New Theatre Quarterly

Research Article

Mapping Realities: Representing War through Affective Place Making

Michael Balfour

Abstract

One of the most unusual statistics in the study of performance and war is that aesthetic activity often increases in times of conflict. In this article Michael Balfour extends the consideration of performance and war to aesthetic projects that were located far removed from the centres of conflict, but that deeply connected with the affective impact of war. As an illustration of performative practice, the examples demonstrate the ways in which place making can play with documenting and representing war experiences in different ways. The two examples – This is Camp X-Ray in Manchester (a temporary installation) and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC – were designed in separate contexts for very different purposes; but contribute to understanding the kinds of choices that artists make in representing the affective ‘truths’ of war experience. In both cases, the artists were interested in creating spaces that would make the wars more visible for an audience, and provide a tangible place in which experiences of war could be re-conceived and an affective connection made. Michael Balfour is Professor of Applied Theatre, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. His research expertise is in the social applications of theatre, in particular theatre and war, prison theatre, and arts and health. Major Australian Research Council-funded projects include The Difficult Return, on approaches to artsbased work with returning military personnel, and Captive Audiences, on the impact of performing arts programmes in prisons. His books include Theatre and War 1933–1945 and, most recently, Performance in Place of War, co-authored with James Thompson and Jenny Hughes (Seagull Press, 2010).

Key words

  • theatre and war;
  • conflict;
  • performance;
  • place;
  • veterans;
  • war on terror