‘A Documentary-Material Literacy for Performance as a Document’
Marc Kosciejew, Department of Library, Information, and Archive Sciences at the University of Malta
Performance is material. Performance – from ballet to burlesque shows, from stage plays to flash mobs, from piano concerts to poetry readings – necessarily includes and involves the material world. It is because of and through materialism that a performance is enacted and performed, engaged and interacted with, analyzed and admired, studied and shared, preserved and remembered. Performance is, in other words, intimately intertwined with materialism.
Documentation – that is, documents and practices with them – is one important way in which many performances are materialized. Documentation helps provide a material basis for performance that in turn materialises the information presented, displayed or intended by the performance. A focus on documentation is essential to help better approach and understand performance and its information, particularly in terms of performance’s materiality and its information’s materialization.
This presentation therefore calls for a more materialist (re)orientation in Library and Information Science (LIS) and Performing Arts by drawing attention to the important roles played by documentation in the materialization of performance and its information. This materialist (re)orientation also serves as a response to Ann-Sophie Lehmann’s call for greater material literacy to help us better learn and understand more about our material surroundings. Lehmann argues that we need to have more awareness of and appreciation for the basic materials of our daily life and world. She explains that to uncover the richness of the material world, including how it affects us and its implications for our lives, we need to know what it is made of; in other words, what actually makes up the objects and things that we need and use?
Documentation is indeed a crucial component of performance because of its important roles in helping materialize it (or parts of it) into particular kinds of documents that are considered, treated, practiced and interacted with as information. This presentation’s point of departure is approaching and understanding performance as a document. It begins a conceptual exploration of documentation to help illuminate its importance for performance’s materiality and its information’s materialisation. It introduces a so-called documentary-material literacy framework to help approach and analyze performance’s materiality generally and performance as documentation specifically. Drawing upon the work of Ann-Sophie Lehmann, Michael Buckland, Bernd Frohmann, Niels Lund, Tim Gorichanaz, Kiersten Latham, Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, this presentation responds to Lehmann’s call for more and greater material literacy by contributing to the start of a conversation about documentation, materialisation, and performance.
Dr. Marc Kosciejew is a Lecturer and former Head of Department of Library, Information, and Archive Sciences at the University of Malta. He has been published in scholarly and professional journals, lectured in Europe and North America, and presented worldwide. In 2016, Malta’s Minister for Education and Employment appointed him as Chairperson of the Malta Libraries Council (MLC), a government appointed council stipulated in the Malta Libraries Act, 2011, to provide advice to national and public library systems. In 2016, he lectured on documentation and materialism at the Tate Modern in London, United Kingdom, as part of the New Materialism Training School, Research Genealogies and Material Practices.
This paper was kindly sponsored by COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on ‘How Matter Comes to Matter.