Annotation: Reason, Matthew. 2006. Documentation, Disappearance and the Representation of Live Performance

Reason, Matthew. 2006. Documentation, Disappearance and the Representation of Live Performance. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Contributing to the continuing debates about the ephemerality/disppearance of performance as it unfolds, Reason suggests for his readers to reflect on “what exists outside or beyond or after live performance itself” (2). Documentation is an interrogative opportunity, in which performance may be interpreted, and it also makes performance knowable (3). Reason (Chapter 1) argues that the paradoxical instincts and values contained within the twin discourses of disappearance/transcience and documentation/retention are central to the cultural constructions of performance (8). In video documentation, for instance, it may be worthy to investigate the retention of the performance as it disappears (i.e. the ephemerality of a life event). As the act of documentation marks disappearance, it also makes disappearance visible (27). To video record, thus, is to resist disappearance (80). Reason argues that performance does not really disappear, and that its “traces” in the form of video or photography allow the performance to be witnessed differently. Reason argues that the underlying motivation for the documentation of performance is always the same: to translate the performance into an enduring form, which serves at its representation (22). While video enables people to see the performance in its spatial, temporal, and audiovisual forms, it needs to be asked what kind or representation is made available, and what is the relationship between the “original” and the adapted (recorded) version. Reason suggests that performance becomes transformed through the act of recording itself (82). The act of watching also becomes a hybrid experience, in which the viewer constructs his/her own narrative that is “layered somewhere between the video medium, the live performance medium and the activity of watching” (91). Reason also discusses video in different terms: as a culture, as an activity, and as a way and type of doing. The “act of videoing,” the author suggests, must be thought of in terms of both recording and watching.

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