Revisiting Plato's Chair: writing and embodying collective memory.
As a provocation, the review I wrote of Plato's Chair in 1985 evaluated Rose English's performance as a piece of dance. By doing so, it implicitly claimed that the words of English's monologue were not as important as the fact that it was improvised and that the performance foregrounded the corporeality of English's presence. What I actually wrote became key, earlier this year, to my remembering the work as part of the 'NOTES on a return' project. There is I believe a tension between the mostly verbal, archival traces of Plato's Chair and those physical aspects of its performance that largely escape the written record because they are embodied experiences that are hard to document and preserve. As critic and historian Ann Daly has wryly observed, the dance works that survive are the ones that have been written about, and this may perhaps prove to be true of Plato's Chair. However performances that draw on those aspects of a radical tradition that are least amenable to preservation can nevertheless transmit communal memories, histories and values -- that may be to some extent unofficial -- from one generation or group to another. Philosopher Maurice Halbwachs argued that recollection of memory is always a social process; there is no individual memory that is not also, in some way, part of the memories that we share with those with whom we are connected. Through reflecting on the written and embodied memories of Rose English's Plato's Chair, this paper considers what kinds of histories and values its recollection transmits.
Citation:Burt, R. (2010) Revisiting Plato's Chair: writing and embodying collective memory. In: Sophia Yadong Hao and Matthew Hearn (eds.) NOTES on a return, Sunderland: Arts Editions North, pp. 69-80.
Research Group:Dance Research
- School of Arts