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What do we document? Dense video and the epistemology of practice.

Spatz, Ben (2016) What do we document? Dense video and the epistemology of practice. In: Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving. Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, London, UK. (In Press)

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Much recent thinking about performance documentation has coalesced around an apparent
opposition between the relative stability of the document and the ontological ephemerality of the live event.
Indeed, if we begin from the problem of translating a singular and ephemeral event into a stable document,
then failure is guaranteed from the start. Understood as an inherently transient moment, performance “cannot
be saved, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it
does so, it becomes something other than performance” (Phelan 1993: 146). But the problem of
documentation is illusory insofar as the performing arts have no special claim to ephemerality. As I have
argued elsewhere, it is not performance but life in general — the world, the real, being itself — that escapes
documentary capture (Spatz 2015a: 234). In fact, the questions faced by a documentarian are not entirely
different to those faced by a director or choreographer who works through the craft of composition to
condense various embodied and dramaturgical materials into a repeatable performance score. Nor do the
spectators who attend such a performance necessarily have better or more direct access to the underlying
processes that gave rise to it than do those who encounter the work through written or recorded documents.
Understood in this way, documentation poses not the insoluble problem of grasping the ungraspable but
rather the concrete challenge of isolating and articulating those aspects of a practice that can be shared and
transmitted through the available tools. As the tools change, the potential for sharing and transmission also

Item Type: Book Chapter
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
School of Music, Humanities and Media > Centre for Psychophysical Research
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Benjamin Spatz
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2016 11:17
Last Modified: 10 May 2016 20:54


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