UnfamiliarEyes: Interrogating Performing Place, 2015–2020 (REF 2021 Practice Research Submission)

Mackey, Sally (2020) UnfamiliarEyes: Interrogating Performing Place, 2015–2020 (REF 2021 Practice Research Submission). The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. ISBN 978-1-8383968-1-7


This multi-component output supported by contextual information comprises three externally funded pieces of practice research in urban communities (Oldham, Camden, Bexley), three single-authored, peer-reviewed academic writings and a range of talks, papers and symposia. These components overlap and intersect, developing the sustained research enquiry, which argues that, first, performance place practices can facilitate participants’ reconsideration of place within contemporary conditions of movement, migration and the breaking up of fixed community. The multimodal research methodologies (applied theatre practice research, philosophical enquiry, theoretical analysis) led to new findings where place was ‘unfamiliarised’ and re-envisioned by and for participants. Second, this practice research has supported a theoretical reconceptualisation of place and, third, enabled an interrogation of applied theatre practice research as a polyphonic conversation with researcher, stakeholder and participant voices merging.

Within the practice, contemporary tropes of mobility and the liquid — reifications of late postmodern discourse — are challenged. Rather than binarising place and mobility (or liquidity), what has become evident through the research is a conflation, a meshing or something like an acquiescence where ‘mobility’ and ‘place’ yield to each other fluently and constantly. In using performance practices that subvert and explore locality to improve dwelling with the vulnerable (such as adults with mental illness or migrants) alongside more settled communities, it has become clear that place, locality and ‘home’ are critical and can be re-formed swiftly, even within complex lives of movement, transition and stasis. The UnfamiliarEyes research in Oldham, Camden and Bexley has led to reconceiving contemporary place as ‘anatopic’ for new and settled communities: that is, always already a disrupted place, insecure and immanently changing.

UnfamiliarEyes has included partnerships with arts organisation and local authorities, and further collaborations with many practitioners and community groups. Findings have been disseminated to academic and non-academic audiences through a range of media.


Published Version - PDF (REF 2021 Practice Research Submission)

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