PAHN 2023Natalie Harkin. “ATTENTION.” Archive-Fever-Paradox [2]. Fontanelle Gallery and Studio, Bowden, Adelaide, 2014. Photo: Denys Finney.Call for Papers: Performing Arts Heritage Network Working Group
Archives, Artists & Absences
Kaurna Country, Adelaide
27 November 2023

The Performing Arts Heritage Network will meet and share 20-minute work-in-progress papers, with a particular focus on the intersection of history and heritage, in any material, format, genre, or level of society. Proposals should also reflect some engagement with the nature of collection(s), in line with the wider ADSA Conference call that is reproduced below. We also welcome proposals for panel discussions.

PAHN invites abstracts of 250 words responding to the questions below, or other scholarly or creative provocations raised by ADSA’s conference theme, to be submitted via this form by the extended date Monday 31 July 2023. We invite proposals for 20-minute paper presentations, artistic research presentations, workshops and roundtable discussions, as well as any other formats that might suit the diversity of research and practice in our field. To assist with travel and other costs, PAHN will award up to two bursaries of $500 each to presenters, based on the submitted abstracts.

Speakers wishing to record their institutional affiliation on their proposal are advised to select “Affiliated Scholar” when prompted. Other working groups will be meeting during the 2023 ADSA Conference, and further details can be found here.

In convening this Working Group at the 2023 ADSA Conference, PAHN aims to revitalise its membership and stimulate debates on where performing arts collections and archives exist within the context of museums, universities, libraries, and other institutions. PAHN welcomes new, past, and existing members to join this working group; you do not have to be a member of PAHN to present.

It is what the archive does not say that troubles me the most ... What do we do with the undocumented, the erased, the redacted, the unrecorded, the disappeared, the crossed out, the burned out, the missing of it all? (Johnson 43-4)

Absences and gaps in the archive challenge our work as scholars and practitioners of theatre, drama, dance, and performance studies. Much of our research and creative practice lives in “gaps and empty spaces” (Taubert & Ablieovich 301), andseeks to fill them with informed speculation. How, then, do we enter the past – whether that past is minutes or millennia ago – while remaining sensitive to what has been lost, what has never been remembered, and what was deliberately forgotten? As we seek new orientations towards the past and new methods to record it, so too will archives change, especially those of artists that are “a receptacle of memory on the surface of the skin” (Bardiot 33).

Even then, the tattered remnants of the past both inside and outside the archive might never be enough – whatever our desire to reclaim them, and however powerful the tools we develop. Writing from Wiradjuri and Narungga standpoints, poet-scholars Jeanine Leane and Natalie Harkin describe the archive as “the assemblage of feelings, objects and stories we gather, and all that is unknowingly gathered around us” (52). While the archive has “a history of preservation so painstakingly maintained”, it also carries “a history of loss for all that is discarded and deemed abject, marginal, inferior and irrelevant to future memory” (Leane & Harkin 52). At this conference, we invite colleagues to grapple with what is missing, and what might never be found.

Thinking about documentation leads us to interrogate practices of forgetting and remembering, and the allure of anniversaries. In 2023, we mark 50 years since the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Patrick White, “arguably the most eminent of Australian writers” (Tsiolkas 9). This occasion leads us to ask how we might re-vision the legacy of this multiply-archived writer. It is also 21 years since the launch of the AusStage database. In AusStage, newly augmented with data from Theatre Aotearoa, we have access to the largest performing arts database in the world, with close to half a million records. This repository allows us to create distant visions that can challenge our local thinking. At the same time, AusStage reflects our research back to us, and so we invite interrogations of our role as builders and custodians of datasets, repositories, and archives.

We offer the following prompts and possibilities as starting points for thinking about and responding to this year’s conference theme:

  • What is the value, service, and function of the archive to performance history and to performance practice?
  • Where are the blind spots, the partialities, the shadows, the echoes in the archives, and what does this mean for our discipline?
  • What has been deliberately forgotten in the archive and the repertoire? How might the archive serve as gatekeeper or oppressor?
  • How do we as artists, creators, and performers contribute to a living archive?
  • How are we documenting and archiving our performance and scholarly practice in personal scrapbooks, photo albums, and desk drawers, and how might this complicate, decentre, or queer our view of the archive?
  • How do anniversaries and other periodisations help to construct archives?
  • How can the archive inform, interrogate, or complicate teaching and training?
  • What have we chosen to document, capture, and privilege in our practice as artists and as scholars, and what have we chosen to neglect, reject, or deem irrelevant?
    • How does the rise of AI and the development of the digital humanities inflect the future of datasets, repositories, and archives of performance?


  1. Bardiot, Clarisse. Performing Arts and Digital Humanities: From Traces to Data. Wiley-
  2. ISTE, 2021.
  3. Johnson, Odai. “The Size of All That’s Missing.” The Routledge Companion to Theatre
  4. and Performance Historiography, edited by Tracy C. Davis and Peter W. Marx,
  5. Routledge, 2020, pp. 43-65.
  6. Leane, Jeanine, and Natalie Harkin. “When Records Speak We Listen: Conversations
  7. with the Archive.” Law's Documents: Authority, Materiality, Aesthetics, edited by
  8. Katherine Biber, Trish Luker and Priya Vaughan, Routledge, 2021, pp. 51-70.
  9. Taubert, T. Sofie, and Ruthie Abeliovich. “Dossier — Theatrical Vestiges: Material
  10. Remains and Theatre Historiography.” Theatre Research International, vol. 45,
  11. no. 3, 2020, pp. 297-302.
  12. Tsiolkas, Christos. On Patrick White: Writers on Writers. Black Inc., 2018.