Jayne Batzofin & RETAGS - the challenges of archiving performance-as-research

In this dialogue Prof Christo Doherty of ARA speaks to Jayne Batzofin, the digital archivist on the Reimagining Tragedy from African and the Global South (RETAGS) project. This performance-as-research project is being led by Prof. Mark Fleishman with Mandla Mbothwe in the Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies at University of Cape Town. The project seeks to create space for an extended interrogation of the vast body of tragic works produced in the theatres of Africa, using performance methodologies as analytical tools to gain purchase on the complex realities of the colonial aftermath. It does this by investigating current events in the postcolony beyond the theatre, through the “prism of tragedy”.

Of particular relevance to the theme of this podcast, the RETAGS project endeavours to challenge the Eurocentric biases and preconceptions of Theatre Studies in two respects: firstly by shifting the perspective to Africa and the Global South thereby challenging the assumptions that align with what has been the predominant perspective in Theatre Studies; and secondly, by engaging in art practice as a mode of research in a central way alongside other more conventional research modes and methods challenging its predominant methodologies.

Jayne Batzofin’s work as the digital archivist on the RETAGS project has been crucial to documenting and making available the rehearsal and development processes in the project. In other words treating the entire process as a mode of research. In this podcast we discuss the challenges of undertaking the documentation, including the ethical and IP issues that have arisen when recording both rehearsals and performances and the scrupulously careful approach that Jayne has taken towards this work. We also examine the larger implications of the digital archiving process and whether or not it could be understood as a resistance to or extension of the ever expanding digital surveillance state. Finally we look at the vast amount of material that gets generated through digital documentation, and Jayne’s views on the potential of AI for dealing with this problem. For links to the digital archive and to more information about this important project, please visit at the RETAGS website.
14 Apr English Explicit South Africa Arts · Education

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