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 auteurship, 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.
Paper proposals should include a title and a 500-word abstract. A short biography should also be submitted on the attached form by 20 October 2009.
Please submit and address all applications and enquiries to Ms Valerie Yeo (email@example.com). Successful applicants will be notified by 13 November 2009 and will be required to send in a completed paper (5000-6000 words) by 12 January 2010. Preference will be given to papers that profile new research, fit with the core panel ideas and complement other papers.
Dr Lilian Chee firstname.lastname@example.org
Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment, NUS
Dr Edna Lim email@example.com
Theatre Studies, Department of English Language and Literature, NUS
Dr Charles Leary firstname.lastname@example.org
Asia Research Institute, NUS
Ms Valerie Yeo
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
469A Tower Block, Level 10, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Tel: (65) 6516 5279
Fax: (65) 6779 1428
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