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.
This chapter examines the durational live art performance bit-u-men-at-work. Created and performed as part of Performing Mobilities 2017, a city-wide festival in Melbourne, the work was the embodiment of a performance-as-research process with an agenda informed by post-human, new materialist and ecofeminist notions of material ecologies. Though the performance set out to investigate, question and possibly reconcile the abhorrent physical and cultural qualities of bitumen as a fossil fuel material, the industries invested in it and the social labour practices surrounding it, gestures of intimacy and care associated with repair emerged as significant transferable values towards developing an ethical material practice. The performance, as an artistic work, also attempted to extend theories, notions and practices of care to an earthly, exploited and assumed inert material, expanding socially driven conversations around care to ecological caring as a world-making activity. Affective labours of material care were enacted through strategies of becoming-other, intimate proximity and engrossment, seeking to cultivate ‘response-ability’ to the material other and beginning to generate a material-led aesthetics of care.
Syrian displacement and care in contemporary Beirut
Ella Parry- Davies
This chapter discusses an artistic project devised amidst conditions of transnational displacement in the Middle East, and through it reflects on the role played by care and cooperation in the politics of art making. Dima el Mabsout’s Fleeing and Forgetting (2015) addressed the transformation of urban spaces in Lebanon by new populations of Syrian refugees, and resulted in a collection of almost two hundred photographs taken of and by refugee children in Beirut. The chapter explores the photographs in order to think through the performances of care that subtended this project, and the broader questions that these pose about art and scholarship on migration. While a visual analysis of the images may celebrate their qualities as art objects, the perceptual coordinates offered by performance emphasise the social and aesthetic care that the images perform and depend upon. The chapter thus problematises a historical tendency in some performance theory to associate migration with positively valenced notions of transgression and liminality and conversely stillness with stasis and unfreedom. The chapter proposes instead to perform scholarship ‘care-fully’, in recognising struggles for continuity and interdependence within specific experiences of transnational displacement.
This chapter argues that the care of objects could form an important part of care ethics because the performance of the processes involved in their maintenance and repair can be an important vehicle for caring for the self and other people. Applying Fisher and Tronto’s (1990) definition of ‘caring about’ and ‘caregiving’ to processes of caring for objects, it considers how relationships with everyday objects and certain acts of domestic labour become meaningful acts of self-care. The author reflects on her arts practice with care home residents living with dementia, to explore how the everyday act of doing the laundry can be reimagined in arts sessions. She proposes that artists’ performative engagements with processes of caring for objects can have an important role to play in reimagining everyday acts and establishing new models of relational care with and for older people in institutionalised care.
This chapter is an enquiry into the possible shape of an aesthetics of care drawn from the experience of looking after a Congolese colleague after he was injured in a massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mix of different professional and personal circumstances directs the writing towards concerns with the ethics and aesthetics of caring for others and how these relationships might provide a productive orientation for work in the field of community-based performance or applied theatre. The chapter explores debates within feminist care ethics to argue that the relations that emerge in many arts projects can be understood as forms of affective solidarity and mutual regard that, in turn, could be powerful counterweights to the exclusions and disregard in a careless society.
This chapter reflects on an interdisciplinary practice research project, The Verbatim Formula (TVF), based at Queen Mary University of London, consisting of a series of residential workshops with care-experienced young people using verbatim theatre practices. Drawing on feminist care ethicist Nel Noddings’ analogy between aesthetic engagement and the art of caring, the authors reflect on the shared values and aesthetics of acts of care and participatory practices, and how these inhere in the attentiveneness, attunement and receptivity involved in performing and receiving verbatim material using headphone theatre technique. The chapter incorporates testimonies from its care-experienced co-researchers and draws on Joan Tronto’s argument that there is a radical need for an intervention into the dynamics of power in society that ensure that those for whom the structures of care are least effective are heard and attended to. In acknowledging the ‘ugliness’ of caring and the ongoing labour of attunement, listening emerges in TVF both as an aesthetic but also as a care-based participatory and political practice, that aims to empower care-experienced young people to intervene in the structures that represent them and to support adults to honour their experiences and needs.