Performance after Collaboration: Authorship in the Social Turn
PhD dissertation submitted September 2013
University of Warwick, UK
Supervisor: Dr. Susan Haedicke
Abstract: This dissertation critically examines recent trends in authorship for theatre and performance. In the avant-garde performance of the 1960s and 70s, collaborative creation was often employed as a radical rejection of authorship. As such techniques have become more ubiquitous, not just in experimental theatre but in the mainstream, across art forms, and in the performative culture of the ‘network society,’ the social contours of collaborative processes have become more complex, to the point that ‘collaboration’ can no longer describe these practices. Further, socially-engaged practices often defy boundaries between established art forms and disciplines. I theorize an emergent model of ‘social authorship’ to understand how authors stage the social nature of their creative processes, and trace the socio-aesthetic implications of this trend across wide-ranging case studies that exemplify new hybrid approaches: the new pathways between aesthetic theatre and social practice that emerge from The Mill - City of Dreams, a Bradford-based community theatre project; the meeting of social movement and art project in the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt; the open-sourced and dispersed model of mass co-authorship in PARK(ing) Day; the invitation to co-authorship in playwright Charles Mee’s ‘(re)making project’; and even a brand of social authorship that results in a solo performance, from my own practice as playwright and devising performer. What emerges is that as the aesthetic performs the social and the social rewrites the aesthetic, neither can be thought of independently of the other. Further, meaningful social engagement and the potential for social change are not always where they appear to be. This thesis provides a framework for analysing and evaluating the social aesthetics of these socially authored performances.