Public address : performing fiction in urban spaces
thesisposted on 2023-05-28, 12:19 authored by Bain, SG
This practice-based performance research tactically implements fiction to address matters of public space in the urban environment. A public address‚ÄövÑvp, defined as a speech made in public (performance), the equipment used for its delivery (technique) and the location where the community assembles (site), constitutes the method, means and setting for enactments of public discourse in the global city. The highly mediated world we live in is underpinned with both facts and fictions, though it is the individual's responsibility to decipher between these seemingly oppositional modes of expression. In the globally connected city, both are implicated in a perpetual drive for identity, yet independently they reveal very different things: fact belongs to what is already known, everyday life and so-called 'reality'; while fiction, which is aligned with imagination and artistic representation, actively seeks a generative spark. In relocating the theatre to the quotidian reality of public space, the research asks, can foregrounding an interplay of fact and fiction reveal deeper truths about how the global city is imaginatively constructed? My interdisciplinary research practice, identified as public-space-performance, integrates participatory art techniques, theatre making, spatial practice and public art actions to reveal a two-directional flow between fact and fiction in urban socio-political constructions. This involves identifying key theories of fiction from philosophy, narratology and literary theory, and applying them to performative situations, cumulatively designated fiction as method‚ÄövÑvp, a term proposed by art & performance researchers Jon Shaw & Theo Reeves-Evison. The resulting tactical performances employ actions and develop them as processes, discussed through a sequence of chapters as floating, negotiating, unsettling, and drifting, each implicating a movement through the city rather than a static materialization. Three independent public-space-performances emerge, collectively revealing rich fictional worlds while provoking a search for meaning between the performer, the public and the city. The Floating Theatre arrives from the sea and presents itself as an object of illusion-making. Cornered Speaker is a platform for free speech that unfastens the legacy of 8 censored speech. The Drifting Room disguises itself as a building but refuses any sense of place. Individually these mobile objects use theatre to address the public, exposing the city's innate theatricality and shared illusions of public identity. Designed for and trialled in Auckland, New Zealand, the performances draw on common influences of the global city, which is increasingly driven by service and finance economies, operating partnerships between public and private to maintain public spaces, and experience-driven consumer values. The aim is for future performances in global cities further afield to draw on these same dynamics as a template, unveiling the productive fictions of public address. Designed to adapt and respond to specific (local) and shared (global) social histories and fictional anecdotes, each performance reveals how mechanisms of fiction are employed by power systems (the state, corporate and private wealth) to uphold political and social structures that define our experience of the city. Through spatial archetypes of public address, theatre comes to town, not as a travelling circus with exotic acts from far-off shores, but as a whimsical mobile object exposing fictional worlds within the city itself. Public-space-performance constitutes a critical spatial practice, which is consistent with the claim by political theorist Chantal Mouffe that 'artistic practices can contribute to unsettling the dominant hegemony' by creating different situations across multiple urban locations.
Rights statementCopyright 2021 the author The supplementary file includes the following published article: Bain, S. 2019, Strategies of Fiction, Ruukku, vol. 2019, no. 11, viewed 23 May, DOI https://doi.org/10.22501/ruu. Ruukku published using a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/0