Too Prolix: A Tour Out of Time (working title)
I’ve finally got round to it, hope I’m not too late to respond to your intriguing call and submit a proposal for a solo show next year. The exhibition will explore three interrelated philosophical themes: the time-travelling ‘retroactive’ logic of decision-making; the political actor as necessarily anachronistic, and political action as a ‘performance of equality’. These ideas are, I think, interesting in their own right but also reflect upon and intervene into the discourses surrounding site-specificity and art as re-enactment.
The exhibition would relate to a performance work that will take place on The Historic Dockyard Chatham in June that re-enacts certain ‘picturesque’ labour disputes between the dockyard workers (artificers) and the Admiralty during the 18th century. The script is made from words appropriated verbatim from primary-source archival material, and delivered in the artificial rhetorical acting style of the time. The staging of the performance involves a ‘narrative trick’ whereby the feeling of time-travel is affected.
My proposal for News of The World is twofold: 1. I use the gallery as a space to extend the life of the performance, an iteration of an ‘original’ which is also an iteration… In this instance the show would contain documentation of the event plus a twisty timeline of my own devising. This graphic wall piece would riff on the timeline as curatorial device (perhaps invented by Group Material), but transform its linearity, showing that history is not set-in-stone, one event building incontrovertibly upon another. Rather history is open to radical retroactive transformation, whereby agential action in the present reaches back so as to transform how the past has been. A realistic timeline therefore needs to be able to illustrate these moments of time-travel. The exhibition would also include select props from the performance, and dramatic readings of the script.
2. Or, News of The World is used prior to the Chatham dockyard performance as a rehearsal and workshop space. Here the appropriate acting style for the performance could be hammered out and practiced. (I’ve already made contact with an expert in 18th century theatre and planned a session with actors). Also the gallery could be used as a studio to devise and produce the timeline piece. In addition I could show faked documentation of the dockyard performance again messing with straightforward notions of causality: displayed evidence of an event that has yet to take place…
I hope this text is enough to piqué your interest; if so I would be very happy to give more information or continue the conversation in another form.
Steve Klee | Lecturer Fine Art & Admissions Officer | School of Music and Fine Art
University of Kent