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Liminality exacerbated

Photo: Dr Kara McKechnie

Part of the Invisible Diaries series:

Week 7 / Day 2


Today was a paradox of defined liminality. Today marks a threshold of shifting from being immersed in teaching to examining the dramaturgies of live streaming theatrical events, both here in Australia and abroad. Today, I did neither, but was preoccupied with both. At the level of the quotidian – meetings, administration, and planning – it was a busy day, but nothing tangible or concrete emerged or was produced. The ennui was broken by the arrival of a parcel containing a photograph of a black pearl shell. Titled “Solution II”, it is the work of Anthony Walker, a member of the Yiman and Gurreng Gurreng peoples, and award-winning visual artist. On Anthony’s website, the image looks glossy, almost reflective. In reality, the image is a stunning composition of subtle, patterned grey and black shadows.

It reminded me of some the ways to understand or approach dramaturgical work. A lack of excitement or disinterest may not be a problem with the work. It may be about cognitive overload, or it may equally be about not yet being entirely equipped to deep-dive into a project. To stray into cliché, glossy impressions may well be obscuring the complexity of what is on offer. The dramaturg’s work, regardless of focus, is about finding patterns: noting patterns that are broken by other patterns, only to find that both of these patterns reform to create a new pattern, and all of these patterns combined create the whole. The shadows and the shapes create not the pearl per se; more importantly, they produce the shell that holds the pearl.

“Solution II” is not the only work of Anthony’s that I own. Still, its appearance today allowed me to appreciate that sometimes being situated on a boundary is a positive, and that it’s ok to make time to think. It also reminded me that emails still need answering.


Bernadette Cochrane is dramaturg and theatre academic at the University of Queensland. She focuses on institutional dramaturgies and cultural production. Bernadette writes extensively on the dramaturgies of the screening and streaming of live performances.

She is a board member of Migrant Dramaturgies Network, developed in partnership with New Tides Platform (UK) and the Centre for Theatre Research at the University of Lisbon, Portugal.


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