Regenerating the live: the archive as the genesis of a performance practice

Dunne, Joseph (2015) Regenerating the live: the archive as the genesis of a performance practice. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


Live performance lacks the durability of art practices such as photography, film and
painting, and so definitions of ‘live’ acts have traditionally been formulated in terms
of ‘transience’ and ‘disappearance’. In this context the archive and archival documents
are often described as the antithesis of performance’s ontology. An archive’s primary
function is to preserve material for future, undetermined uses, whereas a live event is
temporary and cannot endure as ‘itself’ outside of the temporal-spatial zone it unfolds
in before an audience. Yet archival documents are intimately imbricated in the
creation of live acts. This can be seen in all performance practices, from written plays
in the dramatic theatre, to the assemblage of materials used in devised performance, to
the ways sites are framed as sources of historical knowledge in performance reenactments.
By examining the role documents play in performance practice I argue
that archival materials have the potential to act as the genesis for live acts.
The archive’s generative function makes performance a potential method of historical
research, where documents can help engender an interactive reciprocity between
spectators and the past. The archival mode of performance practice I advocate in this
thesis requires spectators to become participants inside the performance sphere, just as
historians participate in the writing of historical discourses in the archive.
There are several practice-as-research components to my project. These include the
Audience as Document events and two workshops. The primary practice-as-research
event is a participatory site-specific performance Voices from the Village. The
Olympic Village in Stratford, East London, is framed as a type of authoritative
historical document that works as a meta-narrative of London’s past. The Olympic
Legacy anchors the memories of East London’s residents to a time they are
encouraged to re-live in their everyday lives. At the centre of contemporary urban
regeneration projects is a firm conviction that the future can be built in the here-andnow.
Participants are guided through the Village and by two tour guides who attempt
to inculcate them into the Legacy Project – a new type of citizenry based upon the
neoliberal hegemony. In the third part participants explore what would happen if the
neighbouring Hackney Wick estate was ‘regenerated’ in the future. My practice
examines how documents in performance can act as interlocutors between a site’s
past(s) and a participant’s ‘live’ experience. The enduring form of digital documents
creates a manifold afterlife for performance on the Web, which is the home of an
evolving network of people who connect to each other through their re-interpretation
of the Olympic Legacy. I am arguing that the life of a performance does not end over
a fixed duration, but is instead a dialogic process with a multitude of access points.

Keywords:Performance, Practice as research, Archives
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
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ID Code:22280
Deposited On:11 Feb 2016 09:31

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