Friday, 15 October 2010

INSIDE PERFORMANCE Dance Theatre Journal Volume 23 no. 4

By Rachel Lois

INSIDE PERFORMANCE, Rachel Lois's regular column for Dance Theatre Journal, is this month entitled A Script about Fantastic Diagrams and consists of an collaboration between David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham and Alex Eisenberg on diagrams in writing and making performance. It begins:
‘Throughout summer 2009 Rachel Lois Clapham, Alex Eisenberg and David Berridge are reading Richard Kostelanetz’s (RK) 1975 anthology Essaying Essays. Its abundance of forms - drawing on performance scripts, conceptual art, concrete poetry, experimental fiction and critical prose - feed into various individual and collective projects.

For a planned DTJ collaboration the three return repeatedly to Richard’s description of the diagram in his introduction to Essaying Essays, relating it to their own differing engagements with writing about and making performance. Throughout several months of meetings, phone and email conversations Richard’s celebration of the diagram is repeatedly summoned to embody a certain sense of writerly possibility that is simultaneous, open and fantastic...’

The column continues as a travelling conversation in script form, sited across various times and locations between Richard (via excerpts of Essaying Essays), David (from his bed, a café in Brick Lane, and in spirit), Rachel Lois and Alex (on the telephone in Bradford and London respectively). Through various 'takes' of the script a personal sense of the term diagram, and the act of diagramming, emerges as conceptually enmeshed within the process and product of performance: as potent tool for (w)reading, as sympathetic critical opener and as definitely speculative performance document.
This personal, almost hopeful, sense of the diagram as a writerly form and endeavour - which, as a recently awoken and angry David is keen to point out, retains a sense of space that is distinct from that of drawing - is countered and extended by two diagram pieces inserted outside A Script About Fantastic Diagrams proper, which appear unannounced amongst the remaining journal content.

For the first insert, Alex diagrams the journey of his telephone conversation with Rachel Lois on one side of a double spread. On the other side, his cut-out template lightly mimes page 27; Theron Schmidt’s text on anti-messianic theatre. In the second insert, David writes A Syllabus for Diagrams in which he tracks a lineage of historic diagram examples – from Claude E. Shannon, through George Brecht, around Ricardo Basbaum and out towards Alexander Rodchenko. The the cut-out template for this piece serves as a backdrop for p35; text by Joao Florencio on the difference and dissensus of drag politics along with a very particular photograph (Christophe Chemin) of a man-cum-musical instrument.

Both these diagrammatic moments point outside themselves, pivoting away from the proposition set out by the main script and activate material that lies adjacent to them in the journal (as well as reflecting back onto the diagrams themselves when folded closed) to create new meanings. It is perhaps this sense of activation that pinpoints how exactly diagrams might frustrate - as both process and product. The script ends with David commenting on the confounding nature of the diagram. It lacks the commonality that language brokenly attains. Its possibilities remain resistant, its sociality is, well, odd. It tantalizes with its ambition, yet must be rationed. I say farewell to the diagram here.’

The published reading list offers more opportunities for joy, hope and frustration in the form of diagrams.


Yve-Alain Bois ed. Gabriel Orozco (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2009).

Ricardo Basbaum, “Diagrams” in Casco Issues 10: The Great Method, 83-92.

Julia Born, “Secret Instructions” in Zak Kyes & Mark Owens, Forms of Inquiry: The Architecture of Critical Graphic Design (Architectural Association, London, 2007), 88-93.

Joan Jonas & Sung Hwan Kim, “Three short conversations on seven different objects” in Sung Hwan Kim (Rotterdam, Witte de With, 2009), 31-48.

Richard Kostelanetz, Essaying Essays (New York, Out of London Press, 1975).

Richard Kostelanetz, ed. Scenarios: Scripts to Perform (Assembling Press, New York,1980).

Marie Neurath & Robin Kinross, The transformer: principles of making Isotype charts (London, Hyphen Press, 2009).

Astrit Schmidt-Burkhrdt, Macunias’ Learning Machines: From Art History to a Chronology of Fluxus (Vice Versa Verlag, Berlin, 2003).

Paul Auster, New York Trilogy, (Penguin Books, 1990)

Georges Perec Life: A User Manual (Vintage Books, 1978, Eng. 1987)

Adrian Heathfield Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh (MIT Press,2009)


Click here for details of how to buy Dance Theatre Journal

INSIDE PERFORMANCE is a serialised writing project developed by Rachel Lois Clapham for Dance Theatre Journal. Taking the form of a regular newspaper or magazine ‘column’ INSIDE PERFORMANCE is a periodic journey into the practice of writing from or as performance.

For other columns click here, and here


Rachel Lois is Co-Director of Open Dialogues, a UK based collaboration that produces critical writing on and as performance.

Alex Eisenberg is an artist making performance, live art and writing. He lives and works in London and is a member of the performance group - Present

David Berridge is a writer who lives in London and curates VerySmallKitchen

Richard Kostelanetz’s work appears in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists ...

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