Workshop: A path from Irvine: Theatrical and anthropological explorations of self-knowledge

Workshop: A path from Irvine: Theatrical and anthropological explorations of self-knowledge, Caroline Gatt (in person) and Gey Pin Ang (telepresenting)

This workshop emerges from a collaboration between a theatre practitioner, Ang and an anthropologist, Gatt. This praxis session will intertwine group tasks, brief spoken presentations, a question and answer session with Ang Gey Pin and open discussion. The collaboration between Gatt and Ang has developed along multiple paths: through practical work in the studio, academic discussions and more open imaginative exchanges. This workshop will similarly explore the diverse paths of self-knowledge that emerge from different ways of life and skilled work on the self, and will open up questions about non-relativistic understandings of self-knowledge. We suggest that the notion of embodied cognition can be fruitfully challenged if a broader understanding of selfhood is taken into account.

In her current project Gatt has taken an anthropological approach in parallel to the theatrical investigation with Ang. For this session Gatt will consider Grotowski’s interest in what he called ‘objective drama’, a phase in his work developed in Irvine. This provides a challenging starting point for an anthropological approach to self-knowledge. Inspired by Ingold’s ecological phenomenology and Viveiros de Castro’s manifesto for ontological self-determination, Gatt’s anthropological stance is to take seriously possibly non-commensurable forms of self and self-knowledge.
In this workshop, Gatt will invite participants to explore different culturally and historically situated forms of self-awareness through theatre-inspired tasks. Here knowing by means of theatre, rather than providing an analysis of self-knowledge in theatre is key to understanding different possibilities of the self. Examples of such different forms of self include ‘Western’ notions of self-knowledge as ‘reflexivity’, permeable and partible selves in South India and moments of distended selfhood in experimental theatre.

A pedagogue and performer currently completing a Practice-as-Research PhD at the University of Kent, Ang Gey Pin explores her work as a reflexive investigation of a creative path. Having spent a period of 9 weeks at Grotowski’s Objective Drama Program, University of California, Irvine, in 1992, Ang will trace her path since Irvine.

Ang will briefly describe how her formative training has had significant influences on her and has opened up a path for her work Sourcing Within since 2006. Ang’s current research emphasizes the notion of ‘care of the self’ and the discoveries of the performer’s potentiality via one’s physical and vocal embodiment in a performative work. Her work concerns and relates shared human experience within cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary contexts.

We suggest that work on the self is ontologically generative. Selves and self-knowledge are veritably transformed through joint work in processes of ontogenetic development and growth. Taking this transformational potential seriously, and being aware of its limitations, allows us to transcend relativism without ignoring alterity.