Decolonising Clown Pedagogy
This is a new project with two main sources.
Firstly, a previous research project carried out just over ten years ago, which questioned orthodox approaches which privilege notions of authenticity and the self through a search for vulnerability
Secondly, the new political and cultural conditions we have lived through over the past year since the influence of BLM made itself felt globally.
The original project was a 3-year Creative Fellowship (2007-2010) held by Jon Davison at Central School of Speech and Drama. The project explored clown/actor training within the context of 20th/21st century performer training practices and research. The prime focus was to ask questions about orthodox assumptions widely held within clown practice and pedagogy about notions of authenticity, presence, spontaneity and the privileging of vulnerability as a preferred method of access for students. Outcomes included policy recommendations opening up new avenues of performance and pedagogical practice which suggested alternatives to ideologies of the self which had had their origin in the very different conditions of the West in the 1960s. Outputs included video documentation and articles and subsequently two single-authored books (Clown: Readings in Theatre Practice and Clown Training – a practical guide). See here also: https://www.jondavison.net/clown-actor-training
The new project follows on from those explorations, finding that the issues raised might well have a greater impact and value by engaging with teachers and students outside of the orthodox circles of prestige in the global clown community.
A new, pressing, context for the original research has arisen over the past year, with the urgency to respond to global movements that highlight institutionalised and structural racism throughout our societies. Within the global clown community, many have been involved in discussion over how to proceed and how to re-examine our practices. A prime question which arises now is how to decolonise clown pedagogy. And the options and assumptions which are being problematised do seem generally to return to that ideology of vulnerability. In short, the same questions which the previous research had been nagged by are now re-surfacing as potentially the obstacles to a pedagogical practice which would not exclude the global majority. That is, to examine the hypothesis that vulnerability is primarily open only to those privileged enough in our societies to live lives where they are not under constant threat.
This specific application of the research was not explored or envisaged explicitly in the original research, but our cultural and political moment clearly urges us now to do so.
This new project also emerges from the ongoing study and discussions within the Clown Studies Courses at London Clown School in 2020 and 2021. Much of the debate in these courses has centred around how a greater understanding and analysis of clown history can open up new paths for our practice today.
Planning is at an early stage, but already onboard are London Metropolitan University, who are keen to act as the host Research Organisation for a funding request to the Arts and Humanities Research Council, with Jon Davison taking the role of Principal Investigator. Amrita Dhaliwal, of the Idiot Workshop in Los Angeles, will act as Project Partner.