Nicholas Birns – Ritualizing the Past: Ralph Lemon’s Counter-Memorials
Quotation: The civil rights era is one made prematurely past, prematurely allowed, by the killing of so many of its leaders. In 2005, Emmett Till would be in his mid-60s, Martin Luther King, Jr. in his mid-70s, Medgar Evers 80, Malcolm X the same age. Nelson Mandela, whom we still look to for moral leadership, is older than any of them.
! – I didn’t realize that if it weren’t for the forced ending of the Civil Rights Movement by the assassination of its leaders and figureheads, the movement probably would have lasted much longer. It would have been a much longer time before we considered that a far off history and those people would still be around to give the first-hand perspective from that time.
Quotation: These occurrences of inhumanity cannot easily be chronicled in conventional narrative leading to cathartic reparation. Artists have long struggled with the challenge of bringing history into their works, without that history being undigested or monumental. Lemon’s work is a model for how art can register the burden of history without claiming a bogus historical self-importance. His work makes clear that any reckoning with the past must be both traumatic and incomplete.
? – How do we analyze/depict history without making it appear monumental or leaving its importance indigested? Does one event have the same historical value as another?
Rebecca Schneider – Performance Remains
Quotation: The archive is habitual to western culture. We understand ourselves relative to the remains we accumulate, the tracks we house, mark, and cite, the material traces we acknowledge…history has been composed of documents because ‘the document is what remains’
! – I hadn’t previously considered archiving a Western Cultural practice. I do now see it through the way we preserve and catalog history. We take note of the remains of history – records, papers written, movies made, etc.
Quotation: And yet if theater refuses to remain, it is precisely in the repeatedly live theater or installation space that a host of recent artists explore history – the recomposition of remains.
? – Does performance have the same value and impact if it can be preserved? Does the attentiveness required for performance when you know it will disappear add to the experience?