The Sea is on Fire: Machinic Crustaceans and Ecological Promises
This work-in-progress begins to think through how machinic (and substitute) nonhuman animals stand in for their real and fictitious counterparts, and how these stand-ins might draw attention to the technologies that both help and hinder environmental concerns and nonhuman futures. Focusing largely on Les Machines des L’ȋle in Nantes, France, a “theme park” of mechanical animals and sea creatures (and also drawing upon a new play, Yellowfin, which projects a world in which “the fish have gone”) this talk reflects on the power of the machinic or substitute creatures to both point to and at the same time override environmental concerns. At a time when the sea was actually on fire due to a pipeline leak, can exposure to machines and substitute nonhuman animals, or the ability to encounter them physically, cultivate an “awakening,” as the Les Machine website suggests? Will riding on a giant manta ray increase awareness later in life toward the environmental challenges the seas will face? Can embodiment shift the human-animal-technological balance?
Professor Jen Parker-Starbuck is the Head of the School of Performing Arts and Digital Media at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is author of Cyborg Theatre: Corporeal/Technological Intersections in Multimedia Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, paperback 2014), Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field (co-authored with Sarah Bay-Cheng and David Saltz, University of Michigan Press, 2015), and co-editor of Performing Animality: Animals in Performance Practices (with Lourdes Orozco, Palgrave, 2015). Her “Animal Ontologies and Media Representations: Robotics, Puppets, and the Real of War Horse” (Theatre Journal, Vol. 65, Number 3, October 2013) received the ATHE 2014 Outstanding Article award. Her essays and reviews have appeared in Theatre Journal, PAJ, Women and Performance, Theatre Topics, International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Western European Stages, and others. She served as the Editor of Theatre Journal from 2015-2019 and is a Contributing Editor to PAJ, the International Journal of Performing Arts and Digital Media, and is an Advisory Board member of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. She is a Theme Leader for Story Lab, a strand of the ARHC funded Creative Clusters Programme StoryFutures.