Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CALL FOR PAPERS - Performing Space in Asian Film: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

(Announcement from H-Japan)

Date: 4 Feb 2010 - 5 Feb 2010
Venue: Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

The notion of ‘space’ has become a key subject in many disciplines ranging from its more physical and material relationship to architecture and geography, for example, to its discussion in fields as diverse as philosophy, film, theatre, literature, history, cultural studies and art history. In the latter disciplines, space is variously interpreted in its metaphorical, psychoanalytic, emotional, cultural and social registers.

Likewise, the notion of performance has also been widely re-appropriated by various disciplines. ‘Performance’, traditionally defined as a mode of entertainment or ritual, is also increasingly understood now as a critical methodology enabling an interpretation of cultural behavioural patterns. All performance is ultimately framed by space. Different spatial typologies – institutional, civic, domestic, liminal, ceremonial, or religious, for example – orchestrate sets of culturally recognized and appropriate forms of behaviour. As such, space is instrumental to the codification of socially acceptable patterns of actions, and conversely to the enactment of performances, which either reinforce or contest such patterns.

The application of performance and the performative as a methodological tool for understanding space is critical. This concept exposes the constructed nature of space, reinforcing the argument that space cannot be essentialized. This non-essentialized point of view is particularly relevant to recent studies focusing on Asian spaces, where there are tendencies to oversimplify Asian identity simply by suggesting a binary relationship to the West. Through this critical lens, the broad questions like ‘What is Asian space?’ can be refined as ‘How is Asian space constructed?‘Who are its producers/ protagonists?’

Developing the multivalent perspectives of space, this workshop is structured around the performative potential of space in Asian films. Of interest is how space serves as more than context or setting in a film’s mise-en-scène, but also how space is called upon to construct and reconstruct particular forms of identities, meanings and interactions. Here, space may be variously perceived as, but not limited to, physical, psychological, subjective, narrative and/or cinematic.

For our purposes, film is also adopted not as a strictly mimetic medium but one that can engage other epistemic modes of identity – bodily, emotional, experiential. We suggest that film in its various formats – feature, shorts, propaganda, documentary, experimental, and amateur – and through the application of cinematic styles and conventions, offers performances that reveal how spaces are reflected, constructed, and how they may be performative, that is, transformed or transgressed.

‘Performing Space in Asian Film’ attempts to address several questions: Is there a distinctive way in which Asian spaces are performed? Are these distinctions specific to particular modes of Asian cinematic practice or in the work of particular filmmakers? How are these spaces performatively re-negotiated through/in film? What is the role of space in Asian film? Responses to these questions may be routed through more precise topics of spatial representation related, for example, to notions of authorship, genre studies, popular culture, national cinema, nationalism, immigrant discourses, migrant culture, diaspora, transnationalism, gender, ethnicity, class, and globalization.

The aim is to bring together different readings of Asian spaces embedded in film, enriched by disciplinary concerns from within the fields of architecture, urban studies, film and theatre studies, performance studies, history, anthropology, geography, cultural studies, and literature. In such instances, film is also revitalized differently as a ‘text’, which adheres to the disciplinary limits of each field. Ultimately, the intention is to approximate an understanding not only of what makes Asian space, but also how it operates and how identities and meanings may be contested or embodied through its performances.

Accepted papers will be presented in an interdisciplinary workshop hosted and supported by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, in February 2010. The papers will be published as part of the conference proceedings’ Working Papers. A special journal issue or edited book featuring the developed papers is planned following the event.

For more information, check out the event web page:

1 comment:

Joe said...

Hiya Prof!
I was lurking through this semester's VA blogs, and came across this gem:
"When such a ritual is demonstrated outside of its traditional context as so, understanding its original intent feels more academic than personally meaningful."
This blew me away! It was one of my favorite issues discussed in our VA class a year ago. What a quandary the visual anthropologist runs into when the interpretation of his or her dearly accumulated photos and videos becomes an act of dissection instead of appreciation.
Please pass my praise along to Travis.
Hope all is well with you!