Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Performance and Cultural Industries


Research Seminar Series

Research Seminar Series 2017-18

Monday 2 October 2017

Prosthetics and Personhood
Professor Sita Popat

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Exploring Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman- Reinventing Menstrual Rituals Through New Performance Practices
Marisa Carnesky

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Practice-as-Research Panel
Dr Scott Palmer, Dr Kara McKechnie, chaired by Dr Anna Fenemore

Dr Kara McKechnie

Dramaturgy: bridging artistic practice and Practice-as-Research


Dramaturgy and dramaturges often worked, in this respect, as bridge and bridgebuilders: they are, after all, halfway between theory and practice, between thinking and doing. (Kerkhoven 1994:12)

This paper constitutes an enquiry into dramaturgy as artistic practice in theatre and opera, and its relationship with Practice-as-Research (PaR). Its aims are

  1. to consider current trends and impulses within the fields of dramaturgy and PaR
  2. to discuss the relationship between these two fields in principle. Under which circumstances can the practice of dramaturgy, located in between research and practice, also be PaR?
  3. to illustrate the discussion through findings from production dramaturgy on L’histoire du soldat (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, April 2017) and Flood (Hull, City of Culture, throughout 2017).

What constitutes dramaturgical practice? It can be defined as research which is undertaken for conversion into production-related practice. PaR addresses research through practice, or practices towards a resolution (Haseman, Nelson et al). The key question is whether dramaturgy is or can be PaR. Is dramaturgy PaR by default, or do dramaturgical practice and PaR share some common ground, but are not identical? What is dramaturgical practice in relation to PaR – is it the practice which takes place during a production process (where a conceptual framework is addressed and realised through practice) – or is it the outcome of the practice, i.e. the production itself?

Existing research throws into focus the differences between practicing dramaturgy as part of a tailored research project, often in HE institutions or in an industry context, raising questions around collaboration, control and tailored research methods.

Dr Kara McKechnie is Lecturer in Dramaturgy at the University of Leeds and founding member of NORN (Northern Opera Research Network) with Prof Rachel Cowgill and Prof Sarah Hibberd. The inaugural conference Operatic Immersions took place at the Universities of Leeds and Huddersfield in 2016.  Apart from advancing the pedagogy of dramaturgy and its professional and academic contexts, Kara regularly works with Leeds-based company Opera North in various dramaturgical functions, e.g. a series of Inside Opera events accompanying The Ring of the Nibelung tour in 2016. She has also published a monograph, Historical and Dramaturgical Practice on Opera Studies, applied to the work of Opera North (Emerald Publishing, 2014). In 2017, she has collaborated with director Alessandro Talevi on Stravinsky’s  L’histoire du soldat (Maggio Musicale, Florence, 2017) and Leeds-based company SlungLow (Flood, Parts 2-4).


Dr Scott Palmer

Reflecting on Practice as Research: A decade of playful experimentation

This session will focus on the use of playful experimentation as research methodology revisiting work undertaken from 2004 (in collaboration with Prof. Sita Popat, undergraduate & postgraduate students and external industry partners KMA). The presentation will outline how an open-ended workshop within a theatre context led through iterative cycles of practice-research to a number of high-profile public outputs and ultimately to an Impact Case study for REF2014.

The session will also introduce current work linked to Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence (LITE) Creativity and the Mobile Phone project in collaboration with students and researchers at University of Miami where the smartphone offers new possibilities for exploring performance documentation, relational performance and audience experience through the use of 360VR technologies and techniques. (There will be an opportunity to experience this individually at the end of the session).


Dr Scott Palmer is a University of Leeds Excellence & Innovation Fellow and Lecturer in Scenography in the School of Performance & Cultural Industries. His teaching and research focus on new ways of thinking about light as a creative performance practice, immersive theatrical environments and the interaction between technology and performance. Publications include the monograph Light: Readings in Theatre Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and Scenography Expanded: An Introduction to Contemporary Performance Design co-edited with Dr Joslin McKinney (Bloomsbury Methuen 2017). He has recently contributed a chapter examining historical notions of theatrical darkness in Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre (Methuen Engage 2017). He was co-convenor of the International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR) Scenography Working Group (2013-16), an executive member of the Association of Lighting Designers, associate editor of the Routledge Theatre and Performance Design journal and co-editor of the new Bloomsbury Performance + Design book series. His research has contributed to the scenography of DV8 Physical Theatre’s internationally acclaimed To Be Straight With You (2007-9) and the realisation of Phoenix Dance & NVA’s Ghost Peloton (Yorkshire Festival 2014).

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Negotiating Dis-ease: Jewish Women and the Work of Woody Allen
Roberta Mock, Professor of Performance Studies and Director of the Doctoral College at the University of Plymouth

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Activist/Protest panel
Dr Ally Walsh, School of Performance and Cultural Industries and Professor Paul Routledge, School of Geography and Jason Allen, School of Modern Languages

Prison protests, Hunger strikes and Standing in resistance: Margaretta D’Arcy and Orange is the New Black
Dr Ally Walsh

Space invaders: power, politics and protest
Professor Paul Routledge, School of Geography, University of Leeds
This talk will examine the spatial strategies involved in the undertaking of protest, grounding the discussion in ongoing scholar activist work with the landless farmers movement of Bangladesh.

Misperforming the Law: Reconceptualising Memory in The Trial of Governor Eyre
Dr Jason Allen, Leverhulme EC Fellow in the School of Modern Languages
A paper exploring the use of theatre and law to confront colonial atrocities in Jamaica

Wednesday 9 May 2018

A presentation talking about his work on adapting Ming Dynasty drama in China
Dr Adam Strickson

Research Seminar Archive

Monday 5 June 2017

Lines of Continuity: The Case of Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre Tradition

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Investigating the Politics of Intimacy

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Translating Vertigo: reflections on relocating Snowdon’s Indian Face to the Kendal Mountain Festival using practice-led enquiry

Tuesday 7 March 2017

On Tools and Material(itie)s

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Spectacles of punishment: the cell, the body, and the state

Wednesday 9 November 2016

To be more animal

17.00-19.00, Alec Clegg Studio, stage@leeds building

Professor Helen Steward (Philosophy, University of Leeds) and Dr Lourdes Orozco (School of English, University of Leeds)

Chair: Dr Nicolas Salazar Sutil

Goats, Big Cats and other Beasts: Turning Animal and Performing the Limits of the Human

Lourdes Orozco

In this co-authored paper (with Jennifer Parker-Starbuck) we propose a comparative investigation of three distinct acts of human to animal transformation involving technology, surgery and transposition. Unlike Deleuze and Guattari’s well-cited ‘becoming-animal’, these transformations explore more literal becomings that investigate actual lives and behaviours of non-human animals. The paper presents a critical exploration of Thomas Twhaites – the Goat Man – a UK based designer who lived for a year in the Swiss Alps as a goat transforming his body into that of the animal with the use of technology. It then turns to engage critically with the late ‘Stalking Cat’ who, through body modifications (surgery, tattoos, and implants), underwent a lifelong transformation to become-cat. We will finally investigate the work of ethologist Charles Foster whose last project has entailed living as a series of different UK indigenous species (badger, deer, fox). The paper proposes these three interventions as performative acts that explore and expand the concepts of what it means to be ‘human’ and ‘animal’ in three different contexts: the technological, the surgical/personal and the ethological. Embedded in a theoretical framework situated at the cross-roads of performance studies, animal studies and posthumanism, the paper also wants to challenge disciplinary boundaries and understands the scientific, performative and the personal spheres as valid and potential vehicles to become –human-animal.

Biography: Lourdes is Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the School of English, University of Leeds. She has published widely on the intersection of theatre/performance studies, animal and children studies. Her book publications include: Theatre & Animals (2013, Palgrave) and Performing Animality co edited with Jennifer Parker-Starbuck (2015, Palgrave).

Embracing Animality

Helen Steward

In this talk, I’ll discuss some of the work done for my AHRC Fellowship project, ‘Persons as Animals’, and in particular, the collaboration with Chester Zoo that formed a part of that project, a collaboration that I hope to continue, although the Fellowship has now come to an end. The project attempted to make philosophical progress in certain areas of philosophy of mind by forefronting our animality, seeking to understand cognition, perception and agency in ways which emphasize the continuities and commonalities found within the animal kingdom. In further work with the zoo, I want to explore possible ways of challenging our inclination to think of ourselves as outside the realm of the animal.

Biography: Helen Steward is Professor of Philosophy of Mind and Action at the University of Leeds. She is the author of The Ontology of Mind (Oxford: OUP, 1997) and A Metaphysics for Freedom (Oxford: OUP, 2012), as well as many papers on free will, agency, mental causation and ontology of mind.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Dazzle and Camouflage

17.00-18.00, Clothworkers North Building LT (Cinema) 2.31

Bruno Martelli and Ruth Gibson

Chair: Nicolas Salazar Sutil

Gibson and Martelli will be showing recent works (including MAN A and Summerbranch), which have dealt with the subject of natural and military camouflage as points of departure for digital arts practice. Unlike traditional camouflage, which operates on the principle of concealment, dazzle cammo uses complex arrangements of high-contrast, interrupted patterns of geometric shapes intended to confuse the calculation of a ship’s range, speed and bearing in an enemy’s optical gunnery rangefinder. Gibson/Martelli’s recent installation MAN A brought this thoroughly modern aesthetic into a contemporary framework through a customised ‘augmented reality’ mobile application created by Martelli. In presenting stylised humanoid forms whose movements are derived from 3D motion-captured contemporary dance performances, Gibson/Martelli reintegrate embodied perception into the otherwise purely optical dazzle design. Gibson will also show some of her artistic practice featuring camouflage and the use of disguise. For their work Summerbranch the artists spent two months in camouflage in the New Forest to experience their woodland surroundings first hand. Using tools of the military entertainment complex such as game engines and Performance capture techniques they have examined the forest and collected photographic data to construct their own inhabited world. Modelled from and referencing the flora and fauna of the New Forest itself by growing specific trees from virtual seeds they have created an enchanting and at times ominous canopy of forest life.

British electronic arts duo Gibson / Martelli make live simulations using performance capture, computer generated models and an array of technologies including Virtual Reality. Artworks of infinite duration are built within game engines where surround sound heightens the sense of immersion. They playfully address the position of the self in relation to technology, examining ideas of player, performer and visitor -intertwining familiar tropes of video games and art traditions of figure & landscape. Experimentation with software epitomises the work of the artists, adapting and ‘modding’, to create tightly controlled worlds for people to explore and interact with. They strip away, reconstruct, re-purpose, re-mix and customise the tools of mass entertainment, integral to their contemporary digital craft. Living and working in London, Ruth Gibson and Bruno Martelli collaborated as igloo from 1995–2010, their first work together, WindowsNinetyEight, was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award (BAFTA).

Gibson/Martelli are the recipients of the prestigious Lumen Prize. They have received a number of other awards and commissions internationally, from National Endowment for Science Technology and Art (NESTA), the Henry Moore Foundation, the Arts Council England, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). They exhibit in galleries, institutions, theatres and festivals around the world including The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), the Barbican, SIGGRAPH, ISEA, The Royal Opera House, Royal Festival Hall & 52nd Venice Biennale. Their work is included in various private and public collections. Recently they were artists-in-residence at Dartmouth College (Hanover, USA) with a solo exhibition at the Jaffe-Friede Gallery.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

The Quipu Project

17:30-18:30, Alec Clegg Studio

Sebastian Melo, executive producer Chaka Studios

Chair: Rebecca Jarman, Teaching Fellow in Latin American Studies (School of Languages Culture and Society, University of Leeds)

Quipu is a transmedia documentary and storytelling project that makes visible the stories of 272,000 women and 21,000 men who were sterilised in Peru in the mid­ 1990s during Alberto Fujimori’s regime as a way of reducing poverty. Thousands have claimed this happened without their consent, but until now they have been repeatedly silenced and denied justice. An interplay between a low-tech telephone line and a high-tech digital interface, the Quipu Project enables communities that are politically, geographically and digitally marginalised to tell their stories in their own words. The project is inspired by a ‘Quipu’ – an Incan artefact in which the colours of the strings and the formation of the knots across them is used to convey information, from numeric data to historical narratives. Audiences can explore the archive listening to individual voices following ‘strings’ that display the entire unedited testimonies. They are also able to listen across the archive following coloured ‘knots’ and hear the multi-vocal narrative that emerges from the repetition of themes and events.


Sebastian Melo
Born in Santiago, Chile in 1976, Melo has directed and produced documentary films since 2005. His first project “From Afar” was awarded the Grand Prix at the Santiago International Documentary Film Festival (FIDOCS) and distributed by Canal Arte (France). He is also the executive producer of the Quipu Project Quipu Project gives these people a tool to make their voices finally heard. Quipus are knotted cords used by the Incas to convey complex messages, and this interactive documentary project of the same name is a contemporary incarnation of this system. Melo is also a digital performance media artist. Recent works includes the Kinect video dance Structured Light (2013) the digital performance piece Flatland (2013) and Labanimations (2012). He is currently working on a multimedia installation using drone cameras to visualise military and mined zones in Northern Chile.


September 26th, 2016

On Choreotopography


The School of Performance and Cultural Industries and School of Geography are pleased to announce the joint Seminar On Choreotopography by Professor Paul Carter, School of Architecture and Design, RMIT University, Australia, http://www.rmit.edu.au/contact/staff-contacts/academic-staff/c/carter-professor-paul.  This Seminar will be convened in the School of Geography on Monday 26 September 2016, 5-6PM, followed by refreshments.  Abstract  below.  We give all interested peers and students across institutions a warm welcome.

On choreotopography
Characterised as public space dramaturgy, choreotopography describes the feedback loop between society and setting or, more immediately, social behavior and environment. Choreotopography is an approach to urban planning and spatial design more broadly, which establishes an ethical relationship between geography and planning. The aim is to promote a design ethics that can ensure care is stitched into the territory.

Carter’s work draws on urban walking, as well as Australian Aboriginal place performances, amongst other site-specific traditions, to develop a deep way of engaging with territory and its dynamic agency. Choreotopography focuses on the power of place-specific movement, and the emergence of form (conceived as both thought and graphic nomenclature) that may be generated through walkabout or know-on-the-go kinds of discourse. Favoring immersive mappings of terrain, choreotopography is also a useful theoretical framework that can inform perspectives simultaneously within human geography, design and performance. Carter will be drawing on recent published work, particularly his books Meeting Place (2013) and Places Made After Their Stories (2015), as well as from recent place-making projects, such as Passenger, a public artwork for Yagan Square in Perth (Western Australia), as well as his previous collaborations with Deakin Motion Lab and Melbourne Ballet Company around stage methods for choreotopographic design. Combining reflexive and critical thinking with artistic practice within Carter’s distinctive notion of “material thinking” this presentation will shed light on the function of place as an opportunity for meeting, through case studies that explore the discursive construction of shared spaces, and the ways in which symbolic narratives can glue spaces and people together.


Paul Carter is an internationally acclaimed and award winning interdisciplinary artist and author, currently Professor of Design and Urbanism at RMIT (Melbourne). His early books The Road to Botany Bay (1987) and The Lie of the Land (1996), have been widely recognized as a major contribution to postcolonial geography. Research conducted by Carter during the eighties and nineties into the dynamics of cross-cultural communication also generated a significant body of radiophonic work and museum installation, supported respectively by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Rundfunk, Cologne, which included artistic collaboration with the renowned composer Luciano Berio.

In the late 1990s, Carter’s studies in the mythopoetic mechanisms of placemaking led to major commissions as a public artist including Relay (with Ruark Lewis) for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and Nearamnew (a collaboration with Lab Architecture Studio) at Federation Square, Melbourne, which used text, typography and ground patterning to integrate ‘reading’ and ‘treading’. There followed numerous public space design projects, independently through Carter’s design studio Material Thinking, or in collaboration with leading Australian architects and landscape architects. His story-based tool for urban design and program integration was adopted by the Western Australian Government’s major planning agency, the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, in 2016.

Paul is the author of an extraordinary number of books, including: Places Made After Their Stories: design and the art of choreotopography (UWA, 2015), Turbulence: climate change and the design of complexity (Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), Meeting Place: the Human Encounter & the Challenge of Coexistence, (Minnesota, 2013), Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design, (UHP, 2008), Material Thinking, The Theory and Practice of Creative Research (MUP, 2004, 2014), The Road to Botany Bay, an essay in spatial history, (Faber & Faber, Knopf, and University of Chicago Press, 1987, 1988)

Paul is the recipient of a number of international awards including: AILA Victoria Design in Landscape Architecture Excellence Award (2014), National Landscape Architecture Award of Excellence of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (2010), the Woodward Medal for significant contributions to the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Melbourne (2003), Victorian Premier’s Award for Non-Fiction for The Road to Botany Bay (1988)

Further details on each research seminar can be found on the events section of the website

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