The outbreak of COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the arts sector. Due to its heightened financial dependence on audience participation, the cultural sector in the UK (about 1.3 billion pound revenue and about 4.000 jobs in 2019) has been severely affected by the lockdown and the necessity of physical distancing. All over the world, the pandemic has struck at the heart of theatre and performance – their liveness – and exacerbated their already precarious situation, forcing some landmark venues to fight for survival. Theatre practitioners and academics alike have expressed a number of concerns regarding this development; similar issues relating to precarity have also been addressed by those strands of Medical Humanities that aim to map out the systemic discriminatory practices related to medicine, cultural construction of illness, and public health. In the light of COVID-19, Kirsten Ostherr has called for the formation of “translational humanities”, highlighting that we need a collaborative research culture that “transcends disciplinary boundaries” and “can contribute to the frontline response” (2020 n. pag.) in times of crisis. Bringing together the fields of performance studies and medical humanities, this interdisciplinary conference addresses the problems brought about by the pandemic and aims to provide guidelines for future action. It asks how the negative impact of a virus can be turned into a positive force of creativity when theatres go viral. The conference untangles central issues from both fields, such as transmedial processes of community building and a newly emerging COVID creativity. In line with this, it aims to:
1) spotlight the precarious situation of contemporary art sectors, using theatre as its prime example
2) outline the types of innovative actions that have sprung up in the wake of the pandemic,
3) actively contribute to the (theoretical) rethinking of theatre in times of media convergence and 4) offer guidelines for future action.
Carolin Haša (Koblenz-Landau), Eva Peintner (Vienna), Philipp Wagner (Koblenz-Landau)
Covid Creativity, Online Theatre, Precarity, Medical Knowledge and Media,
Community Building, Audience Engagement, Amateur Theatre, Streaming, Transmedia