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 film and performance analysis, based on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Luce Irigaray. Her PhD research implemented Gilles Deleuze's aesthetic of intensities 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 perception. 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 unfold the functioning of 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 field of Performance Philosophy in the research centre.
Christel Stalpaert is editor-in-chief of the A1.2.-rated journal Documenta. Tijdschrift voor theater, 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.
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 postdramatic 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).
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 September 2016, an international conference took place on Re-Moving Apartheid: Postdramatic and Postnarrative Modes of Coping with Trauma, dealing with this topic. The proceedings of this conference are in preparation for publication with Palgrave MacMillan.
Stalpaert also investigated the post-narrative approach of postdramatic theatre in relation to the representation of an emigratory experience, including the devestating effects of personal displacement. She developed the notion of corporeal acculturation as a particular 'body-as-archive' that both affirms and challenges the boundaries of (imagined) communities and (invented) traditions, for example in the performance Journey Home (2009) by Les SlovaKs Dance Collective. In 2016, Dra. Sofie de Smet started her BOF-PhD fellowship under Stalpaert's and Lucia De Haene's promotership, investigating the transformative potential of post-narrative modes of trauma recovery in relation to migration and personal displacement, bridging recent findings in transcultural psychology and theatre studies.
From 2015-2018, Christel Stalpaert was also an external 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's of parting.
In adopting an embodied, postdramatic and situational approach, the output of this research track provides 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.
Ecology and Climate Change
Since 2012, Stalpaert expands her embodied, postdramatic and situational approach to the field of ecology. Etymologically, the term ecology combines the Greek words oikos, meaning house or dwelling place, and lógos, meaning reason, or study. In her ecological research, Stalpaert connects environmental thinking with notions of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’. Drawing on Félix Guattari's The Three Ecologies, she researches “the ethico-aesthetic aegis of an ecosophy” (2000: 41): a contraction of ecology and philosophy that connects the environmental with a reflection on the psychic production of subjectivity and social relations. As such, gender and postcolonial perspectives are an inherent part of her ecological research.
This approach also meets with current paradigm shifts in ecological thinking, demanding new modes of activism to tackle the complexity of current ecological crises, such as climate change. Drawing on Bruno Latour’s notion of political ecology, Stalpaert looks for alternative art-science worldings (Haraway), moving beyond the practice of ecology movements that are still burdened by an ideal image of Nature.
In the context of this research track, Stalpaert has published on the ecozoic spectator in Kris Verdonck's EXOTE (with Sofie Verdoodt in Performance Research, 2012); on the paradigm shift from ecocriticism to ecoperformance in The Ethics of Art. Ecological Turns in the Performing Arts (with Byttebier, Amsterdam: Valiz, 2014); on eco-artists as diplomat of dissensus (in Performancee Philosophy, 2015 and Emerging Affinities. Marlgorzata Sugiera, Mateusz Borowski, Mateusz Chaberski (eds.), forthcoming); on composite bodies of resistance in Crew’s O_REX and Nicole Beutler’s Antigone (in Performance Research, 2015); and on an ecology of agential realism in Maria Lucia Cruz Correia's Urban Action Clinic GARDEN (in Performance Research, 2018 and in The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics, Peter Eckersall and Helena Grehan (eds.), Routledge, 2019) and on new modes of knowledge production in art-science worldings (in Didaskalia, 2018).
Corporealities, Technologies and Intermedialities
An important research line evolving from the research track on 'Memories, Traumata and Conflicts' 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 the 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. The proceedings of this conference are currently under contract for publication with Palgrave MacMillan.
In this research track, Stalpaert particularly builds on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and the New Materialists (Rosi Braidotti, Donna Haraway, ...) to study ecological matters in a posthuman era. She published, a.o. on figures performing prototypes of composite bodies, animating an ontological politics of time and movement in the work of Kris Verdonck (in Kris Verdonck, Peter Eckersall, Kristof Van Baarle and Kris Verdonck (eds.), Aberystwyth: Performance Research Books, forthcoming).
Performing Arts and Media at the Intersection Point of Philosophy and Ethics
Already in her PhD research, Stalpaert conducted her research at the intersection point of philosophy and ethics. In 2001, she organised a conference entitled Deleuze Revisited. The Contemporary performing Arts and the Ruins of Representation, inviting theatre and performance scholars, philosophers and artists to discuss the topic. The proceedings of this conference were published in Documenta: tijdschrift voor theater. Ever since, Stalpaert has studied theatre, dance, performance and video art in a mutual dialogue with philosophy, seeking not only to find new vocabularies to describe the functioning of artistic strategies, but also to observe how art engages with the spectator in a philosophical way, i.e. inviting the spectator to think critically about matters in society and to engage in creative thinking in order to anticipate new opportunities.
In line with the growing field of Performance Philosophy, the research group PEPPER (Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and Performance) was established wihtin S:PAM in 2014. The research community PEPPER hosts an international research network on the relatively young interdisciplinary field of Performance Philosophy.
In this context, Christel Stalpaert and Aneta Stojnic 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 (Frederik Le Roy and Christel Stalpaert) organized 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 was organized by Christel Stalpaert and Goran Petrovic with political philosopher 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