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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Joanna Donehowerng, Humanities

Curiosity and Place: A Research-Creation Inquiry Into Urban Performance in Montreal

Date & time
Friday, February 12, 2021 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer

When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


My doctoral research in urban performance engages both creative and academic research modalities to explore the performative interactions between performance and its city of situation, putting into practice a spectrum of historical and contemporary techniques for engaging critically and creatively with urban places. Curiocité is an urban theatre and performance dramaturgy oriented toward apprehending and representing—through curious modalities, narratives, and media—the histories, ambiguities, and differential material and social effects of ongoing capitalist processes on urban neighbourhoods. Abattoir de l’est, the first performance event issuing from Curiocité, is a parable situated in Montreal’s deindustrializing and gentrifying east-end district of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. In the context(s) of this performance research, curiosity delineates an attitude of desire toward the local and the proximate, describing a complex, careful, and eccentric set of experiential and archival techniques (walking, collecting, and assemblage) for apprehending ever-changing urban places, and drawing from a repertoire of curiosity-related aesthetic forms and techniques, among them the curiosity cabinet, popular motion picture media, object theatre, and epic theatrical techniques of defamiliarization toward “as is” narratives and “common sense” discourses of place. A narrative exegesis to my performance research in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Curiosity and Place: A Research-Creation Inquiry Into Urban Performance in Montreal responds to and through the following questions: How can curiosity toward place inform urban performance research? What methods and media support a curious approach to performance creation? Tracing the processes of composition for Abattoir de l’est, from scripting through to the siting of the performance event in the urban field, the exegesis asks after the artist’s own siting in these ongoing capitalist processes, demonstrating curiosity as an epistemic stance and set of methods for urban performance creation that would hold onto the ambivalence of the city, while seeking also to embody curiosity in the text through reflective and reflexive returns to the archives and places of performance research. The exegesis includes the full script of Abattoir de l’est, with performances documented through multiple photographs.

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