Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Inside Performance Volume 24. no.1 2011

By Rachel Lois Clapham

Volume 24. no.1 of Dance Theatre Journal comes out of the short festival of screen dance ‘What if...’ at Siobhan Davies Dance, London, April 2010. The texts in this special issue, guest edited by Lucy Cash and Theron Schmidt, all circle around central themes of the festival; documentation, choreography or how to ‘write’ performance. The texts in the magazine are by ten writers who were present at the festival, and who were charged with writing the What if... performances. And me.

For Inside Performance Vol. 24 No.1 I acted as first reader of the then unpublished magazine. I selected phrases from the respective contributor’s pages and compiled them onto one page. The result is a new text in the form of an assemblage that reflects on performance writing, writing performance and the performance of writing.

The text acts as a weird coda, or postscript, one that points first and foremost to the content in this particular issue. Indeed, the reader can trace back each phrase to its place of origin through an adjacent index if they wish. In doing this, the reader would re-(W)read the magazine 'out of sequence' from its published numerical page progression. However, I imagine this index to be purely latent, an indication of place, as it is difficult to imagine any reader - however avid- tracing laboriously through page and line numbers to locate a certain phrase in situ. [i] It could also be read more widely as an exercise that WORKS the writing of performance / performance of writing, and as such could be repeated in any publication or place.

Being first reader of the material and extracting from it in this way was a deeply circular exercise - making a text about performance writing from a series of texts about writing performance from a performance festival. In this, it was also satisfying; the writerly equivalent of spring cleaning – paying close, perhaps exorbitant, attention to punctuation and small sentences in dusty corners. As a process, it was one of refining, distilling or WORKING text through a series of sorting, copying and pasting gestures [ii].

In retaining the format of the original phrases in their transposition to the back page, their formatting becomes erstwhile. And when assembled together the individual phrases seem loosed from their original place and meaning; a sense of site-specificity is implied. An attempt to run against the grain of FLAT PACK writing. Conversely, the text can be read from beginning to end as a whole. And although primarily disjointed, at times the extracted phrases collide with one another to make a narrative all their own.

Structural only to a degree, there is no discernible pattern, particular linguistic bent or blanket treatment of the phrases, no rules that I have devised for the assembly. In many cases, I transposed the text somewhat arbitrarily. In others, a different sense of purpose- although no less purposeful- of unfolding or sense-making prevailed. In this re-sequencing are physical, dense and diacritical gestures that imply a warp and weft; a movement of text, of the reader and of the writing itself.

Click here 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.

Previous columns here and here

[i] However, this kind of keen readership is what I imagined when creating the piece. It is why I worked meticulously on correctly pinpointing each line and page number throughout the various edits of the magazine. This latent referentiality, then, should be considered critical. This occasional nature of how people might (not) read this text is also linked to the desire to look, rather than read, that it generates.

[ii] How is this different from creating, or writing? In fact, each chosen phrase was re-typed by myself into the assemblage, and so re-written. HOW does this matter?

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