Performance for Civic Futures: Fooling with Contradiction
Tim Prentki, Visiting Professor in Radical Comedy
Organised by the Performing Arts Department, and sponsored by ICE, this event was the first seminar in the Performance and Civic Futures Research Group 2014 series.
Ash Wednesday, beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar, was the date chosen by Tim Prentki to tease out a radical reflection on a familiar dichotomy between that season’s privations and the exuberant carnival of Shrove Tuesday. He writes, “In Breughel’s painting of The Battle Between Carnival and Lent the centrepiece is a fool who leads a couple away from the scene of the ‘battle’.
Where is the fool leading the pair? Prentki reads the painting as an allegory for the folly of organising our world according to binaries fossilised in habitual conflict. Instead, the fool offers play: imagination, humour and the refusal of fixed positions, as a way of understanding and enjoying the human condition.
The presentation will explore moments of theatre across the ages where a fool has undertaken the function articulated by Breughel. Binaries are replaced by contradictions as foolish figures attempt to undermine the tropes of authority not by overt, violent opposition but by wielding those weapons over which the fool has mastery: wit, irony and contradiction.
In conclusion Prentki will invite seminar participants to consider what playing the fool can contribute to some of the urgent political questions of our day such as inequality, planetary exhaustion and unemployment. Is a political fool an oxymoron or is folly the means of escaping the all-encompassing nets of ideology?”
Prentki’s suggestion that the politics of ‘Austerity’ are, in important ways, a kind of new and unending Lent addresses a central concern of the Performance and Civic Futures Research Group. Thus, his discussion of folly, like many jokes told in the theatre, has clearly serious intent: to consider the contours and dynamics of the role of performance practices in imagining an alternative politics of human flourishing grounded in the ‘cultural variety and utopian potential’ of urban environments. (Jen Harvie, Theatre& The City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009): 49)
Date: Wednesday 5th March 2014
4.30pm Registration and Refreshments
5.00pm Event Start
6.00pm Refreshments and Networking
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