Performing Documents Conference (Arnolfini Auditorium): Friday - Sunday, 12-14 April, 2013
The Performing Documents conference was the culminating public event of this research project, exploring the re-use of live art archives. Over three days, artists, theatre-makers, digital-media practitioners, archivists and scholars from around the world gathered for a series of lectures, dialogues and performances, reflecting on the state of contemporary performance and its documents.
Performing Documents conference coincided with Version Control, a large-scale survey exhibition at Arnolfini which takes on the notion of appropriation and performance in the expanded field of contemporary art.
Highlights of the conference include: keynote speech presentations by Rebecca Schneider, Mike Pearson, Fiona Templeton and Anthony Howell; commissioned artists Every House Has a Door, Blast Theory, Bodies in Flight and Performance Re-enactment Society; performances from Version Control artists Felix Gmelin and Tim Etchells; and a special exhibition at the University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection of the Franko B archive, held in the Live Art Archives.
The event was live-documented on Connection/Time, a tool developed by Paul Hurley and Dane Watkins for the documentation of events and performances.
The conference coincided with Performing Documents’ final strand Replace, led by Professor Nick Kaye (University of Exeter), which considers curatorial practice as a mode of enquiry. Bypassing familiar binaries like ‘the object’ versus ‘the live’, in recent years curators have adopted an expanded approach to performance, investigating concepts such as history, duration, mediation and social practice. Replace both feeds into and reflects on Version Control as an example of the wide-ranging possibilities for performance within curatorial strategy.
[Photo credit: Hancock and Kelly. Associate Artists, In Between Time Festival, 2011]
Please note: all panels take place at Arnolfini, Bristol
|Friday, April 12|
|11am||Welcome & Introduction|
|11.15||1st Keynote: Rebecca Schneider, Acting in Ruins, Dancing the Interval|
|2pm||1st Panel Session|
|4.30pm||2nd Panel Session|
|7pm||Performance: Felix Gmelin|
|7.30pm||2nd Keynote: Mike Pearson|
|Saturday, 13 April|
|10am||3rd Keynote: Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish|
|11.30am||3rd Panel Session|
|2.00pm||4th Panel Session|
|4pm||5th Panel Session|
|7.30pm||Performance: Tim Etchells/drinks reception|
|Sunday, 14 April|
|10am||4th Keynote: TBD|
|11.30||6th Panel Session|
Rebecca Schneider | abstract
Mike Pearson | abstract
Lin Hixson & Matthew Goulish | abstract
Helen Cole | abstract
Nick Kaye, Tom Trevor & Axel Wieder | abstract
Jason Bowman in conversation with Anthony Howell & Fiona Templeton | abstract
Hannah Allan Curating Documents: The Archive as Artwork | abstract
Jane Arnfield & Cormac Power The Tin Ring and the Stoical in Performance | abstract
Julie Bacon Performing Absences, performing presences: aesthetic and political views | abstract
David Bennett Dance in the online environment | abstract
Hetty Blades | abstract
Marios Chatziprokopiou From the “Mass Plague” to “Requiem for the End of Love” | abstract
Fiona Cormack A record of performance: an interdisciplinary exploration of capture, fixity and reuse | abstract
Harriet Curtis The Artist Magazine as Archive: High Performance, 1978-1983 | abstract
Diana Damian & Ella Parry-Davies Documentation, Agency and the Constitution of the Live Art Canon | abstract
Yiota Demetriou An Exhibition of Hidden Stories – Love Letters | abstract
Ella Finer Sound Documents: How the performance of sound keeps material in motion | abstract
Ernst Fischer & Helen Spackman Leibniz's Dust: Imagination as Metaphor, Performance as Language | abstract
Kristin Fredricksson What Is a Playscript? | abstract
Clare Grant | Returning to One's Own Archive | abstract
Ashleigh Griffith Experiencing the Document: it's not all in the past | abstract
Laura Griffiths Archival Knowledge and Documents of Dance | abstract
Georgina Guy Displayed & Performing: exhibition, documentation and theatrical appearance | abstract
Daniela Hahn Documents & Trial: on the politics of re-enactment | abstract
Alexandra Hallingey Collective narrative of memory: performances of authority | abstract
Heidi Hasbrouk The American Waitress: (re)producing the icon | abstract
R. Justin Hunt I Can't Let You Go When You're Gone: archival debts, queer desire | abstract
Marisa Keuris The South African Drama and Theatre Heritage Situation Today | abstract
Elisabeth Landesberg Untitled | abstract
Amanda McDowell Transgenerational haunting, diasporic vision and performative practice | abstract
Natalie Minik Hello, My Dear | abstract
Laura Molloy The Future of the Past: Live Performance, Digital Preservation and New Potentials | abstract
Lisa Newman Irretrievable Subjects: Performing the Image-as-Object in Re-enactment Performance | abstract
Kyra Norman 'Haunted by Haunted': a tribute act | abstract
Emily Orley Between Land and Paper: performing the page | abstract
Didem Pekun Performance of the self in everyday life | abstract
Mary Richards Clumsy Furtive Traces | abstract
Toni Sant Questioning Oral Histories as an Effective Method for Documenting Performance | abstract
Erica Scourti Performing the Affective Archive: two online video projects | abstract
Lara Shalson Enduring Documents | abstract
Jessica Shepherd Where and to whom does art belong? | abstract
Cecilia Sosa Performing Identity in the National Context: the case of appropriated children during Argentina's dictatorship | abstract
Jocelyn Spence Collect Yourself! Engaging with digital archives in autobiographical performance | abstract
Michael Spencer A Celebration of Absence | abstract
Carmen Szabo Let's Do a Revolution | abstract
Allan Taylor In Absence: the role of the gesture in performative photo documentation | abstract
Nik Wakefield Memory and Duration in Performance and Documentation | abstract
Helena Walsh Performing Processes: repetitiously rupturing Ireland's nationalist archives | abstract
Sarah Whatley Dance in the online environment | abstract
Keren Zaiontz The Objects of Performance Ethnography: traces of a mega-event | abstract
Keynote AbstractsRebecca Schneider
Contributory factors. Or what else?
In this presentation, Mike Pearson revisits the theatre archaeology project conceived with classical archaeologist and theorist Michael Shanks and in particular its initial phase: the reconstitution of past performance from its surviving fragments – texts, images, memories... He considers what might escape or be written out of documentation, and asks whether we can even identify other factors that contributed to or impacted upon the original staging. He concludes by reflecting on his own plan to restage personal sections of Cardiff Laboratory for Theatrical Research’s The Lesson of Anatomy (1974) on its fortieth anniversary, and how the attempt (and doubtless failure) may demonstrate the effects of aging and physical entropy, and the impossibility of return.
Mike Pearson’s work explores performance and landscape, performance and archaeology, biography, personal narrative and memory in performance, folklore and traditional performance practices, the archaeology of Antarctic exploration, devising performance. Publications include: Mickery Theater: An Imperfect Archaeology (2011), Site-Specific Performance (2010), In Comes I: Performance, Memory and Landscape (2006) and, co-authored with Michael Shanks, Theatre/Archaeology (2001). He is in receipt of a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship and co-investigator on two AHRC-funded research projects: ‘Challenging Concepts of “Liquid” Place through Performing Practices in Community Contexts’, and ‘Snows of Yesteryear’.
Replay Object Image on 9 Beginnings
This collaborative lecture ruminates on the intentions, themes, sources, and processes of the 9 Beginnings archive project of Every house has a door. In 13 parts – 8 preparations and 5 notations – it considers the work of artists Pierre Huyghe and R. H. Quaytman, as well as the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and Stanley Cavell, in understanding manifestations of time and the human in performance. It revisits some of the compositional procedures of 9 Beginnings: Bristol, and looks ahead to the project of 9 Beginnings: Chicago. It draws on the writing and ideas of Gertrude Stein, Henry James, William James, and Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, in sustaining an inquisitive tone, trying to locate its personal poetics somewhere between performance, dramaturgy, and philosophy.
Lin Hixson (director) and Matthew Goulish (dramaturg) co-founded Every house has a door in 2008. Lin is Full Professor of Performance at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Matthew is Adjunct Associate Professor in SAIC’s MFA/BFA Writing Program. Together they received an honorary doctorate from Dartington College of Arts, University of Plymouth, in 2007, and they shared the United States Artists Ziporyn Fellowship in 2009. Their writing on directing, choreography, dramaturgy, and performance, has been widely published.
We See Fireworks
I realize when I started making We See Fireworks way back in 2007 I was at a kind of cross roads. For over a decade I had been programming a major venue that I knew I was about to leave. Put simply my job then was to fill the venue's empty spaces with art works and performances, and to invite audiences in to experience them. Even way back when I first started working as a programmer there was an element of this job that I found unsatisfactory. It seemed no matter how incredible the experiences that happened, there was no evidence even to my close colleagues of the intense moments that had just taken place. No matter how much I tried to embed performance into its structures, the building itself always stayed rigidly solid and static. I knocked down walls, built new rooms, filled them with feathers and blood. Yet still, once the artists and audiences left each night, the building returned back to its usual structure and remained stolidly unmoved. I guess back then, I was dealing with that sense of loss that lies at the heart of all performance. The knowledge that performance time is NOW. That before we even begin, the end is just around the corner. I realize We See Fireworks embodies a huge contradiction. It fundamentally believes in the fleeting vitality of the live encounter, the importance of presence, of really truly being there. But at the same time it seeks to preserve this moment forever, and to share it with an audience who could not ever have been there as the original performance unfolds.
Version Control panel
Tom Trevor will introduce the panel session by discussing Arnolfini as a multidisciplinary art centre and address the challenges of interdisciplinary working, the development of Version Control and the shift in focus around current performance away from bodily presence. Nick Kaye will discuss 'Performance Variations', specifically referencing Marina Abramović, Chris Burden and Tim Etchells. He will explore performance in the absence of the body and in recent examples of the theatricalising of performance art and bodily encounter. Axel Wieder will then discuss Version Control in the context of the post-internet image economy and ideas of performativity in the expanded field of contemporary art practice.
Theatre of Mistakes
In 2008, whilst working towards a career survey in live dance and film of Yvonne Rainer, independent curator Jason E. Bowman moved home and unpacked books, thereby re-discovering his copy of Anthony Howell and Fiona Templeton’s 1976 publication, Elements of Performance Art. For Bowman the question arose of, ‘How may a curatorial reiteration of the Theatre of Mistakes become possible? What records remain?’
In this session Theatre of Mistakes founders/protagonists Anthony Howell and Fiona Templeton and Bowman will discuss the possibilities and discontents of personal ‘archives’, collections and material records in relation to reconsidering the work of the Theatre of Mistakes (1974 – 1981). Unlike many of their peers the majority of Theatre of Mistakes members – long-term, occasional and fleeting – had maintained informal collections of material. Collectively these amass to several thousand pieces of correspondence, publications, scripts, sketchbooks, publicity materials, photographic negatives, videos, Polaroid and other photographs, manuscripts, diagrams, manifestos, notations, critical writing and original artworks. Many of the members of the collective, from its different phases and initiatives, are still alive and active practitioners, though and inevitably memories differ and so an ethnographic approach to their unusually comprehensive records becomes a space of difference opinion but must also address the possibilities of imagining within the living present.
With a comprehensive collection of material and a series of living protagonists who have engaged in curatorial research, the question changes, ‘How may a curatorial reiteration of the work of the Theatre of Mistakes, be made possible? What should be ignored?’
No-thing Here Yet Speaks, Again
This address explores how ‘archives’ can be situated in the cultural and critical context as sets of relations eliciting the meaning and force of events lived primarily in and through the body. Thinking, working and feeling through the connections between different, and differently invisible, bodily events – and in particular, the neurological and ontological experience of phantom limb syndrome,1 together with the (dis)figuration of the body in the cultural frame of performance – I will attempt to flesh out an understanding of the archive as a somatic story/storing of affective traces; a presence conjured by the affective will to touch, feel, hear what is no longer there; a phantom-body of flesh-and-blood. Thus, the figure of the ‘phantom’ appears – and disappears – on the scene of the body, its memory and experience, as a reflection of images, affects and desires that connect past, present and futures possibilities. Pulling together the feelings of and ideas around bodily remainders and cultural remains, the event of the text will ultimately attempt to perform ‘some’ knowledge of how the archive and its bodies – its objects, subjects and witnesses – come into contact with one another.
Curating Documents: the Archive as Artwork
This paper examines methods of archiving durational and performative, how these records can be considered artworks in their own right and the ways artists and researchers might negotiate the creation and navigation of these archives. Debate within the performance genre - the implications of capturing a transitory gestural practice - is compared with conceptual theories of the archive, both of which are then applied to the archives of performance work. Two central notions are Ricoeur's description of the trace (artefact pointing to absent action), and Derrida's archival impulse. Through the paper I will review the methods for creating documentation, and review the taxonomy I have structured, before going on to interrogate these types of archival entry in relation to performance and the theory of trace. The trace whilst neither a fixed archival document or stable artwork, is perhaps a fitting form for the legacy of the live. This is carried through to a consideration of whether unstable traces of performance could be given a non-place to reside in the history of performance: re-purposing these elements within new work gives an answer. The research has been undertaken using the Tate Archives, the British Library collection, and my own practice.
Tracing the Pathway's Treatment of the Past's Remains
Beginning with the question, ‘How is the past practised?’, Tracing the Pathway will discuss the possibilities the archive presents for performance-making. Our current project, Body-Site-Encounter, attempts to practice a multitude of pasts in a workshop context. By considering site’s fragmented composites and archival materials as unwritten versions of the past, workshop participants create versions of sites by attending to their ruinous, non-unitary nature. The emerging methodology we discuss is designed so practitioners may engage with the past through an embodied layering of personal and found narratives, presented within a performance context. The panel discussion includes critical analysis of the uses of performance remains to initiate new practice(s); specifically, how organic memory constitutes a remain which does not lend itself easily to consignation to the archive, but can be treated in the studio by attending to memory’s transformative condition. This will be interspersed with video clips from workshops we have led in Aberystwyth and Bristol, whilst showing some selected material generated in the workshops which will be used to devise new performances.
The Tin Ring and the Stoical in Performance
The Tin Ring is a stage adaptation of the memoirs of Zdenka Fantlova, survivor of six Nazi death camps, which has been created through collaboration between the eminent theatre director Mike Alfreds and solo performer Jane Arnfield. The focus of this paper arises from a broader interest in looking at the ancient thought of Stoicism as a performative philosophy capable to informing many current debates about performance. The idea here presented is not just based on Fantlova’s testimony as text – albeit one which in many ways exemplifies a “Stoic” outlook on life. Rather this paper argues that the performance as a whole, in its totality, can be seen as Stoic philosophy in action. In The Tin Ring we see parallel performances of subjectivity: Zdenka Fantolova’s as survivor and Jane Arnfield’s as actor. But in addition I would also like to suggest that we think about another parallel mode of subjectivity; that of the Stoic practitioner, and specifically that of Marcus Aurelius as Stoic philosopher.
Performing absences, performing presences: aesthetic and political views
This presentation draws analogies between the ways in which one might constitute and encounter archives, and the strategies and techniques of layering and absenting found in contemporary art that engages with memory and history. Examples range from the works of Gustave Metzger and Ana Mendieta, to my own performances and installations. The presentation also references exhibitions that I have curated to explore such analogies [The Suicide of Objects/I Confess That I Was There], through the commissioning of contemporary art works that reconfigure archives, collections and processes of historicisation. I emphasize the ways in which we encounter the time and space of archives and documents, as well as matters of form and content. I consider the relationship between materiality and immateriality, longevity and fidelity, and appearances and disappearances that the physical, and also digital, archival realm may imply. We proceed as much by forgetting as remembering; occulting may sustain the intimacy that allows enduring relations to form. What do such observations mean in the culture of management and the ideology of visibility that dominates the technocratic information age?
Artists’ blogs and social media as digital performance archives
This talk begins with a proposed ontological tension between the archive, a domicile that Derrida thought to “speak the law,” Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1996) p.2and the Internet, an interface that Deleuze and Guattari once asserted would “shatter the linear unity of knowledge.” Deleuze and Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, (Continuum: London 1992) The UK Web Archive interpolates these two sites of knowledge production, being the first archive of the Internet kept by a major British institution. Focusing on the Live Art special collection, this talk interrogates the impact that initiatives like The UK Web Archive could have on the production of future art histories. Will the preservation of artists’ websites and blogs carry forth diverse perspectives on practice into posterity? Alternatively, is The UK Web Archive as predisposed to the constraints of consignation and homogeneity as any other museum archive? Augmented through Groys’ writing on “media-ontological suspicion” Boris Groys, Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of Media (Columbia University Press: New York, 2010) this talk seeks to avoid the pitfalls of technological determinism, while identifying ways that The UK Web Archive might begin to radicalise the articulation of art history. It will refer to case studies from within the web archive, as well as interviews with staff from The Live Art Development Agency and The British Library, who curate and manage the collection.
Dance in the online environment
This is a case study of two contrasting projects: the Digital Dance Archives (DDA) choreographic commission invited proposals to make a dance work in response to the collective archives of the DDA portal (www.dance-archives.ac.uk); and the Side by Side project asked a dance artist and a craft artist to work alongside each other to investigate the act and process of making, with a public blog documenting the six-week residency (www.siobhandavies.com/sidebyside). Bennett will show how the DDA commission saw artists reconnecting with their histories, working through a process of making-documenting-making and revealing aspects of their working methods using new digital tools. Through a review of the Side by Side residency, Bennett will look at the curation of artists’ documentation, how the creative process becomes product and asks if there is a danger of it becoming fetishised, and tentatively proposes a new taxonomy of online spectatorship.
Not the final word.....
Drawing on current debates around what might constitute an archive and how performance can be understood as a feature of the archive itself this presentation examines the role of the body as an archival artefact. Central issues of inclusion and exclusion in the archive and how selected archives can be re-activated and made accessible to a new audience will be discussed. Building on the work of Fragments & Monuments www.fragmentsandmonuments.com (founded 1998 by theatre and film director Anna Birch and scenographer Madelon Schwirtz) some strategies will be shared arising from my practice as research. Film and performance are employed as an iterative methodology to investigate gender and embodiment in particular performance case studies and through a multimodal (Hodge and Kress 1988, van Leeuwen and Jewitt, , 2002) architecture spanning live performance, film, projection, broadcast, gallery installation and publication. A range of strategies for engaging with the performance archive have emerged; for example the projection of the originating live performance onto the building where that performance took place one year later and uploading "strips" of this video footage for performance research analysis (Birch, 2004, 2006, 2007). This research forms the basis of a contribution that discusses in part how embodied vocabularies may be shown to develop a dialogue with a variety of texts in different registers and modes and where value can be seen to shift according to context.
Dance in the online environment
This paper considers how the online documentation of process impacts on dance ontology. Existing ontological accounts largely accept that dance works are abstract notions, made physically present through performance (Davies 2011, McFee 2011). Blades will expand on this - suggesting that digital archives of process demonstrate the way in which works exist prior to - and independently from - performance. Online documentation allows us to view process as a product, and provides access to the work, without performance. Extending existing discourses concerning the ontological impact of recording performance this paper will assess how the archiving of process generates new ontological tensions, challenging and reconfiguring our understanding of dance works.
‘Bad Document’ The document as antagonistAs a thirty minute conversation, we will take the figure of the heckler as a person who undoes comfortable differentiations between polite/rude, social/antisocial, speaker/listener, performer/spectator etc and reflect upon a recent collaborative performance-based arts project, in which we set up an artistic situation which interrogated the live performance, performance document as witness, and the characteristics of a heckler. During our conversation, we will refer to the document as heckler and will address how our use of a contract and a factual analysis operated as performative documents. Through an understanding of the performative as related to ‘action’ in response to John Langham Austin’s ideas surrounding the speech act, we will describe how the actions between us generated moments of confrontation throughout the project. Our contract set out conditions to be performed and was seen by both of us as having a multi-function as: legal agreement; artwork; a durational prop, which simultaneously developed and tested the boundaries of the collaboration and as a performative document. Claire ultimately referred to our contract as a heckle since the reality of using the contract as a working performative document had a difficult yet exciting and challenging antagonistic quality. Similarly, the factual analyses which we wrote to state our own versions of the project’s events also problematised the complacency of shared experience.
All at Sea: Tracing Jouissance in the Digital Archives of Triangle Theatre
From January to May 2012, I curated a performance project entitled All at Sea for Second Year BA Drama Students at the University of Northampton that was directed by Carran Waterfield of Triangle Theatre. As an integral part of this project, and in collaboration with Waterfield, the students developed a digital archive of this performance process (All at Sea), which drew inspiration from previous digital transpositions of scenic work developed by Triangle (in particular, Richard Talbot’s The Clown Who Lost His Memory (2008) and Waterfield’s The Last Women (2009)). During this presentation, I shall discuss the ways in which Triangle articulate the digital documentation of their work in accordance with the (il)logic of their postdramatic performance texts, allowing their digital archives (including the site created by my students under Waterfield’s guidance) to be permeated by a trace of the subversive, drive-laden potency of their montages. I shall also argue that by treating the documentation of the performance work as an organic extension of their elliptic creative process, the company interrogates the archive’s status asarkhe, as topo-nomonological agent of consignation, as (questionable) reference to stable themes and concepts already given as past.
From the “Mass Plague” to “Requiem for the End of Love”: voice, lament, and AIDS politics in the first half of the Greek 90’s
This paper examines two performances that addressed AIDS-related losses in the first decade of the Greek 90's: the concert “Mass Plague”, by the Greek-American Diamanda Galás (1990), performed at the Athenian Lycabettus theatre in 1991, and the dance-theatre piece Requiem for the End of Love, by Dimitris Papaioannou (1995), based on poetry by Demetrios Kapetanakis and music by Giorgos Koumendakis; the only Greek performance piece that has so far explicitly referred to the AIDS issue. By reading the material traces of these works and their impact on the Greek press, and by conducting interviews with both the artists and members of the audience, this paper aims to analyse how the experience of mourning AIDS-related losses has been artistically represented and sensorially received in each case. The focus will be placed on the uses of the female voice, related to the literal or metaphorical links to the genre of lamentation, and the various forms of textual decomposition or pure glossolalia. Both case-studies will be contextualized, starting from a comparative approach of the U.S. and the Greek historical and cultural experiences of the disease, but emphasizing on the latter, that has been highly marked by secrecy and silence. By doing so, this paper aims to examine the poetics of these artworks in relation to the politics of health, gender and sexuality with which they connect. Thus, the further goal is to explore the almost unspoken history of creative responses to AIDS in Greece, in the current moment of generalized economic and institutional crisis, that makes it re-emerge as an urgent, threatening issue.
Re — (regarding, again and again)
(The) performance (is) already (a) reworking; things always come from other things. (I)t is (easy) to forget what goes into the making of the work; (the) things that came before. (T)he time it takes to make the work (is) condensed into the time it takes to perform it […] (W)hat should […] come after is often (what) comes before. Re — is an ongoing, collaborative project between Emma Cocker and Rachel Lois Clapham that presses on two practices to explore the process, product and performance (of text). Re — takes the form of an iterative performance reading that responds to and is reworked against the specificity of each invitation to perform: sometimes existing as a live performance, at times as an installation of documents or score. Each performance stages the archive (save as) of its own coming into being; the performance is already the documentation of earlier dialogic thinking-making processes. Re — explores the impossibility of singular, panoptic forms of documentation (and knowledge) that attempt to capture or archive the totality of an event, focusing instead on performance document as fallible fragment, where (analogous to memory) the shattering or splintering of documentation into manifold parts resists reassembly or recollection, remaining partial, incomplete.
This paper examines the common ground between ethnomusicology, archival
science and performance art in its broadest definition. As a music archivist with a research background in ethnomusicology, I consider how and why the discipline of ethnomusicology and one of its precursors, comparative musicology, adopted recording ‘in the field’ as a primary research method. Offering a means of capturing and fixing aspects of a performance in time, the ethnomusicologist's need to preserve, describe, arrange and provide access to such records shares similarities with core ideas embedded in archival practice and theory. Consequently, ethnomusicology and other disciplines that used audio recording as a research method led to the development of the specialist area of sound archives. Moving beyond such specialist repositories, and with many galleries, art museums, artists and archival institutions now collecting performance art and audio / visual material, I explore in this paper the desire to capture the ephemeral and offer different perspectives as to how these fixed recordings, their reuse and reconceptualisations relate to concepts in ethnomusicology and archival science and how these ideas might be relevant to the area of performance art.
Performing historiography or how to perform historical memories of a revolution
The departing point of this performance-lecture was the description of some of the possibilities and impossibilities of performing historical documents and testimonies pertaining the Portuguese Revolution of 25th of April 1974 and the Revolutionary Process that took place until 25th of November 1975. This places itself within the context of my PhD research, which deals with the transmission of memory of this historical period through embodied practices, also investigating how historiography and archival practices can become embodied through performance. In the process of preparing this conference I came across - through a series of events that I will describe in detail - the diaries of a cooperative that operated on an occupied estate called Torrebela, in central Portugal, between 1975 and 1976. This performance-lecture is an attempt to perform those documents. Almost as if it were a taboo, and unlike countries like Argentina, there has been little production of performances around the themes of the Revolution or the Revolutionary Process in Portugal – is this because of the difficulties arising from the performance of archival material, or is it because, like Elizabeth Jelin suggests, sufficient time hasn’t elapsed yet in order for these memories to be considered? Historiography has started to open the archives, to analyse them, to thoroughly investigate. Performance has stood by quietly, watching. Wanting to move from that passive place of merely observing or leafing through the pages of the archives, this performance-lecture is above all an attempt to perform what seems un-performable: the archive and historiography of a specific period of Portuguese history that everyone seems to agree is yet to be studied, explained - and yes, performed.
The artists' magazine as archive: High Performance, 1978-1983
Between 1978 and 1983 High Performance, a Los Angeles-based magazine devoted solely to performance art, ran open submissions for documentation of live performances made within one year of the published issue. Nominating artists as those most qualified to describe and document their work, High Performance offered a space for performances to be disseminated widely without compromising the 'authenticity' of its documentation. Individually and in sequence each issue is succeeded by the next, but as a collection it is an archive of performance reflective of a specific historical moment. This paper considers High Performance not only as a record of live performance in history, but as an archive of documentation which resurfaces as a generative resource for creating new work. In 2003, High Performance was the subject of an exhibition in Los Angeles which celebrated the legacy of the magazine in creating and nurturing an audience for performance art. In 2012, documentation of the 1980 Public Spirit performance festival, published exclusively in High Performance, was used as a platform for the re-performance of historical works by contemporary artists. High Performance, both a document of performance and a performing document, facilitates an engagement with performance history distinct from other modes of documentation.
Documentation, agency and the constitution of the live art canon
In recent years, live art in the UK has received increasing attention from major cultural institutions deeply embedded within systems of both academic and corporate capital, from the opening of Tate Modern’s performance art wing, the Tanks, to the live art exhibitions of the Hayward Gallery and the Arnolfini. A generation of scholars and practitioners operating in the shadow of the dominant and avant-garde practices of the sixties, seventies and eighties must respond to these shifts, re-addressing the relationship between document, context and politics. This performative paper seeks to address the topical concerns raised by live art’s relationship to the institutional archive, questioning and considering the agency of the document in relation to its referent. The format of the presentation reflects our problematisation of the politics of attention and the canonisation of live art. Inviting spectators to tune into either a live presentation or a museum ‘audio guide’ style recording, we aim to stage the decision-making operation involved in viewing live art. The papers will act as live ‘annotations’ of each other, working to question, critique and queer one another’s positionalities. The format of the piece forces the audience to make choices about the discourses they engage with, and those that they miss out on. Re-enacting the selection process involved in any access of knowledge, we will explore the staging of criticism as a politically nuanced event.
An Exhibition of Hidden Stories – Love Letters
An Exhibition of Hidden Stories is a performance project that consists of a series of performances that explore through audience participation and interaction the concepts of memory, nostalgia, personal history and narrative, as well as the processes of documenting, archiving and staging the archived materials and the ephemera. In addition how material can be re-used for the development of a new piece of work. This performance lecture will be focusing on the most recent performance work of this series - An Exhibition of Hidden Stories: Love Letters is an on-going project with no definite end. Every time it is performed new material is generated, performed, archived and re-performed. It was performed at the first Performance & Live Art Platform, in Larnaca (Cyprus) that took place on the 22nd of July 2012, as well as the Tempting Failure festival on the 6th April in Bristol.
Sound Documents – How the performance of sound keeps material in motion.
Writing about the ‘astrophysicists’ Big Bang’ in Making Noise (2011) Hillel Schwartz argues that ‘it is not possible to begin quietly’. Yet this assertion demands listening back on an epic scale, an imaginative listening to the time before ‘the start of time,’ dreaming up the noisy beginnings of our universe and putting faith in listening not only to a sound of the very deep past, but to a sound with no body present to perceive it. Responding to the act of long distance listening, this paper theorises the continuous performance of sound even in the absence of any near-by auditor, so that regardless of the presence of ears in the wake of its happening, sound continues to perform and document its own happening. The fact that traces of the early universe can be heard in the white noise of a detuned radio is extraordinary evidence that sound does “reappear,” returning through deep time and documenting its own transmission in this return. Whether or not we ‘apprehend’ this sound in actuality or in imagination, does it matter if we cannot fully comprehend what this material (white noise static) is or means? Rather than obscuring some vital communicative information, I argue that the material and motion of sound is the vital communicative information.
Leibniz’s dust: imagination as metaphor, performance as language
This performance/presentation focuses not on the German Baroque philosopher, but on the performance collective of the same name. Since the company’s inception in 2005, LEIBNIZ’s work has been concerned with the exploration of performance as documentation and is governed by a metaphorical linkage to the accumulation and dissemination of dust, which, as Carolyn Steedman (2002) reminds us, is indestructible and subject to continuous ‘displacement’ and reformation. Rather than to establish a fixed, venue-based archive or rely on the re-enactment of past events (see Schneider, 2011)), the aim is to construct a repertory or vocabulary (see Carlson, 2003) of performance fragments that can be (re-)combined to form ever new or differing narratives. In this way, the traces of any given performance are treated not merely as leftovers, but as the necessary building blocks of subsequent projects, each performance functioning as a crucible for the production and testing of future material. For us performances are pictograms, organised according to linguistic, modular structures, which suggests that the history of performance might be usefully considered as part of oral traditions of knowledge transfer. The proposed presentation, which will address –amongst others – Paul Ricoeur’s view of ‘imagination’ as metaphor and the ‘memory palaces’ constructed by Roman orators – will deliver two simultaneous texts: one spoken (‘the paper’) and one pictorial (the ‘performance’).
Ephemeral Archives: A Performatic Lecture
We are couple of Brazilian artists working with performance and multimedia for about 20 years. Normally we use objects and situations from our own life to create our pieces. Our private memories and life experiences constantly contribute to our artistic creation. During our career, we have been accumulating an archive of images of our performances and exhibitions that always inspire ourselves to create new works. The influence of site on the re-enactment of the performances is also very important for us. For the Performing Documents Conference we propose to present a performatic lecture in which we want to share our personal archives of performances with the public. We wish to mix the academic format of a paper presentation with the provocative act of performing. We also want to consider our trip from Brazil to Bristol as a kind of extended performance, during which we will collect some objects and impressions, building a kind of material archive about the trip, that we want to show during our presentation in Bristol. By blurring the boundaries between life and art, public and private, we create a simple, critic and sensitive poetics.
What Is a Playscript?
I received a request from the British Library for the script of my collectively devised, autobiographical piece, Cooking Ghosts, recently performed in London and on tour. Considering what I could give them led me to consider what a play script is or can be today. What can it include? Images? Films? What is its function? Is it only a record, a trace, an archival document, a snapshot of a moment in the process? Is it another finished version of the show? An artist's book? Can it also be a script for others to interpret? A tool? Can it be performed as a fiction by other companies? Would this make any sense? By considering several examples of scripts made after a devising process, I will reflect on the inherent problems and possible solutions involved in producing a script, and on what the multiple aims of such an undertaking might be. I will principally consider the scripting of autobiographical works, such as those by myself, Ursula Martinez and Bryony Kimmings, and compare this with the way Bobby Baker has catalogued her past work.
Returning to one’s own archive: re-invigorating or a millstone?
This 15-minute video presentation exposes dilemmas that arose when I returned to the archive of The Sydney Front, a performance company of which I was a founding member, and asks: Why does the return to one’s own archive feel so like weathering a storm? The video presentation charts the material issues to be managed: fragile source material, often filmed in ad hoc processes in out-dated technological formats; it addresses dramaturgical issues through scenes that epitomise the narrow perspective created by the distorting, singular eye of a camera on performances created by the multiple eyes of collaborative practitioners for a multi-focal audience; it questions the drive to re-create ‘what happened’ in a ‘narrative linearity’; and it poses ideological questions: Does a certain relief from the burden of the work’s history, experienced as the works take on their new form, balance the resistance to the potential ‘monumentalising’ of performances made for the moment of its performance? Is it actually a betrayal of a cheeky body of work made for its own time? In taking on the voice of the archivist do I betray the collaborative nature of the company’s work? It asks: should it all perhaps have remained a ‘myth’?
Experiencing the document – it’s not all in the past
In the complex part of ourselves in which we understand our present and navigate our past and future, there is emerging research within neuroscience that suggests we are in fact two distinct selves.
now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now
then next then next then next then next then next then next then next then next
These selves of course meet, at a very messy crossover. This presentation aims to open up a thinking space based on emergent questions at the beginning of my practice-based PhD research. I am interested in the implications of research in neuroscience that we have an experiencing self and a remembering self, on how we create, understand and critique performance documentation and the ways in which this research may suggest we approach our documentation differently.
Archival Knowledge and the Documents of Dance
In this paper, I argue that the gaps in knowledge available through the dance archive are manifest in the dancing body as an archival source in its own right. Traditional archival principles are rooted in ideologies that aim to fix or lock down knowledge in the sense that the act of fixing information is what constitutes the record (Petersen, 1984), a perspective that Derrida reinforces through his observation that the archive takes place under ‘house arrest’ (1995:12). The impermanence of time based activities and events such as performance disrupt the conventional frame of the archive and dance as an ineffable, ephemeral phenomenon is particularly difficult to ‘fix’ or pin down conceptually. Diana Taylor’s notion of the repertoire alludes to the fact that archival knowledge may be manifest in embodied and ephemeral traces of performance (2003). Considering this, I explore the ‘archivability’ of the documents of dance, recognising that live performance as a meaning-making experience (Fensham, 2009) also leaves embodied traces which may be considered to constitute ‘archival knowledge’.
The archive and performance work of contemporary dance company Phoenix Dance Theatre, as a collaborative partner in this PhD research project, provide a lens through which to hypothesise the gaps in archival knowledge. The dancing body itself, as an alternative archive, may function as a bridge between the ‘Archive and the Repertoire’ (Taylor, 2003). I will speculate about the nature of knowledge that is ‘lost’, ‘absent’ or ‘disappearing’ and make suggestions for where ‘archival value’ may reside in dance practice and performance.
Displayed & Performing: Exhibition, Documentation and Theatrical Appearance
Alert to an emerging field of arts practice distinct from but related to an increasing curatorial provision for ‘live’ performance, this paper examines how contemporary exhibition events display performance and how such representations impact on ideas of the performing document. Traditionally the crux of the distinction between document and performance has been time-based, with ephemerality emerging as the principle condition for performance in direct relation to gallery contexts and the associated precedence of object-centric composition. Restaging two temporary exhibitions, Renoir at the Theatre: Looking at La Loge (Courtauld 2008) and The World as a Stage (Tate Modern 2007-2008), this paper recollects a number of exhibits which inflect recent dialogues between documentation and theatrical encounter. Exhibiting uncertain theatrical scenes and indefinite productions, the works collected for these exhibitions appear to be documents of performance rather than being actual material detritus. The installations shift the place of the performance document away from preservation and towards theatrical appearance, offering an experience analogous to performance constructed in another form: through performative referents and objects. Identifying alternative frames of reference though which performance might appear, this paper challenges oppositional distinctions between theatre and exhibition, performance and object, proposing instead a symbiotic relation centred on the performing document.
Document & Trial. On the Politics of Re‐Enactment
Within the documentary, images, narratives, and documents seem to be always on trial, providing (or lacking) evidence of whether they are fact or fiction. Documentary performances complicate this ›being on trial‹ when they re-enact or re-stage documents from judicial proceedings. My paper will explore the “politics of truth”, implicated in the theatrical re-enactment of trials in which, on the one hand, the performing of documents serves to authenticate what is being said and represented on stage. On the other hand, the re-assembling of documents and their mediation into the public sphere within the performance space enables, as Carol Martin has pointed out, a re-opening of trials. Against this background, I will investigate into two recent performances by the Berlin-based performance collective International Institute of Political Murder (IIPM), founded in 2007 by the director and author Milo Rau: Die letzten Tage der Ceausescus (2010), a re-enactment of the trial against Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, and the public reading of Anders Breivik's court statement as a staged film shooting (2012).
Collective narrative of memory: performances of authority in There was this Goat: Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu
There was this Goat is a book written by Antjie Krog, Nosisi Mpolweni and Kopano Ratele, three South African academics and writers from different disciplines who met once a week for two years from 2007-2009 to discuss the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile from a hearing in 1996. The official archive version of her testimony comes across as obscured to the point of incomprehensibility. The narrative is fragmented, jumping between times and places; a poetic but often incoherent mix of seemingly symbolic images and real events. There was this Goat juxtaposes transcriptions, translation, reportage, creative writing and academic analysis in a dialogic act to better understand Mrs Konile’s story and context and its place in South Africa’s history and present. The three authors are explicitly present in the text and their personal narratives are threaded through their individual and collective interpretations of Mrs Konile’s testimony. How does the varied use of authorial voice and writing styles in There was this Goat argue for the liveliness of the document in an ongoing and collective telling of South Africa’s historic-informing-contemporary memory and identity?
The American Waitress: (Re)producing the Icon
“Can I getcha some coffee with that?” Placing myself as the central figure in my fieldwork, I set out to address the political economy of the iconography of the American Diner waitress and how it produces and reproduces her affective, precarious labour. Through a combination of performance, lecture and documentary footage I will relate, play, recreate, critique and affect my audience/customers' understanding of the icon and our labour. I aim to reveal the feedback loop that exists between the iconography and narrative associated with the affective labour of waitressing and how that then feeds back into waitress' identity formation. Through integrating performance and documentary filmmaking into my research I attempt to affect the narrative of the icon with new sticky ideas, reveal its power and find ways of re-appropriating its power back into the hands of the workers from which it demands.
Rusty Love - a reflection on failed intimacies
Rusty Love is a short performance lecture which reflects over a failed art collaboration, The Love Letter Project. In 2008, artists and writers Ida Marie Hede and Cecilia Aldarondo paired two groups of people in respectively Copenhagen, Denmark, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The participants were invited to write each other love letters. Every month the received letters were to be read aloud and discussed locally in order to challenge the notion that intimacy can exist only between two people. The form of the letters was completely open and situated between lived experience and fiction. Yet The Love Letter Project failed: the desire burned out and many of the letters were left unanswered. In a fictive dialogue with her absent collaborator, Cecilia Aldarondo, Ida Marie Hede goes through the remains of the project and raises questions such as: why did the project fail? How did the dangers and pleasures of the unruly document obstruct the writing processes? Is it possible to be interpellated by a material archive? What is intimacy without a body?
After the Future: A Homage to Bifo
After the Future: A Homage to Bifo is a performed talk in which a performer copies (without prior rehearsal) words and movements from a video of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi explaining key concepts of his book After the Future (2011). The performance asks where meaning resides - in the body, in the voice, in gestures, in words, in spoken or written language, in movement language, in languages of the body. Furthermore, the performance questions how the act of copying opens up space for multiple interpretation, association and agency for an audience, and how this impacts on the way meaning is made and un-made in performance. How can textual ambiguity create gaps between the re-reading of text and the reading of action, and how can this spectatorial negotiation uncover creative potentials for performer and audience in the moment of engagement. The performance questions how much performance is about “giving”, and “communicating” with the spectator, seeking instead ways in which the spectator, by the act of watching is complicit in the making of the performance.
Lingering with performance: memory-writing as an act of remaking
This paper considers the mode of re-performance in writing about performance. For the spectator-critic, remembering becomes the act of remaking and the page the site of this response. Memory-writing, then, foregrounds remembering as a creative process. In the spirit of the kind of re-performance which reaches out to the original as a site of inspiration - lingering with it, reeling from it - memory-writing positions the writer as inventor and imaginer. Memory-writing, instead of giving a kiss of life to the performance, invents it anew, stimulated by that elusive ‘thing’ that stays with the spectator-critic; the thing that touches, irritates, loiters. In this paper I will linger with my memory of a performance by artist and filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila, The Annunciation (2011), with laughing out loud, alone, and experiment with how to put that into words.
Intimacy in documentary filmmaking
<>This presentation examines the relationship between filmmaker and character in non-fiction film with the intention of discussing the notion of “intimacy” in documentary aesthetics. It deals with the status of intimacy in first person documentary film to investigate if there are ways that it correlates with intimate aesthetics in third person non-fiction film.The presentation tries to map out an analytical concept in progress intimacy for describing the filmmaking process and thereby develop a necessarily speculative understanding of how the visual reading of subject/filmmaker intimacy can be used to define a second analytical concept: “Intimate aesthetics”. Its core question is if methodological intimacy and aesthetic intimacy may be cornerstones of a new paradigm for analyzing nonfiction films.
I can’t let you go when you’re gone: Archival Debts, Queer Desire
At the end of his show Young Ladies Of (2008) Taylor Mac apostrophizes to his lost father: “I have created this for you so we could hate each other a little less. So you could have your one day to come back and fix it. To make up for the letters I’ve written to you.” He wants to have set right, through writing this show, through the performance and from the archival objects he received, what could never have happened. A debt never resolves to be paid. This paper wonders how we are indebted to the archive and how we deal with such debts. This paper does not attempt to queer debt, but considers debts relation to subjects for whom queerness is a specific modality of everyday life. What is passed down to us from history, what we are indebted to (those ghosts which haunt us) may require less from us than we think. Perhaps instead of repaying debts we might instead make something other of the past returned to us in the present by the archival remains.
The South African drama and theatre heritage situation today: politics, problems and some progress
Although South African theatre has a long tradition (starting with indigenous oral narratives and shamanistic dances among the San before the arrival of Europeans in the country), the documentation of these and other performances only started with the establishment and development of European theatre from the 17th century in the Cape. It was only in 1971 when the National Documentation Centre for the Performing Arts was established by P.J. Nienaber and P.P.B Breytenbach that formal archiving of the SA Performing Arts started to take place. The political changes that came about with the 1994 election which put the ANC in power in SA also impacted greatly on the Performing Arts scene in general in this country – and also brought about large changes in the field of Performance Arts heritage. This paper will focus on three issues in this regard (1) the closi