Barbara’s Stream of Consciousness

Barbara Bargiel’s Stream of Thoughts, Quotes and Pictures on Performing Memory


On Sunday I typed in the British Library catalogue performing memory and the book came up called Performing Memory (2013), edited by Plate and Smelik. For the past view days I have been reading through the pages and I ask myself a question: why on earth I discover these gems so late?


“Memory is always re-call and re- collection, and, consequently, it implies re-turn, re-vision, re-enactment, re-presentation: making experience from the past present again in the form of narratives, images, sensations, performances.” (Plate & Smelik, 2013: 6)


Barbara Bargiel, video still from Poison, 2012.


“To perform the past in the present is generating an experience of the past in the presence…Performance is then the point of encounter, where the “ then and now punctuate each other” (Schneider in Plate & Smelik, 2013: 2)


… More precisely the memory of these situations remembered from the past that left troubling feeling, mixed with a current situation, and a try of reaching out to people/ audience with a hope they will be touched. Perhaps it is me- acting hopeless unconsciously, yearning to be saved, or perhaps it is my art.


Anonymous, the scan of drawing made by audience in the comment book, 2013.


“Cultural memory – the things and the ways in which the culture remembers. The process of linking the past to the present and the future, thus identifying practices as crucial to understanding how memory works: making, constructing, enacting, transforming, expressing, transmitting cultural memory through art and popular culture. Contemporary studies of cultural memory indeed emphasise that memory ‘requires the active agency of individuals and publics’. ‘Such agency entails recognising and reviling the production of memory as an on-going process involving inscription and reinscription, coding and recording’. Memory then, involves agency.” (Schneider in Plate & Smelik, 2013: 2-3)


I read and read further, I am getting confused, and try constantly to make links in my head.


Barbara Bargiel, video still from documentation of Curious, 2013.


Trying to make sense and stuffing my head with the theory that kind of makes sense in my head but refuses clarification and clearness in writing. This reminds me of a memory that is stored in our bodies and activated when we touch something, or we are being touched. This is memory that is bodily, and cannot be described with language.


Barbara Bargiel is part of the PERFORMING MEMORY Onion panel discussion on 27 Nov 2013. For more information about Barbara Bargiel, go to her website:


Chris Minchin on Wilderness, Nostalgia and Remembrance

Chris Minchin considers if the idea of Wilderness can transform us from a false performance of identity to performing reality or truth.

Christopher Minchin. All the Candles (Westminster Abbey, Novermber 2013)

I was interested in your proposition that there is a link between nostalgia and wilderness. I wonder what is the nature of the relationship between the two. Dialectic? Parasitic? Cancel each other out?:

I think the link between nostalgia and wilderness is paradoxical, as it should be; I think of wilderness as the place of revelation, it is the place where you leave behind your identity, and are left with nothing but your own existence. Truth is revealed and moments of transformation come from this, then identity, institution, and nostalgia is formed upon these moments (revelation brings reformation, which then becomes the status quo until that is no longer satisfactory, another revelation, another reformation). Just this weekend I was watching some documentary about Doctor Who and when it was cancelled for 20 years, these were known as the wilderness years, but actually it was a time of burgeoning creativity from fans who wrote/recorded/drew their own fan fiction, and many of the fans developed creative careers from the experiences that they learned during this time. This creativity eventually resulted in the return of the series. Wilderness and nostalgia are opposites, but paradoxically they form each other.

Simone Weil, a 20th century philosopher and mystic, talks about how paradox or ‘contradictories’ are a sign of truth, of reality. If we come up against two things that contradict, and we know both to be fact, then we must accept the contradiction as a reality and transform our perception. For example Weil argues that God both does and does not exist:

“A case of contradictories which are true.  God exists: God does not exist.  Where is the problem?  I am quite sure that there is a God in the sense that I am quite sure that my love is not illusory.  I am quite sure that there is not a God in the sense that I am quite sure nothing real can be anything like what I am able to conceive when I pronounce this word.  But that which I cannot conceive is not an illusion.”

Essentially it is a call to perceive things as they are, not as we wish them to be. Weil loves God, but everything she thinks of when she says ‘God’ builds an image of it rather than allows for the truth of it. This is where nostalgia starts – the building of an image based on truths we have perceived. This is inevitable, the image will eventually become so opaque until it obscures the truth that formed it. However, the contemplative practices – asceticism, mysticism, art, poetry – constantly return to the wilderness, constantly disrupt, look beyond, and find the cracks within the image of things, to see them as they really are. Once one trusts in the image of a thing over its reality, then it becomes a problem, a rotting facade really. Like waving flags and posters of “keep calm and carry on” in the face of economic recession. Or saying marriage can’t be gay because you can’t redefine a word.

Christopher Minchin. All the Candles (Westminster Abbey, Novermber 2013)

I also think of our great wildernesses, places like Yellowstone, the Serengeti, Mongolian Steppes, the Australian Bush, and I wonder how these places can escape nostalgia. The ‘wilderness of our souls’ is not exempt from the touch of nostalgia either?:

I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘great’ wilderness, only wilderness, it is ever shifting and relative. Wilderness is not a landscape, figuratively it can be – it is what we have cultivated civilisation out of – but really it is just the place that doesn’t value us in the way we value or selves. It is disruptive, revelatory and transformative. The ‘great wildernesses’, are nostalgic in themselves; it is a colonialist attitude when we see somewhere as a place to be conquered, controlled, maintained. By nature it is no longer a wilderness once it is known and controlled, you don’t conquer wilderness, you survive it. And maybe it’s the same attitude when we try to conquer our souls, to present an image of ourselves as in control and form a confident identity.

Perhaps your invocation of the ‘earnest’ provides a light. It seems to me that urgency is the antithesis of nostalgia!

I think you’re right. Earnestness comes from need. I think it’s at the heart of activism. Nostalgia is what we want, earnestness disrupts this by declaring what we need.

Christopher Minchin. All the Candles (Westminster Abbey, Novermber 2013)

Chris joins the PERFORMING MEMORY panel discussion on 27 Nov 2013. For more about Chris’ work, see his website:

Performing Memory – Snippets of conversation with Claire Blundell Jones on Sylvia Plath and Super 8 film

Starting a pre-discussion with Claire Blundell Jones in advance of the PERFORMING MEMORY Onion Panel Discussion on 27 Nov 2013.

C – Claire Blundell Jones
J – Jack Tan

‘Spooning’, Claire Blundell Jones, London. 20th June & 20th November 2010. Photograph: Lorenzo Durantini.

Sylvia Plath and the Narrative Gap

C:  I went and met an English literature professor in Sheffield who writes about using narrative and storytelling as a way of working through mental health and trauma issues. We talked about the subtleties of stories, and how stories can control you as well as how you use stories to try and control things. So there is a double meaning to it and there is a danger in both.

J: So stories having a life that affect you as well. They ‘tell you’ in a way.

C: Or present you, yes, as identity. I am reading a book by Jacqueline Rose called ‘On not able to sleep’. She writes about how biography loves Sylvia Plath. People love reading Sylvia Plath’s diaries or trying to resolve the story of what happened to her and why she committed suicide.

J: Who likes it? Biographers?

C: Yes biographers … and us. We like reading it, so biography likes Sylvia Plath. Just the idea that we all really want to read up on her story, from her perspective or others reading up about her.

J: Why do we like her?

C: I am wondering if it is because of the drama of suicide or the drama of trauma. But particularly as a poet who is also very self-revealing, in her own poetry, it is biographers who keep reinventing her. She is endlessly represented in a way through herself and then through others representing her, and then us as readers.

J: She is endlessly representable isn’t she? I was thinking that she is endlessly representable because her story doesn’t fully tell itself. It permits a gap in which you can fill in.

C: It is the gap that is maybe of interest. Maybe this links in well with when I came and presented on the first Onion panel [in 2012] my story of my mother who committed suicide without giving any details or background leading to an endless gap of everyone wondering. Maybe it was the play of narratives, the build up of this, and using my own life story as a kind of pun or as a climax.

J: But also there was a gap between what you presented explicitly as the story and the performance of it. So there is a gap between the two: there is something explained and there is something performed. And between the two there isn’t an exact meeting, there is a gap between the two. That is quite a creative, productive gap, which the audience had to contend with.

Super 8 Footage

C:  …  in showing recently digitalised Super 8 footage of my family. Is this too overly-used a form? I am trying to be critical over our easily accessible interpretations of seeing Super 8 footage.

J: I think Super 8 footage has kind of inherent nostalgia in it that is to do with the texture of the film.

C: I am wondering why are we all critical of seeing super 8 footage and how we can be critical about nostalgia.


Claire will be participating in the panel PERFORMING MEMORY– considering the performance of loss, nostalgia, solitude and subjectivity. 27 Nov 2013, 6.00pm at 55 Gracechurch Street, London EC3V, and presenting her work at BEFORE PERFORMANCE on 28 Nov 2013 at Performance Space, Hackney Wick, London.

Visit Claire’s website to find out more about her work:

Performing Memory – Dionea Rocha Watt considers the Staging of Loss

In the run-up to the next Onion Discussion on PERFORMING MEMORY, Dionea Rocha Watt considers the Staging of Loss and Memory in a short article on Joseph Beniot Suvee’s painting of Dibutade and the meeting of tears and language in St Augustine’s mourning of the loss of his mother: DRW_PERFORMING MEMORY

Dionea Rocha Watt_Vanitas II

Dionea is currently a final year PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art researching the relationship between loss, absence and materiality in contemporary artistic practice. Find out more about here research here. You can also read an paper by Dionea on The Presence of Writing and the Absence of Things.

20 Nov 2013 – Performing Skill discussion

Thanks to Lizzi Porter, Bonnie Kemske, Harry Lawson and Ellie Doney for creating a wide-ranging discussion on conservation, deterioration, entropy, skill vs accident, the body and memory, the position of beauty today and more.


Performing Skill Panel: Harry Lawson, Ellie Doney, Lizzi Porter (Chair)


Bonnie Kemske, Interlocutor for Performing Skill panel discussion

Olivery Roy’s performance response to the evening’s discussions

Performing Skill

A reminder that our first Onion Discussion on PERFORMING SKILL starts tomorrow, Weds 20 Nov 2013, 6.00pm at 55 Grace Church Street, EC3 0UF. Part of the Considering Performance series, this panel will open up discussion about the visibility, enactment and role of skill in works of art.

Lauren Kelley, Harry Lawson and Ellie Doney will talk about

  • the Ritual of Making,
  • making as a Public act vs Intimate act,
  • the Performance of Attitude,
  • Disciplines as Material,
  • the Empathy in Skill,
  • ‘orchestrating’ material/process, and more.

We are pleased to have Bonnie Kemske who will comment from the floor as an interlocutor, and Oliver Roy performing a response at the end of the evening. Elizabeth Porter chairs the discussion.

Looking forward to seeing you there for a evening of open and lively discussion!