Arts to play vital role in city rebuild - visiting fellow

25 October 2011

The arts and cultural experiences could play a positive role in the regeneration and rebuilding of Christchurch says Visiting Canterbury Fellow Professor Richard Gough.

Arts to play vital role in city rebuild - visiting fellow - Imported from Legacy News system

Professor Richard Gough.

The arts and cultural experiences could play a positive role in the regeneration and rebuilding of Christchurch says Visiting Canterbury Fellow Professor Richard Gough.

Professor Gough, from Aberystwyth University in Wales, is spending six weeks in the University of Canterbury’s Department of Theatre and Film Studies as part of the Erskine Programme.

The programme enables up to 70 Visiting Erskine Fellowships to be awarded each year to international academics, allowing them to spend time at UC.

In addition to being Professor of Theatre and Performance at Aberystwyth University, Professor Gough is also founder and Artistic Director of the Centre for Performance Research (CPR), a multi-faceted theatre organisation that aims to develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and practice of theatre. It also produces the journal Performance Research, and houses a resource centre and library that specialises in world theatre and performance.

Professor Gough, who first came to UC 11 years ago, said in times of upheaval and disruption the arts could do a lot to help people move forward as well as play a role in the regeneration of a city.

“One example in the United Kingdom is that of Glasgow. It was quite a socially and economically depressed city in the 1980s but then became European Cultural Capital for one year and continued running a huge annual arts festival and numerous cultural enterprises. It showed how the arts and culture can play a part in giving back to people a sense of the value of their civility and reaffirming their citizenship of a city.”

Professor Gough said he had been impressed with the “inspired” initiatives staff and students in Theatre and Film Studies had been working on in response to the earthquakes, including the department’s involvement in the arts advocacy group Arts Voice Christchurch and the project based Gap Filler.

Another initiative, in which Professor Gough was involved, was the Free Theatre’s recent production of The Earthquake in Chile. Co-directed with Associate Professor Peter Falkenberg and held in St Mary’s Anglican Church in Addington earlier this month, the performance explored the sense of communion and community that emerged in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes through a re-telling of a short story written by Heinrich von Kleist.

“One of my ongoing obsessions and consuming passions is the intersection of food and performance. I’m very interested in exploring the multisensory aspects of food as performance and having the audience involved as participants where they eat and celebrate,” said Professor Gough.

“In this production I was able to collaborate with Richard Till by involving a meal in the performance where the audience leaves the church and eats a meal together. Through food we wanted to explore the ways in which a group of individuals could become a community as well as create an opportunity for everyone to share their experiences of the earthquakes here in Christchurch.”

While at UC Professor Gough has given lectures at Otago, Wellington and Massey universities and he will talk at Auckland University before leaving New Zealand. His lectures have included discussions about the relationship between performance and food, practice as research and the work being undertaken at CPR and the importance of having an arts curriculum.

“Performance can be linked to and used to illuminate other disciplines. At Aberystwyth we’ve linked performance to politics and set up an intra-department connection with our political science department. If you think about it, politics can be understood as theatre and viewed through the optic of performance,” he said.

“I’ve also been talking about performance studies and its development, and the successes we’ve had on the edge of Europeat Aberystwyth. While performance studies originated in big cities, we’ve been able to bring a different perspective into the mix because of our isolation. We’ve explored the edges of the discipline, bringing in new ideas of where performance can take place and how to look at the landscape. In Wales we perform in quarries, abandoned factories, castle ruins, on beaches and near lakes, using our immediate natural environment to create site specific work.” 

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