june 2018

22jun12:3513:05Laura Bissell: The Sea and Self12:35 - 13:05 E: Ship Studio

Event Details

“The Sea and Self” will explore recent contemporary performances that communicate the sense of autobiographical connection humans feel with the sea, which oceanographer Rachel Carson would argue is due to “our inheritance from the day, untold millions of years ago, when a remote ancestor, having progressed from the one-celled to the many-celled stage, first developed a circulatory system in which the fluid was merely the water of the sea” (Carson, 2014: 20). This paper will ask: how can our human connection with the sea (mobilised through autobiographical performance) help us conserve it in a time of ecological crisis? 

The work of two UK-based artists will be used as key case studies to explore the role of autobiography in contemporary performance created on, or with, the sea. Black-British performance maker Selina Thompson and transgender performance artist Emma Frankland both use the sea as a stimulus in the process of making autobiographical work, and it plays a role in their lives, art-making processes and the solo work that they produce. The sea as environment is physicalized in both artists’ theatre-based work, but its role as a vessel for conceptual exploration and ideas is also evident. For Thompson, the retracing of an ancestral journey across the Transatlantic Slave Triangle uses the sea as a metaphor for grief and cultural trauma, while for Frankland, the sea as a fluid, shapeshifting material represents ideas of gender fluidity and transformation.



Dr Laura Bissell is a Lecturer in Contemporary Performance Practice at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a visiting lecturer on the MRes in Creative Practices at Glasgow School of Art. Laura has presented her research on contemporary practices at conferences nationally and internationally and she has had her work published in the International Journal of Performance Art and Digital Media, The Body, Space Technology Journal, The Scottish Journal of Performance and the Contemporary Theatre Review. She has been writing about water since 2014 and is currently working on a book titled Performing Seas.


(Friday) 12:35 - 13:05


E: Ship Studio

Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL