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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Theatricalising civic spaces : radix theatre, boca del lupo and site-specific performance in Vancouver Leung, Parie


In 1985, Minimal Art sculptor Richard Serra emphasized that were his sculpture, the Tilted Arc to be moved from its site in New York's Federal Plaza, it would have been an act of destruction. Since then, his phrase, "To move the work is to destroy the work" has become synonymous with site-specificity, a practice conceptualized in the Minimalist Art era in a bid to redefine relationships between art work and viewer through a heightened sense of site, time and act of viewing. From the fecund experimental, outdoor and street performance work which arose during the late 1960s and 1970s in America and parts of Europe, site-specific performance emerged as a significant form of theatre practice favoured for its potential for sensuous, three dimensional, and visceral performance environments. Due to its conceptual borrowing of site-specificity from visual art theory however, site-specific performance, inherently different from the sculptural form, has amassed various debates, definitions and models proffered by theorists and practitioners, trying to pin down guidelines and rules for the practice. The main debate at hand is whether theatre artists should stay true to Serra's statement with regard to anchoring and fixing their performances in specific sites, or can the ephemeral and live nature of performance rework site-specificity into something more open and fluid. To this end, various theatre companies have approached site-specificity in innovative ways and in my study, I have illuminated the creation process and works of two Vancouver theatre companies - Radix Theatre and Boca del Lupo, who have since 1994 and 2001 respectively, been consistently experimenting with site-specific performance in ways which show a positive divergence from site-specificity's original requirements. My thesis analyses the two companies' process of creating performance, body of work and hones in on two key productions from each company, each of which offer examples as to how the theatre artists have engaged with site and site-specificity in innovative ways.

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