Photo: Sanni Siira

Kira O'Reilly: MAECP ending statement

The pilot programme: MA in ecology and contemporary performance (MAECP) is coming to an end.   After an intake of one cohort of students, it has been decided that the Theatre Academy will not continue to develop this study programme. However, it is apparent that, within the student body of the academy and within the teaching offered across the Theatre Academy, ecology and ecological issues are considered to be pertinent and urgent themes.

During this autumn and spring 2019 six students will graduate from MAECP, bringing to fruition a unique and remarkable pedagogical experiment within the academy. The transdisciplinary approach of ecology from the perspective of contemporary performance has attracted an immense amount of interest both locally, as well as internationally. It has been remarkable in its attempts to pilot, trial and experiment with the possibilities of twinning ecology and contemporary performance. 

Whilst a curriculum was designed to fulfil the programme’s degree studies, our six students quickly became active architects of their own learning and development and this further shaped and moulded the programme. Each student came from a very different disciplinary background and quickly they crafted a situation of collective and interdependent scholarship. As each student progressed their individual artistic concerns and academic preoccupations, they also cultivated modes that were supportive of collaborative learning, knowledge-making and output. In so doing they practiced ecological approaches in which there was no singular centre in the programme, but rather sixcentres moving in continual relations to one another, thereby creating generative potentials. From this, six distinct theses are emerging that demonstrate a compelling range of approaches and contributions to the field of ecology and contemporary performance. We look forward to the MAECP page becoming an archive for their thesis work and for some of MAECP’s activities.

In the two short years since MAECP began in the autumn of 2016, our world has changed irrevocably. In the media we read a deluge of reportage about the sixth extinction event, accelerated melting of the polar caps, extreme and extensive wild fires and flooding, mass human movement to flee dire conditions of war, famine and poverty, and the effects of catastrophic climate change. As I write, the UN global climate summit – COP24 has convened in Katowice reminding me that our master’s programme began as the Paris Agreement of COP 21 entered into force in November of 2016, committing to ’strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.(1) In October of this year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made a grave report that the opportunity to make the drastic measures required to maintain global warming at the catastrophic 1.5 – 2C was a mere 12 years. The duration of MAECP has spanned these two crucial events. 

As MAECP ends we might ask with an increasing insistence: how do we respond to these events as educators, students and artists? What are the responsibilities of our educational institutions and to whom are they accountable?

By: Kira O'Reilly