Amongst Ghosts and Robots


“Together: A Story of Forgetting” was presented as a pre-documentation of Together at the exhibition Amongst Ghosts and Robots at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam in June 2015. This was its accompanying text.

 

“Place for me is the locus of desire. Places have influenced my life as much as, perhaps more than, people. I fall for (or into) places faster and less conditionally than I do for people.”

-Lucy Lippard[1]

 

There are many terms to define a site: Space, place, landscape, city, country, the French wine term terroir or perhaps, region, territory, location, and many more. As a site-specific performance artist I especially like the evocative Welsh term y filltir sgwar (the ‘square mile’ a person grows up in, that immediate area one knows by heart). It points out the strong connection of human association and memory with site, and its transformation. Memory haunts site.

 

Site-specific performance distinguishes itself from theatre on location because of its quality of making the site the main character rather than a background: A site with a history, slow and sudden changes of appearance- a site with character. In my research, I explore the performance’s relationship with the past ‘lives’ of the site- how it might function as archaeology to the site. Performance scholar and artist Mike Pearson sees performance as one of Foucault’s heterotopias: “Places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society, which are something like counter-sites, in which the real, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted.”[2] If the performance is a ‘place’ in itself, how does it interact with the site that it’s set in and/or on? When documenting site-specific performance, it is not only taken away from its liveness, but also its location, that which is supposed to be its essence. If we can never achieve a reconstruction in the full sense, but rather a “recontextualization”[3], how can we preserve and present this performance ‘fossil’?

“If we think of space as that which allows movement, then place is pause; each pause in movement makes it possible for location to be transformed into place”[4]. Perhaps it is the movement of site-specific performance that allows the participant to move in between the pause and continuum. Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of striation and smoothness[5] come to mind here. The motion creates an experiential space: in between multiplicities of duration and space. This duality of a ‘place’ (whether this is site, performance, or documentation), that can function as both smooth and striated, allows it the fluidity and transformative power we find when speaking of memory.

 

Together premieres in Barnstaple (North Devon, UK) on June 25th 2015, one day after the opening of this exhibition. This results in the performance documentation being the final work -even though it will take place before the actual performance- requiring a sense of solidity before allowing it to reach its fluid state of being, of being performed in its site. Perhaps this way the documentation can cease to be the ‘afterlife’ of performance, but rather one of the many lives it leads- part of its smoothness and striation. A piece of fluid memory, but also of creation. And perhaps even a hand to touch the intangible ghosts of performance, memory and site with.

 

-Roos Bekkenkamp

 


[1] L Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (New York City: The New Press, 1998), p. 4

[2] M Foucault, Of Other Spaces, Diacritics 16, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1986, p. 24

[3] M Pearson and J Thomas, Theatre/Archaeology, The Drama Review Vol. 38 No. 4, MIT Press, New York City, 1994, p. 141

[4] Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The perspective of experience, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, [1977] 2011), p. 174

[5] G Deleuze and F Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press), pp. 474-501