I hang between the rich provocations evoked by this piece: the Past where longing, loss, nostalgia, iconic kitsch, arbitrary destruction, and ubiquitous violence mark a sense that we have driven so far past the sign to our intended destination that there is no point turning back now; the Present where versions of protest have become self-referentially harmful; and the Future where protest is absurdly institutionalized, but freedom remains tantalizingly elusive.
This piece foregrounds the importance of the imagination, dreaming, and nightmares in relation to memory and time. However, it provokes two challenges in my mind: Firstly, how do we fold time, create what Fabian refers to as coeval “intersubjective time” (1983:24), which implicates the present in the past, the observer in the installation, and thereby make visible not only the legacies of the past, but also its processes? Jacqui Alexander refers to “palimsestic time” (2005:1); which layers time and thus asks us how to relativize what has gone before.
Secondly, this piece provokes me to ask: how do we move beyond the representational and communicate surreal imaginings when societies in general and theatre in particular are trapped within systems of signs, epistimologies of knowledge and memories? Barad terms this “a representationalist trap of geometrical optics“ (2003: 802), which she argues ends up being an “infinite play of images between two facing mirrors [where] the epistemological gets bounced back and forth, but nothing more is seen” (Ibid, 803). How do we provoke audiences to see something new?
On considering how to move this description of a performance to an authentic theatrical event, my immediate response is through radio. Then I could hear the text and make meaning in my own mind; give body, color, setting, meaning to the images that drift toward me. In my imagination, the significance of color, gender, age diminish as I place my own people and parallel stories alongside those I hear, or are suggested by voices. In my mind I can escape the representationalism of visual images of television, film, live theatre where the characters’ appearances replicate the world I already know. And here I reflect nostalgically on South African pre-1976, where families and friends gathered to listen to the ‘wireless’ on Friday nights, silently listening collectively to the stories and after excitedly discussing plots, characters and next episodes; or unpack the sports game we only saw in our minds through the commentators. Individually and collectively we constructed our own worlds through sound and our imaginations.
How to achieve this in theatre? How can we challenge and fragment signs and epistemologies and so create the world anew?
Alexander, M. Jacqui. (2005), Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Barad, K. (2003) “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28:3, 801-831.
Fabian, Johannes. 1983. Time and the Other: How anthropology makes its object, New York: Columbia University Press.