At EFI we support interdisciplinary research which creatively crosses disciplinary boundaries and offers new ways of thinking about the world. Lying at the cross-section of art, science and geography, Making Routes is a dynamic project which connects researchers and performers who are exploring mobilities in creative and challenging ways. In September 2021, EFI funded an event celebrating and reflecting on a decade of the project.
What is the value in movement?
We live in a dynamic world. Mobility and the movement of people, objects, knowledge, and ideas are central to many aspects of our society. This has been recognised across several disciplines, including geography, anthropology, and architecture, and coalesced to form a “mobilities paradigm” in which the central role that movement plays in our social lives is acknowledged and explored.
The restriction of our physical movement during the COVID-19 pandemic, our changing relationship with travel in relation to the climate crisis and the expansion of digital infrastructure for mobilising online connections, emphasise that movement is not value-free. In professional contexts for example, the ability to travel and connect with others, both physically and digitally, allows us to gain network capital; it acts as a display of professionalism, demonstrates commitment to building relationships and can affect employability. Equally, the ability to travel for leisure (and where we can travel to) may signify financial security or class status.
Movement in performance
The last decade has been characterised by an increasing interest in movement and journeying within performance and theatre. This relates not just to performances about journeys, but in the literal movement of performance within and between sites. Exploring the meaning in movement and journeys through performance acknowledges it as an opportunity for creative exchange in knowledge and relationships.
Since 2010, the Making Routes project has sought to explore the ways performers, artists and researchers are using journeys to inform their work.
In response to their own explorations of journeys through performance, researchers Dr David Overend and Dr Laura Bissell created a network of artists and researchers who work with mobilities in contemporary performance. The network brings together individuals who are forging new paths through troubled places or travelling experimentally with art and ideas. For over a decade, the network has served as a valuable testing ground for thinking and practice in journey-based performance and created opportunities for collaborations and reflections on the performance of movement itself.
Celebrating a decade of Making Routes
In 2021, to mark 10 years of the Making Routes project, David and Laura published a book with Triarchy Press. Making Routes: Journeys in Performance 2010-2020 captures a decade of creative writing about movement and journey-based research and art. The book is a celebration of David and Laura’s own journeys, which have included traveling to Rovaniemi in Finland by train, following Suffragettes through South Ayrshire and creatively reimagining their daily commutes in the west of Scotland. Bringing these reflections together with contributions from other artists, performers, researchers and writers, the book consolidates a decades-worth of thinking on performance on the move.
The launch of the book in September 2021 was accompanied by an event at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, which was supported by EFI. The launch featured performances by artists, researchers, educators, and filmmakers which explored movement and journeys, bringing the reflections documented in the book to life. Guests were also invited to take part in an audio walk through Glasgow, where Making Routes had begun exactly ten years ago. The event not only celebrated the past 10 years of the project but marked the start of a new phase of the project’s journey.
Speaking about the event, Dr David Overend said:
“EFI funding for the launch event really helped take the research to the next stage and gave it the drive to do something bigger”
You can watch the launch event on YouTube:
The book and launch event provided an opportunity to take stock of journey-based research over the last 10 years and to ask, “where next?”. Within the book, David and Laura identify four areas which they hope to explore in the future of the project: the performance of digital journeys, migration stories, the precarity of the arts sector and creative responses to the climate crisis.
In a post-pandemic world, we are learning to revalue mobility and are increasingly reflecting upon the ways movement can, and should, change as a result of the climate crisis and increasing digitisation. The exploration of mobility through art encourages us to think about how we could do things differently and reminds us of the importance of interdisciplinary practice in making sense of our world.
Dr David Overend is a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Moray House School of Education and Sport. His research interests are interdisciplinary but focus on contemporary theatre and performance, often at the intersection with cultural geography. Current research focusses on three distinct but overlapping themes: mobility, wildness, and participation.
Dr Laura Bissell is Interim Head of Contemporary Performance Practice BA (Hons.) and Lecturer in Research at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Her research interests include contemporary performance practices; technology and performance; feminist performance; ecology and performance; and performance and journeys.