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Proposal: Sport and Performance

Anthea Moys

Title: Playing with Binaries: A Practice-as-Research Project Exploring Sport and Performance
in the Global South and Global North.


This practice-as-research project examines the games that people play within the Global
South and Global North, and, through the creation of new methodologies; the project will
explore connections between sport, play, and performance. This project will make a
significant contribution to the fields of Performance, Contemporary Performance, and
Applied Theatre 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.


“Performances must be construed as a “broad spectrum” or “continuum” of human actions

ranging from ritual, play, sports, popular entertainment, the performing arts (theatre, dance,
music), and everyday life performances to the enactment of social, professional, gender, race
and class roles and on to healing from shamanism to surgery, the media and the internet.”
(Schechner, 2002:2)

Anthea vs. The City of Grahamstown in bagpipe playing, ballroom dancing, singing, chess, soccer and karate (2013) and Anthea
Moys vs. The City of Geneva (2014) in Swiss wrestling, velodrome cycling, alpine horn playing and ice hockey.

Over the past decade, I have created a diverse body of performance works that adopt a
playful approach in their desire to create art that is inclusive, participatory and inspires a
sense of agency in the world. Growing up in post-apartheid South Africa one of the aims of
my practice is to inspire a sense of empathetic human inter-connectedness through play.

In response to being the inaugural winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for
Performance Art in South Africa, I created a project called “Anthea Moys vs the City of
Grahamstown” (2013) that, through a series of contests where I single-handedly challenged
several teams to their own games, attempted to collectively reimagine winning as the act of
learning from and with instead of conquest over another.

The end of this project left many unanswered questions, brought into focus issues of
methodology, theoretical and conceptual dilemmas I had not anticipated at the start of the
project. This practice-based/led Ph.D. will provide me with the opportunity to address some
of these questions with a set of new practices, new approaches, and new methodologies. It
will allow me to make an original contribution to the field of performance, applied theatre

and contemporary performance because it will allow me to explore the liberating qualities of
play in relation to the rule-bound characteristics of sport through performance. Within the
current political climate and as long as there are binaries of rich/poor, powerful/powerless
and oppressors/oppressed, art that inspires curious and brave playful agency is critical for
human development and transformation. This proposal is a perfect fit for the expertise
offered by Dr. Solomon Lennox, and the studentship offered at Northumbria because it offers
new knowledge into the untapped and underutilized potential between the domains of sport
and performance art through an inclusive, highly relevant and diverse practice.

Aims and Research Questions:

The aims of this project are to deepen my investigation into the connections between sport
and performance through learning the games that people play and how they play in various
contexts. In response to these learnings, I aim to ‘change the rules of the game’ and co-create
a series of new performances/games that 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 can the performing arts be used as a tool to investigate this?

I aim to embody the identity of a ‘shape-shifting conductor’ that operates between all the
different components of the project: between the teams, the games, sport, art, between
countries, between North and South. How can facilitators be understood as shape-shifting
conductors in order to work collaboratively in the reimagining and repurposing of sport and
rules to foster notions of human connection and play?

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

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

Literature Review:

Whilst this project is about play and the arts, it is also about power. Sport wields and
demonstrates power: nationalism, patriotism, competition, and individual achievement. And
at the same, it is a place where people come to play, to unite, to cheer for a team, to belong…
to escape their own game and play another. In post-apartheid South Africa, sport is often
seen as parading a façade of unity i.e. the rainbow nation: the 1995 moment when Nelson
Mandela wore the rugby jersey, the castle advert with all the men of different races on the
roof enjoying a beer. South African author J.M Coetzee compares sport and art in his text
"Four Notes on Rugby" (1992:124) stating that whilst sport promotes compliance, play
invites rebellion and creativity. As children, we play to keep on playing, but as adults, we play
to win. This, Coetzee states is the true difference between sport and art.

In his work, The Rules of the Game (2001) Mexican artist Gustavo Artigas invited 2 soccer
teams from Tijuana, Mexico and 2 basketball teams from San Diego, California to play on the
same court between the two cities, at the border, at the same time. After a chaotic game with
the audience from both cities going wild, there were no winners or losers and everyone
received a trophy. The concept of the artwork was to inspire the acceptance of difference
without interference. "Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with
boundaries" (Carse, 1989:10). Whilst sport inspires finite players, players set on winning
and ending the game, the arts inspire infinite players, players set on playing to continue the
play. In the current social and political climate it seems more urgent than ever for there to be
less passive spectators and more active players in the world.

With reference to this project’s desired method to engage and inspire each city in actively
reimagining and redefining ‘the rules of play’ in sport, in art and so even possibly in life,
Paolo Freire writes in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (1968):

“[T]he more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that,
knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to
listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into
a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of
history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself
or herself, within history, to fight at their side.”

The small city of Grahamstown is, like most of South Africa, still a largely divided and
disconnected society. The ‘Vs.’ project was particularly relevant in a post-apartheid South
Africa and provoked both audiences and participants to think differently about how we
could potentially work, live and play together. In Augusto Boal's “Theatre of the Oppressed”
(2008), he proposes the idea of spectators as actors and introduces theatre as a potential
weapon for liberation (1974). He says: "In Theatre of the Oppressed, reality is shown not
only as it is, but also, more importantly, as it could be. Which is what we live for – to become
what we have the potential to be." (2002).

For Anthea Moys vs MARU Football Club, 20 members from the audience formed a team at
half-time and ran onto the field to help me and to participate in the game! The score: Moys
0 MARU: 12. We still lost, but the team expanded.


“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)

"For the rebel… critical, experimental, theoretical, race and gender-literate, techno-savvy,
angry, tender, bold, hybrid, queer, immigrant, orphan, outsider, deterritorialized, robo-
shamanic, performance (or live) artist, obsessed with crossing borders, all kinds of borders
in his/her practice”

Artists Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes’ ‘border methodology’ that they have
developed in their book “Exercises for Rebel Artists: Radical Performance Pedagogy”
(2011) speaks directly to the embodied practice of the artist/facilitator as shape-shifting,
border-crossing conductor in that it “constantly adapts to the challenges of a specific
cultural context”. Over the course of three years, I will visit 3 cities: Newcastle, Serbia and
Mumbai and respond site-specifically to the sports and games of each place. In each city,
after acclimatizing to the area, I will conduct interviews and through a talk/workshop, I
will share the Vs. project of 2013/14. In my performance and facilitation practice with
people, I always begin each new project in devising a new set of ‘rules of engagement’. This
is a collaborative activity that outlines how we are going to work/play together. I will then
learn the games that people play and why/how/what/where/when they play them. We
will then decide which games we could ‘play with’ and discuss how to do this. We would
then test this out and new performance contest/game will be performed.

I will facilitate connection and collaboration between the people in these places through
the activity of learning and sharing their games so as to imagine new connections, contests,

combinations, collaborations and new ways of playing/winning/losing together. During
this time we would develop a simple methodology that could then be imagined in any city.

The entire process will be documented in photo/video/audio/text/drawing and uploaded

to a website platform so as to easily share the project’s progression with the participants
and supervisors involved.

In exploring performance ethnographies, where I will be a ‘participant observer’ in

different games, this way of working speaks directly to Dr. Solomon Lennox’s work. As the
project moves fluidly between Performance, Applied Theatre and Contemporary
Performance it will also speak to Northumbria’s other staff members’ expertise such as Dr
Linda Taylor who has developed ground-breaking methodologies for performance-based
communication strategies, Dr Kay Hepplewhite from Applied Theatre, whose work focuses
on how the facilitator shapes the type of practice as a group is able to accomplish and
finally Lazlo Pearlman who explores how binaries and hierarchies can be challenged
through practice. In addition, I look forward to connecting with the research activity and
expertise offered through Northumbria's Practice Research Group.


Time Activity
Oct 2018 – April Literature review. Analysis and reflection. Framing research
2019 strategy going forward. Writing up of Chapter One (Literary
Review) to be completed by March 2019.
April 2019 – Oct First performance contest with research engagements (see above
2019 outlined): April.
Analysis and reflection: May - June
Chapter Two (analysis of first practice) to be completed by
October 2019.
Oct 2019 – April Intensive work on empirical data gathering from performance.
2020 Analyze findings and fuel into next performances.
Second performance contest March.
April 2020 – Oct Analysis and Reflection: April, May
2020 Chapter Three (analysis of practice two) to be completed by
Third performance contest: August
Analysis and reflection: September, October.
Oct 2020 – Oct 2021 Chapter Four (analysis of practice three) due December 2020
Chapter Five (synthesis of all findings) due February 2021
Conclusion and Introduction due March 2021
Submitting of Chapters May 2021
Completion of PhD


Bishop, C. (ed) (2006) Participation London: MIT Press.

Bourriard, N. (1998) Relational Aesthetics in Bishop. C (ed) "Participation" (2006) London:

MIT Press.

Boal, A. (1992) Games for Actors and Non-Actors London: Routledge.

Boal, A. (1974) Theatre of the Oppressed New York: Theatre Communications Group Inc.

Carse, J. (1986) Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility New York:
Free Press.

Coetzee, J. M. (1978) Four Notes on Rugby in Atwell, D (ed) (1992) "Doubling the Point:
Essays and Interviews" London: Harvard University Press.

Fischer, J. (2004) ‘Embodied Subversion' in Heathfield, A (ed) (2004) Live Art and
Performance New York: Routledge.

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Publishing Group Inc.

Frisa, M.L. (2006) Human Game: Winners and Losers Milano: Edizioni Charta.

Gómez Peña, G., and Sifuentes, R. (2011) Exercises for Rebel Artists: Radical Performance
Pedagogy New York: Routledge.

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Thurman, C. (2010) Sport versus Art: A South African Contest Johannesburg: Wits University

Winnicott, D.W. (1971) Playing and Reality. London: Tavistock Publications.

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