Becoming Imperceptible: Relating to marine worlds through performing a multispecies autoethnography

Morgan Johnson, 2017
Vol. 23 No. 15 ISSN 1702-3548

This paper explores the use of theatre and performance to work towards ethical relations with more-than-human worlds. The focus is on examining the theories and experiences that led to the creation and performance of my one-woman show Imperceptible (the full script of which is included in this paper). This play was developed from time spent in the Pacific North West at the Indigenous land defence camp on Lelu Island. The resistance is led by the hereditary leaders of the territory in opposition to a Liquefied Natural Gas company looking to build an export terminal there. The performance combines personal autoethnographic storytelling with fictional characters in order to look at relations between settlers living in inland cities and the coastal communities and marine ecosystems that we all rely on for oxygen and sustenance. I begin the paper by questioning what we have to remember in order to imagine ethical futures in light of Margaret Kovach’s argument that to re-member is to locate oneself within her own history and community (this also follows the through line of personal storytelling in my play). I then look at the fictional and nonfictional characters in the play through Delueze and Guattari’s theory of becominganimal (and becoming-imperceptible) and Una Chaudhuri’s theories on human/animal relations in performance. I end by looking at Environmental Justice in the play through Rob Nixon’s theory of slow and unseen violence and Stefen Helmreich’s anthropological accounts of human/ocean relations. Combining theories of performance studies, human/animal studies, Indigenous allyship, and land education, my project discusses how theatre can explore decolonial ways of reimagining of our relationship to the marine more-than-human world.