Wednesday, 8 June 2016

House as performance archive

June 1st 2016
I listened to Mike Pearson at York University last night Professor Mike Pearson ('Revisiting Theatre/Archaeology' Humanities Research Centre). He spoke of theatre and archaeology, and it made me consider the house as site, and for the performance research to be an archaeology of sorts in the way that the house becomes a live archive of the activities taking place there, and of the associative memories and meanings that are indexed by the house in all that entails.  I was interested in his consideration of the forensic – that in reading a site we sort through the ‘garbage’ to filter the ‘evidence’. I reflect on how I am approaching the house as a site of research.  How do I distinguish the evidence from the garbage?

Is the home an inviolable object – impregnable - not to be dishonoured?
Does it reflect the social milieu of its inhabitants?

What then is the performance in / of the house doing? Taking Pearson’s understanding of performance as ‘doing’ (here he makes reference to Butler) I reflect that the actions of research that I make are largely going unrecorded: moving around the building; looking ‘differently’ at things I have thought of as familiar – cracks in the ceiling, the fall of curtains, the play of light on the wall. I do activities that are housework cleaning, cooking, making beds, but that ‘slip’ into the frame of artwork through the presence of the camera, or simply the added awareness of self-observation.

I start to think of the house as an archive. The performance then becomes and action of ordering, curating, managing the archive. Engaging with the place cannot be only in the material but in the representational– what the house ‘represents’. In Pearson’s terms of the archaeological this process is a re-articulation of the past. But for/ of whom? Is this a past that actually ‘resides’ in my bodily experience and therefore is not of the house, (as Andre Lapecki might suggest – the body is/ as archive), or is it something that exists / is traced in the material of the house – in those cracks in the plaster and folds in the curtains? In a sense, by moving house we bring with us all the archive of previous houses – previous homes. This house is a palimpsest of all the houses – all the homes. (Activated by the transposing of furniture or belongings from one house to another – where ever I lay my hat…). But also in the sense that this house contains the layers of activity of many, multiple occupancies, reflected in traces of it’s previous form – the remnant of wallpaper revealed when a fixture is removed, dents in the paint work, or large architectural interventions of loft conversions and garage extensions. The house morphs, adapts to it’s inhabitants but nonetheless remains fixed, installed and rigid.

I become interested in the cracks – as metaphor for decay and in their actual physical appearance. They are drawings into the surface. They are fissures. Fragmented, fragmenting.
Pearson suggests that the fragment always implies the archaeological – that the fragment traces the aftermath of the event –it is a document. These documents stand in for the past.
It becomes a kind of material matter – that ‘matters’.

Pearson suggests that the site operates as a mnemonic – assisting the remembering of incidents and events past. I suggest that it is also a score – directing future incidents, offering rigid direction to the activity – and therefore the performance ‘doing in the house. For example, the stairs can be negotiated in the conventional way  - walking up and down, or I can experiment with pace (run) body orientation (slide head first) or intention (stop on one step), but inevitably the staircase itself dictates a direction of diagonal travel, or ascent or descent. It also references every journey on the stairs (sitting playing as a child, falling down with a full tea cup, running for the bathroom, sliding down on your bottom…). These are the quotidian events that mark the house as ‘home’. They reinforce presence in and in turn belonging to the home.

In turn the objects of the home are a shifting private history. The performance, in the forensic metaphor, becomes a sifting and filtering process – allocating additional value to the souvenir, tool and furnishing. I say souvenir in the sense that Susan Stewart uses the term in On Longing. She uses a phenomenological and psychoanalytical approach to understanding the objet in relation to the body experience, space and time and memory, but also psychoanalysis to discuss to the object as fetish or the desired. I am interested therefore in the transference of signification that occurs in the process of performance; that the performance action ‘lifts’ the object (indeed the whole house) away from the role of commodity, social anthropology or decorative, into something other.

If as Pearson suggests the art object is the interface of archaeology and culture (Pearson Shanks 2001: 33) is the performance art ‘object’ also such an interface? Is then the ‘method’ here one of auto-ethnography where I unpack the process of performance as an uncovering? Does this performance action alter what is valid – does it shift the focus of the forensic way from the evidence and towards to garbage?

Action response
Taking Pearson’s notion of the archaeological I am going to conduct a survey of the ‘pre-historic’ inhabitants of the house through an investigation of the cracks, marks, traces of previous presences. My research question is – how does the haptic exploration reveal something unknown of the building and therefor my relationship to/ with the building?
I will do this through drawing, movement. I am looking for the unexplainable, and the unfamiliar.

No comments:

Post a Comment