Remembering pp 45-66 | Cite as

Touchable Stories and the Performance of Infrastructural Memory

  • Shannon Jackson
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Oral History book series (PSOH)

Abstract

The title of my essay takes its terms from the name of a Boston community arts group called Touchable Stories and from my preoccupation with the way performance and memory interact with the apparatus of art-making. The idea that memory can be infra-structural goes against some of the conventional ways of understanding both terms, paradigms that would relegate memory to the evanescent and individuated realms of the psychic rather than to the material, political, and economic domains of the infrastructural. However, if, after Lacan, the formation of psychic subjectivity is understood to be necessarily relational, then the notion of infrastructural memory is my attempt to broaden our sense of that relational field. In this chapter, I am interested in understanding how performance-based uses of oral history might position speakers and listeners in environments that induce a kind of infrastructural awareness of a shared material relation. This means extending the central questions of oral history to consider not only its role as a documentation of individual experience but also its capacities for forming a partial collectivity. While oral history is often used to create a group awareness of different experiences, I am interested in considering how performance might also induce a more radically contextual consciousness of the shared operations that produce that difference. My simplest metaphor for this kind of infrastructural awareness is the construction signs on highways that say, “Your tax dollars at work,” a type of representational practice that reminds its addressee of the tacit and material support system made possible by an often abstract or alienated public operation.

Keywords

Clay Income Hull Posit Excavation 

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Notes

  1. 5.
    Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture, Part 1,” Artforum 4.6 (February 1966): 42.Google Scholar
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    Alex Potts, The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
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    Henry M. Sayre, The Object of Performance: The American Avant-Garde since 1970 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 27, 28.Google Scholar
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    Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966).Google Scholar
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    Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de MémoireRepresentations 26 (Spring 1989): 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 72; Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead (New York: Columbia University Press), p. 26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), pp. 97–164. Originally published in France in 1967 by Les Editions de Minuit.Google Scholar
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    The work of Alessandro Portelli, “What Makes Oral History Different,” The Oral History Reader, ed. Perks and Thomson (New York: Routledge, 1998, 2002)Google Scholar
  10. and Michael Frisch, A Shared Authority (Albany: SUNY, 1991), among others, have clearly located oral history within relational contexts, establishing that it is a definitively creative and partial practice. Nonetheless, some historians continue to use oral history as a primarily evidentiary source, and some oral historians and scholars of personal narrative continue to insist that oral narratives provide unmediated access to the experiential.Google Scholar
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    Shannon Jackson, “Practice and Performance,” Professing Performance: Theatre in the Academy from Philology to Performativity (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., Shannon Jackson, Lines of Activity: Performance, Historiography, and Hull-House Domesticity (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan University Press, 2000).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Della Pollock 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon Jackson

There are no affiliations available

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