All images by Jakub Čajko
Ecological Questions and Environmental
Issues in Theatre and Performing Arts Conference
7-9 May 2019
This two-day conference gathered speakers and attendees from 20+ countries to discuss various aspects of theatre practice and how it intersects with environmental issues. It was invigorating to spend two days thinking about these ideas with other theatre scholars and artists. The presenters were from the UK, Germany, US/Canada, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria. While perspectives and approaches may have differed, one of the things that became clear was that we cannot continue making theatre as we have been making theatre, and maybe that means making different kinds of theatre. The conference featured eight presentations and a panel discussion, each presenter spoke on their given topic for 25 minutes and then answered questions.
Day one of the conference began with a welcome from Festival Director Vladaslava Fekete and Mukuláš, an ecologist, scientist, and conservationist. The presentations then covered six topics: Carl Lavery’s talk “Theatre and Theatricality in the Anthropocene” explored how theatricality is a more direct response to the Anthropocene than realism. Imanuel Schipper presented Rimini Protokoll’s work “Welt-Klimakonferenz” that recreated the World Climate Conference with 650 theatre patrons. Clare Duffy’s play Arctic Oil and the process of writing about climate change as a mother was the focus of “Experience and Examples.” The presenters and attendees then all walked to lunch and continued the conversations in a more casual environment.
The afternoon session began with Chantal Bilodeau shifting the focus from inevitable cataclysm with her initiative “Climate Change Theatre Action” and her Arctic Cycle of plays, both of which were discussed in “How Can We Move Beyond Apocalyptic Thinking?” Vojtěch Poláček’s presentation “Recycled Theatre: A Few Notes to Contemporary Theatre Architecture” looked at how both ideas and spaces can be recycled into viable performance venues. Zoë Svendsen merged research and contemporary theatre practice in “We Know Not What We May Be: ‘Staying With The Trouble’ of Artistic Practice as a Rehearsal for Collaborative Action” by looking at two projects by MetisArts, including “We Know Not What We May Be: rehearsing possible tomorrows.”
Day two of the conference consisted of two presentations and a panel discussion. Ján Kralovič spoke on the concept of walking in nature as art “Stepping Out Into the Country: Motifs of Walking and Pilgrimage in Slovak Action Art.” The final presentation by Krõõt Juurak and Alex Bailey made an earnest and compelling argument for “Art for Animal Audiences.” The conference culminated in a panel discussion with many of the featured speakers challenged on their perspectives by moderator Octavian Saiu, a scholar and critic from Romania.
This conference was conceived of by Vladaslava Fekete, director of Nova Drama, and organized and moderated by Milo Juráni.