Extending Laura Cull’s question of whether performance thinks to caring, this chapter reimagines the relationship between caregiver and cared for as one of improvisational moral performance that provides the means to not only understand the emergent dynamics and phenomena of care but also reorient our approach to teaching ethics and cultivating ethical behavior. A caring improvisation is a moment when we draw upon a set of rehearsed cognitive and bodily skills of inquiry and action to responsively perform care on behalf of the needs of others. This approach assumes that moral normativity is emergent rather than fixed thus requiring the caregiver to have developed attention skills as well as an openness or disponibilité toward others. The aesthetic approach found in the relatively recently developed field of performance philosophy provides a means to think about care ethics/theory in non-authoritative ways beyond traditional analytical and a priori approaches to morality favoured by Western philosophy.
An examination of Godder’s socially engaged art and participatory dance for Parkinson’s work
This chapter examines whether an aesthetics of care may redefine dance performance and a choreographer’s artistic process. It discusses this idea by exploring a specific symbiotic relationship between a community dance programme and a professional artistic production, both directed by the choreographer Yasmeen Godder. Godder’s Stabat Mater (now performed under the title Simple Action) is examined in relation to the company’s programme for people with Parkinson’s. The chapter argues that Stabat Mater is an illustration of a different way of thinking about arts and health engagement: it is not about care for participants who are ill, but about the responsive and attentive relationship between artist and participant. Care operates within Stabat Mater and the dance work, which involves audience participation, is seen as an outcome of how the Parkinson’s dance programme has influenced Godder’s artistic process and production. In other words, Stabat Mater, as a performance of care, has to be understood in the context of Godder’s artistic engagement with people who can be seen as vulnerable movers (traditionally seen as ‘cared for’), but who changed the way Godder thought about her work.
Clean Break, founded in 1979 by two women serving sentences in an English prison, has developed over the last four decades into an influential theatre, education and advocacy organisation, positioning narratives of women affected by the criminal justice system centre stage. In this chapter, Joan Tronto’s work on care, markets and justice ( 2009, 2013) informs my reading of Clean Break’s organisational practices as care. From its distinctive approach to developing new writing for theatre, to its enduring commitment to reach audiences through partnerships with criminal justice, cultural and voluntary sector organisations, Clean Break creates structures of care for women who have fallen beyond the reach of state systems of welfare: the subjects of stigma, regulation and punishment. In this chapter, I argue that Clean Break not only critiques the intersectional oppressions that shape the lives of many women who experience the criminal justice system but, through its responsive and interconnected practices, attends to a care deficit in society, integral to the company’s commitment to equality and justice.
Care and debility in collaborations between non-disabled and learning disabled theatre makers
This chapter draws on the theories of Eva Kittay, Nel Noddings and Jasbir K. Puar to counter critical responses to Disabled Theater, a collaboration between Jérôme Bel and Theater HORA. Readings of the performance by Gerald Siegmund and Benjamin Wihstutz propose that Bel has constructed a discursive performance framework in which disability functions to critique aesthetic demands for virtuosity and, in doing so, implicitly challenge neoliberal values. Such readings, however, risk sustaining ableist conceptions of learning disability that are themselves fundamental to (neo)liberal ideas. Mind the Gap’s Contained, another collaborative performance involving non-disabled and learning disabled theatre makers in which acts of care are more visible, offers potential for an alternative reading. This performance creates a ‘convivial theatre’ where identities, relationships and meanings are formed within the performance encounter through acts of theatrical engrossment, the explicit attitude and labour of care for the performance situation itself. The chapter argues that similar traces of conviviality and theatrical engrossment can also be seen within Disabled Theater, eluding Bel’s discursive framework and opening up space for a more radical challenge to neoliberal principles.
Applied drama, ‘sympathetic presence’ and person-centred nursing
Matt Jennings, Pat Deeny, and Karl Tizzard-Kleister
The practices and principles of nursing are associated with kindness, respect and compassion (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2016); however, nurses can struggle to maintain these qualities within a dominant ‘mechanistic paradigm’ of care (de Zulueta, 2013: 123). Models such as person-centred nursing (PCN) have emerged as frameworks for improvement, in an effort to maintain these principles (McCormack and McCance, 2010). One key feature of PCN is the concept of ‘sympathetic presence’, which challenges the limitations of empathy and suggests that it is neither desirable nor possible ‘to fully comprehend another individual’s particular experience’ (McCormack and McCance, 2010: 102) – an idea with ramifications for broader arts in health practices. Since 2013, nursing and drama staff and students at Ulster University (UU) have collaborated on an interdisciplinary pedagogical project, using drama techniques to enhance the standard ‘role-play’ simulations for clinical training and assessment. Nursing students have explored traditional ‘applied drama’ approaches, such as image theatre (Augusto Boal, 1998), alongside exercises developed by Constantin Stanislavski for the training of professional actors (Benedetti, 1998). These students have demonstrated improved self-awareness, confidence and communication skills during and after their simulation assessments, developing a deeper understanding of ‘sympathetic presence’ within the nurse–patient relationship.
This introductory chapter establishes the guiding questions, values and theories that inform the dialogue between care and performance developed in this edited collection. This ideas are explored in two ways: first, in the aesthetic field of performance, where performance practices enact a mode of care for other people; and, second, in the context of professional practices of care, where care can be artful, performative and aesthetic. Drawing on the theorisation of caring inaugurated by feminist care ethicists in the 1980s and early 1990s, this chapter introduces a conceptualisation of care as intrinsically performative, embodied and relational, emerging from an engagement of both ‘practice and value’ (Held, 2006: 39). The examination of care through the dimension of performance is an innovative approach to the theorisation of caring practice and is new within the interconnected fields of care ethics and care theory more broadly. By developing an understanding of the performative dimension of care through an engagement with socially engaged performance practice, this edited collection explores the possibility for the development of more caring and careful creative societal practices as well as the development of performance work structured around artful and aesthetic caring encounters.
Beholding young people’s experiences and expressions of care through oral history performance
Kathleen Gallagher and Rachel Turner-King
This co-authored chapter represents a collaboration between the authors in the context of an international, multi-sited (Toronto, Athens, Coventry, Lucknow, Tainan), ethnographic research project, Youth, Theatre, Radical Hope and the Ethical Imaginary, which investigated how specific theatre-making practices (verbatim, oral history performance, devising) with young people might provoke caretaking of their own and others’ lives. This chapter focuses on the UK site, specifically a partnership between the University of Warwick, the Belgrade Theatre and Coventry Youth Services. Centring on the aesthetic processes of co-creating oral history performance, the chapter considers the particular caregiving and care receiving relationships between adults and young people, and among young people themselves. Emerging from this process was the extraordinary political awakening of one youth participant whose particular experience of being a foster child in the national care system made its way into the rehearsal room and ultimately motivated his campaign to oppose proposed cuts to local youth services. This chapter reflects on this micro, localised story of youth civic engagement by considering how the playful, relational and affective dimensions of theatre making might provoke forms of engaged citizenship worth considering in times of increasing social unrest.
The book advances our understanding of performance as a mode of caring and explores the relationship between socially engaged performance and care. It creates a dialogue between theatre and performance, care ethics and other disciplinary areas such as youth and disability studies, nursing, criminal justice and social care. Challenging existing debates in this area by rethinking the caring encounter as a performed, embodied experience and interrogating the boundaries between care practice and performance, the book engages with a wide range of different care performances drawn from interdisciplinary and international settings. Drawing on interdisciplinary debates, the edited collection examines how the field of performance and the aesthetic and ethico-political structures that determine its relationship with the social might be challenged by an examination of inter-human care. It interrogates how performance might be understood as caring or uncaring, careless or careful, and correlatively how care can be conceptualised as artful, aesthetic, authentic or even ‘fake’ and ‘staged’. Through a focus on care and performance, the contributors in the book consider how performance operates as a mode of caring for others and how dialogical debates between the theory and practice of care and performance making might foster a greater understanding of how the caring encounter is embodied and experienced.
Fluidity and reciprocity in the performance of caring in Fevered Sleep’s Men & Girls Dance
Amanda Stuart Fisher
This chapter examines Men & Girls Dance, a dance-based performance piece by Fevered Sleep that brings together a group of male professional contemporary dancers and girls who dance for fun. Through modes of performed caring and its use of carefully negotiated moments of reciprocity and interrelationalilty, the piece both foreshadows and explores some of the anxieties that proliferate the socially imagined site of the encounter between men and girls, offering care as a way of rethinking this. Drawing on the experiences of the dancers and the relationships of trust and mutual dependency that have been developed through the creative process, Men & Girls Dance establishes a playful, exploratory and exhilaratingly aesthetic, while also addressing the suspicions and anxieties that frame many quotidian exchanges between men and girls. Through a tender performance of togetherness, the performance makes visible new forms of ‘caring knowledge’ (Hamington, 2004) and repositions the dynamics of power and vulnerability that predetermine our perception of men’s encounters with girls. In so doing, in Men & Girls Dance, I argue, care becomes performed and reimagined, repositioned as something fluid, reciprocal and that ultimately emerges as a force of resistance to the restrictive discourses that shape masculinity and girlhood today.
This chapter expands on the idea of ‘aesthetics of care’ laid out in Chapter 2 and argues for an ethics based on our interdependency. Rather than independence as a source of ethical ambition, it proposes an ethics that accepts interdependence as a starting point for a mutual and relational basis for a more just society. The second half of the chapter then illustrates care aesthetics through three examples of practice – a theatre game and a theatre workshop for young children by the London Bubble Theatre and a performance by Peggy Shaw, directed by Lois Weaver.