Unit 5, Post 1 by Luke Wanden
Whilst difficult and highly intellectual, I found reading the texts by Schneider and Birns to be engaging for me in the way performance is discussed as ritualizing and commemorating historical moments in way not previous accepted or thought of as “correct” memorialization’s. I felt the link to cultural stereotypes and how they have been constructed throughout history was very strong in both texts. This is especially seen in Schneider’s explanation of how Performance has long been rejected as a historical practice, and Birns use of the Duluth, MN lynching to show cultural parallels between racism in the Northern and Southern United States.
Schneider’s article “Perfomance Remains” I felt was trying to convey the idea that the art of performance can more clearly be understood as an archive of cultural expression coming together. Performance itself has long been rejected by historians as a historical practice mainly due to the long-held definition of something which is “continually lost in time” (pg. 101). The fact that performance does not physically present or sediment itself, as described in the text, contributed to this school of thought for thousands of years. Schneider, I believe would view this as an ignorance of understanding the “appearance” of performance in its non-physical omnipresence.
Birns’ article was one I actually found myself surprisingly engaged with, especially in relation to me interest of Southern US History. The description of the work of Ralph Lemon was interesting as I felt the reader was understanding better the process that culture and geography have on one’s reconciliation between the past and the present. The description of Lemon’s travels to both West Africa and the Southern USA were moving, however I felt the strongest part which stuck out to me emotionally was the viewing of the lynching site in his hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. I was immediately relating this to similar readings in my Southern US History class, about the concept of “northern innocence” and “southern guilt.” This idea can be described in one question I believe. Why do Northerners view themselves as morally superior to Southerners, whilst overlooking their own wrongdoings and racial injustices. The lack of a memorial highlights the fact that Northerners turn a blind eye to their past which is just as harsh as the South. “Lemon’s improvisational memorial seems more powerful in emotional terms, even though now any trace of it ever happening is gone from the site.” I understood this to be a key turning point in Lemon’s understanding of the past, and how often the lack of recognition (eg. Memorial) can speak more words than one itself ever could. I believe the work of Lemon can teach us as Americans a lot about how we view and understand history and how to reconcile our cultural differences despite the past. Ignorance is a dangerous concept.