Anxious futures : valuing young people and youth-specific performance in Australia's cultural field in the 1990's

Hunter, Mary Ann (1999). Anxious futures : valuing young people and youth-specific performance in Australia's cultural field in the 1990's PhD Thesis, English, Media Studies & Art History, University of Queensland.

Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your UQ eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
n01whole.pdf n01whole.pdf application/pdf 1.10MB 14
Author Hunter, Mary Ann
Thesis Title Anxious futures : valuing young people and youth-specific performance in Australia's cultural field in the 1990's
School, Centre or Institute English, Media Studies & Art History
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 1999
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Abstract/Summary This thesis investigates the representation, positioning, and valuing of young people and youth-specific performance in the field of cultural production in Australia in the 1990s. Using specific case-studies, this thesis argues that young people and youth-specific performance are being represented, positioned, and valued in a variety of contradictory ways as a result of a number of significant contemporary factors: namely, a prevalence of 'new generation' discourse and an attendant generationalism, a growing critical recognition of young people's 'grounded aesthetics', and existing anxieties surrounding the economic future of Australia's arts industry. This is an unstable situation for youth-specific performance, contrasting from earlier periods in Australia's theatre history when young people were positioned principally in terms of their need for 'development' (education and training) or their potential contribution to ongoing 'progression'. This thesis considers this contemporary situation in relation to issues of access and power for young people in the changed social and cultural conditions of the 1990s. The introductory chapter provides a critical background to the main issues presented in the thesis: the concepts of 'youth' and 'culture', the social and cultural characteristics of young people's lives in the 1990s, the rise of generationalist discourse, and the anxious state of the Australian arts industry. The 'institutional' site of state theatre is then taken as a beginning case study to examine the positioning of young people and youth-specific programs in 'official' cultural environments. It argues that anxious plans for the future survival of state 'flagship' companies are positioning young people and youth-specific programs in predominantly generationalist ways, using 'new generation' discourse to mask often conservative approaches. Chapter One begins with a history of Magpie Theatre (a former youth-specific company attached to the State Theatre Company of South Australia) which reflects some of the major priorities of youth-specific theatre of the last twenty years. By way of contrast, the Sydney Theatre Company's recent attempts to reposition young people and youth-specific work in the 1990s are discussed in Chapter Two. This chapter shows how the company's developmental aims and processing of new work are achieved in 'new generation' programs that strictly control young people's contribution to the company's future. Both chapters help to demonstrate the main conceptual shift in youth-specific theatre in the 1990s from 'developmentalism' to 'difference' (with reference to the concomitant growth of drama-in-education in schools), while at the same time alluding to its varying effect. Chapter Three argues that festivals, as volatile sites of cultural production, magnify the wider cultural field's 'stake of struggles': particularly, the struggles to equitably value young people's diverse contributions to developments in the cultural field, both as cultural 'innovators' and cultural 'preservers'. Centred on an interrelated critique of access, this chapter discusses the various motives and priorities of three recent youth-specific arts festivals in terms of their representation and valuing of young people and their work: the Take Over 97 National Festival for Young People, the Stage X Event, and the Loud National Media Festival of Youth Culture and the Arts. Chapter Four considers a site primarily and explicitly concerned with issues of access, representation, and value. This chapter examines in detail the 'self-narratives' of two youth-specific community-based performances, whereby young people's access to 'grounded' modes of cultural expression resulted in innovative cultural performance and signalled a regenerated social politics of community theatre. The chapter examines how Skate Girl Space by the Hereford Sisters and Zen Che by the Ningi Connection utilised young people's 'grounded aesthetics' of video performance to address young people's necessary negotiation with risk and individualisation in the late 1990s. Both projects counteracted public generationalist discourses, and challenged and reinscribed the conventions of gender performance and 'youth'. The final chapter considers the positioning of young people and youth-specific arts in Australian cultural policy, arguing that youth-specific cultural production rarely fits into the characteristic modes of arts production valorised by statistical frameworks for arts industry evaluation. The chapter calls for more open approaches whereby practice might inform policy which recognises the interconnected social, cultural and economic regimes of value that youth-specific work engages in. This thesis draws from theatre and performance studies, sociology, youth studies, cultural studies, and cultural policy studies.
Keyword youth
youth theatre
young people's theatre
Australian theatre
community theatre
young people and performance

Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 17:47:02 EST