Documenting Tradition: Towards an interdependent dialogue between performative documents
In this paper I will consider the Ulverston Lantern Procession as both an established and evolving practice and its relationship to its documentation which is itself in a constant state of revision. I will examine how such an ongoing practice creates documents that are themselves always ongoing; developing a dialogue with both their prior renditions and the continuous Processions. This will lead me to question whether one should look for stasis in documenting a performance that is itself temporally unstable. Can we create a “Janus-headed” documentation, that looks both forward and back through time, integrating ‘past’ documents with the creation of ‘new’ ones? I use Richard Sennett’s (2006) discussion of dialogic communication as a lens to interrogate how such a performance, one in a flux-like state, can be documented as an open-ended document which avoids didactic assertion.
The Ulverston Lantern Procession was established by Welfare State in 1982, with ownership then passing to a community group in 1995. The period during which Welfare State managed this procession is documented in archives at the Theatre Collection (Bristol University). I have since created further documents of oral histories, photography, film, and my own personal experiences of the procession, which can co-exist with the archive and the procession. Since the aesthetic in participatory art depends upon the shared experience of the performance and the social relations it creates, the limits as to what may be a document are thrown into question. The subjectivity of participation and the communities which are created through the performance creates a heteroglossia of voices. I will consider whether the open-ended nature of this tradition can be incorporated with the existing archive to create a restless document.
Hector Dyer: Hector Dyer is a funded MPhil student at the University of Bristol where he is applying to transfer to a PhD. He has extensive experience conducting original research of Welfare State from the Theatre Collection and has helped catalogue files related to the company. His primary research interest is processional performance, participatory art and performance tradition, and the efficacy of radical performance in community-led works. He has helped organise and led workshops for various lantern processions around Britain and has helped research and create exhibitions of oral histories of Bristol. He is also a playwright and an associate artist of Bellow Theatre.