“Take advantage of the ambiguity in the world. Look at something and think what else it might be…”
- Roger Von Oech (Author/Inventor)
“This is something that I’ve talked about at length with my friends; we need to figure out exactly what pro-wrestling is… the equation has changed somewhat over the years. I truly belive that wrestling can still be entertaining, and full of drama, excitement and athleticism, which are all things people want to escape to when watching entertainment.”
- Austin Aries, September 2012, Fighting Spirit Magazine
In the global arena known as the world of sports, promotion is the key component of any output. Creating intrigue and consistently drawing in new audiences is one of the toughest areas of sports production, and when done successfully, a product can become an element of national identity (see ice hockey in Canada, or soccer in the UK).
Corporate Tools: Commercial Performance in Theory and Practice (2 Hour Session)
In The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore tout the marketing of experiences as key to corporate success. “This new economy,” they write, “also demands new models for work. At every level in any company, workers need to understand that in the Experience Economy every business is a stage, and therefore work is theatre.” This working session will analyze the work of theatre and performance in the service of the corporate world. Our intentionally provocative title “Corporate Tools” encompasses both performance practices—Broadway musicals crafted as brand enhancers, MFA designers hired to stage flagship stores, the absorption of avant-gardes by the advertising industry—and performance theories—corporate personhood as a redefinition of the performing subject, audience interaction as advanced consumerism, and what Jon McKenzie has identified as the imperative to “Perform or Else.” Such practices and theories act on and within a shifting landscape of multinational production chains, global flows of capital, and increasingly privatized public spaces. Particularly in our host city of Dallas, where Big Oil subsidizes an impressive art scene, it behooves us to explore the various reconfigurations of production and consumption as inherently theatrical. The working group will address issues related, but not limited to:
- Corporate sponsorship of the arts
- Theatre games in the workplace
- Corporate “art” and the avant-garde
- Consumers as spectators and/or performers
- Spectators as consumers and/or producers
- Disneyfication and financialization
- Mega-musicals, entertainment districts, and the privatization of public space
- Corporate personhood and the production of subjectivity
- Global capitalism and theatricality
The session will utilize some particularly effective corporate tools—Google Docs, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook—to stimulate discussion and sharing of material prior to the conference. Prior to the conference, participants will share three to five short (250 to 500 word) essays that review, critique, or describe different examples of theatrical, corporate tools and corporate theories of theatricalization. In addition to the short essays, participants will circulate papers of seven to ten pages to the entire group in the weeks before the conference. The session leaders will identify groups of three or four participants whose methods, methodologies, and theoretical approaches coincide. At the conference session, participants will focus their responses on those papers written by members of their subgroup. After subgroups present a summary and analysis of the pre-conference conversations, the session will transition to a general group discussion that involves the audience. Interested participants should forward a brief statement of interest and a paper abstract (250 words each) to both conveners by June 3, 2013.
“The 1st of May marks International Workers’ Day, a festival of working-class self-organisation stretching back over 130 years. It was originally inaugurated to commemorate the “Haymarket Massacre” of 1886 in Chicago, where a bomb thrown during a worker’s strike kicked off a police crackdown followed by a period of anti-labor hysteria.
In 1890, the first internationally co-ordinated demonstration for an 8-hour day was held, in commemoration of those killed in the massacre, and those eight anarchists executed on trumped-up charges after the event.
Here, Verso staff present “A Reading List for May Day”, looking at the radical history of the festival in the European and North American labor movements, and how that spirit lives on in grassroots workplace struggles.”
More from the carnival At Show - the precursor of modern pro wrestling.
An At Show at a carnival sideshow. The roots of American professional wrestling.
Recent issues of critical theory journals and interesting articles
“I implore you not to dismiss this as simply a wrestling film. Instead, think of this as a documentary that provides a window into the subculture of a distinctive performance art, and that art just happens to be pro wrestling. Don’t judge it until you’ve seen the film. We hope you’ll summon the intellectual curiosity to take a glimpse into this journey, because we think you’ll be surprised to find yourself rooting for our subjects, and wanting to know more about the human element. Barbed Wire City is surprisingly human.”