Reenactment as building intimacy

“There were elements to consider – ones we couldn’t have predicted. How the Friday afternoon light made squat desks and the grey veneer of lockers suddenly beautiful…Phrases, words and letters floating around the classroom with their own mad logics: “Pathogens Gallery Walks” (Figure 18)…”Carina Loves Anthony.”…The grids of neon post-it notes pooling in the corner (Figure 6)…”¹

Alyssa Niccolini and Maya Pindyck intimately describe their first experience of an intervention they carried out at a school classroom in New York. The classroom shows itself to be a collection of entities mapping the use and history of the space. They describe their later replication of this experience through mapping the photos on the floor and tracing assemblages between the objects in the same way a Director might study film stills. The images provide a glimpse into that space and event as a collection of many things acting with each other, “The melamine of the desk carries the force of history; a desk is a composite of plastics, metal, formaldehyde, underbellies of gum and snot, a patina of finger oils.”²

patternings_classroom_acts

Source: Figure 5 – “Patternings” – photo grids from Pindyck, M; Niccolini, A. ‘Classroom acts: New materialisms and haptic encounters in an urban classroom’, Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology 2015, 6(2) http://journals.hioa.no/index.php/rerm, pp. 5

Recently, I have been considering the potentials of reenactment as a process of returning to and reassessing an event. I recall specifically the case of having my £20 stolen and the objects involved in that interaction, extending a performance of 2 main characters to many different kinds of characters – the walls of the railway bridge, the ATM machine, the ticket machine and the clothes rail to name but a few. I returned to that space to document the site through drawings and photographs a number of weeks after my first encounter there. The exercise unveiled an eerie patina to this place. An unusual relationship seemed to build between myself and the objects which were involved in that transaction that day, as they seemed to stare back, cold and unyielding. Without Sympathy. I began to reconstruct a ‘world’ of these details that might offer a way in to making sense of the events as they happened. In doing so, I think it may spark a new relationship with the space that lends itself to practices of ‘world-building’ in theatre and production design disciplines.

It is also in this vein of directing, production and performance that has led me to delve into reenactments as a method of building intimacy and interaction in an event. The Association of Lincoln Presenters is one such large organisation dedicated to preserving the legacy of Abraham and Mary Lincoln through performance.

the_association_of_Lincolns

Source: ‘The Association of Lincoln Presenters’,  http://www.lincolnpresenters.com/

Rebecca Schneider pays particular attention to the ALP’s motto, a deliberate misquote by Edward Stanton on the occasion of Lincoln’s Death: ‘Now he belongs to the stages’³. In reading into this, Schneider notes how this reveals something about the nature of theatricality in representing history as much as it does to the process of reenactment. It was noted also that this particular quote was likely to have been inaccurately recorded, with uncertainty over whether Stanton uttered ‘angels’ rather than ‘ages’, or something of this nature (owing in part to lack of mechanical documentation). Although the ALP mark themselves as ‘presenters’ of Lincoln rather than ‘reenactors’, the comical effect of photos such as this may suggest something of parody. The reproduction of reenactments as an art form that intends to capture vivid detail of time, place and events all lend themselves to theatricality.

Source: senseileskee/Twitter from Weber, S. ‘Teens go viral with delightful shot-for-shot reenactment of ‘Mulan’ scene’, [article] first published 2018, The Daily Dot, https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/mulan-reenactment-viral-video/

It is through this theatricality that some reenactors may wish to experience time actually reoccurring for them, or to understand through that experience the intricacies of that particular fractured moment as written. In the example above of ‘Micronesian Mulan’, school kids participate in the opposite instance, having a fictional depiction in Disney’s film translate into a live action, meticulously crafted sequence. In bringing it into the ‘real’ and the present, we see in the reenactments a process of othering that occurs between viewer and the particular moments being portrayed. It is this othering I experienced whilst documenting South Croydon railway station also, as if in the act of documenting and retracing that strange interaction between myself and ‘Ryan’, I was in some way disconnecting myself from that space and event, distancing myself from it whilst being aware that I was simultaneously a very active presence within it.

Considering this, and the eeriness of the objects (which also could never be completely neutral parties in the loss of my money), I am intrigued to reenact those events with the premise that these items become characters of their own. What stories would the ATM machine have to share and what would its manner be? (I was curious to overhear a phone conversation centered around it involving a man who needed to transfer £50 from there, and another who was unable to receive payment from it). Other questions arose on observing funny details, like the pay phone which was ‘out of order’ (was it always out of order?) How may have details like this led me to be so compliant? What did Ryan use my £20 for? Am I paying homage to the event, or despairing over it? How does the bench on the station platform become a stage for a disjointed conversation with your mugger?

¹Pindyck, M; Niccolini, A. ‘Classroom acts: New materialisms and haptic encounters in an urban classroom’, Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology 2015, 6(2) http://journals.hioa.no/index.php/rerm, pp. 1

²Pindyck, M; Niccolini, A. ‘Classroom acts: New materialisms and haptic encounters in an urban classroom’, Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology 2015, 6(2) http://journals.hioa.no/index.php/rerm, pp. 9

³Schneider, R. ‘Performing Remains: Art and War in times of theatrical reenactment’ (2011) Routledge: New York

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