"!" [Hollywood Blues] July 2013 - Page 6

INTRODUCTION: Evelyn Wilson There is much concern currently about how to document the live performance; to either freeze it for posterity or, as is increasingly the case, to provide for a simultaneous or instantaneous broadcast or to make other such plans for its potential showing in multiple contexts. Such are our times – the desire, no the mandate, to document the live. So it is refreshing, but, let’s be frank, perhaps also a little perplexing, when we – this hyper-networked, always on, always demanding, always expecting mass – appear to be denied that opportunity. For artist Rowena Easton has taken what might seem like a counter-intuitive strategy of eschewing the very mode that we now almost exclusively associate with documentation: the visual. In the documentation of her spoken performance piece “!” [Hollywood Blues], there is no video (online or otherwise) publicly available. Instead we are presented with this publication and its series of short written responses, which invites us to give consideration to events and let our imaginations be (free). In so doing, she gives us, her ‘audience’, access to a set of possibilities and tools that brings us to the performance in ways that standard visual representation would arguably fail to permit. This access begins through the act of giving space to text rather than image, thereby encouraging critique rather than passive spectatorship, whilst at the same time providing a series of lenses through which to engage with the performance itself, together with the questions it raises. The following three essays respond to the work and its concern with event, disaster and performance. They become, in the (visual) absence of the performance, the means by which we are encouraged to view, inhabit, and review the piece. Whilst ‘summary’ can be a blunt instrument, I will attempt here to reveal a little of their subject matter. The titles alone provide clues to the territory: Emergency Speech by Vicky Lebeau, Staging an Emergency by Chris Zebrowski, and Hollywood and the Hyperreal: Staging the Postmodern Disaster by Kate Whittaker. They provide not only a set of signals about the content of the performance, they elicit a sense of warning and foreboding, preparing the reader for what is to come, creating the conditions of ‘alert’. 6