Prof. Bruce Johnson, University of Technology Sydney, University of Glasgow and University of Turku
Bruce Johnson was formerly professor of English. He currently holds honorary professorships in Departments including Music, Cultural History, Communications and Media in the universities of Glasgow, Turku (Finland) and UTS, UNSW and Macquarie in Australia.
He has long been active as a jazz musician, award-winning broadcaster and record producer. As government advisor on music policy, his work included the legislation-changing report Vanishing Acts on live music, co-authored with Shane Homan. He was prime mover in establishing the government-funded Australian Jazz Archives. He co-founded the International Institute for Popular Culture in Finland, and is on the editorial boards of some half dozen of the world’s leading academic music journals.
His academic publications number several hundred, including author/editor of around a dozen books, among the most recent of which are on popular music and violence, jazz and totalitarianism, and sound, memory and space. In addition to continuing work on music, his current research field is sound and cognitive theory.
Death by Sound
Violence, it may be said, is the pursuit of politics by other means. That is, it is the clearest possible demonstration of relations of power. As cinema commentary exemplifies, the study of the performance of violence is dominated by the visual. But the settings in which violence is performed have always involved sound, and most particularly music. A brief overview of the history of this connection discloses that it can be traced back to the earliest documents of human culture. Since the late nineteenth century the nexus between sound and violence has become ever more powerful, to the point that, according to the World Health Organisation, by the turn of the century noise constituted one of the two major threats to social and individual welfare; it now provides the setting for all the tensions in a globalised consumerist economy.
This is the performance mode I want to engage with today for a number of reasons. One, I think the live performance of violence in the Western world is most commonly conducted in sonic and in particular musical settings. Two: I want to suggest that sonic modalities are, for transcultural, physiological reasons particularly effective vehicles for the conduct and performance of violence. I want to explore why this might be so. What is it about sound that has such affective power? This will involve some entry into the areas of acoustic phenomenology and of the neuro-science of sonic affect. And I want to propose that these enquiries will take us into new theories of cognition which can be most effectively investigated by deploying, not the visual phenomena that currently dominate the field, but the affective potential of sounding and hearing. And that potential is most dramatically demonstrated in the sonic performance of violence.
Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, University of Ulster
Lisa Fitzpatrick studied in Trinity College and University College Dublin prior to completing her PhD at the Graduate Centre for Studyof Drama, University of Toronto.
She is currently Head of the Research Graduate School for the Faculty of Arts. She has published extensively on performance and violence, post-conflict theatre, and gender, and has been funded by the British Academy and the Canadian High Commission.
She has been aninvited speaker at a number of events, including the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL), the WarwickPolitics and Performance Network, and the Irish Theatrical Diaspora project. She convened the conference 'The North: Exile, Diaspora, Troubled Performance', in Derry in 2012 and, worked with the Playhouse on the International Culture Arts Network Festival in Derry in 2013.
She is a founding member of the Irish Society for Theatre Research, and convenes the Gender and Performance Working Group.
Gender, Violence, and Irish Nationalism
This paper explores the relationships of nationalism to systemic and symbolic forms of violence, drawing on the work of Judith Butler on subject formation and vulnerability, and the work of Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Slavoj Zizek to examine how violence is represented on stage and in mimesis.
The paper considers examples from the work of Anu Productions, the Theatre of Witness project, and Smashing Times Theatre Company, as well as examples from popular history-based performances such as the 2016 musical The Train. While the majority of this work examines lived experience in conflict situations, The Train offers a a largely optimistic comic response to some of the systemic abuses of the past, telling the story of the 1971 ‘Contraceptive Train’ which brought the Women’s Movement to public attention.
The paper seeks to identify a range of performance strategies used to draw affective and empathetic responses from spectators, and the capacity of performed violence to effect these responses.
Dr Bree Hadley, Queensland University of Technology
Dr Bree Hadley is a senior lecturer in the Creative Industries Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology.
Bree was the keynote speaker at the Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Symposium in June 2016.
Bree's research 'investigate[s] the construction of identity in contemporary, pop cultural and public space performance – live and online public space performance – often concentrating on the way artists marked by disability and other bodily differences mobilise images and media from the public sphere to subvert stereotypes, and the way spectators respond to such work.'
It’s A Social Experiment: Pranks, Political Activism, and Performing Marginality for a Politically Correct Mainstream Audience
In this paper, I investigate the phenomenon of so-called ‘social experiments’, where pranksters perform stigmatised identities in public spaces and places – from breastfeeding mothers, to Muslim women wearing burqas, to disabled people using canes, crutches and wheelchairs – to prompt a response from passersby. Though cast as politicised performances of the real designed to draw attention to the prejudices of the average passerby, the structure of these ‘social experiments’, frequently focused on candid camera style pranks they film, and upload on social media for all to see, with the hope of going viral and getting a run on morning television, raises performative, political and ethical questions. In this paper, I unpack some of these questions, using examples of social experiments focused on (dis)ability, race, religion, and gender identity. I examine some of the different effects these social experiments can produce, depending on whether they are performed by actors, pranksters or political activists, and whether they are performed by people who really occupy the stigmatised identity they perform or people who are simply wanting to say something about a fraught social topic. I ask whether these social experiments, when they go viral online, produce bonding social capital within communities impacted by current social prejudices, bridging social capital between these and broader communities, both, or neither.
Agon Hamza, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Agon Hamza is a PhD candidate, working under the supervision of Slavoj Zizek, at the Institute of Philosophy, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Art, Ljubljana. He is also the co-editor and co-founder of Crisis and Critique. His work ranges over a number of topics but is informed primarily by psychoanalysis, Marxism and Hegel. He has published Slavoj Zizek and Dialectical Materialism (with Frank Ruda) and has a monograph Althusser & Pasolini: Philosophy, Marxism and Film forthcoming.
Agon was a keynote speaker at the Mediating the Real conference held 31st August - 2nd September 2016.
From Lacan to Althusser and back: on the theory of communist practice
In “Materialist Dialectics” Louis Althusser defines practice from the standpoint of a certain notion of rule (all practices, theoretical and ideological included, transform a raw material into a determinate product). Departing from this, we could criticize that theory of transformation as being the notion of concrete labour in capitalism. Isn’t the capitalist mode of production which has created the theory of abstract labour, which is this general pattern all activities are supposed to carry as their infra-structure (the pattern of transforming an indeterminate x into a determinate y)? What if militant work requires a different theory of transformation in order to break away from capitalist mode of production?
In this paper, I will explore the consequences of rethinking the notion of practice based on Lacan's and Žižek’s psychoanalytical and philosophical contributions, specially considering the theory of the drives, where means and ends can be inverted, and the theory of the subject, where the result of a transformation is not always determined, but sometimes negative and elusive.
Dr Misha Kavka, The University of Auckland
Dr Misha Kavka is an academic in the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at the University of Auckland. Her research primarily concerns critical theoretical understandings of reality television. Misha has written a number of monographs, including Reality Television and Reality Matters: Affect and Intimacy in Reality Television. Misha has written extensively on affect and media theory, as well as psychoanalysis, including for Camera Obscura. Misha is also Associate Dean (academic) in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland.
Misha was a keynote speaker at the Mediating the Real conference held 31st August - 2nd September 2016.
Return to Real Time: Temporal Elasticity and the 'Spread-Event'
Social media has been hailed as the ultimate real-time mechanism. The phrase ‘real time’ recalls documentary film, implying a camera that captures events as experienced, in their full duration and sequential temporality. The experiential media that have experimented with the ‘real’ since the rise and fall of traditional documentary, however, increasingly problematise this notion of real time by revealing the multiple, expandable nature of mediated immediacy. Reality TV telescopes time into nuggets of heightened affect; social media expands time through shared attention to non-events; and the prosthetic media of wearable technology subjects the body to a dialectical temporality of movement and arrest, bound to a dialectical spatiality of planarity and depth. Rather than ‘real events’ consisting of isolatable and sequential moments, these media forms expose real time as elastic and malleable, its expanse, density and duration delineated by engagement and affect. Drawing on Bergson’s notion of temporal heterogeneity and Benjamin’s notion of standstill from the Arcades project, this paper will bring together the three media forms mentioned in order to argue, contra Badiou, that our contemporary experience of time is affectively attentional rather than evental. The event thus disappears in its mediation, not because it is unreal but rather because it becomes a ‘spread-event’, incalculably enlarged from within by media users’ affective engagement.
Dr Allen Meek, Massey University
Dr Allen Meek is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English and Media Studies at Massey University. He is the author of Trauma and Media: Theories, Histories and Images (Routledge 2010) which explained how the concept of trauma has been used to understand modern media in the writings of theorists such as Freud, Benjamin, Adorno, Barthes, Derrida and Zizek. His latest book is Biopolitical Media: Catastrophe, Immunity and Bare Life (Routledge 2016). Dr Meek teaches a 300 level paper called 'Trauma and Media' which explores the role of media images in shaping our understanding of war, genocide, atrocity, terrorism and other catastrophes. He is currently researching how natural history and biology have shaped modern conceptions of cultural memory, particularly the transmission of the past by media.
Allen was a keynote speaker at the Mediating the Real conference, held 31st August - 2nd September 2016.
Real Time Transmission: Mediating Trauma and Managing Political Identity
The concept of the real has become central to conceptions of collective memory that make trauma, in Caruth's memorable phrase, a “symptom of history.” The notion of a traumatic reality provoking a crisis of representation, however, has distracted from the important role that stress-inducing images and narratives play in defining, mobilizing and controlling political identity. Wounding through violence and shock perform important functions in processes of religious and political initiation and conversion. For this reason the uses of audiovisual media to produce traumatic identifications can also be understood as real effects of power.
Trauma theory has promoted testimony as the model for mediated trauma because it directly addresses the viewer as witness and in doing so potentially constitutes a political community. Felman has shown how the emphasis on testimony in Holocaust representation has its origins in the 1961 Eichmann trial, but she neglects the important role that audiovisual media played in covering the event. Arendt criticised the way that the trial put the victims central stage, making the event a “show trial” and focusing on what the Jews had suffered rather than what Eichmann had done. Contra Arendt, Felman argues that the trial gave a voice to survivors and that the purpose of emphasizing the living witness was to transmit the emotional shock of the events rather than just the factual proof. As Pinchevski has shown, audiovisual recording has determined much of this change in the function of testimony as embodiment, affect, and silence. But Arendt’s argument -- that the more important lesson of the trial was the evidence of a new kind of political subject constituted by a pervasive system of state violence – potentially leads us toward an alternative theory of mediated trauma.
We can develop a different perspective on testimony if we consider deliberate attempts to traumatize media viewers. Psychological research on “stress films” in the early 1960s made repeated use of one specific film, Subincision, showing an initiation rite involving genital mutilation of Australian Aboriginal boys. The actual content of this film and the reasons for its selection have, to my knowledge, as yet attracted no commentary. I propose that this film should be related to the idea of trauma as a transformation of cultural identity and will discuss two important historical contexts for understanding this research on mediated trauma. The first is the importance of colonial trauma as an historical precedent for the Holocaust (a connection also suggested by Arendt). Was Subincision distressing for Western viewers because they perceived its violence as “primitive” or “incomprehensible”? The second is the politics of the Cold War and experiments on “thought reform” and “mind control.” This period, in which the Eichmann trial was televised and research undertaken on stress films, was shaped by the ideological struggles of the Cold War and the attempt to re-programme populations though the systematic application of shock and the threat of mass destruction.
The final section of the paper considers the ISIS decapitation videos released on the Internet as contemporary examples of stress-inducing media. As Foucault has shown, public execution is a fundamental means of acting out traditional sovereign power. But ISIS are also knowingly transmitting shock and threatening violence in an image space shaped by technological media consumption. Today media transmit traumatic realities as a means of constituting and managing new political subjects, no longer limited by the traditional sovereign power of religion and state. This paper traces a genealogy of that new subject.
Prof. Nikos Papastergiadis, University of Melbourne
Nikos Papastergiadis is a professor at the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He studied at the University of Melbourne and University of Cambridge. Prior to returning to the University of Melbourne he was a lecturer at the University of Manchester. Throughout his career, Nikos has focussed on issues relating to cultural identity and worked on collaborative projects with artists and theorists of international repute, such as John Berger, Jimmie Durham and Sonya Boyce. His current research focuses on the investigation of the historical transformation of contemporary art and cultural institutions by digital technology. His sole authored publications include Modernity as Exile (1993), Dialogues in the Diaspora (1998), The Turbulence of Migration (2000), Metaphor and Tension (2004) Spatial Aesthetics: Art Place and the Everyday (2006), Cosmopolitanism and Culture (2012), Ambient Perspectives (2013) as well as being the editor of over 10 collections, author of numerous essays which have been translated into over a dozen languages and appeared in major catalogues such as the Biennales of Sydney, Liverpool, Istanbul, Gwanju, Taipei, Lyon, Thessaloniki and Documenta 13. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and co-chair of the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture, and Chair of the International Advisory Board for the Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore.
Nikos is presenting one of two keynote addresses at Performing Precarity: Refugee Representation, Determination and Discourses.
Does philosophy contribute to an invasion complex?: Sloterdijk the Antagonist and the Agonism of Mouffe
Why does the presence of cultural difference inspire such hostility? Even if the proportion of people who are defined as a minority is expanding, and the role of cultural difference is assuming greater significance in public life, why is this presence interpreted as such a threat to the nation, and why is the arrival of the other rendered as the apocalyptic end of civilization? The former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott distilled these fears in his imperative: that migrants should “join us not change us”. In this lecture we will examine how the disproportionate fears that are directed at multiculturalism, are also entangled with wider anxieties that are also associated with the turbulence of global migration patterns and the transnational challenges to refugee flows. These concerns also revolve around an even broader discussion on the relationship between mobility and culture in contemporary society.
Prof. Suvendrini Perera, Curtin University
Suvendrini Perera is a John Curtin Distinguished Professor and Research Professor of Cultural Studies at Curtin University, where she also serves as Deputy Director of the Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute. Her recent books include Australia and the Insular Imagination: Beaches, Borders, Boats and Bodies and Survival Media: The Politics and Poetics of Mobility and the War in Sri Lanka. She receives research funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). She is the lead researcher on the transnational project, Deathscapes, on racialized state violence in settler societies, also funded by the Australian Research Council. She is a co-founder of the collective, Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites.
Suvendrini is presenting one of two keynote addresses at Performing Precarity: Refugee Representation, Determination and Discourses.
Small Acts: Performance, Activism and the Spaces Between
Australian refugee policy operates through complex dynamics of visibility and invisibility, of spectacle and secret. These, in turn, are bound up in complex negotiations of the licit and illicit, of law and legitimacy, domestic and international, the sovereign and the humanitarian. Thus, on the one hand, the state literally advertises the harshness of its treatment of potential refugees, while on the other it has put in place a series of extraordinary legal measures to prevent the disclosure of ‘on-water’ matters and to punish those who expose abuses in its detention centres.
Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites (RAPBS), as its name suggests, casts its mission as one of making visible that which is concealed from public view or rendering legible that which is excised or redacted from the record.
Drawing on Maurizio Albahari’s powerful theorization of the ‘crimes of peace’, the paper focuses on the RAPBS performance, ‘Call to Account’ staged across three Australian cities to mark international Human Rights Day in December 2015. It considers the political, theoretical and affective effects of ‘Call to Account’ and similar performative acts that aim to make visible the crimes of the state, through the visibilization of grief and mourning.
Professor Perera is also delivering a public lecture in Archway Theatre 2 at 5pm on November 22nd, in association with the conference:
Lost at sea: Searching for Australia’s moral compass
‘I mean it's almost like Australia has lost its moral compass in terms of where it's going.’ This comment by New Zealand Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, David Shearer, is part of an international chorus of condemnation of Australian policy towards refugees, and in particular its most recent practices of outsourced offshore detention on its neighbouring countries of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
This lecture presents a spatial analysis of Australian refugee policy through the concept of the borderscape. As distinct from understandings of the border as a singular and static line demarcating the territorial limits of a state, the borderscape is a multiplicity of shifting spaces, definitions, relations and practices of sovereignty.
The Australian borderscape includes coastlines, seas, outlying islands and territories as well as its varied claims of tenure over neighbouring lands and waters. It both remakes and reinforces divides among regional states, as historical relations of colonial sovereignty are reworked in the present through neoliberalized economic and cultural relations of power (aid, trade, technology, infrastructure), as well as militarized practices for securitizing and controlling the region.
The lecture locates Australian current border protection policies (including its policies towards New Zealand citizens incarcerated in immigration detention) in the context of its enduring spatial imaginaries and understanding of its place in the region.
Prof. Paul Tapsell, University of Otago
Professor Paul Tapsell is a lecturer in Te Tumu - School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies here at the University of Otago.
He presented the keynote address at the Ritual and Cultural Performance Hui and Symposium.
His research interests include Māori identity in 21st century New Zealand, cultural heritage & museums, taonga trajectories in and beyond tribal contexts, Māori values within governance policy frameworks, Indigenous entrepreneurial leadership, marae and mana whenua, genealogical mapping of tribal landscapes and Te Arawa historical and genealogical knowledge.
Prof Tapsell's keynote provides a Māori tribal perspective of the origins of marae as a ritually performative space, from navigation through to symbols of exclusive control over surrounding resources (mana o te whenua). As centres of the tribal universe on occasion marae become ancestrally-focused ritually pronounced demonstrations of kin identity. This is achieved through elders' prescribed collapsing of genealogical time (whakapapa) literally enabling descendants to engage their ancestors in the present. Key to such performances are tāonga - treasured belongings passed down from the ancestors themselves - capable of triggering critical ancestral memories, binding all present in terms of kinship and descent. Elders' performances of tāonga are critical to maintaining the boundary between tapu and noa, ensuring marae community wellbeing is maintained, especially during life-crisis (tangihanga). What is the role of today's tribal marae where the majority of descendants now live away from their ancestral homelands... Where now are tāonga being performed, and by whom?