The Centre for Performance and Urban Living

The Centre for Performance and Urban Living is a new research centre at the University of Surrey (established in September 2018). It emerges from the work of the Institute of Performance and GSA researchers’ engagement with University’s Urban Living strategic research theme.

The aim of the Centre is to expand critical and practical understandings of urban living, particularly as that might relate to practices and process of and from ‘performance’ (broadly conceived). We explore the usefulness of performance practices and theories to interdisciplinary understandings and re-imaginings of how we understand cities, the challenges they face, and the cultures and communities that inhabit them.

‘Performance’ in this context is understood as a valuable, vital but under-used means of understanding a city. We are equally interested to examine artistic performances as we are the actions and practices in a city that make a city. That is, by reflecting on the work that artists perform in a city, by looking at performances of cultural events, by understanding strategic decisions as they are performed in city, we can map, review and reflect on performances that make and make sense of a given urban context.

So, performance can be an aesthetic and/or social practice, one that might just as easily take place in a theatre space as in the situation room of a disaster planning organisation. Thus, we define performance in line with ‘performance studies’ and are interested in performance as a means of understanding and recalibrating understandings of urban living, and how interdisciplinary understandings of urban living might be useful to understanding performance practices in a given urban context.

Essentially the work of the Centre is driven by a desire to investigate what performance can do for understandings of urban life, and vice versa?


How the Centre ‘works’:

We meet regularly and informally to share work that is ‘in progress’. These meetings are a chance to (for example) reflect on new ideas, test out and get feedback on drafts of articles or conference papers, have a funding bid ‘peer reviewed’.

The Centre will also host presentations of practice-research and academic talks, as well as longer events such as symposia, research workshops, or conferences. These latter events may be framed through an annual theme that the Centre is particularly focused on.

The intention is to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and conversation and as such we welcome participation from any disciplinary area, so long as the work relates to the idea of ‘performance and urban living’ in some way.


Current research areas

Performance and Urban Resilience

Scenographic Theory

Costumed-participation, cosplay and methods of queering appearance

Performances of ‘home’

Performance in/and situations of urban crisis

Art and performance of place

Performative/performance architectures

Politics of ‘wreckage’

Performance and environment

Forthcoming Events:

Thursday 10th January 2019, 12.30 – 6pm (Business Insights Lab, University of Surrey)

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Urban Resilience’ (kindly funded by the University’s Urban Living Research Theme).

Includes ‘Urban Resilience Café’ (a workshop and networking opportunity) and panel discussion ‘Performance, Culture, Resilience: interdisciplinary approaches to city challenges’. Further details and booking information to follow.

Thursday 25th April 2019 - Between Myth and Memory: Contemporary Politics and the Performance of History

An interdisciplinary one-day symposium. Call for papers