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Staff profiles

Professor Stephen Hodge

Associate Professor in Live Art + Spatial Practices

4524

01392 724524

I am Professor in Live Art + Spatial Practices and a member of the Centre for Contemporary Performance Practices. I have taught on the BA Art History and Visual Culture, and am an adjunct faculty member of the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, India. I am the University Academic Director of Arts and Culture, and was a previous Head of Drama (August 2012 - December 2018).

I generate Practice-as-Research across a range of contexts, for example:

I am a core member of Wrights & Sites. Formed in Exeter, 1997, Wrights & Sites are four artist-researchers (Stephen Hodge, Simon Persighetti, Phil Smith and Cathy Turner) whose work is focused on peoples' relationships to places, cities and walking. We employ disrupted walking tactics as tools for playful debate, collaboration, intervention and spatial meaning-making. Our work, like walking, is intended to be porous; for others to read into it and connect from it and for the specificities and temporalities of sites to fracture, erode and distress it. We have sought to pass on our dramaturgical strategies to others: to audiences, readers, visitors and passersby. The outcomes of our work vary from project to project, but frequently include site-specific performance, Mis-Guided Tours (e.g. Stadtverführungen in Wien, Tanzquartier Wien and Wiener Festwochen, Vienna, 2007), published Mis-Guides (e.g. A Mis-Guide To Anywhere, launched ICA, London, 2006, and more recently The Architect-Walker, 2018), 'drifts', mythogeographic mapping, public art (e.g. Everything you need to build a town is here for 'Wonders of Weston', CABE/Situations, Weston-super-Mare, 2010) or installations (e.g. mis-guided, Belluard Bollwerk International Festival, Fribourg, 2008), and public presentations and articles.

I have a history of deep connections with the creative industries. I am a resident at the Kaleider studio in Exeter, and a trustee of In Between Time, Bristol, that brings people together around radical art and ideas to encourage new ways to think about the world and ourselves. From 2013-2016, I acted as Co-Director of REACT (Research & Enterprise in Arts & Creative Technology), a £4million-funded AHRC Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy (a collaboration between UWE, Watershed, and the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter); was Theatre, Dance and Live Art Curator at Exeter Phoenix from 2001-2012; and was one of eight members of the New Theatre Architects, an ACE-initiated think-tank that sought to challenge artists and organisations to think about new models of making and supporting theatre in England from 2003-2009. I have been a board member, critical friend or associate of numerous organisations (e.g. Live Art UK, New Work Network, Spacex Gallery, Wide Awake Devon, b-side festival, Theatre Alibi and Exeter and Devon Arts Centre).

Personal website: www.stephenhodge.org

Research interests

My research is focused in the area of contemporary performance (site and journey-related practices; and live art). I generate engaged Practice-as-Research (PaR) across a range of contexts, individually and as a core member of the artist-academic collective, Wrights & Sites, whose work is focused on peoples’ relationships to places, cities and walking. For example, Where to build the walls that protect us, explores new, interdisciplinary models for imagining future cities in an era of climate emergency, and collaborated with holders of expert, city-based knowledge (Met Office climate scientists, architects, politicians, entrepreneurs). An adjunct project provided the practice keynote (commissioned printed and online, audio interventions) at the last TaPRA (Theatre and Performance Research Association) conference in 2019. And The Architect-Walker, détourns the form of the guidebook in order to seek new knowledge about walking and the built environment, and is supported by a range of activity, from an invited, hour-long lecture in Lithuania’s National Art Gallery to a companion event to the recent Richard Long retrospective at Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol.

I am also very interested in the creative and digital economy, and from Spring 2013 until the project’s completion in 2016, I was the active Exeter Co-Director and CI of REACT (Research and Enterprise in Arts and Creative Technology), a £4m Knowledge Exchange Hub for the Creative Economy funded by the AHRC (2012-2016), a collaboration between Watershed (Bristol), UWE (PI), and the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

From 2004-2009, I was Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded 'British Asian Theatre: Critical History and Documentation' project, with my Exeter colleagues Professor Graham Ley (PI) and Professor Jerri Daboo (CI). I brought a live art focus to the project.

I have been a member of a number of academic networks, including 'Pedestrian Pathways in the Healthy City' (Worldwide Universities Network funded, 2015-16), 'RIDERS: Research In Interactive Drama Environments, Role-Play and Story-telling' (EPSRC Research Network, 2011), 'Walking Artists Network' (initially AHRC funded, 2010-present), 'Digital Reconstruction in Archaeology and Contemporary Performance' (AHRC/BT Pilot Research Network, 2010), and 'On the go: mobilities, settlement and performance' (AHRC Landscape and Environment Research Network, 2008).

Research supervision

I am open to discussing research proposals on any topic where I can add value. I am especially happy to consider working with candidates with interests in the fields of live art, site and journey based practices, contemporary performance curation or creative technologies.

I was Drama lead on the University of Exeter and National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore UKIERI-supported, split-site PhD programme, 'Intangible Histories'.

Research students

PhD, first supervisor (current):

  • Yuan, H., Artists' Mobility and Performative Places (PhD Performance Practice) (commenced 2017).


PhD, first supervisor (completed):

  • Platt, W., Subverting the Spectacle: A Critical Study of Culture Jamming as Activist Performance (completed 2019).
  • Murali, S., Performing Psychogeographies of Exile in Delhi Post-Partition (completed 2017). [ The first graduate of the University of Exeter and National Institute of Advanced Studies (Bangalore) split-site PhD programme. ]
  • Darby, K., Pedestrian Performance: A Mapped Journey (completed 2013).


PhD, second supervisor (current):

  • Cuadrado, E. T., The Evolution of Italian Talking Statues: A Comparative Analysis Based on Current Practices and Experiences of Communication Through Public Sculptures in Europe (commenced 2020).


PhD, second supervisor (completed):

  • Frodsham, D., Utopic Spatial Practice (AHRC) (completed 2015).
  • Grogan, S., I’m Doing it But I’m So in the Moment: Towards a Language of Optimal Performance in Dance Theatre (completed 2014).
  • Lennox, S. Narratives of Performance: An Interdisciplinary Qualitative Ethnography Investigating the Storied Lives of Amateur and Professional Boxers (completed 2012).

Research through practice


 

Recent example #1: Where to build the walls that protect us

Research Process
Drawing on two decades of site and walking-based practice, and taking its momentum from major floods in Exeter (commissioned by Kaleider, and supported by Arts Council England, 2014) and Leeds (a second iteration, commissioned by Compass Festival, 2016), this Practice Research project explored new, collaborative models for imagining future cities. It took the form of socially-engaged live art in the public realm. The core output was framed as a 'charrette': an intensive, collaborative enquiry that seeks to solve a complex design issue. The work drew on relational, spatially-oriented methods, exploring four future-facing themes essential to urban development ('terrain and climate', 'buildings and the life between them', 'industry and commerce', and 'mobility and communications').

Research Insights
Rooted in socially-engaged live art, the work:
• developed new methods and tactics for framing and holding space for dialogues about urban development;
• disrupted hierarchies usually common within the urban planning process by bringing the expert out from behind their desk or lectern;
• facilitated the co-creation of spatial knowledge and future visions through the design of innovative, sited exchanges and iterative 3D model-building on the city’s streets between expert-citizen and the holders of expert, city-based knowledge (Met Office climate scientists, architects, politicians, entrepreneurs, etc.).

Dissemination
In addition to the public encounters that comprised the core output, insights from the two Practice Research iterations were shared through:
• artist's pages peer-review journal (2019): Hodge, S. Where to build the walls that protect us in Performance Research Vol. 23, No. 8, pp. 45-47;
• seven papers and presentations, four invited (2014-2019): 'Bring The Happy', Exeter (2014); 'Seeing Like A City', Queen Mary University of London (2014); ‘Intangible Histories’, Exeter & NIAS Symposium (2014); 'Where to? Steps Towards the Future of Walking Arts', Falmouth University (2015); 'Pedestrian Pathways in the Healthy City' at the 52nd International Making Cities Livable Conference, Bristol (2015); 'Interdisciplinary Approaches to Urban Resilience', University of Surrey (2019); 'Walking's New Movements: a conference to discuss the latest developments and future prospects for radical walking and walking arts', University of Plymouth (2019);
• associated, commissioned interventions into the Theatre and Performance Research Association 2019 conference, TaPRA asides: Where to build the walls that protect us (2019);
• a 'sited conversation' with Dr Fiona Wilkie, published in Hunter, Victoria (ed.), Moving Sites, Oxon & New York: Routledge, 2015, pp. 51-61.


 

Recent example #2: The Architect-Walker

Research Process
Developed over multiple years and locations, 'The Architect-Walker' (Wrights & Sites, 2018) is a co-authored artists’ book that draws on disrupted walking practices to initiate playful debate, collaboration, intervention and spatial meaning-making. The research and development process explored the transformative potential of transdisciplinary dialogues around place and mobility, sometimes by extending the work of other urban practitioners (e.g. architect Jan Gehl’s 'Life Between Buildings', 1971, or Lydon & Garcia’s 'Tactical Urbanism', 2015), and sometimes by developing new practical frameworks to investigate walking and architecture. Through détourning a guidebook, the work seeks to ask a number of questions, for example:
• how might walking culture contribute to architecture?
• when does the walker become an architect?
• how small a change is required to tip the city from one state to another?

Research Insights
The work:
• employs a performance lens to establish the interconnection of walking and architecture;
• facilitates the user to explore the significance of the walker to the built environment, demonstrating the potential for walking to critique a top-down logic that prioritises planners and professional architects;
• challenges ideas of walking that value ephemerality and transience.

Dissemination
'The Architect-Walker' is, in itself, a vehicle for dissemination. Dissemination also happened throughout the research process, sometimes conducted by Hodge alone, and sometimes in collaboration with Wrights & Sites colleagues (Persighetti, Smith, and Turner). Key dissemination encompassed:
• a two-day CPD workshop for Live Art Development Agency and Create Ireland (Hodge, 2016);
• an invited lecture within the Architecture Fund discussion series at Lithuania’s National Art Gallery (Hodge, 2015);
• acting as Scientific Board Member for a conference about walking and the city (Hodge, 2015);
• a companion event to Richard Long’s 'Time and Space' exhibition (co-authored with Wrights & Sites, 2015);
• a presentation and workshop for Plymouth Arts Centre (co-authored with Wrights & Sites, 2014).


 

Past example #1: Ambulant interventions as built environment

This is a Practice-as-Research project exploring a way of thinking about walkers and other itinerants, not only as users, critics or fleeting dreamers re-imagining the city, but as active contributors to the built environment and its development. Resulted in multiple interlinked outcomes across six countries.

Comprising walking experiments, physical interventions, public engagement activities, papers and articles, the research imperatives for the project were:

Outputs:

 

 

Past example #2: Everything you need to build a town is here

This multiple-sited, permanent public artwork is a Practice-as-Research project exploring walking, regeneration and built environment. Additionally, it generated a Radio 4 interview, a-n feature, curators' tour, fine art publication/talk, OUP chapter and feasibility study.

Drawing on Wrights & Sites' walking practices to respond to the changing fortunes of a British seaside town's fabric, the research imperatives for the commissioned work were:

Outputs:

 

 

Past example #3: 2ND LIVE: exploring live performance in the Second Life® world

This is a Practice-as-Research project exploring space and event across Second Life and Real Life environments, through a programme of Arts Council England commissions and a solo-authored performance commissioned for ANTI Festival, Finland. The project also generated an article, seven papers and a three-day Knowledge Transfer workshop. Hodge curated, creatively produced and mentored the ACE-funded programme ('2ND LIVE') and created a commissioned performance ('SLaaristokaupunki'), which referenced a body of interdisciplinary spatial Practice-as-Research and new research into virtual worlds. Methods and practices were drawn from choreography, computer animation, architecture, musical composition, games design and walking art.

The research imperatives for the project were:
• What role can performance and peripatetic practices play within the context of regeneration-driven 'permanent' public artwork?
• In contrast to single-sited monumental public art, what strategies might be developed for a more viral engagement between public art and the everyday built environment?

Outputs:

 

Past example #4: Possible Cities

The research impetus for this practice-as-research project lies in Wrights & Sites' increasing number of conversations with city architects and planners, including Jan Gehl, the Danish architect and academic whose practice is centred on 'life between buildings'.

'Rethinking The City' is a series of provocations, aimed at rethinking/replanning the 21st Century City through performance-related walking practices, papers and presentations. It comprises:

Except where stated, this practice-as-research project is co-authored with other members of Wrights & Sites (Simon Persighetti, Phil Smith and Dr Catherine Turner).

 

Past example #5: Possible Forests

'Possible Forests' is a body of practice-as-research aimed at transferring Wrights & Sites' practices of urban exploration, surrealistic derambulation, mis-guidance and spatial planning from the city to the trees.

Working in partnership with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (in Haldon Forest Park, which the Forestry Commission is in the process of replanning), the project comprises a number of interlinked elements:

Except where stated, this practice-as-research project is co-authored with other members of Wrights & Sites (Simon Persighetti, Phil Smith and Dr Catherine Turner).

 

Past example #6: A Mis-Guide To Anywhere

120 pages, ISBN-13: 9780954613013, April 2006

The research impetus for this practice-as-research publication was the interest in An Exeter Mis-Guide beyond the bounds of the city of Exeter. The research imperatives were to:

It was equally co-authored with other members of Wrights & Sites (Simon Persighetti, Phil Smith and Dr Catherine Turner). It was funded by Arts Council England (£18,000) and the Centre for Creative Enterprise & Participation (£10,000), and launched at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London.

Directly associated research-based outcomes:

 As with An Exeter Mis-Guide, the book has been used to teach across a range of disciplines, from Performance Studies at Tisch School of Arts (New York University) to Design Studies at the University of Otago (New Zealand) and Geography at the University of Manchester.

On-line links:

 

Past example #7: An Exeter Mis-Guide

96 pages, ISBN-13: 9780954613006, September 2003

This practice-as-research publication is the result of three years of disrupted walking by Wrights & Sites, using the city of Exeter as their laboratory. Through extended drifts, alone and with invited individuals/groups, at different times of day/year, the research process aimed to:

It was equally co-authored with other members of Wrights & Sites (Simon Persighetti, Phil Smith and Dr Catherine Turner). It was funded by the Local Heritage Initiative (£8,338), Arts Council England (£4,000) and Exeter Arts Council (£400).

Directly associated research-based outcomes include:

'An Exeter Mis-Guide' has been taught in a number of university theatre/drama departments (including Roehampton, Lancaster & Glasgow). Its focus on spatial practices means that it is also taught across disciplines, for example, in the departments of Geography at the University of Durham, Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, Art History at Shanghai University (China) and Cinema & Media at Carleton College (Minnesota, USA).

On-line links:

    • Mis-Guided (2008), coauthored with Wrights & Sites (Hodge, Persighetti, Smith, Turner), BBI Festival, Switzerland. 'Mis-Guided' was co-produced with Belluard Bollwerk International, Fribourg (Switzerland), where it formed the backbone of the Festival in 2008. Six international artists were commissioned to intervene into the cityscape, and Wrights & Sites/BBI converted the former city train station into a Tourist Mis-Information Office where we organised a series of installations, talks, screenings, drifts and events. Hodge was lead representative in stakeholder discussions.
    • 'Fragile Spaces' (2008-2009), coauthored with Wrights & Sites. R&D project comprised nine separate drifts, where the walking frameworks were all constructed to directly engagement with the physical environment of the city. These were not public-facing and modest in ambition, but fed subsequent PaR activity.
    • Longshore Drift (2009), coauthored with Simon Persighetti. Six-hour constrained drift launching 'Living Landscapes' conference, Aberystwyth, followed by reflections during the conference's first panel session.
    • 'The International Festival and the City Space' (2012), coauthored with Cathy Turner. Paper presented at PLAY: Relational Aspects of Dramaturgy conference, Ghent University, the Free University Brussels and the University College Ghent. Reworked for a forthcoming issue of Forum Modernes Theater.
    • Before I compose a piece, I walk round it several times, accompanied by myself (2012), solo-authored exploration of Paris walking, the built environment and compositional tactics. Performance Research (17:2).
    • Ambulant Architectures (2012), 100km walker-architect experiment coauthored with Wrights & Sites. As part of Trage Wegen's Sideways, a month-long itinerant festival that crossed Belgium, Wrights & Sites were commissioned to take a series of provisional, highly portable and flexible structures for a walk - experimenting with architectural intervention, prompted by curiosity, playfulness, resistance or need. The Ambulant Architectures were designed with a view to critically reconfiguring the various spaces along the 'Sideways' journey, by providing the possibility of demarcating, signalling, decorating, raising, celebrating, luring, containing...
    • 'The walker-architect: disrupted walking and the city' (2012). One of two, linked, solo-authored, invited papers (the other by Cathy Turner) presented at the Second Cities EU network 'Performing Cities' symposium in Hellerau, Dresden. Curated by Patrick Primavesi (Leipzig University) and Anna Bründl (Hellerau).
    • 'The Architect-Walker: Manifesto and Manifestations' (2013). Co-authored (with Wrights & Sites) paper for the On Walking conference, co-hosted by The University of Sunderland and the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art. The conference sat alongside a touring exhibition, '40 years of art walking from Richard Long to Janet Cardiff' (2013-2014), which also featured work by Wrights & Sites.
    • Everything you need to build a town is here (2010) - public artwork by Wrights & Sites (Hodge, Persighetti, Smith, Turner). Hodge (Wrights & Sites' lead) undertook nineteen reconnaissance visits, and made delegated decisions with curators, local authority, funders, designers, foundry, contractors and media. Commissioned as part of Wonders of Weston, produced by Situations and Field Art Projects, featuring international artists including Tim Etchells, Lara Favaretto and raumlaborberlin. Funded as part of a £951,447 Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment award.
    • Hodge represented the programme's artists in a:
    • The Master Plan (2012) - commission for Architecture and the Built Environment funded, solo-authored, artist's book for fine art publishers Book Works - instead of producing a planned illustrated guide to the 'Wonders of Weston', the programme curators commissioned this publication from Hodge - taking verbatim a found copy of 'Weston-Super-Mare. A Garden City by the Sea. The Master Plan.', the 'Transcript of Shorthand Notes Taken by H. G. Venning' at a 'Meeting of Townspeople Held in the King's Hall, Friday, January 24, 1947' as a backbone, Hodge constructed an illustrated palimpsest of marginalia focusing on the theme of regeneration - launched         alongside paper and discussion with Situations curator, Claire Doherty, at Whitechapel Gallery, London as part of The London Art Book Fair.
    • 'A Stratigraphy of Place: Everything you need to build a town is here', coauthored chapter with Wrights & Sites for OUP's The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World (2013).
    • Commissioned concept/feasibility study (with Wrights & Sites) study for a new, trail-based, permanent public artwork for a post-industrial (former copper and arsenic mining landscape) section of the Tamar Valley Area of Natural Beauty (with curatorial input from Plymouth Arts Centre) (2012).
    • What can be learnt through the transference of Real Life performance practices into a Second Life context?
    • How can we construct space and event in order to exploit the potential of the virtual environment, rather than attempting to mimic everyday dynamics?
    • '2ND LIVE' (2008) - ACE-funded programme of commissions and 'Scratch' events, hosted by Exeter Phoenix:
    • 2ND LIVE: Shaping Space and Event in a Virtual World, Contemporary Theatre Review, Volume 20 Issue 2, May 2010, pp. 223-232.
    • Seven papers (2008-2011), for:
      • '2ND LIVE: Island Version 2.0', PSi #14: INTERREGNUM - In Between States, University of Copenhagen (August 2008).
      • 'REGION_FLAG_BLOCK_TERRAFORM' (invited hour-long keynote), Art - Site - Audience, Tramway, Glasgow (September 2008).
      • '2ND LIVE: Virtual ASBOs, Viral Duets, Reflexive Architecture & The Death Of An Avatar', Performing Presence: from the live to the simulated, University of Exeter (March 2009).
      • 'A Second Space for Performance', Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference, University of Plymouth (September 2009).
      • 'The walker architect - Reflexive Architecture', Inhabiting Adaptive Architecture workshop @ International Conference on Adaptive Architecture, Building Centre, London (March 2011).
      • 'FromTo' (invited paper), From Black Box to Second Life: Theatre and Performance in Virtual Worlds, University of Hull (May 2011).
      • 'Material Alternatives' (invited keynote), Symposium on the Dramaturgies of Telematic Theatre, Central School of Speech and Drama, London (June 2011).
    • SLaaristokaupunki, commissioned for ANTI Festival, Finland (2009).
    • Avatartist 2.0 (2008), KT workshop for Live Art Development Agency / Arnolfini.
    • 'Forest Drift', a day-long, public, exploratory drift within the bounds of the forest, exploring the Forestry Commission's new walkways, overgrown tracks and desire paths (September 2006)
    • a series of documented reconnaissance drifts/dialogues (discussing ways of experiencing, re-imagining and planning the forest landscape) with specialists in eight different fields, including architecture, Jungian psychology, choreography and computer software design - each drift followed by a session in which the specialist and Wrights & Sites construct new plans for the forest (Spring & Summer 2007)
    • a split-screen DVD video documentation of a simultaneous drift in the forest by the four core members of Wrights & Sites (Summer 2007)
    • a public exhibition of maps, texts and video at the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World's forest base (September 2007)
    • a day-long symposium and practical workshop, bringing together Wrights & Sites, the partner specialists and the public (September 2007)
    • DVD-ROM documentation of the constituent elements, constructed by Stephen Hodge working in consultation with Peter Hulton of the Arts Documentation Unit (Autumn 2007)
    • find ways to adapt the site-specific practices of An Exeter Mis-Guide for generic application (to explore connections and differences between local and global, personal and communal, here and elsewhere/anywhere)
    • consolidate long-term research (walking experiments funded by the Centre for Creative Enterprise & Participation in Manchester, Milton Keynes, Copenhagen, Paris, New York, Zambia, and other locations around the world)
    • produce a tool in the form of a book that could stimulate further activities/collaborations between Wrights & Sites and partners in other locations
    • playfully explore/challenge existing spatial models generated by municipal organisations, the heritage and tourism industries, different academic/artistic discourses, etc.
    • generate a series of frameworks for activities in specific sites and landscapes within the city of Exeter, allowing the writer and walker to become partners in ascribing significance to place
    • a co-authored commission by the Courtauld Institute of Art , London for the two-year exhibition of international artists, 'East Wing Collection 06 (Urban Networks)', 2003-5: the work comprised four mapped walks (1 by each author) - [ view page 1 ] - [ view page 2 ]
    • a contribution to The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel, 2005 (one of Stephen's walks from 'An Exeter Mis-Guide' was case-studied as one of forty examples of experimental travel)
    • 'On An Exeter Mis-Guide', a solo paper by Stephen for the 'Live Art Symposium', Newlyn Art Gallery (September 2003)

Teaching

Teaching through research-led practice has been at the heart of Drama at the University of Exeter since its inception over 50 years ago, when it became the first HE Drama Department to assess practice. I am committed to practice-as-research and research-led teaching with practice at its centre, and bring a distinctive, professional practice in contemporary performance to the Department’s teaching portfolio. I have taught broadly across Drama’s curriculum, redesigned and convened three UG core modules, and have written and convened three UG optional modules driven by my own Practice-as-Research.

I have championed research-led, practice-based teaching beyond the University of Exeter, as External Examiner on the MA Performance Design and Practice at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts London (2012-2017), and as the inaugural External Examiner on the MLitt Theatre Practices at the University of Glasgow (2013-2018).

Modules taught