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:


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