Monday, 28 November 2011

Is this a rhetorical device?

[by Mary Paterson.

1000 words and 102 questions. In response to Being Seen, Being Heard at Chelsea Theatre, 27th November 2011. ]

Is this your body?

Is this a space?

Are we in agreement? Have you heard this before? Did you say something?

Are you reading in silence?

If I repeated the question, would your answer be the same or different?

Can I start with this - who is your community? When you read ‘your community’ did you think I meant the community to which you belong, or the community with whom you are currently engaged?

Is it a project of performance to create communities? To designate, service and evaluate them?

Can I ask again – who is your community? Or, to put it another way – how does it feel to be identified?

How does publicly funded (performance) art ensure it is on the side of the community, and not on the side of education or objectification; of corporations or governments? (Is the side of the community, in your opinion, the better side?)

What is an assembly, and who assembles (it)? How does publicly funded (performance) art ensure it is sustainable? Or, to put it another way – how do you know you are doing the right thing?

Are you allowed to say ‘the right thing’ any more?

Are you allowed to talk about racism if you are white? Are you allowed to talk about marginalisation if you are middle class? Are you allowed to talk about racism and marginalisation if you are middle class, inside a theatre, on a council estate, in Chelsea, on a Sunday? Did you think I had forgotten that knowledge is relative?

Is your community defined by your geography, technology or education? Do you use the same criteria to identify other people?

Do you look like him – the man over there with the Apple Mac and the microphone? Does he look like you? Does he point at you and say, ‘me’? Or does he say ‘we’? Or does he say –not in words, perhaps, but by body language, action or implication - ‘I did not hear you, I am going to answer a different question’?

Is this knowledge, culture, education or the production of another kind of value?

Is this public, private, pedagogic or instrumental? Is this mine, or yours? Is this your idea, and if it is, can I use it? Can I use it without permission? What would you do if I took it without permission, took credit for it, used it for propaganda, invented a word and made an exhibition of myself? Would you join me in sitting round a table and asking questions? Why not?

Is this sustainable? Do you and I share the same sense of humour? If I told you a joke, do you think you would laugh? Have you heard the one about the schoolmaster?

Who owns this event? Who is going to intrepret it? What are you willing to believe in? If I told you that all the colours you are seeing right now have been adjusted for warmth, would you feel a) warm b) chilled or c) like complaining? Who would listen to your complaint? Who do you hope would listen?

Is anyone listening? Have you ever suspected anyone of deliberately eavesdropping on your conversations, and then using the information they hear against you? Is anyone, or has anyone ever, hacked into your mobile phone? Have you ever asked anyone to act as your witness? Have you ever been asked to be a witness, and found the task impossible?

What is the difference between witnessing real life and witnessing an act of performance? What is the difference between being a consumer and being an audience member? What is the difference between being in a room and being in an online network?

Can you formulate an argument without a human in it?

What is your skill? What is your authorial expertise? What is your preferred political position, and do you ever think about changing it, just to see how soft and green it is on the other side? Do you still believe in anything? Do you still believe in something? Do you intend to convey meaning?

Where do you appear?

What is contemporary oral culture? What is the difference between data and statisitcs? How do you represent something that has already happened? Why? Is it interesting or tiresome to know that there is no way to regain the live moment? Is it elitist or democratic to mourn its loss?

Is this clear? Is this clearer?

What do you think it means, that your parents’ body language dances across your hands when you speak? What do you think it means about heritage, culture and class? Who are you networking with? What is close, and what is far? Why aren’t you speaking? Who’s fault is that?

What is the right pace, tone or language? In which situation would you be content to have no power, opinions or speech? Who would you nominate to speak for you? Let me rephrase that – is this democracy?

Is this space?

Is this culture? Is this the production of knowledge? Is this education? Is it friendship, social life, or politics? Is it mine or yours?

Is this space next to, inside, outside, under, over or beside another space? Is the other space your preferred space, or are you happy with this one? Be truthful – would you rather be inside another space, looking out at those of us over here? Would you rather be in a tent, with a placard, making your mark? On a scale of 1 to 10, how dangerous is your body? Or, to put it another way, how much danger are you prepared for?

When was the last time you were surprised? Are you on the side of police, politics, charity or justice? What do you need to read before you will read something new? Do you prefer a place of opposition or a place of security? How long is your memory? Where are you going? If you could start again with language, what would be your first word?

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