25 – 29 May 2011, Utrecht
Camillo 2.0: Technology, Memory, Experience (May 25-29, 2011) was a joint initiative of Theatre Studies at Utrecht University and theatre festival Festival a/d Werf in collaboration with a great number of partners.
Each year during the second half of May, Festival a/d Werf takes over the Utrecht city centre with a program packed with experimental performances taking place at various theatre venues but also in bars, on the streets, in abandoned buildings, and more. For PSi#17, the University and the Festival joined forces in a program organized in the true spirit of PSi, where academic reflection and performative practice meet, transform and question each other.
The title Camillo 2.0 referred to Giulio Camillo’s theatre of memory, a 16th century invention that aimed at allowing a spectator access to all existing knowledge, as well as providing the possibility to orate about this ‘as if he were Cicero himself’. Though world renowned in the 16th century, Camillo’s theatre was forgotten after the death of its inventor, only to make an impressive comeback in the second half of the 20th century as an initiator of the computer and the World Wide Web (Eco, Bolzoni, Winkier, Davis). Camillo’s theatre is simultaneously a kind of external memory as well as a representation of the way in which memory functions, including the way in which the relation to the spectator is constituted. The construction displays the Ars Memoria: the techné of memory (Yates). This move made Camillo’s theatre of memory into an emblem and a historic point of reference which resonated in the subject of the conference, namely: the performing arts as providing a perspective on and embodiment of the relation between technology, memory and experience.
Technological developments allow more people access to more information than ever before. Additionally, they make it possible to store and share all experiences, inputs, and topics of conversation. Technology plays an important role in the way in which memory is shaped. Technological developments allow for storing and retrieving more and different kinds of information. These technologies alter what and how much can be stored but also transform how memory is shaped, how the stored is experienced, how our and others’ memories are entangled in the here-and-now, and, in the end, even how we think and imagine. This does not only concern the newest high-tech developments. From the first occurrence of tools to the complex interactions between humans and digital technologies, our consciousness, our ways of thinking and imagining, are the product of our co-evolution with technology. “We have always been Cyborgs” (Andy Clark).
PSi #17 proposed to approach this co-evolution from the vantage point of performance as artistic practice, as embodiment of culturally specific symbolic systems, and as functional technology. The conference brought together 560 participants from 32 countries. Next to a great number of paper presentations, a prelude programme (with among others Brian Rotman, Alva Noë, Jon McKenzie, Michal Kobialka and Rosi Braidotti) a lecture programme about the actuality of Camillo’s memory theatre (with Peter Matussek, William Ulricchio and Janez Jansa) two plenary lectures (by Mieke Bal and Jane Taylor), performance, installations, artists talks, the program included 43 shifts: alternative presentational modes, from performances to demonstrations, to interventions, to walks to interactive installations, to one-to-one encounters to… a bar. The Off Off Korsakoff bar dedicated to the lesser gods, to the struggling young scholar, the little known artist and the hotshots of the past. A bar dedicated to forgetting.
PSi #17 also welcomed a new PSi initiative. During the Annual General Meeting at the previous conference in Toronto, Richard Gough, observing that Performance Studies has outgrown its inaugural years, suggested it might be time to complement the many PSi initiatives aimed at supporting young and emerging scholars with a new PSi committee catering the needs of scholars at the opposite end of their career. For them he proposed the Declining Scholars Committee. The PSi #17 conference in Utrecht hosted the very first activities of this new PSi committee, namely the Over the Hill – a Rest Home for Performance Studies Scholars.
A selection of papers and documentation of shifts can be found in Performance Research 17.1: On Technology & Memory.