Professor Stephen Hodge
Professor in Live Art + Spatial Practices
I am Professor in Live Art + Spatial Practices and a member of the Centre for Contemporary Performance Practices. My Practice Research interrogates space and event across real, digital and imagined environments. I was Head of Drama (2012-2018) and the University's Academic Director of Arts and Culture (2016-2021), responsible for co-authoring and delivering the institution's Arts and Culture Strategy. I have designed and convened a number of BA modules in contemporary performance, and currently contribute to the MA Creativity: Innovation and Business Strategy. After taking a discipline lead on a UKIERI-funded, inter-institutional PhD programme, I am an adjunct faculty member of the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, India.
I generate Practice Research across a range of contexts, for example:
- Where to build the walls that protect us, ACE-funded, Kaleider commission (2014), reiterated for Compass Festival, Leeds (2016);
- 4 x 4 Screens, Live Art Development Agency commissioned DVD (2013);
- The Master Plan, Book Works/Situations (2012);
- Slarristokaupunki, ANTI Festival, Finland and Second Life® (2009);
- 'Exeter A-Z', Year Of The Artist commissioned digital interventions aboard Exeter’s bus fleet (2000);
- 'for piano solo', National Review of Live Art (1994).
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 the Vienna Festival, 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 to the creative industries. I am a resident at the Kaleider studio in Exeter, and a trustee of In Between Time, Bristol, an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation that brings people together around radical art and ideas to encourage new ways to think about the world and ourselves. From 2013-2016, I was 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 Arts Council England 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), and was a regional selector for the National Review of Live Art.
Personal website: www.stephenhodge.org
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).
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'.
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
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').
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.).
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
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?
• 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.
'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).
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).