Devecka, Unit Five: ?! for Schneider and Birns


!: Equating performance with disappearance (while it sounds artsy and intellectual) actually ends up devaluing the traditions of people who do not archive. It says that these people do not have a history and ignores the transmission power of performance. Instead, the key is to realize that performance itself can be a form of archive, housed in the memory of viewers, performers, and listeners. We need to acknowledge its staying power in order to avoid dismissing the full value of non-Western historical tradition.

“Such statements assume that memory cannot be housed in a body and remain, and thus that oral storytelling, live recitation, repeated gesture, and ritual enactment are not practices of telling or writing history.”

Schneider, p. 101

?: By arguing that performance cannot be recorded or saved, don’t performance studies scholars make performance just as exclusive as the archive? Not everyone can access written materials, and not everyone can access a live performance either. Recording it and preserving it, while changing the experience and the medium somewhat, make it more accessible for those who cannot afford to be there. If we’re talking about inclusivity, isn’t there a value in that, despite the flaws of archives?


!: The past can be constructed to follow any argument or teach any lesson. Facts are a lot slipperier than we are taught to imagine. Whatever has been decided about the past (whatever the powerful considered to be its ‘lesson’ or thought important enough to preserve) is what we take for determinate fact, when there’s a lot left out. It’s less important to look for lessons than to understand the connections of the past to the present and see how its impact is still directly felt.

“America is a society without any palpable relation to history, a society particularly ahistorical when it assumes it is ultra-historical. The ultra-historicism of official memorials makes us think the past is finished, when we still have the power to construct it… Ralph Lemon upends complacent assumptions that the past is a resource to be mined for determinate meaning. His work opens up a field of counter-memory in which what was supposed to be “historical experience” is in fact still taking place.”

Birns, p. 22

?: Does the performance lose value if we think of it as only a part of the process (“the performance is an outgrowth of a larger process, not an inevitable event” p. 19), and Lemon showcases all stages of his work (in multiple media) and all the pieces of the process besides that one are preserved?

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