the original and the document

Image: photocopy of hand-typed document from You must follow me carefully (#1) beside the original document from You must follow me carefully (#1). 

document v original.

original and original.

In The Object of Performance: The American Avant-Garde since 1970, Henry M Sayre argues that the performance document is not simply a trace of a moment now lost (thus marked by absence) but is also an object that has a presence of its own right. It has a ‘double stance’. Sayre states – ‘we experience [it] as presence itself – as a formalist art object – and as a presence signifying the virtual absence of some a priori experience’ (p1). This is particularly evidence when locating the document within the gallery frame as an artwork.

This notion of the double stance is a grounding concept for my current practice. In particular I am interested in the blurring of the seemingly distinct categories of ‘live’ and ‘recorded’.

But occasionally, I confuse myself. Such as when I took a photograph of an original document and a photocopied document side-by-side.

The ‘original’ document holds a double stance. It is a subjective trace of the hour-long live event You must follow me carefully (#1) – as recorded by James Gatt. So its marked by absence. Yet as a physical object in my studio, it has a presence and is an artwork in its own right (it more than likely will be exhibition within the Firstdraft Gallery come September).

The photocopy, however, has no relation to the live event – it was not generated through a process of recording a live situation. It was generated through a trip to the local convenience store and pressing a button. So it is most definitely marked by its absence from the live event.

Yet the photocopy went through a live process (it was brought to life if you will) during You must follow me carefully (#2) where it took the role as a score for a spoken performance – (does that mean it has presence now?). Here we are now, post-performance workshop and the photocopy is pinned to my studio wall. Again it is marked by its absence from the live event. But because it was part of a live situation, it was performed I guess that does mean it can be understood as having a multiple stance – absence, presence, absence. What is more this object can be understood as a photocopy (a document that is not original) and as an original (in that it was the only – if there were multiples of this page – that was activated through a spoken performance).


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