Christel Stalpaert (° 1971) studied German Philology and Theatre Studies at Ghent University. She got promoted in 2002 with a doctoral dissertation defending a post-semiotic method of analysis, based on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Luce Irigaray. Her PhD research implemented Gilles Deleuze's aesthetic of intensities (aesthesis) and Luce Irigaray's philosophy of corporeality in art, film and theatre studies. It created an interdisciplinary analytic framework and terminology for film and performance contexts where narration – and thus also the human capacity for cognitive recognition – is no longer considered the central element in the generation of meaning. In 2001 she organized the conference Deleuze Revisited: Contemporary Performing Arts and the Ruin of Representation at Ghent University and edited the conference proceedings in a thematic issue of Documenta (2003). Her dissertation and her subsequent publications offer an innovatory perspective on contemporary postrepresentative and postdramatic scopic regimes, implementing also Hans-Thies Lehmann's Postdramatic Theatre.
Since 2003, Stalpaert is professor in Theatre Studies (Performing and Media Arts) at Ghent University. Her research is focused on corporeality, performativity and intermediality in performing arts (from the historical avant-garde to the present day) at the intersection point of philosophy and ethics.
In 2007, she founded the AUGent-authorized research group Postdramatic Aesthetics: Word, Sound, Image as a platform for research on this topic. In 2011, this research group was embedded in the UGent-authorized research centre S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts & Media), of which she is the director. In 2014, the research group PEPPER (Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and Performance) was established within S:PAM in order to encompass the growing importance of performance philosophy in the research centre.
Christel Stalpaert is editor-in-chief of the A1.2.-rated journal Documenta, and editor of the S:PAM-series Studies in Performing Arts & Media.
Trauma Processing in Postdramatic Theatre and Film: The Transformative Potential of Corporeality and Performative Objects
An imporant research line of Christel Stalpaert deals with cultural memory and trauma processing in postdramatic theatre and film. In this context, Stalpaert organized doctoral schools with Hans-Thies Lehmann on Auratic Presence: a Postdramatic Perspective on the Body and Corporeality (2011); with Freddie Rokem on Art in Conflict Zones (2012); with Ramsay Burt on The Body as Archive (2013); and with Jane Taylor on the transformative potential of performative objects in trauma processing (2014).
Christel Stalpaert is the Principal Investigator (PI) of several externally funded research projects on the topic of performing cultural trauma in theatre and film. In 2007, she supervised Frederik Le Roy's FWO-funded PhD research on Postdramatic Theatre and Performance as Technologies of Remembrance in a Postmodern Culture of Memory. 2008 saw the start of the FWO-funded research project Marqué par une image” - Research into the Status of the (Film) Image with regard to Mechanisms of Remembrance and Memory Paradigms in a Postdramatic Aesthetics, with Dra. Sofie Verdoodt as a research-fellow.
The KVAB-funded international conference on Performing Cultural Trauma in Theatre and Film (9 May 2008) resulted in guest-editing the special issue Performing Cultural Trauma in Theatre and Film for the A1-journal Arcadia (Le Roy, Stalpaert, Verdoodt, 2011). With Lucia Van Heteren (University of Groningen), Chiel Kattenbelt (University of Utrecht) and Rob Van der Zalm (University of Amsterdam), she also edited a thematic issue on De ornamenten van het vergeten (The Ornaments of Forgetting) for the Theater Topics series (Amsterdam University Press, 2007) on the matter.
Stalpaert considers the current dependency on Western psychiatric paradigms of traumatic relief as deeply problematic, because it fails to recognize embodied cognition (corporeal knowledge) as a site from which a particular politics of transformative practice can be developed. In adopting an embodied, postdramatic and situational approach, the research developed in this research line takes into consideration non-linguistic and corporeal ways in which local communities cope with the effects of traumatic events and violent conflicts.
In 2014, the FWO-NRF-research project Masks, Puppets and Performative Objects as Tools of Critique, Resistance and Agency in South Africa took a start (including the PhD of Dra. Marieke Breyne). This bilateral scientific collaboration with South Africa develops a situational, embodied and postdramatic approach for dealing with the cultural trauma of apartheid. It particularly addresses the limitations of the narrative-based storytelling that lies at the heart of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions.
In 2016, Dra. Sofie de Smet started her BOF-PhD fellowship under Stalpaert's promotership, investigating the transformative potential of post-narrative modes of trauma recovery in relation to migration and personal displacement, and bridging recent findings in transcultural psychology and theatre studies.
In adopting an embodied, postdramatic and situational approach, the output of these research projects will provide artists and/or applied theatre practicioners a broader picture of trauma processing and offers concrete guidance about using transformative performance practices within art and rehabilitation initiatives, particularly in conflict zones of racism and forced migration or personal displacement. In September 2016, an international conference takes place on Re-Moving Apartheid: Postdramatic and Postnarrative Modes of Coping with Trauma, dealing with this topic.
In the context of these research projects and initiatives on memory and trauma, Christel Stalpaert specifically studied the notion of corporeal memory and embodied cognition in film, theatre and dance performances that deal with trauma processing. She developed the notion of an embodied poetics of failure. In a number of publications, she has written on the failure of language in uttering traumatic experiences and on corporeal performative intensities in film, theatre and dance performances, like stuttering and falling, that bear witness to these ineffable traumas. She wrote on the memory of the body in dance performances of Jan Ritsema (in Ballettanz, 2002); on Jan Fabre's subversive bodies in resistance (in Arcadia, 2005); on violence, mourning and melancholia in the theatre work of Jan Lauwers (2007, Academia Press; and Performance Research, 2015); on the changing role of the chorus and the witness of the traumatic event in postdramatic stagings of Antigone, Medea and Clytemnestra (in Mosaic, 2008 and Performance Research 2015); on the progress of movement and speech through falling and stuttering or poetic speech (in Arcadia, 2010 and Contemporary Theatre Review, 2010); on the failure of the ageing body in a gerontophobic culture (Aging Studies in Europe, 2011, Lit Verlag); and on non-western modes of coping with Trauma (South African Theatre Journal 2015). She is currently working on a book monograph entitled Performing Violent Conflicts and Cultural Traumas: The Embodied Poetics of Failure, that will collect her findings and research results.
Since 2015, Christel Stalpaert is also a co-promoter of the CWO-project Open Ending. An Interdisciplinary Research into the Development of New Mental and Physical Spaces for Burial Practices in Contemporary Society (KASK School of Arts, Department of Architectonic Design, and Faculty of Education, Health and Social Work), giving advice on postnarrative and postdramatic modes of coping with trauma.
Corporealities, Technologies and Intermedialities
An important research line evolving from these research projects is the paradigm shift from a postdramatic to a posthuman aesthetic and the research question what remains of corporeal knowledge in intermedial, digital environments and in posthuman constellations.
In 2012, Stalpaert has been granted the interdisciplinary FWO-research project entitled Capturing Dance Movements, Intensities and Embodied Experiences: Research Into New Possibilities of Digital Media for Dance Analysis and Notation based on Fase (1982) by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and ROSAS (including PhD research of Laura Karreman). It investigates corporeality and the transmission of dance knowledge in the computational environemnt of MoCap.
In October 2013, Kristof Van Baarle started his FWO-funded PhD-research under Stalpaert's promotership on a Critical Posthuman Aesthetic, conducting a performance-philosophical research into the configuration of posthuman figures in the art and theatre work of Kris Verdonck, implementing the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben.
In this context of this research line, the international conference Does it Matter? Composite Bodies and Posthuman Prototypes in Contemporary Performing Arts took place in March 2015.
Performing Arts and Media at the Intersection Point of Philosophy and Ethics
In order to encompass the growing importance of performance philosophy in the research group, the research group PEPPER (Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and Performance) was established wihtin S:PAM in 2014. The research community PEPPER aims to host an international research network on the emerging interdisciplinary field of performance philosopohy.
In this context, Stalpaert organized the doctoral school Art and Ethics. Shifts from Biopolitics to Necropolitics, with Marina Grzinic (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna) in 2014. In March 2016, PEPPER (Le Roy and Stalpaert) organizes the symposium Contemporaneities. The Entangled Now of Performance, a symposium on the philosophy of time and history in relation to contemporary performances, with Rebecca Schneider, Milo Rau, Stefan Bläske, Daniel Blanga-Gubbay, Fabian Barba, Timmy De Laet and Thomas Bellinck. In May 2016, a doctoral school is organized with Chantal Mouffe on Art and Politics, dealing with her agonistic politico-philosophical theory.
For a history of the theatre department at Ghent University please have a look at http://www.theaterwetenschappen.ugent.be/en/about