University of Melbourne
At the beginning of formal gatherings in Australia we typically perform an Acknowledgement or Welcome to Country. An Acknowledgement of Country recognizes and pays respects to the original owners and custodians of the land and waters, but it is also a performative gesture that positions Indigenous people and knowledges as a vital part of our collective understandings of climates, past, present, and future. This second issue of Global Performance Studies arises from the PSi #22 conference Performance Climates, which was held on the traditional lands of the Kulin Nations, in the city of Melbourne, Australia. Performance Climates followed the dynamic and dispersed events of Fluid States that framed the inaugural issue of this journal, and, while the conference represented a kind of regathering of bodies, it also attempted to reflect on the legacy of Fluid States by exploring the theme of climates as an expansive and complex set of relations, including those between atmospheres, affects, weather, events, habitats, environments, land, and durations. Performance, it seemed to my fellow organizers Alyson Campbell, Rachel Fensham, Paul Rae, Robert Walton, Angharad Wynne-Jones, Peta Tait, and, later, Meredith Rogers, participates in making climates as much as it is also embedded within them.
The project of GPS can also be seen as a way of further positioning performance — thinking, making, and scholarship — in relation to climates of a variety of scales and intensities. In this issue, we trace the intersections between animal-human-dance-indigeneity-country-history-drought-ice-activism-participation-ecology-trees-waste-disaster-theatre and the future. The variety, scope, and level of inter-disciplinarity here is difficult to capture. Yet, the interactive dimensions of this journal at least enable us to situate film alongside text alongside image alongside photo-essay alongside syllabi alongside scholarly article. GPS offers a fitting stage for these explorations and I encourage readers, viewers, and users of this material to move across and between the works that we have been lucky enough to curate.
When I encounter the GPS acronym in the inbox of my email account or during a Web search, I frequently experience a moment of cognitive dissonance. I picture a satellite orbiting the earth, then a sort of zooming (or googling) in on my present location. Almost simultaneously, I picture a series of coordinates that “map” clusters of performance intensity that I imagine or fantasize are happening all around me: GPS as a global performance system. The map resembles an image of seismic activity, and “Performance” and “Positioning” are somehow mixed in my mind so that I am, for a moment, a little lost. The moment of dissonance isn’t stressful; indeed, I have grown to enjoy it when it happens. As such, whereas a GPS device might suggest a location pin, the works collected for this issue are linked by their attention to movement, they blend performance and positioning, and they move across different scales and localities, frequently heading towards the territories of the future.
In the first issue of GPS, Felipe Cervera argued for a “planetary performance studies,” and it seems only fitting that so many of the works in this second issue articulate a relationship between performance, activism, and co-presence (between species, climates, and the planet). In order to try and navigate these approaches, we have chosen to pair works, not for their formal similarity, but the ways in which they might animate a common theme from multiple perspectives.
Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain share a photo essay, “Cut the Sky: Traces of Experimentation in Dance and Dramaturgy in the Age of the Anthropocene,” on their work Cut the Sky, a dance performance by Australian Indigenous Company Marrugeku that was featured as part of the Performance Climates conference in 2016. Embedded in indigenous knowledges of climate, the performance moves across time, species, and country to explore how new dramaturgies might inform ethical responses to climate change. Alongside these images from Cut the Sky, Kara Miller’s piece, “Dancing with the Animals at the Missa Gaia,” explores moments of possible interconnectedness between animals, architecture, and bodies in the Missa Gaia — or Earth Mass. Held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the Missa Gaia is an annual event that brings together humans and non-humans in a sensory performance. Miller’s analysis positions dance as a means of enhancing inter-species awareness through affective interaction.
Continuing investigations of dance and climate, Annette Arlander’s “Performing with the Weather” records the harsh conditions in the high north of Finland in a series of performance films. Drawing on Karen Barad, Arlander situates the human body of the artist as part of an entanglement of phenomena and non-human bodies, an intra-activity that sees the landscape and the changing weather as sites of material performance. In contrast, in “350.org as a Localized Trans-Global Movement,” Sarah Standing positions images of the landscape in the eco-activist work of 350.org as simultaneously localized and trans-global performance. At the beginning of her article, Standing briefly describes the famous “earthrise” photographed from the Apollo 8 in 1968, and it seems telling that such an image of the planet — fragile and floating — should appear in this issue on performance climates. The earthrise images are important both for their connection to the rise of eco-activist movements in the 20th century, as much as they are also part of contemporary critiques of the “planet as a globe” mounted by theorists such as Bruno Latour and Peter Sloterdijk. Indeed, Standing’s analysis of the “distributed action” of 350.org as eco-performance reveals many of the tensions between performance, participation, and the strategies of global climate activism.
Ecological artworks and public participation are key elements in an article by Zoë Condliffe, Tanja Beer, and Marnie Badham, and the processional performance Plantón Móvil, by Lucia Monge. In Monge’s multimedia essay, “Plantón Móvil: Interspecies Collaboration in the Walking Forest,” a “walking forest” is mobilized in a very literal, but also playful, representation of “greening” urban space, which sees people gather to protest and “move-with” plants. The notion of cohabitation with plant species arises in the context of increasing population density and urban sprawl, themes that link to Condliffe, Beer, and Badham’s “Refugium at Federation Square: the Politics of Participatory Ecological Artwork in Public-Private Space,” an investigation into how ecological artworks might seek to contest the privatization of city-spaces. Through analysis of Tanja Beer’s Refugium project, in which participants were invited to make plant-sculptures in the form of “kokedamas” that were installed in the private-public space of Federation Square at the center of the city of Melbourne, Condliffe, Beer, and Badham find that neoliberal frameworks of “value” and individual consumption exist in tension with art-making as a collective and inclusive experience.
The notion of the collective is taken up in “Between Theatre and the Environment: The Experience of Cope/With/Land Theatre Company” by Reagan R. Maiquez, Dennis Gupa, and Kulay Labitigan. Responding to Cervera’s work and drawing on Elinor Fuchs’ EFs Visit to a Small Planet: Some Questions to Ask a Play (2004), they argue that the experience of making theatre in local communities in the Philippines has an important planetary dimension. Indeed, Maiquez, Gupa, and Labitigan suggest, “local experience […] contributes to a critical understanding of a global (eco)system” in such a way that the work of performance itself can be seen as a “scaled-down planet.” In their examination of Filipino community theatre’s responses to a changing climate, they return to the imaginative world of the play as an important means of collapsing the real and the liminal — a way of summoning events and approaching the future.
“Syllabi for the Future: A Playlist” is curated by the PSi Future Advisory Board (FAB): Felipe Cervera, Shawn Chua, João Florêncio, Eero Laine, and Evelyn Wan, and consists of a series of seven short video works with accompanying statements and reading lists. The contributions by Katherine Brewer Ball, Alice Colquhoun, Augusto Corrieri, Rayya El Zein, Kristin Flade, Juan Gallardo, Chris Gibson, Linzi Juliano, Peter Kalisch, Amaara Raheem, Kayla Tange, and Chad Wyszynski offer diverse trajectories for the future of performance studies. This project, which began as an installation during the Performance Climates conference, traverses the fields of performance, ecology, and politics, and offers responses to the provocation: “How far beyond do performance studies scholars perceive the future?” The answers — they are legion. Arab rap and sonic beats. Data bodies. Interdisciplanary arguments. Incantations. Political speech. Flouresence. An exchange with a dolphin. This project is an intertextual act of generosity, and it embodies (as much as any project can) a commitment to multiplicity, and a vision (one of many) of the current climate of performance scholarship.
In guest editing this issue, I have tended to become preoccupied with notions of scale — the particular qualities of performance that enable rapid shifting between the epic and the everyday. If there is one element that links each of the works included here, I suspect it is that an exploration of climates commonly contains an interest in scale — from the micro dimensions of ice or soil or touch, to macro images of the earth from above or profound movements of history and time. As much as GPS may suggest movement, a blending of performance and positioning, Global Performance Studies also remains for me a provocation. I like the idea that GPS allows us to keep asking the question: Where are we? Or, better yet for this issue: What next, and in what dimension?
I thank Kevin Brown for his help in animating these questions, and all of the contributors of this issue for their answers, however playful and particular they may be.
This introduction was written on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri, of the Kulin Nations, and I pay my respects to the people of the Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung who have lived their culture on this land for tens of thousands of years.
 See Cervera, Felipe. “Planetary Performance Studies.” GPS: Global Performance Studies. 1:1 (2017). http://gps.psi-web.org/issue-1-1/planetary-performance-studies/. Accessed 18 December 2017.