Theatre, Performance and Visual Images

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 12:00am

Special Issue, Theatre Journal, December 2017

The act of seeing remains powerful in discourses of theatre and performance but how images assist in creating, recording, and describing performance continues to be contested. This special issue explores the use—and potential misuse—of images in contemporary theatre practice and in historiographic analysis. Visuality in performance is supported and challenged by the permeability of theatre’s borders, when other forms of visual literacy (cinema, art, pop culture, etc) increasingly intersect with performance, as David Román noted in a special issue of Theatre Journal on Theatre and Visual Culture in 2001. Since then, the prevalence of digitisation has further broadened the visual spectrum underpinning performance.

Maaike Bleeker's Visuality in the Theatre recalibrates the role of visuality in a process of de-theatricalization, using, among other theorists, Hans-Thies Lehmann and his account of the visual in postdramatic theatre. From a different perspective, Dominic Johnson argues in Theatre & the Visual that “[t]he visible elements of a theatrical production are … ghosted by ideas, identities, and histories that may evade full representation” (6). Theatre historians have long explored the ghosts that lurk behind visual traces of performance from the past. This issue concentrates on what visual images do, what they tell us, and how they might cut across what we ‘see.’ How do images communicate in contemporary performance? How do we evaluate visual evidence, particularly when that evidence is often fragmentary or partial? How do we investigate attempts to evade representation? How does the iconography of theatre imagery affect the discipline? How does the dominance of the tablet/screen world intersect with performance? How does visualisation and/or digitisation affect the visual experience of performance?

This special issue will be edited by Theatre Journal editor Joanne Tompkins. Submissions (6,000–9,000 words) should be e-mailed to managing editor Bob Kowkabany ( no later than 28 February 2017. 


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