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Autobiographical Practice

Exploring the temporal signatures in memories and archives formed the beginning of my autobiographical practice:

I wanted to investigate the interrelationship between time, body and matter by developing a performance exploring how the performers’ and audience-participants' perception of temporality is affected when human and non-human bodies and objects connect in performance.

In living with my adopted snail (I eventually had to transfer 14 of them to other homes and kept only one living with me still: Kelly) I kept noticing similarities between my relationship to her and my relationship to my grandfather, who since then passed. Caring for this creature who I didn´t always understand, who sometimes delights me with her presence and sometimes disturbs me with her fragility, messiness and unpredictability, in my constant worrying about her well-being in the near future, in my navigation of the distances (both geographically and temporally) between us, in my expectation that she will be there for me when I need her (even though I know that I cannot ensure her co-operation) I sensed a convergence with my relationship to my grandfather in Germany suffering of dementia and approaching the end of his life.

It felt only right that I would be drawing on my relationship to my grandfather over time and my experience of time through witnessing the progression of his dementia. I decided to focus on our relationship of care over and against time and geographical distance. I performatively compared our human relationship to my relationship of care in nurturing my snail, Kelly. I cast Kelly in the role of my grandfather, and we performed together in a snail race against time.

Jens Brockmeier in his book Beyond the Archive* focuses on the fusion of personal memories with their interpretation in larger narrative ideas as an approach to autobiographical remembering (2015, 23) and describes several polychronic forms of autobiographical time as ways of ‘temporal self-localization’ (25). My perception of my Opa´s dementia causing him to revisit fragments of his past to construct his present led me to search for a form capable of conjuring his seemingly polychronic temporality.

In Dust I also drew on my learning from the soil workshop: I created a participatory and intimate space inviting my audience to handle soil and encounter the matter with all their senses as part of the performance.

*Brockmeier, J. (2015) Beyond the Archive: Memory, Narrative, and the Autobiographical Process, New York, Oxford University Press.

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I first noticed the change in pace affected by matter performance during my soil practice and set out to explore it further in the development of a solo performance (Dust). I was intrigued by the soil´s ability to gently direct my audience´s attention to their own temporality.

It resulted in a slow, tentative, and intimate performance quality.

By allowing my participants to explore and experience the sensory stimuli of the matter I enabled a deceleration to occur as their individual rhythms adapted to the communally established pace encountering the soil.

Carl Lavery writes of similar deceleration practices in his consideration of postdramatic case-studies producing time ecologies and describes theatre´s potential to produce ‘new types of temporal experience’ (2018, 76) breaking with the acceleration of modern production rhythms. He aligns himself with Barbara Adam´s definition of time ecology (Adam 1997) in emphasising the multiplicity of natural temporality away from the anthropocentric, accelerationist, and sequential understanding and performing of time (Lavery, 2018, 79).

Adam, B., K. Geissler, M. Held, K. Kummerer, and M. Schneider. (1997) ‘Time for the Environment: The Tutzing Time Ecology Project.’ Time & Society 6 (1), 73-84.

Lavery, C. (2018) ‘Theatre and time ecology: deceleration in Stifters Dinge and L’Effet de Serge’, Performance and Ecology: What Can Theatre Do?, Lavery, C. (ed.), Abingdon, Routledge: 76-95.

Autobiographical: About
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