Touchable Stories and the Performance of Infrastructural Memory
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.
KeywordsClay Income Hull Posit Excavation
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