Natalie Doonan, “Montreal’s Coney Island in 360°: More-than-Human Participation in the Greatest Show on Earth.”
Dr. Doonan’s question research question “how can immersive video transform perception of urban wilderness environments?” has prompted her to develop research and creative work. While her planning and creative work provides one response to that question, enacting the project and bridging the theoretical and practical are essential for understanding how spectators will answer her question. That the project is ambitious but precise in its scope, and that the project has the potential to have a life beyond the performance are reasons why Dr. Doonan’s research was so appealing to the scholarship committee.
The scholarship committee was impressed by Dr. Doonan’s training, past successes with similar projects, and her detailed budget demonstrating support from other institutions and her community. It is exciting to know that the project will have three iterations that will each allow access to Dr. Doonan’s research findings: live performance, web performance, and a book.
The committee was also intrigued by the variety of performative, theoretical, and methodological elements Dr. Doonan’s project brings into play. Not only will the project include sophisticated use of reasonably affordable digital technologies, including sound recording, geo-tracking, and virtual reality, but Dr. Doonan also combines cutting edge research in spectator experience, environmental studies, food ecology, and community engagement. She explains that the site specific performance will foster “encounters between plants, humans, and other animals” and will “bring together the voices of citizen-activists, foragers, fish and plant biologists, fisherpeople, hunters, and historians,” provoking a rethinking of the Verdun Waterfront as a place of encounter, environmental damage, spectacle, and urban wilderness. This project brings a range of research practices into play: performance-based creative inquiry, oral history, archival and community history, ecology, and environmental science. The committee also appreciated that it encourages spectator-participants to experience the performance and to become researchers as they connect with space.
Dr. Doonan’s referee notes that this project “realizes a new frontier of performance” because it engages with “potential to take performance outside of traditional theatre spaces, making it more ‘in situ’ while also destabilizing traditional notions of spectator/audience, allowing for a more participatory experience.” They also note the self-reflexive aspect of Doonan’s performance research, saying that it will “turn the Verdun waterfront into a performance space about itself.” The CATR scholarship committee believes that the project may go even further, allowing audiences to connect through experience that is about themselves, as human-animals, engaging with an urban wilderness space.