Performance Studies: Irish Australian performance collaborations and social justice / The Butterfly Kiss – School of Art Communication and English Performance Studies: Irish Australian performance collaborations and social justice / The Butterfly Kiss – School of Art Communication and English

Performance Studies: Irish Australian performance collaborations and social justice / The Butterfly Kiss

Irish Australian performance collaborations and social justice

They are in the process of emerging from distinct though contrasting histories of colonisation as identified by Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins. These scholars focus on colonialism’s impact on the Drama and performance that has emerged in many former colonies in their 1996 book Post-colonial Drama Theory, practice, politics. The framework developed by Gilbert and Tompkins is employed in this chapter. Gayatri Spivak’s work on giving voice to subaltern sectors of post-colonial societies, particularly women, provides another theoretical lens that I draw upon.

A shared desire to highlight issues of social justice, that may be considered a legacy of the impact of colonialism through collaborative performance has prompted Irish and Australian performance practitioners in recent years to join forces. The first case study I offer ‘Unwoman 3’ (2018) addresses the cruelty of legislation aimed at controlling women’s bodily autonomy as crafted and enforced by a patriarchal legal and governmental systems in Ireland and Australia. This venture represents a collaboration between the Irish theatre artists, Olwen Fouéré (actor) and Emma Stone (visual artist) with the Rabble, a Melbourne based feminist theatre company. A 2016 concert in Dublin that featured the Irish folk singer, Damien Dempsey, and the indigenous Australian musician, Archie Roach is the second case study. Both artists champion those who bear the scars of colonialism. In the case of Roach this extends to the ongoing injustices suffered by First Nation Australians. For Dempsey it is those who endured centuries of colonial repression that rendered Ireland’s native language and culture almost obsolete as well as the plight of the poor and disenfranchised in Irish society.

My paper will offer an overview of the main argument in this chapter as well as a snapshot of the performances themselves.

Áine de Paor’s research journey began with a Masters thesis documenting the history of the Independent Theatre Company, O’Punksky’s who specialised in staging contemporary Irish drama in Sydney in the 1990s. This led to her current concluding doctoral research journey. ‘Staging Ireland Down Under’ documents the contribution of Irish theatre and performance to the Australian performative landscape and the strong connections that have been forged particularly in recent decades between these performance traditions.


The Butterfly Kiss


I am a current Arts-Based-PhD Candidate at USyd, halfway through my candidature where I am enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine and Health with supervisors in Medicine and Health (Dr Susan Coulson), Health Ethics (Dr Claire Hooker), and Performance Studies (Dr Paul Dwyer).

This presentation will share my research as an experimental, contemporary artist working within the medical space of the Sydney Facial Nerve Clinic, a service established to offer multidisciplinary care for patients experiencing advanced cases of facial nerve paralysis arising from issues such as head and neck cancer, Bell’s palsy, trauma and other causes. Throughout my thesis-in-process and artistic-work-in-process, I am exploring what impacts an  artist might make when in deep commitment to collaboration with biomedical and biopsychosocial processes. This research has been broadly theoretically framed by bringing the ethical considerations of Emmanuel Levinas into relationship with care ethics while examining the ontological concerns of the suite of perspectives that may be broadly grouped as ‘new materialisms’.

In this presentation I will share some of the processes of my working methodology, exploring socially engaged art practice (Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, Bishop’s The Social Turn and Kester’s Dialogical Aesthetics), neuroscience and phenomenology to argue that artmaking, in these social contexts, can be considered as a form of touch.

The title The Butterfly Kiss, which is the working nickname I give my thesis, refers to the Australian Environmental philosopher Val Plumwood and my proposal that the success of her work was in its ability to bring together people from different academic, social, and cultural worlds.  A type of diffractive practice that sits at the heart of this research.

Vic McEwan is the Artistic Director of the Cad Factory, an artist led organisation creating an international program of new, immersive and experimental work guided by authentic exchange, ethical principles, people and place.

Vic’s contemporary art practice works with sound, video, photography, installation and performance, with a particular interest in site-specific work that creates new dynamics by working with diverse partners and exploring difficult themes within the lived experience of communities and places. Vic aims to use his work to contribute to and enrich broader conversations about the active role that the arts sector can play in reimagining a better world.

In 2015, Vic was the recipient of the inaugural Create NSW Regional Fellowship that allowed him to work with The National Museum of Australia as well as undertaking a three-year process working in the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, UK, a project which won the 2018 Council for the Humanities Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) Australian Prize for Distinctive work.

​Vic has completed a Master of Arts Practice (High Distinction) and a First Class Honours (Fine Art) for which he received the University Medal. In 2019-2022, Vic is enrolled in an Arts Practice led PhD at the University of Sydney, being the first contemporary artist to be accepted into the Faculty of Medicine and Health to undertake creative practice led research working with the Sydney Facial Nerve Clinic.

​Vic is a board member of MusicNSW and is a committee member of the Arts and Health Network NSW/ACT.

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Oct 29 2021


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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