This practice-related thesis joins an ongoing debate at the intersection of art history and urban studies about the social effects of art within urban settings and the capacities of artists to disrupt dominant modes of urbanisation and encounter.
Using concepts and methods drawn from these fields and performance practices, I argue that urban performance is a spatially productive force with the potential to both project the dominant spatial narrative and to challenge it, through creating an opening within the city for the recognition of conflicting imaginaries and identities across differentiated social groups. There are two main parts to this thesis. Part I investigates Invisible Theatre as a model of urban performance aimed at social liberation developed by Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal. Through critical contextual analysis of archival documents and interviews relating to performances in Buenos Aires, Liège, and Rio de Janeiro, I map Invisible Theatre's emergence in relation to the militarisation of cities during the Brazilian military regime (1964-1985) and its practical transformation through Boal’s trajectory in exile. Exploring how contemporary Latin American practitioners have borrowed from Invisible Theatre, I consider whether it provided a model for contesting the national identifications and social exclusions conveyed through the Olympic events of London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016). Part II plots the development of my practice through the research project. Here, the thesis articulates my encounters as a housing activist with Focus E15 and as an artist, creating workshops and digitally-networked performances between Rio de Janeiro and London. Indicating how these projects became entangled in conflicting narratives of London’s Olympic legacy, I advance a model of intraurban performance and criticism attentive to the spatial negotiations that constitute them. My contribution is in advancing a critical account of Invisible Theatre relevant to current questions of social justice in art practices and urbanism, and in expressing its potential to connect local and transnational struggles through my own iterative performance practice.
Supervisors: Jayne Parker, Amna Malik, Ben Campkin (Bartlett)