• Ideology and the True/False Performance of Heritage

      Johnson, Paul; Chow, Broderick; Mangold, Alex (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
      Performance in a museum or heritage site1 operates within a complex set of interacting and sometimes conflicting jurisdictions: education and entertainment; objects and experiences; space and place; theatre and museum; visitor and audience; presentation and participation. It almost invariably attempts to serve some educational function, as do the institutions of which it is usually a part. For Tessa Bridal, the first element of museum theatre is that its ‘purpose is educational and linked to the institution’s missions and values’.2 Similarly, Catherine Hughes describes museum theatre as ‘a powerful tool to communicate complex ideas and to create convincing real experiences for the visitor’.3 The relationship between the emergent narratives of museum theatre, and the objects and sites around which the performances are constructed and situated, is often considered in terms of museum theatre’s subservience to the goals of the museum. For instance, the International Museum Theatre Alliance (IMTAL) Europe defines interpretation (including museum theatre), as a ‘communication process designed to reveal to a specific audience the significance of a historic/cultural/natural site or museum and the audience’s relationship to it’.4 Hence the interpretative process, or the action of performance, is seen as transparent. However, museum theatre provides not only different ways of telling the stories of objects and sites, but potentially at least, a qualitatively different type of engagement with past and with heritage, and consequently a different way of constructing social reality.
    • Science, performance and transformation: performance for a ‘scientific’ age?

      Johnson, Paul (Taylor & Francis, 2014-09-30)
      The ‘two cultures’ of science and the arts/humanities are often considered at odds, but digital technology, and the broader implications of digital culture, provides a model for more productive forms of exchange and hybridity. This article applies theories of intercultural theatre practice to performance that works across this cultural divide to explore the types of interaction that take place. Following a historical discussion of the science/art divide, a three-fold model is proposed and explored through case studies including Djerassi and Laszlo's 2003 NO, Eduardo Kac's 1999 Genesis, Reckless Sleepers' 1996/2006 Schrödinger's Box, and John Barrow's 2002 Infinities. It is argued that science operates through the creation of mathematical models of aspects of the physical world, whilst art similarly constructs different kinds of models for understanding the social/cultural and occasionally physical world. Digital technology expands the modelling possibilities both directly, through simulation, virtual reality and integration into ‘live’ activities of augmented and intermedia performance, and through the transformative nature of digital culture.