Performing Arts and Justice Symposium


Resource information is available here.

Keynote Speakers

Professor Michael Balfour:  The Performance of Listening: Developing a Framework for Arts in Prisons

A key agenda of the arts in prisons is to provide opportunities for creating space for neglected voices and sharing marginalised stories. Yet who is listening and what are the qualities of institutional attention? While the right to be heard and aesthetic calls to listen are key to addressing personal and/or structural injustices, how do these possibilities and tactics translate into something more than a tokenistic echo chamber? Inspired by the recent ‘turn to listening’ this presentation will consider concepts of listening in arts in prison practice, exploring the economies of attention, and potential frameworks through which acts of translation between institutional and aesthetic goals can be negotiated and sustained. The presentation will draw on outcomes from a recent Australian Research Council project, Captive Audiences, which focused on five Australian case studies that used the performing arts in corrections in diverse ways. Emerging from the Captive Audiences research is a practical tool that can assist in the development and management of prison performing arts projects: for arts facilitators it offers a vehicle for reflecting upon the intentions of the project and a language and structure for developing proposals; for correctional managers it offers a framework for understanding the potential contribution of proposed arts projects to the prison, and a language for developing policy and engagement with arts organisations. Further information on the Captive Audiences research can be found here.

Professor Michael Balfour's keynote speech and presentation slides can be found here.

Amie Dowling and Dr Reggie Daniels:  Boundaries Between Bodies: Incarceration, Transmission, and Performance

The statistics are well known...Today in the United states there are 2.2 million people who are currently incarcerated. 6.2 million on parole and probation's, 64 million people who have criminal records affecting their ability to find housing, receive food stamps, get jobs and vote.  We know that mass incarceration is not just about individual acts of criminality or individual responsibility. Rather, it confirms that the United States’ punishment system is a much larger problem, at the root of which is institutional and racial inequity.  The imprisoned body is one of the primary sites of carceral control, an elaborate choreography of containment and segregation. Behind prison walls, regimented rituals of eating, cleaning, labor and leisure curtail individual freedom of movement in the service of “orderly” systems, notating where and how one moves through space and time, shaping relations between objects, spaces, bodies.  Then how do incarcerated artists create work? How do inside and outside artists, working in an inhumane system, develop a creative process that supports humanity? How do outside artists use their platform to develop work inside facilities that critiques mass imprisonment and its conditions of emergence? How does transmission occur when stage and audience are separated by a system of mass incarceration that disappears certain bodies?  Boundaries Between Bodies will present projects that are striving to begin a collective process of political struggle where inside and outside artists are working side by side for a transformation that addresses the legacies of racism, segregation, disenfranchisement, and mass incarceration.  We hope to smuggle the voices of incarcerated artists out—and to invite you to engage with those in prisons and jails as thinkers and makers.

Amie Dowling and Dr Reggie Daniels' keynote speeches and presentation slides can be found here.

Dr Sarah Woodland and Dr Vicki Saunders:  Listening to Country: Making an Immersive Audio Work with Indigenous Women in Prison

Listening to Country was a pilot project that we delivered in Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre (BWCC), where we worked with women to produce a one-hour immersive audio work based on field recordings of natural environments. The project was built on several years’ engagement with BWCC delivering participatory drama projects, and resulted from a direct request from a group of Aboriginal women to create a culturally appropriate sound recording for the purpose of reducing stress and connecting to country. Indigenous women are over-represented in Australian prisons, with the majority experiencing the trauma associated with separation from children, family, community and country. In creating the immersive audio work with the women, the interdisciplinary team drew on the principles of acoustic ecology - the study of the relationship, mediated through sound, between human beings and their environment. This interdisciplinary field is now documenting the health and wellbeing effects of environmental soundscapes on individuals and communities. The project also drew on Indigenous story work, dadirri (deep, active listening), and arts-led methodologies to facilitate acoustic agency inside the prison. We will play an excerpt of the audio work, and discuss the creative process and outcomes from the project. This will include discussion around the tensions of working with our participatory arts-led methodologies in a correctional context; and the potential for the Listening to Country approach to be used in other correctional and community healing contexts.

Dr Sarah Woodland and Dr Vicki Saunders' keynote speeches and presentation slides can be found here.

Associate Professor Brenda Morrison and Julia Whaipooti:  Alternative Visions of the Justice System

This panel offers alternative visions of the justice system by comparing approaches between Canada and Aotearoa. In this panel, Associate Professor Brenda Morrison (Simon Fraser University) offers some background on three Indigenous justice and reconciliation initiatives in Canada: Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Indigenous Justice Program (IJP). Her talk explores the recent development of a provincial Indigenous Justice Program in British Columbia to compliment the Federal Program. Within this context, the provincial IJP will be presented and discussed in the context of the arts as a mechanism for social change. As part of this panel, Julia Whaipooti (Ngāti Porou) will offer some reflections on her work as a member of the independent advisory group Te Uepū Hāpai I te Ora, and offer some visions about how the criminal justice system in Aotearoa can be improved.

Associate Professor Brenda Morrison and Julia Whaipooti's keynote speeches and presentation slides can be found here.

The Conch - Nina Nawalowalo, John Fa'amoana Luafutu and Tom McCrory:  Giving Voice to the Voiceless 

Ground breaking New Zealand theatre company The Conch have pursued a kaupapa of theatre as a force for social change through ‘telling the stories that need to be told”. This has led to acclaimed productions ‘The White Guitar’ and ‘A Boy Called Piano’ which tour nationally through theatres, festivals and prisons. Imprisonment and being placed in state care comes with the removal of the ‘privilege’ of having a voice - yet those removed from society hold the stories which are key to society understanding itself. Revealing these stories, facing their reality and being prepared to have the challenging conversations can be a force for social change.  “Telling the untold stories requires tremendous courage... But Why? Because the truths they tell are hidden. Buried by Shaming. Or suppressed because they reveal truths about a society that is in denial of it’s own story. Gangs, violence, drug addiction, imprisonment, and abuse are hidden stories to those outside this reality. But so is the story of political resistance, the struggle to create a space in which we as Pacific and Maori peoples can even exist. Uprising, creativity, music. The story of reclaiming identity. Taking the daily experience of racism and creating an identity not defined by judgement. In a world where we are told we are ‘beyond redemption’, to be redeemed, becomes a revolutionary act.” - Nina Nawalowalo, Artistic Director.

The Conch keynote speech can be found here.

Arts in Corrections Panel featuring Rachel Leota, Beth Hill, Rue-Jade Morgan, Richard Benge. ‘Performing from the Inside: Navigating rehabilitation through creative process’, facilitated by Chris Ulutupu, Arts in Corrections Advisor - Arts Access Aotearoa

“Kapahaka is the backbone of prisons, for some,  it’s the only time they express emotions”. The panel will discuss Aotearoa’s current performing arts programs that run within the Arts in Corrections sector, asking each panelist to describe what types of processes and models they utilize. How do they deliver these art initiatives and what role performing arts play in rehabilitation? What are the issues with having Māori theatre being explored within the prison setting? How are we supporting practitioners on the outside once released? Each panelist is an Art in Corrections advocate, and the panel will help highlight issues around performing arts in prison.

Rachel Leota, Beth Hill, Rue-Jade Morgan and Richard Benge's panel discussion can be found here.


The Symposium programme can be found here.

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