paulstapleton.doc - Dialogic Evidence Documentation of...

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Dialogic Evidence: Documentation of Ephemeral Events by Paul Stapleton © 2007 Abstract Performance and documentation have long been characterised as oppositional practices, separated by competing voices which argue the virtues of disappearance and reproducibility. In response to this state of affairs, the recently completed Dialogic Evidence project was designed to explore the possibility (and the limits) of a productive co-existence between performance and documentation practices. In this paper I reflect on this project’s processes and outcomes, particular highlighting the potential of social web technologies as a collaborative means to archive, discuss and remember live performance. Introduction This paper will explore a range of perspectives on the relationship between performance and documentation practices, specifically reflecting on the primary outcomes of my recent 10-month research project Dialogic Evidence: Documentation of Ephemeral Events . The project was active from mid September 2006 to mid July 2007, and was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Small Grants in the Creative and Performing Arts Scheme. Historically, performance documentation has commonly been characterised as an unfaithful representation of the ephemeral art experience. 1 However, in recent years the relationship between documentation and live performance practices has moved towards reconciliation. The reasons for such a shift are many, possibly including the validation of new methods in performance research, the use of new digital technologies within performance, anxieties over disappearing legacies, and the widespread acceptance of the personal and cultural value of mediated memories. Yet not all are encouraged by the promises of digital technologies or the increasing demands for reproducible evidence by funding bodies and archive-oriented institutions. The role that documentation plays in the recording of performance continues in certain arenas to be described as negative or destructive towards the knowledges embodied in live events. It may be that this oppositional view is a reaction to the misuse of positivistic imperatives in the context of performative research (i.e. knowledge must be quantifiably measurable, repeatable, transcultural, and objective, leading towards generalized theories), or to economic values that emphasise the need for reproducible products. Such values are 1 See discussion of monologic and dialogic approaches to documentation in ‘Why Document Performance’ and the notion of preservation vs. performative documentation in ‘Liveness’ below.
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discernable in forms of academic assessment and validation that privilege documents of performance over performance per se. In reaction to this state of affairs, several researchers have made the case for replacing performance documentation with older forms of oral dissemination, which as Caroline Rye has suggested, ‘share with performance an emphasis on the live as a knowledge-producing encounter’ (2003:2-3).
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