Academic journal article About Performance

Sustaining Theatre: Theatre and Sustainability

Academic journal article About Performance

Sustaining Theatre: Theatre and Sustainability

Article excerpt

The final presenter was Cameron Tonkin, from the EcoDesign Foundation.

I currently work for an organisation called the EcoDesign Foundation which creates with ecologically sustainable design and then I'm doing a Ph.D. at Sydney University at the same time. And that is where I want to begin. I'm deliberately taking up Max's imperative at the beginning which was to say this could have been a forum in which people who are not involved in theatre (I've had some pretty amateurish relations to theatre) say something about theatre.

And to this extent the first thing I want to say is that everything I am about to do stems from the fact that I think what matters is sustainability. Now that's all I think that matters; I think absolutely nothing else matters. I think everything else that matters only matters to the extent that it obstructs that particular thing that matters. Everything sustains or it doesn't sustain and that is all I'm interested in.

So what I'm essentially doing is using that as a provocation to say if you come to it with something specific, if you come to it with an ideology or a politics like Anna was talking about, but not in a general sense, if you literally come with that as your politics, if you think that is what matters, then what happens to the question 'does theatre matter?'

That's the first thing that I need to say and everything that's going to happen is framed around the concept of sustainability. Now, that needs some qualifiers that I don't really want to go to because this isn't a forum about sustainability, but suffice it to say the sustainability I'm talking about has absolutely nothing to do with biophysical systems. It has absolutely nothing to do with conventional environmentalism, it has absolutely nothing to with ecology. Those things are the biggest problem the world faces at the moment. They are unthinking, anti-intellectual discourses of pure reactionary conservatism, and they need to go quickly. Sustainability is a question of culture. It is a question of thinking. And that is the sole reason why at this point of time I am existing: I have to get that message across. Sustainability is a question of thinking, and at the moment, sustainability has only arrived as absolute unthinking, and this is the danger the world faces. So that's what matters for me.

The next thing to say is a qualifier for last night, which I do want to apologise for: leaping into that violence of academic dispute. This also has a bearing on what I want to say. It is becoming increasingly unfashionable to ask fairly big style academic questions that used to be in vogue when Marxism was possible (and it's not any more). It used to be possible to ask fairly big broad questions about paradigms, about structures about overarching connections between things, about histories. Now all these are very unfashionable things people perpetually are working in Delcuzian/Foucauldian micro-political situations, particularities, identity politics, all these things, and I think this is a real danger. I think there is a need to start to think bigger.

That's the second thing framing what I am about to do now. It has to do with the way I was arguing last night: it is a stupid thing to do to leap to the accusation of fascism, but I think there are things to be thought that are not being thought. There are genealogies that need to be worked over.

Essentially, the things I am about to do are concerned with these ideas. They are asking what does it mean for something to matter. Instead of just rushing straight into does theatre matter, what docs it mean when something matters? And I insist that this question must be approached in the big framework; that asking the question what matters, particularly asking the question about whether art matters, and especially when you ask whether art matters politically, involves enormous genealogies and histories that must be taken into account.

There are very dangerous things to think here, and it is very important to be aware of them. …

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