This talk thinks through questions of human and nonhuman agency provoked by the Anthropocene. Focusing on the agencies of space (which Doreen Massey  defines as a “sphere of relations”) and on the spatial paradigms that have arisen in the Anthropocene – landscape, environment, and network – the aim is to highlight how these paradigms have shaped ways of seeing and organising human-place relationships; the claim is that attending to how spaces act on us and possess their own purposes might lead to more life-supporting ways of relating to them. I will show how these spatial paradigms have acted as models for theatre- and performance-making and share three case studies of contemporary artists/collectives that critically and imaginatively engage with them. Shifting from human agency to the agencies of space means to confront the anthropocentrism of theatre, of ecological debates, and of western thought, more generally. Perhaps the most anthropocentric of arts, theatre also has the capacity to confront the anthropocentrism underlying the Anthropocene, in part by activating the places of performance.
Joanna Mansbridge is assistant professor in the Department of English at City University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include theatre and performance studies, film, gender studies, and ecocriticism. Her work appears in Theatre Journal, Genre, Theatre Research International, Modern Drama, and Theatre Topics. She is on the international advisory board for the open source journal, Performance Matters.
This discussion series tackles questions related to the role of interdisciplinarity in contemporary architectural design and scholarship. It brings humanities-oriented researchers, artists, and writers from outside the discipline of architecture to the Faculty of Architecture to share their scholarly approaches to questions that are shaping debates both within and ancillary to architecture and the humanities.
Through this series, we hope to begin conversations and introduce new approaches and ways of thinking that might influence how we research, study, and practice. Are there ways in which interdisciplinary approaches can help address chronic imbalances and deficiencies in the ways architecture has been historically conceived, produced, and studied? Does interdisciplinarity risk eroding the specific methods of inquiry that make architecture unique?
The Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative (AUHI) comprises a group of designers, theorists, and historians at the University of Hong Kong. Collectively, we work to understand how buildings and cities shape our relationship to each other and to the world at large. One of the objectives of the AUHI is to address the complexities at work in architecture and urbanization through a range of sources; this lecture series is part of that attempt to open architecture to a broader cultural debate.