Sara Jane Bailes, 13 November 2014

London Theatre Seminar
Thursday, 13 November 2014, 6.30-8.30pm
Woburn Room G22, Senate House (ground floor)

Sara Jane Bailes (University of Sussex), ‘“Art should be experienced in a place that allows staying”: Hosting as a Practice – Glasshouse ArtLifeLab, Brooklyn, NY’

In November, 2013, I received an invitation from Lital Dotan and Eyal Perry, co-founders and artistic directors of Glasshouse ArtLifeLab in Brooklyn, NY. Situated on a busy avenue bordering two distinctive and diverse neighborhoods in South Williamsburg (Hispanic and Hasidic), Glasshouse is a small art centre which functions as gallery and home to its artist-directors. Hallway, living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom are (equally) gallery space through which all are invited to negotiate the private and the public and where these two realms occupy the same domain. My invitation was to be hosted by the directors but in turn to become a ‘guest host’ at Glasshouse for three weeks. Dotan describes Glasshouse as ‘a transient, autonomous zone within an ordinary domestic space, a practice heterotopia’ where performance itself might become a transient architecture or a relationship that houses or offers provision.

The term ‘host’ (or the activity of ‘hosting’) summons two contrastive meanings. On the one hand, it suggests a benevolent, inviting and supportive individual or environment – one who can provide for another. In its inception the term invokes division of self/other and the coming together of those two in and through difference. Thus ‘hosting’ always ushers in its more sinister or threatening set of meanings. In biological terms, for example, the host is considered an organism that harbors a parasite, providing nourishment or shelter without consent or the knowledge of being turned into an unwitting host. The parasite – ‘parasite’ coming from the Greek word parastos meaning a person or thing which eats at someone else’s table – can damage the tissue of the host, effectively destroying the living organism that enables its survival.

Focusing upon my experience at Glasshouse, this research paper begins to think through some of these ideas and the rich and paradoxical meanings the term ‘host’ suggests.

Sara Jane Bailes is a writer, theatre-artist and Reader in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sussex where she teaches performance and experimental theatre practice. Her research focuses on  histories of composition and rehearsal methods in collaborative practice (in the US, UK and Europe). She mentors young practitioners and companies and publishes/lectures internationally in a variety of web-based and live contexts. Her monograph, Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure, was published by Routledge (2011) and a co-edited collection, Beckett and Musicality, is forthcoming (December 2014).