June 18, 2019

School of Creative and Performing Arts welcomes hundreds of international performance artists and scholars

Performance Studies international holds annual conference in Calgary July 4-7; public welcome to some events
School of Creative and Performing Arts welcomes hundreds of international performance artists and scholars
School of Creative and Performing Arts welcomes hundreds of international performance artists and sc

Elasticity: The ability to be shaped by an external force and then return to an original shape. It’s the theme of PSi #25, an annual conference presented by the professional association Performance Studies international (PSi), and hosted this year by the School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) from July 4 to 7. The event brings together up to 300 international artists, thinkers, activists and academics to exchange knowledge on interdisciplinary research, both artistic and academic, in the field of performance.

This year’s elasticity theme refers to adaptability and flexibility, to extremes that are a basic aspect of life in this city. With springtime flooding, summer drought and wildfires, and impressive single-day temperature fluctuations in winter, Calgary’s landscape is perhaps the most visible example of elasticity. Other areas like the economy, politics, educational systems, professional opportunities, and performing arts industries follow a comparable pattern of highs and lows, fluctuating between plenty and scarcity.

The conference features more than 100 panels, performances, workshops and installations inspired by the theme of elasticity. These events focus on artistic approaches and address the performance of history, politics, gender, race, Indigeneity, technology and the environment in everyday life and the arts.

“PSi is one of the world’s highest-profile organizations in our field,” notes SCPA Director Bruce Barton, who is co-directing the conference with Associate Professor Pil Hansen. “In its entire history, PSi has only held its annual conference in Canada once before, almost a decade ago. Hosting the organization here puts the University of Calgary on the international performance studies map to an unprecedented degree.”

Events for the community

Although most of the conference program is exclusive to participants, PSi #25 offers some unique opportunities that are open to the greater Calgary community.

The internationally acclaimed American writer and philosopher Alva Noë will present a keynote on how art and life are entangled, exploring what art is — how it works, why it matters to us and what it can tell us about ourselves. Another keynote presenter is Mii-Sum-In-Iskum (whose Canadian name is Justin Many Fingers), a queer, Indigenous, disabled, and MAD artist from the Kanawa Blackfoot Reserve in southern Alberta, who is also the artistic director of the Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society.  

He will guide the audience on a personal and communal journey of Indigenous arts, exploring what has survived over the last 153 years of colonialism in Canada, as well as its rich history over the thousands of years that predate it. Many Fingers will take a look at how the arts sector can better engage in culturally informed artistic practice.

Co-presented with Springboard Performance, Vancouver-based choreographer, performer, and dramaturge Lee Su-Feh will perform EVERYTHING II on the Riverwalk Plaza in East Village. This solo work offers one immigrant's way of acknowledging the Indigenous territory in which she dances.

During the conference, the Department of Art will present a collaborative SciArt video installation created by Patricia A. Suchy and Vince LiCata from Louisiana State University in The Little Gallery. A century ago, the first photographs and films of Antarctic exploration fascinated audiences worldwide. Persistence of Vision: Antarctica, supported by the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, re-enacts those images in the very places where they were originally made, with the scientists and support staff working there today.