After the rupture: Restoration or revolution?

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Journal Article
Performance Research, 2014, 19 (6), pp. 22 - 29
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© 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis. How can a collapsing world be shown to be a chance for change? The catastrophe of the earthquakes that began on September 4th 2010 continues to shake Christchurch, New Zealand, to its very foundations. Much of the city was reduced to rubble - first by nature and then by governmental and corporate machinery. The ruptures caused by the earthquakes and what came after have created openings and a sense of urgency for creative experimentation and challenges to the status quo. Canterbury Tales (October 2013) was produced by Free Theatre for the Festival of Transitional Architecture and involved: artists and academics from Christchurch, Auckland and Sydney; Christchurch Symphony Orchestra; performers from Ngai Tahu and Pacific Underground; local businesses and the general public. As a carnivalesque celebration of community in the face of natural, and man-made, disaster, Canterbury Tales featured a procession of giant puppets and masked performers that led participants in a performative exploration of the destroyed city centre.Peter Falkenberg, artistic director of the overall production, and Thea Brejzek, who led the design project, Eye of the Storm, consider how performance in an earthquake zone can spatialize the transgressive potential of social, cultural and political ruptures. This paper reflects on the dialectical negotiation underlying the project: following Bakhtin, as a natural, cyclical, temporal interruption, while also facing a catastrophe that helps us create the real state of emergency Benjamin demands for our time. In Benjamin's words: The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the "state of emergency" in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We may be at a time in Christchurch, as everywhere, when we must confront a catastrophe that, being of our own making, is even more virulent than an earthquake.
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