SSHRC Connection Grant Project

In July 2019 Pil Hansen and I co-directed the 25th annual gathering of Performance Studies international at the School of Creative and Performing Arts, University of Calgary. Approx. 400 Scholars, Artists and Artist-Scholar from around the world came to our city to experience four days of presentations, performances, seminars, workshops and installations, all grappling with contemporary understandings of the concept of “elasticity.”

In the spirit of open access, we recorded all four of our keynote events (three presentations and one performance) from the American philosopher Alva Noe, the Malaysian-Canadian choreographer Lee Su-Feh, and the Indigenous theatre artist Justin Many Fingers, and have made them readily available online at the conference website.

In particular, we were interested in generating evocative and provocative community collaborations with arts organizations in Calgary, including TRUCK Contemporary Art, Springboard Performance, UNTITLED Art Society, and nverlnd arts society.

In these days of intense social, cultural and political dynamics, environmental crises, and unprecedented global health challenges, our selection of of “elasticity” as the conference theme seems even more relevant and urgent than it was in July 2019. Below, here, is the manner in which we articulated the urgent inspiration that informed our Call for Proposals.

“Extreme fluctuation is a basic aspect of life in Calgary. Situated between the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the plains of the Prairies, nestled in the bed of the powerful Bow River, Calgary’s landscape is perhaps the most visible manifestation of this characteristic. An elastic and resilient ecosystem is demanded of an environment where springtime flooding is followed by prolonged draught and wildfires in the summer, and where winter chinooks can result in 30-degree temperature fluctuations in a single day. This reality is well known to the region’s indigenous population, while settler cultures continue to acclimatize. The economy, political imagination, educational systems, professional opportunities, and performing arts industry follow a comparable pattern of highs and lows, fluctuating between plenty and scarcity. It is with growing concern that we recognize this defining pull to extremes reflected on a far larger scale in global environmental, political, economic, and humanitarian contexts. As polar oppositions continue to intensify, with ever fewer checks and balances in place, we invite the PSi community to address the demands that extreme fluctuation places on the elasticity of connective tissues/processes, as well as the available modes of response.”

Photos by Heun Jung Lee, Donia Mounsef, and Bruce Barton © 2019.