The urban river and site-specific performance

Donald, M. (2012) The urban river and site-specific performance. Contemporary Theatre Review, 22(2), pp. 213-223.

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Through describing and reflecting on two site-specific performances made in response to the River Clyde in Glasgow, the article considers the potential of the urban river as a paradigm for a concept of space/place which productively negotiates tensions between site-specificity and mobility. While epitomising spatial fluidity, urban rivers can also, paradoxically, function to promote a strong, apparently unified and unchanging, sense of place - thus offering a spatial model which problematises the seeming opposition of mobility and site-specificity. This paradigm, I argue, can foster approaches towards spatial or site-specific practice which value our surroundings as meaningful while concurrently providing resistance to static, circumscribed conceptions of place and to the exclusive or conservatively nostalgic renderings of rootedness they can promote. The two performances discussed, ts Beall’s The Govan Armada (May 2010) and Bridging Part 1 (November 2010), which I made in collaboration with Nick Millar and Offshore Workboats Ltd., engage with the river, I suggest, in ways that open up established and persistent narratives (in the case of Glasgow, generally those concerned with the city’s shipbuilding and manufacturing heritage) to multiple, ongoing interpretations and provide opportunities for alternative interactions and readings to emerge. In both works the river plays an active role as an unpredictable, uncontrollable component, its ‘agency’, functioning to resist attempts to ascribe fixed meanings to it. Both works also invoke ideas of the river as a manifestation of nature in culture and as a conduit to other locations - actual and imaginary.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Donald, Professor Minty
Authors: Donald, M.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Journal Name:Contemporary Theatre Review

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