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Project Title: Trickster Tactics: Playing with the Rules

Applicant: Anthea Moys

Pre note about time periods:

As the development of the practices for my PhD are time sensitive and funding dependent,
they are still not entirely set in stone, thus my work plan for the Saari Residency could be one
of two below outlined options. Requested periods (flexible): March – April OR September –
October OR November – December 2020

Option 1: March – April residency (Year 2 of the PhD):

As this is early in the year, the residency would largely be about reflecting upon my most recent
visit to South Africa, November – January 2020. Though still unclear at this point in time, it may
be the case that the first practice of the project takes place during this time in
Johannesburg/Cape Town. Through critical reflection of this practice, alone and with others, it
is hoped that new insights and new performative methodologies will emerge that will then
inform practice two that will take place in Newcastle, U.K. between April and September.

Option 2: September – October / November – December 2020 (moving into Year 3 of the PhD):
By this time, I need to have completed both of my practices for the project and I would be
moving towards actually embarking upon writing up the final thesis. Thus, this time would
largely be about critically reflecting upon these two practices, comparing them, engaging with
the learnings, the ‘messiness/orders’ that have emerged from both and sharing the processes
of what happened with others at the residency.

It is not like me to apply for a residency like this in order to reflect, read and write. I usually
want to throw myself in physical and create several high energy games and performances with
several local willing participants… at the very least! At this time in my life, my focus has
changed and has become more directed towards the project at hand. The PhD! Thus, the main
proposal for this residency will be to engage in deep reflection on the practice of the PhD so
far and to be in a space with other artists. Further down in this document is a summary of my
PhD project as it stands to date. After the two-month residency I hope to have done the

• Generated new insights from deep reflection on the practices conducted to date that
would then inform future methodologies.
• Engaged with people that challenge my ideas and push the project further
• Potentially tested out/developed new ways of working and playing together
• Drawn up plans and ideas for the next practice
• Written up the chapters pertaining to the practices executed

During the 2-month time period allocated, with great gusto (!), I would take full advantage of
the following:

• Time and space for deep work in a beautiful and quiet environment
• Time and space to reflect upon the practices that have taken place so far
• Time to discuss these developments with the other residents
• Time to imagine new possibilities and methodologies
• Time to possibly test these out
• Time to possibly test these out through play
• Critical engagement with the process and practices so far
• Time for self-critical analysis and engagement
• Time for long walks, runs for spaces between work and play
• Time and space to plot and plan things out for the rest of the project
• Time to read and write

Ph.D Project Description: Playing with Binaries: A Practice-as-Research Project Exploring

Trickster Tactics in Sport through Performance.


Sport has the potential to foster connections or strengthen divides. The rule-based system of
sport makes numerous binaries visible. The performative tactics of the trickster have the
potential to expand and activate the third space between these binaries, activating a space for
emergence and possible transformation. This practice-as-research project develops creative
methodologies for the trickster. By applying these methodologies to a series of practices, this
project will make a significant contribution to the fields of Performance, Contemporary
Performance, and Applied Theatre. It will do this through critically and collaboratively
reimagining the rules of the game in sport within the context of performance so as to potentially
provoke, challenge and play with existing binaries. The practice developed through this project
will foster new interdisciplinary and culturally diverse dialogues and aims to highlight the
potential this work has for deeper human connectivity and transformation.

Aims and Questions:

Accepting our inability to ‘know’, tricky tactics do not seek to embody truth but to test
it. Motivated by social change they use parodic guerrilla attacks on socio-political
hierarchies, and what we might call a surrealist manipulation of the absurd
encountered in dream and fantasy as a means to accommodate experienced conflicts,
death and renewal. (Fisher, 2004:62)

The aims of this PhD project are to deepen my investigation into the connections between
sport and performance through learning the existing ‘rules of the game’: how people play in
various contexts. In response to these learnings, I aim to adopt ‘trickster tactics’ and
collaboratively ‘change the rules of the game’. The result of this process will be the co-creation
of a series of new performances/contests with participants in South Africa and Newcastle.
These performance/contests may provoke, disrupt and transgress existing binaries. If playing
the game in sport is not only about winning, what new role can sport play in the world
today and how can the performing arts be used as a tool to investigate this?

Could this project establish a new theory of interaction, a new kind of

postrules/postconquest/post binary sport that takes place in a third, ‘liminal space’, where
sport and performance meet? And could this journey establish a philosophy of performance
that is supported by new and important practical interdisciplinary methodologies?

Alarmingly in the past few years, there has been an increasing rise of right-wing organizations
in the USA and Europe. As this project aims to critically engage, through playful performance
practice, the space between binaries, one of its main areas of interest will be this space
between the left and right wing in Europe, more specifically Scandinavia and the United
Kingdom. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission came into effect in South Africa following
the official end of apartheid. The aim of the commission was to reveal the truth about gross
human rights violations and to help families of the victims in gaining closure. It was also brought
into effect in order to “combat impunity and recreate a culture of accountability” (2017). One of
the project’s aims is to revisit South Africa, critically engage the successes and failures of the
TRC and see how this methodology could potentially relate to the current state of affairs. How
would these findings engage playful performance practice that does not necessarily
seek to ‘solve problems’ but rather actively engages this ‘third space’ between right and
wrong, left and right as an essential space for growth in its own right?
In demonstrating the activation of this ‘third space’ Lewis Hyde’s description of the character
of the trickster in his book Trickster Makes This World (2008:7) is helpful here:

Every group has its edge, its sense of in and out, and trickster is always there, at the
gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce. He also attends
the internal boundaries by which groups articulate their social life. We constantly
distinguish – right and wrong, sacred and profane, clean and dirty, male and female,
young and old, living and dead – and in every case trickster will cross the line and
confuse the distinction. Trickster is the creative idiot, therefore, the wise fool, the gray-
haired baby, the cross-dresser, the speaker of sacred profanities.

In this respect trickster highlights this ‘third space’ between binaries. At the border, he is the
shape-shifter, a ‘polytropic’ character that is more comfortable in the dynamic space of shifting
identities as opposed to one ‘whole’ self. In activating this space at the crossroads, one of his
main methods is the oral act of story-telling. The trickster is invested in creating new stories in
the world. These three qualities: border-dwelling, shapeshifting and storytelling are all
important trickster tactics that will inspire adopted methodologies for this project. The trickster
does not take sides or solve problems but rather, through embodied practice, disrupts in
order to reveal. The project asks: how can trickster tactics be adopted ethically so as to work
collaboratively with different players and teams in a variety of contexts in the reimagining and
repurposing of sport and rules to foster notions of deeper human connection and play?


“Above all, perhaps, it is important to engage in an equal exchange with others that re-
embodies experiences and meanings across networks of ‘locals’. In this respect the tricky spirit
of invention and intervention seeks to open up new ethical landscapes, creating both new
narratives and new agents.” (Peluffo in Fischer, 2004:63)

Over the course of the three years, the project will seek to investigate ‘new ethical landscapes’
and create new stories told by ‘new agents’. The project will respond to and take place in South
Africa and the United Kingdom. There will be two practices – findings from each will inform the
next, with the final year dedicated to writing up insights and conclusions from both. In 2019 I
will conduct a research visit in South Africa with the intention of revisiting the boxing club that
I initially worked in in 2007 with “Boxing Games”.

At the moment the project is leaning towards working with students in both cities as I have just
completed a very successful course in contemporary performance here with 2nd years at
Northumbria University. As a way of working has collaboratively emerged, it makes sense to
me to continue this relationship. With both groups, after engaging in the process of rules of
engagement – how we are going to work and play together, we will then decide which sports
or games or rule-sets we could ‘play with’, to invite the trickster in and discuss how to do this.
For example, we might imagine how we could make room for the trickster referee (practice
one) and/or the trickster commentator/the trickster player(s) (practice two) and what would
happen if we did. What if there were 20 referees on a field instead of one? What rules do
we want to shift/re-create? Why? For whom? What would emerge in this new potentially
unwinnable game? Would the game completely collapse? Would we have more fun?
What rules would remain? What rules would change? We would then test this out, after
which findings would be collated from the test so as to inform the next practice.

Fisher, J. (2004) ‘Embodied Subversion' in Heathfield, A (ed) (2004) Live Art and Performance
New York: Routledge.
Hyde, L. (2008) Trickster Makes This World New York: Cannongate Books

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