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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Kingston University
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 2EE

Tel: +44 (0)20 8417 9000

Performing Lives

Date:06 July 2009 to
08 July 2009
Location:Penrhyn Road Campus Kingston University KT1 2EE
Fee:Various registration options

The conference took place at the Penrhyn Road Campus, between 6 and 8 July 2009.

This international conference on 'Performing Lives' followed the inaugural conference of the Centre for Life Narratives, 'The Spirit of the Age', the focus of which was 'Writing Lives' (2007). Our second biennial conference 'Performing Lives' (2009) invited analysis and debate on the relationship between life histories and the ways in which they are embodied and enacted in performance, across a range of cultures and a variety of media: drama, dance, film, TV and video.

The performance of 'real' lives takes many forms. On the one hand, in commercial film and TV the traditional 'biopic' is an enduring favourite; on the other, autobiographical, verbatim and tribunal modes in theatre, docudramas and TV reality programmes, and more experimental approaches to autobiographical and documentary filmmaking, have challenged conventional forms through their emphasis on 'ordinary' lives, their incorporation of multiple perspectives and their interrogation of notions of reality and fiction. In dance, performers' own lives have frequently served as source material for choreographers while the abstract, non-verbal nature of dance provokes alternative approaches to the representation and performance of lives.

Key questions included:

  • WHY LIFE? What do we aim to achieve in performing aspects of our own lives and those of others? What are the pleasures for the spectator/consumer of life narratives? How do the aims of film and TV makers, theatre-makers and dance-makers differ?
  • WHICH LIFE? What kinds of lives do different performance-makers find interesting and why? What is the relationship between the performer and the life performed, particularly in relation to star performances? What are the ideological messages inscribed in life histories in performance?
  • WHOSE LIFE? From whose perspective is the life being told or shown? What questions are raised about authority, authenticity and ownership? What are the moral and ethical implications of performing the lives of others?
  • REAL LIFE? How does the performance of life frame questions about the relationship between reality, fiction and audience? Given the impossibility of representing the whole of a life, what determines the choices made about what elements of a life to perform?

  • Download programme (PDF file)

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Kingston University
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames

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