Call: Digital Memory and Techno-nostalgia: Remembering / Dismembering Performance (at TaPRA 2015)

Digital Memory and Techno-nostalgia: Remembering / Dismembering Performance

Performance and New Technologies Working Group at TaPRA (Theatre and Performance Research Association) 2015 Conference
University of Worcester, 8th to 10th September 2015.

Call Deadline (abstracts): 17 April 2015

The ephemeral nature of live performance has always forced practitioners, critics and notaries to consider ways of committing performance to memory. The act of remembering itself was first expressed through theatrical means by Giulio Camillo and his memory theatre – giving birth to a performative technology, a mnemo-technic reliant on the theatrical frame. The commitment of the ephemeral act to memory most often happens through technological means, which in the digital era produce audio-visual traces that can appear to lend some objectivity in the act of remembrance. If technology defines how we remember live performance, then performances are re-membered –and thus reconstructed– through the lens of those technologies dominant at their times. The digital times we inhabit entail an inevitable commitment of ephemeral acts to the im/materialities of the digital; but how do our ever-prolific digital memories alter the ways we remember performance? And what new technologies affect memory, either as mnemonic, or as the means by which to adapt, extend or develop the way we recollect and what is re-membered?

The past is a place for both recollection and re-imagination with no same version of the past evident. Nevertheless, until recently, records of live performances would more often be linear narratives, canonical in viewpoint, and restricted to archival use. Digital technologies and mobile networks allow immediate and wide access to technologies of recording, storage and retrieval, which enable participation in the creation of individual and shared memories, and challenge the canonicity of performance records. For this reason, digital encounters with the past tend to intersect recollection with story-telling, often relating the same events and circumstances through multi-voiced narratives that offer supplementary or competing perspectives. We invite participants to reflect on emergent digital story-telling techniques and intermedial modes of narration as practices of performance documentation. When everyone becomes a potential archivist of performance acts, performance documents cease to be linear, authorial narratives; instead, they become the micro-documents of multiple, fragmented experiences. How can we, individually and collectively, remember, narrate and re-enact performance through its digital detritus? How can we tap into the richness of multiplicity afforded by ‘heritage from below’ practices (Robertson, 2012) without ‘dismembering’ the actual performance act?

Furthermore, as digital technologies become ever more dominant in our daily lives facilitating and complicating them in equal measure, there is an increasing trend to look back to technologies of the past with some nostalgia. Nostalgia, from the Greek nostoV (nostos, return home) and algoV (algos, pain), denotes the yearning to return to an experience of place or community that has been lost. A ‘homesickness of sorts’, it suggests ‘an attempt by actors in the present to return to a comfortable and ideal setting.’ (Pinch and Reinecke in Bjisterveld and van Dijck, 2009:166) Recently, technonostalgia is being expressed through looking back at analogue technologies as objects and processes of desire, through ‘excursions into vintage gear’ (ibid). The nostalgic return is bound by horizons of melancholy, sentiment, menace, and emotion. We ask, what is the affective potential of mnemonic devices– digitised photographs, social networks, sounds, music, video, graphics, words, and somas – and of ‘excursions’ into old media? What new combinations bring about shifts in the emotional temperature of our search for times lost, and how do those affect performance memories?

This Call invites contributors to consider how we remember both performance and technology, as well as performance through technology, in a digital era. Proposals might consider the following issues, though these are not exclusive:

  • Remembering Performance through Technology
  • Remembering Technology in Performance
  • Performance and Digital Memory / Re-collection
  • Collecting Ephemeral Acts / Performance and Digital Archives
  • Performance and Techno-nostalgia
  • Documentation Devices and Methods Intersecting Analogue and Digital
  • Heritage from Below and Performance Legacies
  • The Materiality of Performance Memory
  • Documenting Somatic Memories
  • Dismembering /Forgetting /Erasing Performance
  • Sound-theatres and Auditory Spaces of Memory
  • Performance Memory and Affect

This year, the Performance and New Technologies Working Group will be collaborating with the Performance and Documentation Working Group by holding a joint session, due to common interests. If you believe your paper/presentation is most appropriate for this session please state so. Please note that final decisions will be made by working group conveners.


Please send a 300 word proposal, a short biographical statement, and an outline of technical requirements by 17th April to both Maria Chatzichristodoulou, and Jeremy Kelly,

Proposals, if accepted, may be directed into a range of presentational formats: traditional panels (with 20 minute papers); pre-circulated papers that form the basis for a short presentation and discussion; or, where appropriate, performance-based panels. While we welcome statements of preference, final decisions will be made by the working group convenors and will be indicated at the time of acceptance. We welcome alternative, practice-as-research or performative proposals that engage rigorously with the theme, but these must be achievable with limited resources and within a 20-30 minute time period.

The Working Group also warmly welcomes participants who do not wish to present a paper this year.

The convenors of the Performance and New Technologies Working Group are Maria Chatzichristodoulou, Jeremy Kelly and Martin Blain.

Please note: Only one proposal may be submitted for the TaPRA 2015 Conference. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Papers. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the conference; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the conference venue. If your paper has been accepted, yet you have not registered for the Conference by the final registration deadline of 14 August 2015, we will deem you no longer intend to participate and present at TaPRA 2015.

Dr Maria Chatzichristodoulou
Lecturer in Performance and New Media
Programme Leader MA by Research & PhD in Theatre and Performance
Disability, Equality and Diversity Tutor
School of Drama, Music and Screen
University of Hull

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