Kuppers performs with her lover and fellow disabled dancer, Neil Marcus, during a public reading of Cripple Poetics: A Love Story, a poetry book that the two co-authored in 2008. | Photograph by Timothy Wells Householder.
ART@IU is thrilled to announce that the keynote speaker for our upcoming Graduate Symposium on Theatre and Performance Studies will be Dr. Petra Kuppers, Professor of English, Women’s Studies Art and Design, & Theatre at the University of Michigan.
Kuppers is a community performance artist, and a self-proclaimed witnessing critic, theorist, and a disability culture activist who cites her journey as an artist as emerging from a “passionate exploration of performance ethics and community building.” For over twenty years, Kuppers has engaged community participants gently and with thought-in-process work:
“What we call ‘art’ is up for grabs, needs to be re-thought, re-created, every time we step into the river of practice. I know this because as a disabled dancer living with pain and fatigue, I have to subvert the ordinary, have fun in unusual spaces, and find time out of time.”
Some of these workshops happened in women’s centers, hospices, mental health self-help groups, youth groups, traditional Weavers and Knitters Guilds, with politicians, with people labeled as ‘developmentally disabled’, with cancer survivors, in National Parks, in abandoned buildings, and on the beach.
In addition to teaching, Kuppers is also Artistic Director of The Olimpias, a performance research project that investigates intersections between community art, identity politics, and (new) media. Some of her past works include Disability and Contemporary Performance: Bodies on Edge (Routledge, 2003), The Scar of Visibility: Medical Performances and Contemporary Art (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), and Community Performance: An Introduction (Routledge, 2007). Her most recent book, Disability Culture and Community Performance: Find a Strange and Twisted Shape (Palgrave 2011), which explores arts-based research methods, won the American Society for Theatre Research’s 2011 Sally Banes Prize. She leads The Olimpias, a performance research collective. She is currently at work on two projects: a study of disability in Australian and New Zealand/Aotearoan contexts, and a study on social somatics, performance and embodiment.
Her keynote address will be titled “Cultural Work and the Somatic: New Publics of Community Performance
Community-based performance practices enter the archive of performance and theatre studies usually through discussions of organizational forms, through analyses of representations, or through ethnographic interview methodologies assessing levels of agency and participation. This talk offers a different lens on community performance in the public sphere. It focuses on contemporary somatic-based training methods and their effects on how energy circulates among project participants and audience members. As a witnessing critic, how can I discern somatic effects and articulate my own embodied responses? How can transformatory processes emerge in co-witnessing and co-participation? If we think through the queries relational art discourse offers us, how can we find methods of creating and witnessing performance work that make relationality viscerally available, and challenge sociopolitical formations at the level of embodiment? These questions form the desirous horizon of this paper, which will focus on a number of contemporary public performance works, including GAWK by Rollercoaster Theatre, performed in Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia. Rollercoaster Theatre is a group formed out of graduates of a vocational theatre-training course for people with a broad range of disabilities and learning needs.
(corpo)realities: Keynote Address
Saturday, March 24, 2013 | 5:30 pm | Studio Theatre
Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center
275 N. Jordan Ave. | Bloomington, Indiana | 47405