London Theatre Seminar

Postgraduate panel: Lynne McCarthy and David Roberts, 12 March

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London Theatre Seminar
Postgraduate panel
Thursday, 12 March 2015, 6.30-8.30pm
Senate House, Room 349 (third floor)
Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

‘Statecraft and the Stranger: Cultural lets in social property’
Lynne McCarthy (Queen Mary, University of London)

This paper takes cultural claims to property made by artists to discuss the current UK housing crisis both in the social and private rental sectors. In his address to South London Renters, Kevin Long from Lambeth Law Centre, commented that the housing sector no longer contains any real distinction between social property and private property as it pertains to availability, security of tenure, rent and liveability. This collapse has occurred as a consequence of policy such as, the ‘benefits cap’, the ‘bedroom tax’, the ‘buy to let’ scheme and the private administration of social housing associations. Moving towards this realisation, an assembly of cultural activists from Lambeth, Southwark and Hackney staged an occupation of a ‘buy-to-let’ housing block in London in November 2013 to highlight the lack of affordable and social homes exposed by the scheme’s implementation. Here I analyse this staged ‘house-warming party’ as an example of where strangers make claims to property. The ‘stranger’ is a concept that Georg Simmel sees as an economic figure perceived to be neither on the inside or outside of an environment. I explore the stranger as the economic mode in which cultural workers enter the domain of the home with the function to cleanse, expropriate, and arbitrate which, I argue, can perform the work of statecraft or, indeed, anti-statecraft.

Lynne McCarthy is currently a PhD student in Drama at QMUL. Her research engages with people-property relations in current cultural practices, with a particular focus on the interactions of artists with homemade space, evictions and waste. Her work aims to articulate contemporary modes of cultural possession. Her research has appeared in  Contemporary Theatre Review‘s ‘Interventions’ (May 2014) and Research in Drama Education (January 2015).

A bit brutal, scary, but kinda nice: Performing public housing in East London’
David Roberts (The Bartlett, UCL)

This paper will describe my long-term collaborative work with communities of two East London housing estates undergoing regeneration which uses performance as a medium for residents to gather, embody and enact the history of their estates, invoking original social ideals and offering them for collective analysis against lived experience and critical texts. The research and practice expands on the emerging shared terrain between architecture and performance by forging new connections between the work of Jane Rendell, Adrian Forty, Rebecca Schneider, Heike Roms and Jen Harvie to choreograph relationships between building, text and people through critical acts of writing, discussion and re-enactment. These performative events open a social, discursive and imaginative space for residents to share opinions and knowledge and question contemporary regeneration plans.

David Roberts is a doctoral student in Architectural Design at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, a course tutor in MSc Urban Studies, UCL, part of collaborative art practice Fugitive Images and part of architecture collective Involve. He uses poetry and performance to explore the relation between people and place. He has exhibited, lectured and published work related to public housing, architecture, critical methodologies and site-specific practice.  Along with Andrea Luka Zimmerman, David is coordinating a six-week project at PEER from 18 February to 28 March, opening the gallery up as a social, discursive and imaginative space around issues of housing and spatial justice in East London through a constantly changing series of exhibitions, screenings, discussions, readings and workshops.

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