International Crisis/ The Whitest Room

Convener(s): Dominic Campbell

Participants: About 12 people came and went over the course of 2hours – (add your name please I couldn’t interrupt the conversational flow to gather them)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

I feel slightly inadequate to the task of representing this conversation affectively, so if you passed through or contributed to this dialogue please add!!!


It started slowly with four people explaining what it was about the phrase “International Crisis/The Whitest Room” that attracted us to this particular corner of the room;

  • A project that was setting out to be global and local
  • Curiosity about the privilege of a position that allows us to consider ourselves in a crisis. A crisis of privilege/privileged crisis
  • Considerations of culture’s relationship to race, power, class, globalism, environmentalism
  • A curiosity about the changing nature of Global dynamics, and the inadequacy of our own education or sources of reference, in facilitating our ability to hold multiple cultural perspectives in equal value.


Underpinning these were concerns about the role, strategy, function, language (and ability to refute these) of a performance/theatre artist. And concerns about the ability of p/t artists to engage people, or with technology, institutions, Corporate entity, State, educational systems, and media.


(ok breathe, now do you understand why I’m challenged by the recorder’s task?)


From here the conversation blossomed touching on;

The aspirations that motivate individual engagement with performance or theatre, the opportunity to transmit this to a wide population

Fluid’s podcast theatre for personal moments establishing personal but shared theatre (or is this “theatre”? or an emergent form?)
The democratic nature of Twitter’s offer to establish communities of interest cf Facebook’s offer of competitive allegiance.

The use of tech, the headspace it creates or is establishing, the difference between this mental space and the mental space used in creating performance, the difference between online and “meatspace” exchange, limits and values of both.

“Appointment theater”  - “calls me into the space for special time/ritual”. “Supplies my need for ritual”.

Live theatre enables us to practice being together, enables us to practice conversing.

Live theatre as means to sustain purely social relationships cf a social relationship based on trade or exchange or vs the promotion of competitive individualism.


London as a cultural roundabout where non-UK formed cultures meet leading to international exchange (eg Indian and African continent artists meeting in London then take work to each others locales)

The role of p/t artists in the migration across sectors, borders and mindsets of knowledge, assumptions, ideas and attitudes.

The opportunity of non UK artists to inform the solution to the UK’s Crisis

This is 2011 not 1977 – it’s not the same crisis and we blind ourselves seeing it though that optic – it is international, the same cuts strategy apparent in several countries, its driver is globalised incorporation not the politics of  nation states.

Economic cuts to the arts makes no economic sense so what sense does it make? or are our leaders none too clever?

Did a decade of State support for arts and State encouragement of participation infantalise artists?

Should artists assume more responsibility, how?


Are existing structures fracturing and therefore is an opportunity opening to establish new ones?, once the old one’s clear.

A need to hold physical space – eg student temporary occupation of colleges acted as magnets for intellectual exchange that is sustained online

The reverse model – Tea Party starts as Twitter conversation then physical manifestation

Why do people March? – the physical manifestations of protest – (a) movement – “change” made literal, metaphor.

The inverse form of protest – standing still in a place that’s always moving – “a jolt to reality”

“Mirrored” or “twinned” demonstration – simultaneously in two physical spaces (plus online) for real time demonstrations of solidarity and awareness and visibility


The industrialization of the theatre sector in last decade, matched by failure to change the position of the artist. Increase in management or arts not payment to or value rating of artist. Reflective of the “Big Society”?

In 1980’ s access to becoming an artist was possible through unofficial support structures (eg Unemployment benefit), later through University grants and loans, and now…..?

How do we maintain an opportunity to transmit the values of being able to make theatre to a wide population of potential artists (regardless of our attitude to the work they make)

The challenges that come with being aware of “the connection between Boadroom conversations and stepping onto the stage” – how few artists occupy these positions, being the only artist in the Boardroom, retaining or reclaiming one’s own language in this context, the need for artists to be part of this conversation and not exclude themselves


“A silence on March 30th for those voices that will be stilled”.


Crisis as:

an opportunity to clarify your commitment and that of others,

to bond in opposition,

to explore or establish an economy that can facilitate this.

A conscious strategy to avoid producing “serving the master” relationships in an economy that supports creation.

The tendency of this to emerge from crowd sourcing funding models, which replicate patronage

Failure or difficulty in the position of a state arts council to speak to power

UK culture can be understood as fundamentally bi-polar (left/right – high/low) or oppositional (right-wrong) and is based on a word alphabet. Chinese culture based on communicating through pictogram and hieroglyph embraces a greater degree of interpretation (eg “ a bit more right than entirely wrong”). Is this perhaps enabling of what seems to us a (creative?) fuzziness, a different (to us) relationship between power and responsibility and the relationship between individual creativity and embrace by the mass?

Is China not competing with US, just in the process of doing something completely different? Returning to the fuzziness of pre Enlightenment power dynamics?

Is this mindset (new to us) valuable (to us)

What can we learn from this that is valuable and are we capable of unlearning ourselves to partake of this exchange.


And much much more