Site-specific performance rituals in the Anthropocene

In this creative practice PhD, I investigated site-specific performance rituals in the Anthropocene. Driven by the urge to respond to the challenges of the current time, I examined how different seasonal rituals might be expressed in specific sites in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Furthermore, including participants from diverse cultural backgrounds, and carrying an awareness of the complexities of colonialism, I analysed insights from key ritual experts to enhance my understanding of ritual practices within the specific socio-cultural and environmental context of Aotearoa. Inspired by critical posthumanist philosophies, I viewed ritual practices through a lens that considered the interconnectedness of technology, culture, and nature, moving beyond essentialist and dualistic tendencies. Inspired by (Haraway, 2007) and Braidotti (2019), I embraced a perspective of ‘staying with the trouble’ and ‘radical hope’ as a strategy to inspire commitments to safeguarding life on Earth amid increasing societal divisions, and environmental disasters. Working at the intersection of various disciplines, I crafted a qualitative research design that embraced multiple ways of knowing through creative practice research. I gathered insights from four ritual experts grounded in mātauranga Māori or neo-Paganism through in-depth interviews, to comprehend multifaceted and culturally sensitive approaches to ritual practices in Aotearoa. Moreover, the creative investigation of four seasonal performance rituals served as the primary mode of inquiry (Niedderer & Roworth-Stokes, 2007; Skains, 2018). The methods used for these rituals included contemporary performance practices, eco-somatic movement, improvisation, site-specific dance, audience participation, and others. The rich knowledge gained throughout these investigations is conveyed through the documentation of four seasonal rituals, presented in video works alongside this thesis. The findings are articulated in two empirical chapters, one focusing on the findings and analysis of the expert interviews and the other on the findings and analysis of four performance rituals, revealing nuanced and complex insights into the creation of site-specific performance rituals in the Anthropocene. Navigating site-specific performance practices as an immigrant necessitated continuous critical self-reflection on biases and assumptions, leading to intricate explorations of embodiment, identity, culture, nature, and the more-than-human world within a posthuman context. Operating in the liminal space of this tension alongside performer participants, ritual experts, and audience members yielded the articulation of my findings: a ritual score capable of accommodating the complexities of the Anthropocene.
The University of Waikato
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