Producing performance collectively in austere times (UK 2008-2018)

Holton, Simon James (2023) Producing performance collectively in austere times (UK 2008-2018). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines collective and artist-run performance producing practices in the UK in the period of austerity from 2008-2018. This thesis examines collective practices in opposition to the rhetoric, logic, and impacts of neoliberal austerity, while examining how they are, at one and the same time, caught up within them, and frequently complicit with them. I argue that collectives can temporarily reverse and rework the negative material and affective impacts of austerity through gathering artists and producers with similar practices and concerns together in the same space, producing social and affective spaces that feel and operate differently to the rest of the artistic infrastructure, and sharing material and immaterial resources. As I go on to establish, austerity works by making people feel precarious, uncared for, alone, indebted, hopeless, and disentitled. At their best, collectives work by making people feel the opposite. In gathering together in their own space, these artists and producers feel and imagine the possibility of a different way of doing things. These spaces exist to present the performance of others, to support the organisers’ individual practices and administrative work, to run festivals and performance events, and to organise around particular issues. An analysis of these functions of collective practice structure the main body of this thesis, which begins by examining collective and artist-run models of performance venues, then studios, then festivals, and finally, networks. In each chapter I examine a specific negative affect of austerity which these groups seek to resist. These are: insecurity or precarity, neglect or a lack of care, isolation or disconnectedness, and hopelessness or a lack of access to futurity. I show, using Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of field, Henri Lefebvre’s production of space, and Sara Ahmed’s work on affect, how the practices of each structural model of collective and artist-run organisation responds to and reworks these conditions by producing affective spaces of security, care, communitas, and hope. These spaces, and the practices that create them, are embedded within the wider context of neoliberalism and austerity which they oppose, and are thus temporary and susceptible to reproducing exploitative and exclusive practices. The task of this thesis is to reveal the immediate positive affective and material impacts of these collectives in opposition to austerity, as well as the complexity of the problems that arise as these groups interact with a wider context over which they have no control. Despite the limitations of collective practice, this thesis argues that through providing relief from the negative affective impacts of austerity, it can provide vital support to artists, practices, and communities during difficult economic conditions, and allow them to survive, to organise, and to imagine and enact better and more liveable futures in the field of performance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities and the College of Arts Graduate School at the University of Glasgow.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts
Supervisor's Name: Greer, Dr. Stephen and Heddon, Prof. Deirdre
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83609
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 May 2023 15:21
Last Modified: 26 May 2023 15:22
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83609

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