Sruti Bala is Assistant Professor in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Amsterdam, where she coordinated the MA International Performance Research Programme for five years. She has been guest lecturer at the University of Ghent (Belgium), the University of Hull at Scarborough (UK), the College of Music and Drama, Khartoum (Sudan), the University of Cape Town (South Africa), Central University of Hyderabad and Delhi University (India). She studied German Literature at the Universities of Bombay and Bonn and completed her doctorate in Theatre Studies at the University of Mainz. Her research interests are in the fields of participatory art, pedagogy and performance, art and activism and feminism.
The project is concerned with a theorization of the concept of participation in contemporary theatre and performance. It aims to undo the unassuming, innocent status of participatory art and reflect on its conflictual, agonistic potential. My interest in participatory art can be formulated in two interconnected ways: first, how do audiences respond to participatory art in unintended, unscripted ways? Second, in what way does performance seeking to foreground the sociopolitical in its aesthetic concept participate in political life? The research project addresses some of the ways in which the two dimensions of participation may be conceptually thought together. Core to this investigation is the way in which the political premises underlying the call for participation are aesthetically re-imagined. The performance examples studied in this project range from the 1990s to the present and can be divided into three strands: community participation; spectator participation in site-specific performances and experiential theatre; and participatory approaches to pedagogy combining art and activism.
The project draws on insights from both research and practice in the applied arts, as well as from debates on participation in visual and performance art. In doing so, it hopes to ‘interweave’ these disciplinary areas that are rarely brought into conversation with each other. The study makes use of a comparative and closely contextualized analysis of examples from different cultural domains. A central methodological concern is the critical assessment of the method of ‘participatory observation’ in instances where participation constitutes both object as well as lens of study.