into a more balanced dialogue: their apparently immediate decision-making onstage is an occluded version of the kind of shaping and sustaining of the relationship between present, past and future that I conduct when I read texts or watch DVDs of performances that I have not seen, trace the development of productions from rehearsal documents, or write critical reviews like this.

In my paper, I’ll be speaking about how and why the commitment that I’ve been outlining here emerges particularly strongly in the work of Forced Entertainment, a long-running British ensemble whose influence on companies like Breach – and many others – is deep and clear. A commitment to shaping and sustaining temporal structures might seem most apparent in their durational projects, one of which is being livestreamed for free over the next few days from Theaterfestival Basel – but I’ll try to bring these pieces into dialogue with some of the company’s

shorter shows, which retain the length and (more of the) audience interaction patterns of conventional theatre. There too, the challenge might be to build ‘a piece of time that’s secret’, in such a way that we don’t already have to anticipate its loss (Forced Entertainment 42).

Sources

Auslander, Philip. Liveness: Performances in a Mediatized Culture. London: Routledge, 1999. Print.

Breach. The Beanfield. London: Oberon Books, 2016. Print.

Forced Entertainment. Bloody Mess: Performance Text. Sheffield: Forced Entertainment, 2004. Print.

The 2016 Cambridge AHRC DTP Conference on ‘Time and Temporality’

The 2016 Cambridge AHRC DTP Conference on

Time and Temporality’

The inaugural Annual Cambridge AHRC DTP Conference will bring together students from within the current Cambridge AHRC DTP cohort and from partner institutions of international standing to facilitate the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and the development of collaborative networks. The Cambridge AHRC DTP is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK (AHRC) and exists to provide studentships and personal and professional development at PhD level in the following broad AHRC-designated subject domains: history, thought and systems of belief; creative and performing arts; cultures and heritage; languages and literatures.

The conference will be held 14th-16th September 2016 at Peterhouse, Cambridge.