Summaries from course and wider readings

Reading 12- Dixon, S “Digits, Discourse and Documentation: Performance Research and Hypermedia

This reading spoke about a CD-ROM with the footage of a production of Chameleons 2: in dreamtime on it, the CD-ROM allows the viewer to select the chapter they wish to watch or to watch the film the whole way though. The disc also allows the viewer to choose between audio or written commentary on specific scenes. Dixon uses this reading to explain the success of this CD and of this form of multimedia. As this reading looks on at this CD and its possibilities I found myself feeling very distant from the reading as I could not see the functions which this reading spoke of, although there were some photographs to assist with the reading I still did not feel these were enough to fully explain the disk. If I was provided with the CD-ROM then I feel I would have been able to take more away from this reading. I have been left with the consideration of when we place our film on a disk which set up we choose can affect its success but felt this was all I could take away with me.

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Reading 11- Barthes, R., “Camera Lucida”.

This reading was centered on photography and the power of a picture, Barthes starts the reading by explaining the surprises that a photographer has to consider when taking images for a theatrical purpose. The first is “rare” how original is the content, is it something which we could come into contact with on a daily basis. The second is capturing a movement in a moment which painting cannot. The third is ability to capture the finest of details, so for example to moment when a drop of water touches a counter. The fourth is the technique that the artist chooses to use in their photograph and finally the fifth is the luck of finding something unusual.

Barthes then moves on to discussing the punctum and the stadium, these are explained in detail using other photographs as examples. A Punctum is the hidden meaning or details within a photograph, so this could be a badge on the finger of a person in the photograph or the location of a gesture. Whereas the stadium is the clear details that are obvious to everyone who looks at the picture. Barthes explains that for him the Punctum is the most interesting thing about photography as many times the things he discovers are not actually placed there on purpose or for a reason but have become through the picture. As Barthes explains it, the stadium is also coded with meaning or reasoning but the Puctum is not.

In conclusion by reading this reading it has made me very aware of the hidden details in the photographs that were taken for our project. I am now very curious to go back over the picture to see if I could uncover any more information that I myself didn’t know was there.

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Reading 10- Phelan, P. “Unmarked: the Politics of Performance”

This reading addressed many issues raised through performances and its archival process. Firstly the reading explained that for a piece to be successful in the archive it needs to disappear, what this means is that the piece itself needs to be untraceable, so no video recordings,  so that audience members can be allowed to remember the piece they saw. Theatre pieces can never be repeated as they are are an event that are subject to their time and place, two elements which without the function of time travel once passed cannot be relived, so they can only be re-performed. To re-perform a piece means to take the piece and reenact it with the social and political influences of the current director. The reading then progresses to looking into more detail in how a performance piece is heavily depended on the memory they leave. An example of this point is Sophie Calle and her work in art galleries, she has produced two theatre pieces one was centered around some missing paints, the other on paintings on loan. For her pieces she asked visitors and staff members to give a description of the missing paints and even draw them and then placing all this information around the empty space in the gallery. By doing this she showed that many pieces are brought to life more effectively in their recreation through memory than by the actual object itself.

The final thing that this reading looked at were the power of not being able to make eye contact with an artist. Phelan gave many examples of work through the past years that have had the artist either disappearing as part of the performance or that had the face of the artist unseen.  Phelan explains that when an audience member cannot make physical eye contact with the art work or artist they actually have to observe more, this is because they have to see the piece in detail before they will actually be able to see the piece and its full meaning.

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Reading 9- Rebecca Schneider, “Performing Remains: Art and War in the Times of Theatrical Re-enactment”

The following reading explored historical war events such as 9/11 through the lens of an archive. The reading spoke of how archives can bring to life events concealed in the past not always for the better. Many wars have their facts and figures locked in a government archive to only be released to the public through government digression. The reading spoke of how facts can be changed and altered to limit countries vulnerability, what this means is that certain governments may chose to only release part of the facts to their public so if the story does meet the wrong hands it cannot cause astronomical damage to that same country. Having wars archived can be a wonderful idea as it allows members of the public to engage with their cultural history but in the wrong hands can also be dangerous.

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Reading 8- Jacques Derrida “Archive Fever”

This reading explored the practitioner Freud and his opinions on archives and the way a performance is expressed within an archive. I found this reading hard to follow and struggled to find its meaning within the module. From the reading Freud has explored that archives are made possible by death and destruction, as an artist passes away their work becomes even more important in the creative industry. This is because with their absence they are no longer available to answer questions regarding their work and so the only things left to the world is what has been archived.

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Reading 7: Archive or Memory? The Detritus of Live Performance

This reading like the one before started off by looking at how we archive a performance and the fears that an artist faces when creating a performance. Many people are concerned when creating a performance how long will it last or be remembered and will try to archive their work in the best possible form, the main concern is that there is no better way to archive a performance than the memories of its spectators’ but how do you relay this to future viewers.

When it comes to personal memory it is the best way to determine the success of a show, how much is the performance spoken about, do people want to see it again and would they take the time to review the piece. All of these things are brought to life when a person recalls their memories but how we lock this in to a document still amazes artists.

One of the many ways being considered is “Detritus”, when a performance is taking place there will be very carefully planned out transitions between scenes to insure the stage and space remain in perfectly condition however, if props and general stage mess was to be left on the stage as the performance progresses what would be the end image. There have been many shows where this method has been tried and photographed but this still excludes personal memory, it implies impact that future viewers can see the piece for themselves but it doesn’t reveal what it was like to actually see the piece.

Archiving for a performance is difficult but can be done; it is simply finding the best resource to fit your performance in question.

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Reading 6: Eugenio Barba, “Eftermaele: That which will be said afterwards.”

This was a very short reading focused around how an artist speaks to their future audience members. The reading addresses that a performance has to be able to engage its current spectators but it is also the responsibility of the men and women behind the piece to find a way to make this piece travel to its futures heirs. This could be through documentation or personal memory of those there in its original staging.

In context for Lucy’s piece that I am studying she created her piece and then stored artifacts from the day and the creation in a box which was donated to a women’s arts collection. This collection was then donated to Goldsmiths as their original home was removed and then finally it was Anthea who introduced me to the box as she felt it would be of interest.

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Reading 5- Auslander, P., “The Performativity of Performance Documentation”

This reading explores the use of photographs as a form of documentation and how a performance is or is not classified as a performance if the only interaction with the audience is through photographs. Auslander uses this reading to explain two main performances the first is called “Shoot” where an artist got another artist to shoot him in the arm and he allowed photographs to be taken to capture this moment. The other is of an artist who jumped out of a second story window and had photographs taken that were edited to remove the safety net below.

Auslander explains that in “Shoot” the photographs are a form of performance because they capture what really happened and allows the audience the chance to see it for themselves. Whereas in “Jump” the photographs have been tampered with to show something that is not real, the only people that have or will ever see the real performance were those present at the time.

From reading this reading Auslander has really left me wondering the validity of photographs. How do we know what we are seeing is really what happened? How will we ever know if these photographs have been edited? Auslander explains that photographs are a great way to document performance but they are also not always reliable and it is the audience’s responsibility to choose to believe what they see.

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Reading 4 – Cook “What is past is prologue: History of archival ideas since 1898, and the future paradigm shift”. Archivaria 43 pp. 17-63

As a first impression of this reading I was drawn to the length, the essay itself is thirty three pages long which made me concerned as to how the writer would keep my attention. After completing this reading I was right to be concerned as the language, writing style and length combined together made this a very heavy reading and one I struggled to follow. In short the essay reviews the pathway of the concept of an archive, it looks at how they were developed, why their purpose has been and now is and finally how they have changed to be socially, politically and culturally relevant.

Archives started as Houses of Memory in 1898 they were designed to be the keys to the collective memory where anything that is worth remembering is stored.  However, in this time period the things that had been forgotten provoke the question of whether it was deliberately removed or done so accidentally. Through this time period there was a large concentration on government control where people of authority could depict who can and can not speak within public and archival settings. As the years progressed there has been proof that many archives have been tampered with, especially during World War One when Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig had the archives changed to make him less culpable for the slaughter on the western front. With the corruption of the archives, rules had to be created but these then became too constricting as they included rules such as “keeping them separate and not mixing any archives across subjects”.

As the years have progressed and the creation and evolution of the computer and telecommunications there was a call for new ways to keep archives, using organised systems and websites. As the growth of archives developed so did the amount of work being submitted to them which then caused a back log and so a process of selection needed to be made but first a way needed to be found. This way was the archivist or keepers, who had to make a personal judgment based on their knowledge and experience within the field of study. Today archives are developing even more and providing a platform for current artists to rediscover artifacts that have been long lost.

The rest of the reading looks in more detail at the reasoning for the changes and the theoretical writings to support the changes.

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Reading 3 – Jones, S. And Abbott, D and Ross, S. (2009), “Redefining the Performing Arts Archive”.

This reading investigates how performance can be represented in the archive, and whether it is actually possible to archive a performance and the methods in which to do this. There are many views and opinions on the discussion of performance within the archival setting one of these opinions is that a record within the archive should act as is a surrogate that provides a window into past moments that can never be recreated. It is however the users responsibility to interact with the record in a performative manner to reinterpret and re-enact the performance. The archive is a snapshot of something that happened at another time and place and is an attempt to capture the events so that others can view or experience then and transfer this experience in to positive inspiration for new work. Stanislavski and other practitioners believe that performance is something that happens once and is loved but should be allowed to disappear as in this disappearance performance is born.

This reading then goes on to talk about the fear of losing performance and that born from this is inadequate representations, therefore explain why there is such a strong need for solid process of how to represent performance in the archive. Although there is no answer yet as to how we can represent performance there are subject areas that must be covered, one is the relationship between performer and audience and the other is memory though embodiment, to correctly present performance both of these must be fairly represented. An example of where this was experimented with was Liz and her Robot, Liz was a dancer who spent a week embodying her robot till she walked and talked the same. This task enabled the robot designers to see how they should improve for future models but unfortunately it was still impossible to document this project. For now theatrical companies are running workshops that allow performers to bring to life the archival sources they discover.

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