Reflections on Migration and Teleportation

On a recent journey between two European countries a list of unanticipated encounters with border agents made me start reflecting on the rehearsal process for this project.  I recall specific moments in which the performers and I were working to embody the idea that the information being teleported could be altered and/or corrupted as a result of unexpected/chance encounters with elements in the environment.   This notion is critical in the drive to develop the quantum computer because it is this moment, the moment of chance encounter, the moment of the unexpected influences that is quantum computers promise more transparency.  This transparency makes it possible to tell whether the information sent has be somehow intercepted and/or altered in the process of its journey.

This moment of unexpected/chance encounter is also critical for migration, for this moment has the potential to transform one’s identity; by this I mean the way an individual understands his/her space and place in the world, as well as the ways in which one’s family and community of fellows understand an individual’s role in the family, community and society.   Certainly much can be said for the ease in which travel is possible in our 21st century world, varying types of migration has become commonplace in many societies.  By migration, I am speaking here of any journey from one location to another that requires some type of border crossing.   For this short reflection, I am using border in its narrowest sense to point to territorial border.  Territorial borders are crossed every day; for many with the expectation of positive transformation in terms of identity.  For these individuals, journeys across borders as tourist, for professional careers, to reconnect with family and/or friends, the journey is a part of a constellation of positive markers that boosts their identity.  For others, the journey across borders is a result of having fallen by choice or circumstance into the category of vulnerable (and/or surplus) bodies.  My recent encounter gave me a glimpse into this latter world.  It has caused me to rigorously reflect about how easy it is in our 21st century western world for chance encounters at critical points such as territorial borders to unravel/corrupt/alter essential information that are foundational to identity.  With this understanding it is possible to see similarities in the complexities of migration and teleportation.

AHRC Cultural Engagement Showcase – University of Liverpool

30 January 2014

Carol Sorhaindo and I were awarded travel bursaries to present the project at the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Cultural Engagement Showcase hosted by University of Liverpool.  This took place on Thursday, 30 January 2014.  As Cultural Partner on the Transportation Transformation: Migration Teleportation and Railway project, it was the first opportunity for Carol to meet with officials and share her thoughts on the project.  We did a collaborative 40 minute presentation as a part of a larger panel.  The project presentation was well received and Carol was exceptional in her contribution as a cultural partner and emerging scholar.

IFRT/FIRT Conference

The first paper on the project, titled Performing Transportation Transformation: Migration, Teleportation, and Railways, was presented at the 2013 FIRT/IFTR International Federation for Theatre Research ( which took place in Barcelona, Spain 22nd – 26th July. This year’s conference theme was Re-Routing Performance and the project’s paper was presented as a part of the Experimental Research Panel. The conference paper used performance as the point of convergence to bring together and exploit three seemingly disparate understandings around the process of journeying, highlighting concepts of and challenges to identity and belonging.

2013 FIRT/IFRT Conference, Barcelona, Spain

It was a pleasure to be a part of the more than eight hundred international delegates gathered researching religion/spirituality, politics, gender, race/ethnicity, war, translation, architecture,  community and family structures, science, history, science, and geography through the lens of theatre and performance.

18 June 2013

Since the last post of 30 April 2013, the Project began its second phase with the 23rd May 2013 community engagement and video sharing.   Below Dr Almut Beige and Chapeltown community member in discussion during video showing snack break.

Below, Dr Carol Marie Webster and Chapeltown community member in discussion about visual artist Carol Sorhaindo’s set piece depicting wallpaper that was a popular artefact of mid-twentieth century African Caribbean migration experience in Leeds, UK. 

11th and 12th Weeks Closing Out the 1st Phase

I have spent the past couple of weeks closing out the first phase of the project.  Quite literally this has meant acknowledging the extraordinary contributions of those who agreed to be a part of the project, reviewing the amazing successes, and putting the challenges and short falls into perspective and applying critical rethinking.   In the space that follows I will review briefly some of the visible and not-so-easily-seen contributions.  Whether through collaboration, suggestion, sharing, and /or providing specific services at specific moments this first phase of the project has been graced with exceptional people.  This first group of individuals and organizations are quite special in that they exhibited the greatest degree of trust and foresight and because of them the products of this first phase are marked by excellence.

During the application process for the fellowship Almut Beige, Alex Kuhn and Joe Williams contributed their expertise to the building of the project proposal.  Once the fellowship started there were untold contributors and well wishers who did what they could to make the project a success.   Tessa Alexander, the web designer, was the first to accept one of my impossible requests, “build a website for the project in less than 10 days and throughout this first phase of the project teach me what I need to know to build and maintain the site myself.”  After supplying her with the initial basic content materials, Tessa got the website up on 9 February, nine days after my request.  Throughout the life of this first phase of this project, Tessa has taught me what is necessary to build and manage the site.

Axel Kuhn facilitated community interactions between the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics and Chapeltown community members, David Hamilton and Joe Williams, and me.  This turned out to be an intensive in physics community and culture, from discussions, to laboratory, to mini presentations, to pub meetings the environment was soaked in physics.  This gave Joe, David and me better sensitivity for the understanding of the language, sensibility and tone that would be necessary to bring authenticity to any presentation of the physics community at Oxford.

Interviewees from The Leeds West Indian Centre, RJC Dance, and Frederick Hurdle Adult Care Centre courageously volunteered to share their railway and immigration stories and the staff at these organizations created environments in which such sharings were possible.  During the first weeks of the project I spent hours interviewing participants and then transcribing the interviews and identifying moments that would be heighted in the performance script.

Lee Daley from Workshop Theatre and Penny  at Seven Arts who were from the first moment of hearing about the project supportive,  going out of their way to accommodate the specific needs and requirements of the multimedia production that was set to evolve.

At a crucial moment, a customer service representative at the University of Leeds printers found and loaned a clip board to the production.  With so doing they eliminated additional hours of hunting for the same styled clipboard. Gary at Network Rail, was one of the first on board the project, he accompanied me on my initial late night walk through the Leeds Central Station platforms and shared stories of the station as I pencilled out ideas of what was to come.  Dutch Pot and Juicy Caribbean restaurants provided food that kept the performance research team going as we sift through transcribed narratives in the creation of the oral and movement language of the script.

Adam at Seven Arts went out of his way to successfully bring my lighting design to life.  Christopher Megginson volunteered exceptional video editing and graphic support throughout the life of the project.  Steve Ansell at Stage@Leeds loaned videoing equipment necessary for documenting the performance. Almut Beige volunteered as local physics consultant from before the project was fully conceived and contributed numerous hours keeping me in the loop on quantum teleportation.  Carl Hylton, among many other things, contributed his personal narrative of Chapeltown, Leeds.  My close friend (across the big pond of the Atlantic), Gail DeCosta,  shared family history of her great great grand parents, Ellen and William Craft, that connected Leeds African Caribbean community with African American history in a very personal way. This bit of Gail’s family history became an essential part of the script.  And, Fiona Philip and Amy Russell responded to a last minute call for familiar friendly faces in key places.

There were those dear ones who stayed up late nights with me either in person, via telephone, email and/or skype as I sifted through photos, interviews, videos, written language.  They listened while I struggled to choose what materials would go, where, how, why and when, in the script and on the website.   Finally, there were the audience members who came out to Seven Arts and Workshop Theatre to watch the production, stayed to share their stories, understandings, and questions, and have continued to follow the project’s progress on facebook and this Transportation Transformation: Migration, Teleportation, and Railways website

9th and 10th Weeks

The 9th week was the week of the Open Rehearsal at Workshop Theatre at the University of Leeds.   It was also the week leading up to the performance at Seven Arts.  The performance script was not yet finalized, but the tone and temperament of the merger between the arts and physics was well established in the script.  The Open Rehearsal took place on 4th April and played to a small and receptive audience.  This rehearsal was successful in several ways including helping to clarify the final live performance section and its movement into the video compilation that completes the performance.  The post performance exchange gave this vibrant audience the opportunity to ask questions and share their experience of the performance.  One audience member, the local physicist consultant on the project,   Almut Beige, expressed delight in the ways in which the physics material was incorporated into local migration narratives and complimented the performers on their embodiment of the proton’s journey in quantum experiments.

The 10th week culminated in the performance of 11 April.   The week was dedicated to ensuring that the final sections of this multimedia, cross disciplinary research process was in place to ensure a success Leeds presentation.