The Performance Rhizome is a weave of exploratory activities across and beyond the Faculty of English. It co-hosts the Performance: Art, Critique Experiment (P:ACE) initiative with Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design and the Cambridge Performance Network, and convenes the Drama Research Seminar which runs fortnightly throughout the academic year.
Active participants include members of adjacent faculties such as Modern and Medieval Languages, History of Art, Classics, Music, and Anthropology. It enjoys a symbiotic relationship to many English curricular activities, including the MPhils in Criticism and Culture and Screen Media, and several Tripos papers including Tragedy, Literature and Visual Culture, Shakespeare in Performance, and Postcolonial and Related Literatures. Gatherings are regularly hosted in the Judith E. Wilson Drama Studio: a flexible subterranean space which can accommodate convivia, video installations and staged performances, as well as simulated inter-species birthing rituals and papier-mâché hearses suspended by balloons from the ceiling.
As an emerging field of study, Performance is resolutely interdisciplinary in orientation, and fosters dialogue between utterance and non-verbal forms of communication. It reflects an understanding that cultural practices such as music, theatre, literature, film and fine art simultaneously exist as an object (fixed, a record) and an experience (time-bound, embodied). Performance inhabits a negotiable space between these states, with interpretation a further act of performance which is always historically determined and always unique.
Conferring both presence upon the artwork and a critique of that presence, Performance gives access to understanding the emergence of the ‘new’ across forms: as productive complication of the relations between intention and expression; indeterminacy and alterity; and, by implication, a marriage of concerns creative and critical.
Performance thereby swerves into ‘performativity’: the subject of study and its means, as representation, as metaphor, as site of enactment. It puts us on the edge of becoming otherwise; threatens the stability of body-mind’s habitual patterns and social coding; disrupts the authority of origins. The consideration of performance extends beyond a return to ritual or spectacle within a sacrificial industrial economy, into the generation of new forms of cultural knowledge.