The personal is political. And therefore anything autobiographical can be read as a political statement to the world we live in.
After receiving an invitation to be a witness to Wales-based dance maker Deborah Light’s Research and Development showing of Semi Detached – an archaeology of me. I arrive to see familiar faces waiting outside of Chapter Arts’ Llofft space, the Cardiff dance scene does like to turn out in force to support one of it’s own.
Walking into the space, it is a museum/mauslouem to a life. Objects of obscurity are arranged meticulously, on tables. inviting to be inspected and analysed but to also be respected. Prior to entering the space provocations are given, we can choose, respond, listen and arrange.
The objects are poetic, they hold power. A power to evoke memories and sensations. At first glance they seem cold, sterile. As if they should be behind a pane of glass… I personally hate going to museums as they remind me of time, and ultimately death. It’s like being a voyuer to your own demise.
I chose personally not to interact with any of the objects, my brain was too busy simultaneously creating my own memories whilst searching for Deborah’s own.
There is a certain type of pleasure being a camera, capturing mementos. Seeing small nuances and poetry within the objects. It’s like putting your ear to a shell and listening for the sea.
There has been some debate about autobiographical performance, is it possible to truly perform the ‘self’ without coming across egotistical, self-indulgent and self-concerned? My own response is that in order to avoid this the artist must retain that the personal is political.
Performers who engage with their own autobiography are using themselves as vehicles through which particular social perspectives such as race, class, gender and sexuality can be engaged. The performing ‘self’ is deliberately and even paradoxically used in order to go beyond the self or the individual. There is almost always two selves on stage at any one time, the self that is performing and the self that is performed.
This method of working has proved popular for artists such as Bobby Baker, La Ribot, Tim Miller and Annie Sprinkle. And it’s only recently now starting to be utilised a lot more by dance artists.
Semi-detached is in Deb’s own words ‘a project with a long gestation…materialised 2 years ago out of an enquiry’ This project has evolved like the fossilised animals which surrounded the spectators. Adapting and growing, very much like Deborah’s own pregnant dancing body.
More information about Deborah Light’s practice can be found here