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Thinking through affect: Affective uncertainty in politically engaged contemporary theatre

Nina Helene Jakobia Skogli of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled «Thinking through affect: Affective uncertainty in politically engaged contemporary theatre» (In Norwegian: «Å tenke gjennom affekt: Affektiv usikkerhet i politisk engasjert samtidsteater») and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Friday 21 January 2022. (Photo: Private)

The project’s contribution to the field of theatre research lies both in the analysis of the critical potential of affective uncertainty, the focus on performance as epistemology, and in the set of methods developed for (poly-perspectival) experience-oriented performance analysis.

Nina Helene Jakobia Skogli

PhD Candidate

The disputation will be held digitally. Spectators may follow the disputation digitally – link is available below.

 

Nina Helene Jakobia Skogli of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled «Thinking through affect: Affective uncertainty in politically engaged contemporary theatre» (In Norwegian: «Å tenke gjennom affekt: Affektiv usikkerhet i politisk engasjert samtidsteater») and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Friday 21 January 2022.

She has followed the PhD-programme at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Agder, with specialisation in Art in Context (KIK).

Summary of the thesis by Nina Helene Jakobia Skogli:

Thinking through affect: Affective uncertainty in politically engaged contemporary theatre 

In the Ph.D. thesis Thinking through affect: Affective uncertainty in politically engaged contemporary theatre I explore the critical potential of spectator experiences of uncertainty.

Analyzes three contemporary theatre performances

The monograph analyzes three contemporary theatre performances that address controversial and difficult challenges in our society. These performances are Soft Eyes (2016) by Artilleriet Produksjoner, Your Majesties (2010) by Navaridas & Deutinger, and Against all odds by Fix&Foxy (2019).

They thematize specific challenges without offering any kind of solutions or answers to the problem in hand.

This contributes to the production of uncertainty – both in the performance as an aesthetic object and the spectator as a (political) subject.

I specify the spectator experience of uncertainty by highlighting the affective dimensions and qualities – hence the term affective uncertainty.

In the thesis I set out to analyze how specific strategies in the performances generate affective uncertainty, along with the critical potential embedded in these experiences.

Experiences of prolonged affective uncertainty

The processing of spectator experience characterized by affective uncertainty has been of central interest – not only how they are processed during the performance, but also after the so-called here-and-now of the performance.

In other words, the project is particularly interested in experiences of prolonged affective uncertainty. I explore how these experiences might last – seeing as the affective uncertainty foregrounds a failure of emotional release and does so as a kind of politics (Ngai, 2005).

The performative qualities of these subjective spectator processes are researched through the three performance analyses. I set out to explore the epistemological potential and quality embedded in these experiences and processes, viewing performance as «a doing to, a thing done to and with the spectator» (Taylor, 2016).

As a result of the performances addressing controversial challenges and discourses, it gives the affective uncertainty a political and ethical character.

Affective disorientation

The mode of uncertainty that the three performances generate have in common that they give an affective disorientation and produce a form of suspended agency.

Affect is understood in the scope of this project to be socially situated and produced, avoiding sharp distinctions between emotions, affect and thoughts (Ahmed, 2010b; Ngai, 2005; Sharma & Tygstrup, 2015). Thinking through affect has therefore become an important optic and overarching analysis strategy in the thesis, adopting an approach of what Ahmed calls «feel your way» (2014/2004).

The research questions are examined through experience-oriented performance analysis based on my own momentary and accumulated spectator experience.

In one of the analyses, I also include other spectators’ experiences and reception processes. This poly-perspectival performance analysis includes empirical reception research as a methodological extension.

Post-performance exercises

Here, I brought theatre students to see the performance Against all odds and constructed a series of what I call post-performance exercises.

These exercises were explorative reception research drawing inspiration from theatre pedagogy, their function being to provide different ways of talking about and exploring our experiences collectively and individually.

Through this exploratory methodological study, the project offers a suggestion of how the field of performance analysis can benefit from drawing inspiration and strategies from empirical reception research and theatre pedagogical practice.

The focus on the time dimension and longitudinal reception processes in the three analyses provides an opportunity for a critical discussion of the view of the performance as disappearance (e.g. Phelan, 1993; Gilpin, 1996; Siegel, 1972), which is contrasted with a view of the performance as accumulated experience – a place to initiate long processes and experiences of syncopated time (Schneider, 2011). In conclusion, I take a closer look at how affective uncertainty avoids conversion to a «finished», fixed experience.

The project’s contribution to the field of theatre research lies both in the analysis of the critical potential of affective uncertainty, the focus on performance as epistemology, and in the set of methods developed for (poly-perspectival) experience-oriented performance analysis.

Disputation facts:

The trial lecture and the public defence will take place at Sal 1, Sigurd Køhns hus – Building K, Campus Kristiansand and online, via the Zoom conferencing app - link for spectators below.

Dean Marit Wergeland, Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Agder, will chair the disputation.

The trial lecture Friday 21 January at 10:15 hours 
Public defence Friday 21 January at 12:00 hours

Given topic for trial lecture«Hvordan er affektiv usikkerhet som dramaturgisk grep i samtidskunsten, et tegn i tiden? I lys av dette, hvordan forholder en affektiv tilnærming seg til å praktisere forestillingsanalyse og utsigelseskonstruksjonen i en teaterpedagogisk kontekst?»

Thesis Title«Thinking through affect: Affective uncertainty in politically engaged contemporary theatre» («Å tenke gjennom affekt: Affektiv usikkerhet i politisk engasjert samtidsteater»)

Search for the thesis in AURA - Agder University Research Archive, a digital archive of scientific papers, theses and dissertations from the academic staff and students at the University of Agder.

The thesis is available here:

(With English Summary)

The CandidateNina Helene Jakobia Skogli (1988, Kragerø) Bachelor degree: Subject teacher in Theater, UiA (2012). Masters degree in Art, UiA (2014). Master thesis: Mellom nærhet og avstand: Opplevelsesorienterte forestillingsanalyser av Minnenes Museum av NIE og OMsorg av Goksøyr & Martens. Present position: Assistant Professor in theater at the Faculty of Fine Arts, UiA.

Opponents:

First opponent: Associate Professor Erik Exe Christoffersen, Aarhus University, Denmark

Second opponent: Professor Camilla Eeg-Tverbakk, OsloMet, Norway

Associate Professor Kristian Nødtvedt Knudsen, Department of Visual Arts  and Drama, University of Agder, is appointed as the administrator for the assessment committee.

Supervisors in the doctoral work were Professor Siemke Böhnisch, UiA (main superrvisor) and Professor André Eiermann, UiA (co-supervisor)

What to do as an audience member:

The disputation is open to the public. To follow the trial lecture and the public defence, which is transmitted via the Zoom conferencing app, you have to click on this link:

https://uiano.zoom.us/j/64258000699?pwd=VXY0YnR4aXZzK0lqTnhTZXJ5WGROZz09&from=addon

We ask audience members to join the virtual trial lecture at 10:05 at the earliest and the public defense at 11:50 at the earliest. After these times, you can leave and rejoin the meeting at any time. Further, we ask audience members to turn off their microphone and camera and keep them turned off throughout the event. You do this at the bottom left of the image when in Zoom. We recommend you use ‘Speaker view’. You select that at the top right corner of the video window when in Zoom.

Opponent ex auditorio:

The chair invites members of the public to pose questions ex auditorio in the introduction to the public defense, with deadlines. It is a prerequisite that the opponent has read the thesis. Questions can be submitted to the chair Marit Wergeland on e-mail marit.wergeland@uia.no