Mike trained as an archaeologist. Between 1972 and 1997 - in a series of companies including RAT Theatre, Cardiff Laboratory Theatre and Brith Gof - he pioneered new and innovative approaches to the form, function and placement of performance in Wales and further afield - South America, Hong Kong, Eastern Europe... He currently works with departmental member Mike Brookes in the Pearson/Brookes company as well as creating solo performances.
Mike joined the department in 1997 and launched the Performance Studies degree scheme in 1999.
Bubbling Tom / Almost Real: Art & Social Change (PDF)
On 25 April 2000 I went for a walk in the village of Hibaldstow in north Lincolnshire... with my Mum, my wife Heike, my brother and his family, my uncle Geoff and auntie Joan, my Dad’s cousin Pete and his wife Sheila, my Mum’s friend Margaret, my primary school teacher Marion, my school friend Tony, assorted inhabitants and visitors from Sheffield and London, each of them carrying a small guide book.
Over a period of two hours we visited ten locations... And I talked; I stood and sat here and there; I pointed to this that still survives, to that that has changed; I recalled dead friends; I revealed a few family secrets; I touched surfaces. And I showed things; demonstrated things; enacted things. And my accent gradually got thicker, and at times dialect popped out: ‘By she’s slaape, duck. Put sneck ont doar.’
We were all engaged in ‘Bubbling Tom’, a guided tour of the landscape I knew up to the age of eight, walking as if in the early 1950s: a site-work at my site of origin - ‘on my own doorstep’, ‘in my own backyard’, commissioned as part of the Live Arts/Forced Entertainment ‘Small Acts at the Millennium’ scheme.
This was my 50th year; my mother had never seen me perform before....
Pearson/Brookes represents the on-going long term collaboration between Mike Brookes and Mike Pearson; their collective proposals and theories; and the performance works they produce.
As individuals their work has both encompassed and engaged an array of media and disciplines, within the development of an innovative artistic and performance practice spanning decades. They met in Cardiff, and first worked together, on Brith Gof's 'Gododdin' in 1988.
Pearson/Brookes is dedicated to the pursuit of experimental strategies and practice within the form, function and placement of performance; and their practice constitutes performance as social enquiry and action rather than simple artistic reflection.
On Saturday June 2nd 2001 - the day of the Wales-Poland soccer international - Mike Brookes, Mike Pearson, John Rowley, Richard Morgan, Paul Jeff carried disabled performer Lyn Levett across the centre of the the city of Cardiff. Over twelve hours they performed, documented and re-presented their journey.
the first five miles
Between 9.00pm and 10.15pm on Sunday 23rd August 1998, Mike Brookes and Mike Pearson performed the first five miles across the hill top and high ground of Mynydd Bach above the village of Trefenter in West Wales. The event; the structure of which marked a key shift within both the intentions and formal development of Brookes' recent performance work; was realised in collaboration with local inhabitants and land owners, the local independent radio station Radio Ceredigion, and BBC resources.
Over three consecutive evenings - 21st through 23rd September 2001 - Mike Brookes and Mike Pearson constructed polis within the city of Cardiff, Wales.
A large scale three hour performance event and installation, polis was built upon the structured encounter of twenty-five performance fragments, realised in five phases of five simultaneous acts, across the centre of the city.
Theatre/Archaeology is a brilliant and provocative challenge to disciplinary practice and intellectual boundaries. It brings together radical proposals in both archaeological and performance theory to generate a startlingly original and intriguing methodological framework. It facilitates a new way of investigating landscape and cityscape, and notions of physicality, encounter, site and context.
The book takes scholarly innovation to new levels. It is the result of a long-term, unique collaboration between a renowned archaeological theorist and a leading theatre artist. The result is a vibrant dialogic writing that bridges the scholarly/poetic divide. In its unique integration of theory, narrative, and autobiography, Theatre/Archaeology brings a new dimension to two burgeoning fields of inquiry.
DOWNLOAD THEATRE/ARCHAEOLOGY (PDF)
Towards an archaeology of performance / Michael Shanks
Esgair Fraith / West Wales / Site of a series of projects in deep mapping
"Reflecting eighteenth century antiquarian approaches to place, which included history, folklore, natural history and hearsay, the deep map attempts to record and represent the grain and patina of place through juxtapositions and interpenetrations of the historical and the contemporary, the political and the poetic, the discursive and the sensual; the conflation of oral testimony, anthology, memoir, biography, natural history and everything you might ever want to say about a place...."
The Presence Project / Performing Presence: From the Live to the Simulated / A collaborative project in creative interdisciplinary research running September 2005 – June 2010
Gabriella Giannachi (Exeter UK) | Nick Kaye (Exeter UK) | Mel Slater (University College London) | Michael Shanks (Stanford USA)
Presence is a fundamental yet highly contested aspect of performance, and performance has come to be a key concept in many different fields. Notions of presence hinge on the relationship between the live and mediated, on notions of immediacy, authenticity and originality. Presence prompts questions of the character of self-awareness, of the presentation of self. Interaction is implicated — presence often implies being in someone's presence. Location too — to be present is to be somewhere. Hence presence also directs us outside the self into the social and spatial. And also, of course, into temporality — a fulcrum of presence is tense and the relationship between past and present.
The Presence Project aims to combine expertise from performance and drama theory and practice, anthropological archaeology, and computer science to investigate means by which "presence" is achieved in live and mediated performance and simulated environments. The project aims to explore how exchanges of practices, concepts and methodologies between academic disciplines and between live, mediated and simulated performance may deepen an understanding of the performance of presence.
In Comes I: Performance, Memory and Landscape
Pub date: Octoober 2006
University of Exeter Press
272p, c. 40 b/w photos and map
In Comes I is about performance and land, biography and locality, memory and place. The book reflects on performances past and present, taking the form of a series of excursions in the agricultural landscape of eastern England, and drawing from archaeology, geomorphology, folklore, local and family history.
Mike Pearson, a leading theatre artist and solo-performer, returns to the landscape of his childhood-off the beaten track in Lincolnshire-and uses it as a mnemonic to reflect widely upon performance theory and practice. Rather than focusing on author, period and genre as is conventional in the study of drama, the book takes region as its optic, acknowledging the affective ties between people and place.
Offering new approaches to the study of performance, he integrates intensely personal narrative with analytical reflection, juxtaposing anecdote with theoretical insight, dramatic text with interdisciplinary perception. The performances, ranging from folk drama to contemporary site-specific work, are seen in their relationship to their cultural and physical environment.
No Joke in Petticoats: British Polar Expeditions and Their Theatrical Presentations
The Drama Review, Volume 48, Number 1, 1 March 2004, pp. 44-59(16)
By late March 1902, the British National Antarctic Expedition's ship Discovery was frozen in. Atop the ice, the explorers erected a hut, which was fitted with a stage, scenery, and footlights. The Royal Terror Theatre opened in June with Ticket-of-Leave and climaxed in August with a minstrel show. In the icy darkness white men played women and black men, parodied and critiqued structures of power, reinforced attitudes of racial prejudice, and labored at activities that saved their sanity if not their lives. The prolonged engagement in play challenges the easy narrative of courage, endurance, and heroic survival usually associated with polar expeditions.
Points of Contact - Performance, Places and Pasts / The Centre for Performance Research
Parip/Practice as Research in Performance
ENCHANTMENT AND HAUNTING: CREATING LANDSCAPE THROUGH PERFORMANCE / AHRC Landscape and Environment Framework Seminar / Royal Holloway, University of London, June 20th 2005
Site-Specific Performance at Historic Sites: Resources, Bibliography and Examples (PDF) / Prepared by Katie Chavez
Jennie Savage / Mapping Weekend
Out of Place: The Politics of Site-Specific Performance in Contested Space / Wrights & Sites
Autotopography: Graffiti, Landscapes & Selves / Deirdre E. Heddon
Dee E. Heddon's essay discusses the ways in which subjectivity and place converge in the practice of "Autotopography" or the writing of oneself in and on the landscape. Her discussion of graffiti, as it appears scattered throughout the landscape, marks the passage of subjects through the environment as it teases out elements of her own subjectivity. Heddon's process of narativizing space, time, and self tells a fascinating tale of appearing and disappearing identities hidden in the cracks and crevices of everyday life.