Dr SARAH HARPER
Sarah Harper is an artist, teacher and academic researcher. As lead artist with urban arts company Friches Théâtre Urbain, she creates community performances, site-specific and place-making projects and participatory art walks commissioned in response to sensitive social contexts. Her doctoral research at Queen Mary University of London focused on understanding refusal and non-participation in the Paris banlieue.
- socially engaged performance
- archival theory and counter-archives
- relational arts
- performance, urbanism and public space
- aesthetics of care and hospitality
- refusal and non-participation
- cultural policy, cultural value and everyday participation
- immersive and site-specific performance
- PhD in Drama, Queen Mary University of London, 2017 – 2023
- École International de Mouvement Jacques Lecoq, Paris, 2 yr Professional Course and Laboratoire d’étude de mouvement
- University of Bristol, BA Drama Single Honours, Ist Class
- Harper, Sarah, ‘The Meaning and Importance of Refusals: is walking as accessible as we think?’ Walking Bodies: Papers, Provocations, Actions, ed. by Helen Billinghurst, Claire Hind, Phil Smith (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2020), 214-224
JOURNAL ARTICLES (Peer reviewed)
- Harper, Sarah, ‘Redefining failure. The value of refusal in participatory arts in the Paris banlieue’, Special edition ‘Failures in Cultural Participation’, ed. by Leila Jancovich and David Stephenson, Conjunctions: Transdisciplinary Journal of Cultural Participation, 7: 2 (2020), 1-15, https://doi.org/10.7146/tjcp.v7i2.119743
- Harper, Sarah, ‘Tenderness Between Strangers: Intimate exchanges on banlieue wastelands’, Performance Paradigms, special edition ‘Performance and Radical Kindness’, ed. by Emma Willis and Alys Longley, 16 (2021), 235-250, https://www.performanceparadigm.net/index.php/journal/article/view/253
- Haedicke, Susan C. and Harper, Sarah, ‘Hope is a wooded time: an eco-performance of biodiversity in discarded geographic and social space’, Performing Ethos: An International Journal of Ethics in Theatre & Performance, ed. by Bronwyn Preece and Jess Allen, 5:1/2 (2015), 101-118, http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/69640/
- ‘Archives de l‘invisible: the invisible archives of participatory arts practice in the northern Paris banlieue’, conference: ‘Shaking the Archive, Reconsidering the Role of Archives in Contemporary Society’, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, 23-24 June, 2023 (forthcoming).
- ‘Violence and the negotiated aesthetics of refusal’, conference: ‘Norms and Storms’, Participation Research Group, University of Leeds, 21 April, 2023
- ‘The Dynamics of Refusal and Ecologies of Exclusion in Participatory Agri-Cultural Projects with Immigrant Populations in the Paris Banlieue‘, IFTR Annual Conference, Galway (online), 12-16 July 2021.
- ‘The Great Crossing: reactivating a coal-field through walking’, conference: Walking’s New Movements, University of Plymouth, 1 November 2019.
- ‘L’Artiste en banlieue: Je Prends ma Place!‘ conference: Rencontre arts et aménagement dans les territoires du Grand Paris, organiser: Plaine Commune, Friche industrielle Babcock, La Courneuve, 8 Nov 2016.
- ‘Case study: Lieu Commun’, conference: ‘Comment produire des espaces publics? Projets d’artistes et experiences culturelles’, L’Avant Rue, conference series: Art en Espace publique, Université de Paris 1, Pantheon Sorbonne, 2010.
- ‘Case Study: L’Espwar est un temps boisé‘, conference: Projets Culturels dans l’Espace Publique, students of Master 2, dir: Pascal le Brun Cordier, Mairie de Montreuil, 2009.
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT / IMPACT
- Presentation: ‘Tendresse Radicale. Cas d’étude’, Chaire du Territoire, University Sorbonne – Paris 13 Villetaneuse, 19 November 2019.
- Presentation of participatory projects by Friches Théâtre Urbain to Insertion, Intervention Sociale sur les Territoires. IIST, seminar group, University Sorbonne- Paris 13, Villetaneuse, 20 November 2019.
- Consultant artist to inter-communality Plaine Commune’s Chantiers de Venise. Inquiry and tool-kit development for arts accompanying urban development, 2019 – 2021.
- Consultant artist, Plaine Commune, Vue d’Ailleurs, Plaine Commune territoire de la culture et de la creation, Venice Biennial of Architecture. Round-table exchanges with mayors, director generals of local authorities, real-estate developers and artists implicated in the northern Paris suburbs on the role and importance of art in urban regeneration, 26 – 28 Sept 2018.
- Evaluation of final student projects for FAI AR (Formation Avancée et Itinérante des Arts de la Rue), professional street arts training program, Marseille 2013.
- Mentor to students’ final project for FAI AR (Formation Avancée et Itinérante des Arts de la Rue), Marseille 2011.
PRACTICE AS RESEARCH
- 2017-18. Who’s Driving the Tractor? Conversations with Women in UK Agriculture, in collaboration with Dr. Susan Haedicke, University of Warwick, School of Creative Arts, Performance and Visual Cultures, Food GRP – Warwick Food Group, Warwick Crop Centre, Department of Life Sciences. Performance-lecture, verbatim theatre with integrated women’s voices for farms and the National Farmers Union, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc-jwkk6p_8
- 2013 Future Foodscapes: Grow Warwick. Interdisciplinary collaboration between University of Warwick’s Dept. of Theatre and Performance and Food Security Global Research Priority Group. A mapping and visual installation on the Warwick campus that imagined its transformation into an edible campus. In collaboration with Dr. Susan Haedicke and Professor Rosemary Collier.
- 2012 -14. Hope is a Wooded Time, Montreuil, France. Friches Théâtre Urbain in association with the University of Warwick Food Security GRP research group. Art walks engaging the surrounding communities in the appropriation and maintenance of a protected urban wood. In collaboration with Dr. Susan Haedicke.
Understanding Refusal. Non-participation in participatory arts projects in the northern Paris banlieue.
This thesis seeks to understand and reframe non-participation and refusal I have experienced in participatory arts projects which I have led, with urban arts company Friches Théâtre Urbain, in the multi-cultural northern suburbs of Paris. I examine twelve long-term neighbourhood projects inviting participation in performance, art-walks or place-making on urban wastelands, commissioned to reactivate, redefine or animate l’espace public (public space), with community cohesion as a recognised aim. Analysing why people ignore, refuse or violently disrupt the work, I draw on sociological theories of participation, art reception and the value placed on types of participation within socially engaged performance, geography and cultural studies to review common suppositions of what ‘good participation’ looks like. I organise my findings into a Spectrum of Refusal and argue that refusals offer generative narratives of community, culture, or political activism that are valuable and integral to the dialogic, social function of participatory arts.
Historically, in France, public space has been ideologically positioned as a key forum for societal debate through occupation, barricades, dérive, demonstration, or festival. But within the existing dynamics of socio-economic exclusion in the northern Paris suburbs my work, to engage participation in caring and joyful embodiments of citizenship and community, often contributes directly to the gentrification that leaves poorer populations with increasingly less access and legitimacy within the city. Here, refusal by would-be participants becomes a logical response. I challenge the pertinence of encouraging investment in ideal or nostalgic notions of community within fractured, diverse neighbourhoods where being together is rendered transient or unworkable. I argue that attending to moments of refusal, as well as to minimal, invisible or reluctant participation, may be key to understanding not ‘how to get people to participate better’, but how to more accurately perceive their refusal, as eloquent, constructive and valuable acts of citizen participation in something else.