Sport­/Spectacle: Art, Performance, and Sport — Schedule Announcement

Book tickets (free) here:

Sport­ / Spectacle: Performing, Labouring, Circulating Bodies Across Sport, Theatre, Dance, and Live Art

“It is fundamentally wrong to pay more attention to the dead weight lifted, than to the living body that lifts it” — George Hackenschmidt, wrestler, physical culturist, performer and philosopher, Vienna, 1925.

At the centre of both sport and cultural performance are bodies. In the spectacles of professional or amateur sport, plays, musicals, dance, and opera, bodies are made to transcend their fleshly existence by the mise-en-scène and the audience contract. The (sport) spectacle transforms the embodied subject of the athlete/actor into a representation of human potential and possibility. At the same time, bodies are the primary medium, material, tool, and commodity of the spectacle: they are circulated, exploited, bloodied, bruised, and torn apart. This spectacularization/exploitation of the body’s potentiality intersects with other embodied racialized, gendered, and sexual experiences and identities.

What is at stake in spectacularising bodies? What are the consequences of the body’s participation in a spectacular regime of labour, circulation, and performance? How might the body resist its spectacularization through gesture, movement, or stillness?

This interdisciplinary conference aims to work with existing and potential intersections in theatre, performance, and sport research to explore these questions of the body in the spectacle of sport, athletics, and performance. Previous events and networks have begun to mine this rich seam of interdisciplinary research, including the Fields of Vision research network on sport and the arts (, At Leisure: Amateur Sport and Performance (QMUL, 2014), and the theme for the North American Society for Sociology of Sport’s upcoming 2018 annual conference: Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, and Culture. In theatre and performance studies, sport has long been influential to theory and practice; and a number of contemporary live artists and theatre makers have built on this history by drawing on athletic practices in their work (Cassils’ Becoming an Image, PanicLab’s Rite of Spring, Amber Hawk Swanson’s Online Comments + CrossFit). Sport / Spectacle aims to build upon this fertile ground by interdisciplinary and collaborative research in performance and sport. In particular, it aims to encourage innovative and especially embodied research methods (such as autoethnography and artistic Practice-as-Research).


14 September 2018: Kings College London (Nash Lecture Theatre)

18:30 – 21:00 Keynote and Video Screening

Jennifer Doyle (University of California, Riverside): 

America Out of Iraq: Resistance and the Global Sports Spectacle

Followed by a drinks reception

Writing about the politics of sports often begins with the observation that sports looks like war. I pressure this given with a series of questions. What kind of war is in play? How do particular sports play differently with violence? The athlete’s body is an actor in what kind of political theater?

In this talk, I draw from recent theorizations of war to reconsider the iconicity of the figure of the resistant athlete. Drawing from the work of contemporary artists inspired by Tommie Smith and John Carlos (who raised their fists in protest at the 1968 Olympics) and by Younis Mahmoud (the Iraqi national soccer team captain who, on winning the 2007 Asia Cup told media “I want America out of Iraq now”), I offer a reading of the global sport spectacle as a distinct, intimate form of warfare practiced on and through the athlete’s body.

In 2013, Jennifer Doyle started research into the “Athletic Turn”, which explores the recent and extensive turn toward sports in contemporary art and performance. She is the author of Campus Sex/Campus Security, Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art and Sex Objects: Art and the Dialectics of Desire. She was the 2013-2014 Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation at the University of the Arts, London, and editor of The Athletic Issue, a special issue of the journal GLQ.  In 2010, she co-hosted The People’s Game, a World Cup daily podcast for KPFK in Los Angeles; in 2011 she wrote a series of articles on women’s soccer for Fox Soccer’s website.

15 September 2018: Kings College London (Anatomy Museum)

9:00 – 9:30 Registration

9:30 – 9:45 Opening Remarks

Broderick Chow

9:45 – 10:45

Running (1)

Pete Phillips (Chichester): And everyone is running for a reason…: performances of sports commentary, mass participation marathons and neoliberal ideology

Kieran Holland (Aberystwyth): Running and embodied performance: Using Theatricality and Performativity as critical lenses to understand recreational distance running

10:45 – 11:45

Provocations: Performances of Gendered Sporting Bodies

Philip Bedwell (Independent Artist): Performing Masculinity in Professional Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Sarah Holden-Boyd (Bath Spa): Sonic Spectacles: The Sounds of the Strong Female Body

Jacek Ludwig Scarso (Cass School of Art/London Met): Swinging Swimmers

11:45 – 12:30 Lunch

12:30 – 1:00

Accepting Gravity: Performance by Philip Bedwell (Independent Artist)

Philip Bedwell is a London based live artist. He has studied martial arts, physical fitness and performed as a professional wrestler for 22 years across Europe. Towards the end of his wrestling career, he transitioned into live art, discovering that live art could lend an authenticity to his work, which he could not display in the theatricality of wrestling.

13:00 – 14:00


Nick Havergal (Bristol): “Good Old Knowle”: Masculinity, the Variety Wrestling Challenge Match and the Amateur-Professional Interface in Edwardian Bristol

Sarah Crews (University of South Wales/Prifysgol De Cymru): “We’re learning to fight so we can come for the future”

14:00 – 15:30

Training and Virtuosity

Broderick D.V. Chow (Brunel): Idle Training: Scenes of Pleasure at Muscle Beach, 1934-1958

Sylvia Solakidi (Surrey): The Temporality of Failure: Jan Fabre’s defense of Corporeal Vulnerability in his Cycling Performance An Attempt not to break Eddy Merckx’s World Hour Record (Lyon, 29.09.2016)

Laura Robinson (UEL): Above and Beyond the Battle: Virtuosity and Collectivity within Televised Street Dance Crew Competitions

15:30 – 15:45 Coffee Break

15:45 – 16:45 Running (2)

Carali McCall (Independent Artist and Scholar): The artist as athlete: Introducing RUN VERTICAL (Running up the Side of a Building) 2018.

Andrew Filmer (Aberystwyth): Being in motion: Recreational endurance running as gesture in contemporary performance

17:00 – 18:00

The Distance: Durational Performance by P. Solomon Lennox (Northumbria University)

The “distance” refers to the full number of rounds in a boxing match. Following the death of Duk Koo Kim in 1982, the World Boxing Council ruled that no boxing contests would extend past twelve rounds. In this participatory performance, Solomon Lennox offers himself up for 15 three-minute sparring rounds, exploring the labour of the sport and how it wears upon the body.

18:00 – 18:30

Plenary Discussion


What You Don’t See: Prostitution as We See It, Prostitution Policy Watch (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and Sexual Spaces Project (ESRC – Bournemouth University)

What you don’t see is a photographic exhibition intended to circulate artistic and poetic narratives about sex work produced by sex workers during the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Curated with sex workers throughout a participatory process, the exhibition is a response to exclusionary strategies of urban reform and seeks to challenge stigmatizing discourses and vindicate sex workers’ right to the city. It debuted at the Hélio Oiticica Arts Center in Rio de Janeiro as well as the MoMA PS1 Sex Workers’ Festival of Resistance.

L’Entraineur, Jacek Ludwig Scarso (Elastic Theatre/Cass School of Art/London Met)

L’Entraineur is a life size video projection that explores images of sports and masculinity, including boxing and swimming. It was exhibited at the Science Museum as well as Galleria Cavour in Padua and Studio CS in Rome.


Organized by Broderick D.V. Chow (Brunel University London), the Dynamic Tensions: A Research Network for Theatre, Performance, Sport, and Physical Culture, and the Kings College London Arts and Humanities Research Institute. Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Brunel University London.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s