Ara's Tony McCaffrey has been discovered by a global community of like-minded thinkers, philosophers and practitioners.
His work into intellectual disability performance recently took him to Paris where he presented a paper at the Theater, Performance, Philosophy Conference at the University of Paris-Sorbonne.
McCaffrey was in good company. Renowned American philosopher Judith Butler was amongst the 100 scholars and performers from 23 countries at the event. McCaffrey was the only participant from New Zealand.
His presentation, 'How are we supposed to respond?: The presence of performers perceived to have intellectual disabilities interrogating ethics and spectatorship in contemporary performance', results from PhD research at the University of Canterbury investigating The Politics and Aesthetics of Disability Performance.
a new area called Performance Philosophy which asks in what way
performance is a kind of philosophy, or how does performance relate to
philosophy? You look at the fact that when someone sees a compelling
or beautiful movement on stage there are mirror neurons that operate in
the body that feel that movement in some way. This becomes quite
interesting when you put people with intellectual disabilities into the
mix because their presence does something else: it does something different and interesting to
how people without disabilities think and feel about themselves."
McCaffrey's interest in disability performance grew with his work with A Different Light theatre-company, for which he directed and devised challenging works with performers who have intellectual disabilities.
A Different Light has featured in the Australasian Drama Studies journal, Bree Hadley's (Queensland University of Technology, Senior Lecturer in Performance Studies in the Creative Industries Faculty) book Disability, Public Space Performance and Spectatorship and Rebellious Mirrors by long time theatre maker and author New Zealander Dr Paul Maunder.
Internationally, Christchurch is now recognised to be at the forefront of this research. Following Paris, McCaffrey attended the Performance Studies International Conference - Avant-garde, Tradition, Community in Shanghai and has in past spoken at conferences in Australia, Chile and US.