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Distinguished Speaker: Simon Bayly (University of Roehampton)
Carry on Camping? Spectacle and concealment in the performance of politics
This speculative paper seeks to weave a relationship between the performance aesthetics of the protest camp, organized around a dialectic of ecstatic revelation and clandestine concealment, and a performance ethics, organized around a combination of belonging, violent displacement, defeat and despair. Looking back over a series of encampments, from the European No Borders and Climate Camps during 2005-2010 to the events of the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and global anti-austerity protests in cities from 2010-12, it proposes the contemporary urban protest camp as the troubled twin of that other iconic 21st century space, the unofficial migrant or refugee camp. Interpreting the protest camp as a theatricalized work of art that stands alone, it will attempt to read this constellation of contemporary camps as the material signature and symptom of a systemic etiolation elsewhere in the organization of civil society – and as the scene of weak forms of alternative ‘instituent’ practices of democracy. The camp’s braiding of revelation and concealment (there it is, but what is actually to be seen from its ‘outside’?) expresses contemporary ambivalences about the value, necessity and efficacy of not just of visibility but of the very act of performance itself. Exploring the camp as an emblematic form of ‘failed’ political performance, I am interested in asking what it might mean to acttoday without success and beyond failure.
Simon Bayly is an artist and writer working broadly in the field of performance and the theory and practice of organization. He is a Reader in Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Roehampton and is currently in pursuit of Acts of Assembly, a research project exploring the aesthetics of ‘tiny publics’ and their practices of meeting and gathering, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. His recent publications include A Pathognomy of Performance (Routledge, 2011) and essays in Angelaki, Radical Philosophy and Performance Research.