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Dr. Keren Zaiontz

I am an Assistant Professor and Queen’s National Scholar in the Department of Film and Media and the Cultural Studies Graduate Program. My research examines how contemporary performance is changing practices of spectatorship, shaping progressive social movements, and charting  the right to the global city.

My most recent publication is Theatre & Festivals (2018), part of the Theatre& series co-edited by Jen Harvie and Dan Rebellato, from Palgrave Macmillan. Theatre & Festivals includes forewords by Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre, and award-winning writer and actor, Alex Bulmer. The book seeks to overturn the rigid divides between merrymaking and stagecraft by asking why it is that festivals art often cast as fun, liberating, and unruly and theatre as instructive, edifying, and conventional. In addition to acting as my lead editor for Theatre &, Jen Harvie and I have also collaborated on a special issue for Contemporary Theatre Review, ‘The Cultural Politics of London 2012’ (23.4). This issue critically examines the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympics, as well as Cultural Olympiad, and includes my own article about art-activist responses to the staging of the London Summer Games.

I recently completed co-editing the anthology Sustainable Tools for Precarious Times: Performance Actions in the Americas with Natalie Alvarez and Claudette Lauzon (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2019). The book charts the changing frontiers of activism in the Americas and travels Canada, the US, the US-Mexico border, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, and Indigenous territories on Turtle Island. The collection invite readers to identify networks, clusters, and continuities of art-activist tactics designed to exceed the event horizon of the performance protest. Essays feature Indigenous artists engaging in land-based activism and decolonial cyberactivism, grass-roots movements imagining possible futures through cross-sector alliance building, art-activists forwarding tactics of reinvention, and student groups in the throes of theatrical assembly. Artist pages, interspersed throughout the collection, serve as animated, first-person perspectives of those working on the frontlines of interventionist art. Taken together, the contributions offer a vibrant picture of emergent tactics and strategies over the past decade that allow art-activists to sustain the energy and press of political resistance in the face of a whole host of rights emergencies across the Americas.

Sustainable Tools follows on the heels of a series of co-edited projects with Peter Dickinson and Kirsty Johnston about the role of artists and audiences in the production of mega-events. The first ‘Vancouver After 2010’ for Canadian Theatre Review (164, 2015), brings together scholars, artists, and cultural producers to ask what kinds of resources remain after a mega-event has left town. From public art and sound walks, to hockey games and real estate speculation, this issue reveals the pervasive power of the Olympics to continue to shape how Vancouverites move through and live within the city. The second special issue, ‘MEGA-EVENT CITIES: Art, Audiences, Aftermaths’ was published in PUBLIC (53, 2016) and includes an autoethnographic account of my auditions for the London 2012 opening ceremonies. The issue also features a script by Jenny Sealey, and interviews with socially-engaged artists Neville Gabie and Liz Crow, both of whom contributed evocative documentation of their art and performance practice.

Before joining Queen’s, I taught at the University of Roehampton, was a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, and a Banting Fellow in the English Department at Simon Fraser University. I am affiliated with Queen’s Cultural Studies Graduate program and welcome working with students engaged in practice-based research.