statements from today and thinking about the original

These were the statements regarding the question of documentation from today’s session:

  • performance’s life is in the present. Its ontology (nature) – and perhaps strength – is expressed through disappearance (Phelan 1993).
  • ways of knowing and experiences are deeply embodied in the liveness of the performance events themselves
  • we are responsible for communication and preservation (Rye, 2003)
  • the unrecorded has no value (objects of knowledge, economies of reproduction) (McQuire, 1998)
  • there is no such thing as pure “live” performance, and liveness is only a *thing* because recording technologies came into being (Auslander, 1999)

thinking about the original

  • the term documentation can assume simplistic relationship to the original
  • that live performance is real, original or true, and documentation is a poor cousin
  • what if the temporal relationship between performance and documentation is not as simple or obvious as you might imagine?
  • what if documentation’s primary role is no longer preservation?

some key things to consider (or takeaway?)

  • if the terms of documenting practice (or performance) are open, then how does writing fit into the picture?
  • basic project would have three key surfaces: artwork, traces of this artwork, written component
  • this potentially falls into (not the worst) trap of everything serving the artwork
  • single project with many surfaces
  • the nature of the relationship(s) between these surfaces to reveal your understanding in relation to the work of others
  • juggling the poetic with the discursive
  • skeptical attitude towards reflection (it’s critical)
  • consider our practices as comprising materials and traces (and indeed how these overlap or may even be synonymous)
  • what is the nature of our materials-traces?

questions for personal reflection

  • what are the materials-traces of your practice(s)?
  • what kinds of relationships exist between them?
  • what ideas might they be serving other than your practice?
  • what kinds of writing might make sense with these materials-traces?
  • how might they change or help evolve your practice?
  • what is missing?
  • what are others doing that you might steal?
  • what is un/necessary?
  • what is most/least clear?
  • who else has handled or developed similar materials-traces?
  • what becomes available to you?
  • how do these *other* materials-traces function? What if they are not other? How is a singular proposition, work or iteration emerging from my practice?
  • how might we understand *loss* and *gain* in relation to traces, documentation, liveness and originality?

roles of documentation

A brief list of potential roles of documentation. Note that the list does not consider or question the appropriateness of the word documentation.

Roles of documentation

  • Evidence (related to dissemination)
  • To stimulate memory of the performance event (Phelan, 1993)
  • Pressure to develop reproducible forms
  • Interest in developing reproducible forms
  • New audiences
  • Economic benefit
  • Professional benefit
  • Continue and diversify creative processes
  • Increase cultural authority (Lycouris, 2000)
  • To foreground the disappearance of performance
  • To prevent performance disappearing (preservation)
  • To question the disappearance of performance
  • To acknowledge performance’s incompleteness (Lycouris, 2000)
  • To trace or map
  • Reflection
  • Understanding
  • Evocation


the future that will not be

The paradox is that in writing a testimony to the power of the undocumentable and nonreproductive I engage the document of the written reproducible text itself. This is the paradox of Lacan’s Real, the Real-impossible toward which we aspire and whose failure to realize is utterly assured. In the fulsome guarantee of this failure, writing records the memory of the image of the future that will not be – the one I will never see. (They are dying and they have taken that future with them.) I am writing in that blank about that disappearance.

– Phelan, Peggy. 1993. Unmarked. London: Routledge, p.31