Interview with the Associate Editors of the Int. Journal of Performance Art and Digital Media

Intellect: Tell us about the scope of this journal.

Elise Morrison: Well, the title of the journal of course is International Journal of Performance Art and Digital Media - we're looking for pieces that interrogate digital media in a performance context. It started with a UK focus and in order to live up to the 'international' part there's a push to include other parts of Europe, Australia the US, Asia. We're really trying to expand the sites that we're looking at, as well as get scholarship from other places.

Jennifer Parker-Starbuck: ... and have that [internationalism] reflected in the editorship and editorial board as well.  We're looking at not just theatre performance, we also include other areas of performance. We've had articles on music performance... it's open in that sense. It's not geared towards theatre specifically.

Intellect: Do you find there's any tension between classic modes of production and the use of digital media either in the theatre or with performance of any kind? Is there any bias against digital media at all?

JPS: I think that as a genre, if you will, it's developed over the last few decades into a fairly recognisable form of performance. Now you find different forms of technology in a wide range of performance and I think one of the things that gets debated is what to call this kind of work, but I don't think there's a bias against it per say. There was a time when I think people thought it was quite gimmicky, but that's shifted with different kinds of technologies and with all sorts of explorations.

EM: The scope of performance has broadened as well, it's expanded into online performances or activist street performances... A much broader range of activities are called performance, so in that way I think that Performance Studies itself has helped things move beyond whatever discomfort there might be bringing interactive digital media into a traditional theatre frame.

Intellect: It terms of it being gimmicky, sometimes just the fact of a technology being new can overshadow the content in a way - people get distracted by the form and they don't necessarily pick up on the content. Is technology becoming more invisible due to people's familiarity and is this a good thing?

EM: People's comfort with using technology is such that they enter the theatre as pretty savvy user-consumers. They see, 'oh, it's an iPhone that I'm being given', or 'an iPod I'm being given on this walk', or whatever it might be. So I think it's no longer so much a matter of just putting 'hey this is what this technology can do' on stage, which is so much of early stuff was. That still does happen with the new interfaces, it's like, 'it does this' and that's it, that's the show. But I think that people do come in with a lot more knowledge and comfort as users of this stuff, and sometimes actually, some of the work that I find most interesting is when that user-friendliness is being challenged a little bit, asking, wait, why is it so user friendly? Maybe it would be better to be a little unfriendly towards this super smooth, slick interface and actually examine some of the ideology embedded in that interface. What is it trying to get you to do?

JPS: I think it also depends on the kind of work that you're talking about, in the sense that there is a kind of invisibility, if you will, with certain kinds of scenographic technologies, but that's always been there in a sense, in different forms. It varies. I've recently seen a bunch of shows where the spectators were asked to really engage with the technologies of the performance in terms of video gaming and things like that. So I think there's a lot of challenging happening.

Intellect: What role does this journal play in the development of this field?

JPS: I think that it's a fantastic opportunity for practitioners as well as scholars to engage with their practice and how their work is taking form. That, to me, is a great advantage, the fact that it isn't strictly scholarly-based. We've had lots of practitioners engage with the journal and I think that's a real asset. And it's an area that, although it's been happening for several decades in a sort of multi-media performance form, is still relatively new in the overall scope of things. There's still room for lots of writing about this type of performance.

EM: And I think with this special issue in particular we can talk about the flow between those userships. We can look at workshops that people do and exercises they employ there, and people that come at it from maybe a more academic standpoint. I think that we also want to write down some of these divisions between practitioners and scholars. It's exciting in that way.

Intellect: Can you recap the special issue?

JPS: Elise and I are going to guest edit a special issue on pedagogy and new media practices. Not just for theatre, but for other kinds of performance as well.  We want to look at how people are using technology to develop work, how you teach new media in the classroom, different exercise that people are doing - we're hoping for a segment on different exercises that people can submit to.  And with that idea of exercises, and even descriptions of courses that we've put together and that other people will submit to write about, what we're going for is an open source feel.  We have all used and borrowed other people's ideas and we'll do the best that we can to credit where these ideas came from, but we're hoping to proceed with an acknowledgment that all of this is a lending and borrowing system.

Intellect: Why is Intellect the right place to be doing this?

JPS: I think the range and scope of journals that Intellect has now is really valuable because of the interconnections between them. For those of us working on the International Journal of Performance Art and Digital Media we're able to really specialise and develop work around this specialty is a way that a lot of other journals don't allow. The more general journals don't have that kind of freedom.  And then within Intellect's series of journals there's quite a range, so in a way, Intellect is modeling a whole different kind of journal system that I think is really exciting.

EM: That's a great point. And it's also a beautiful journal. The covers are always gorgeous, and the images and the layout and everything... You guys do a really nice job with it.


Posted by Kyra Kordoski/May Yao at 10:02 (0) comments
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