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from a presentation on the development of an interactive DVD-ROM of the performance work ‘carrying Lyn’
I always try to start with the big obvious questions:
Why make a document ?
What is it for ?
Is documentation a good thing ? (for the work?) – I’m really not sure.
For me, the document can be destructive - or at least counter productive.
In practice: works anticipate, and hope for, a disparate range of responses and interpretations. And often intend hearsay and anecdote to define the ripple event of their consequences.
Documentation is always partial, and usually inadequate. Yet even the impoverished viewpoint of a document acquires authority – and can easily undermine the work it tries to reveal.
Over the years, we have actively not documented much of this work.
But we have archived the material the works generated, and the fragments from which they were original made – in their original form.
There is clearly a range of intentions:
Simply to acquire a ‘receipt’ – to prove it happened.
To argue for it – to insist on its place within ‘the archive’.
The impulse is often to represent the work as defined by specific threads of success or failure identified with hindsight. Or that become important or relevant at some time later.
In practice: this impulse feeds directly back in to the work, into the next piece, to be tested there.
I am working from the position that it would be a mistake to attempt to reanimate the moment of performance.
There is no meaningful equivalent for the ‘live’ within a document – only description and explanation.
A document cannot re-present a performance in any real sense.
But it can engage strategies that re-present and re-animate the work and material that a performance embodied.
My main intention in this case:
Simply to try.
This is work, an instance of practice, a proposition.
An attempt to document the room event of ‘carrying Lyn’, by re-presenting the material, within another, publishable, form.
To look at this interactive disk simply as another site.
To identify the relevant threads and fragments of material.
To find a form for them appropriate to that site.
And to re-structure the delivery and encounter of that material for this new place.
Not to explain – argue for - or analyse.
But to try to enable another kind of first hand encounter with the work.
It is easy to be wrong footed by some sort of Newtonian assumption that the more accurately the event can be measured and recorded, the more accurately it can be understood.
Apart from the impossibility of ‘accuracy’ in this context – much more can be revealed by the choice of what to measure, and by the choice of ruler.
In focusing on the material, rather than on the moment of its original presentation – one thing becomes clearer:
However consistent the strategies and structures of delivery – between these two forms – this process of re-presentation has almost nothing to do with what the original event looked like.
There are problems for documentation: in confusing what a spectator might see within a moment of performance, with the physical appearance of that moment.
They are not the same. A description of one will not reveal the other.
The room was fundamental to the experience and reading of the assemblage event of ‘carrying Lyn’ – but its role was simply to enable and provoke that experience.
A role now taken on by the graphics and structure of this disk.
The appearance and structure of the room holds no information or value in this new context.
It is what people ‘saw’ in the room – what they met - that I am trying to re-present. – Not the vehicle of that meeting.
Successful or not ?
The answer as always: in some ways yes, in some ways no.
Something also true of the original event.
One thing lost:
The provisionality of the live event – fundamental to its dynamic and ‘sense’.
A meeting shaped by the act of construction - of trying to make a possible sense of these fragments ‘at the time’ – and of having to live with the accumulating consequences of those choices.
That provisionality has no genuine place in this re-presentation – to try to build it in would be contrived.
To a large extent: its loss is the price of the document’s authority.
Text and images reproduced courtesy of Mike Brookes.
Further discussion of Pearson/Brookes' work is available through the Presence project at [link]. Mike Brookes' website is at [link]