ElastiCity : Performance Studies and Theme Parks

Taylor C. BLACK, Shawn CHUA, Milton LIM, Eero LAINE, Rumen RACHEV, Soo Ryon YOON

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


ElastiCity video played on a loop during the installation at PSi #25 in Calgary. The video was created by Peter Burke, Milton Lim, and bani haykal.
The theme park is only as real as the fantasies it constructs. Often situated away from regular routes of navigation, theme parks are wholly designed and realized spaces that stretch across the fantastic and the mundane. They are built worlds of amazing sights and thrilling rides that sit alongside the pedestrian infrastructure of ticket queues and bathrooms, and are inhabited by those who pay to be there (park “guests”) and those who are paid to be there (park employees, sometimes “cast members”). The facade of the theme park is shiny and seemingly all-encompassing, even as we know there must be a backstage, internal machinery, labour, and garbage. Multimodal and immersive, theme parks present opportunities to consider the networks and spans of relations among performers, spectators, and designed spaces and objects.
In this article, we offer provocations for the field of Performance Studies and re-encounter our work in curating and hosting a theme park named ElastiCity at the 25th annual Performance Studies international (PSi) Conference in Calgary in 2019. In particular, we meditate on the speculative venture of a theme park, with specific regard to its activation
of imagined and embodied sociality among both its infrastructural components and the crowds of people who engage with them. Reflecting on theme park visitors’ oscillation between orientation and disorientation once they are past the entrance, this collectively– authored piece mirrors, and to some extent invites, activation of readers’ spatial and temporal orientation and disorientation. We do not presuppose a universal and homogenized theme park audience or reader by doing so. Following Rebecca Williams’ notes (87-8) on theme park visitors’ different levels of immersion and involvement, which complicate the “linear phases” of theme park routes, our move instead recognizes the heterogeneity of readers whose variegated experiences will correspond, even if momentarily, to the elastic capacity of our contribution itself.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages50
JournalGlobal Performance Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


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