EXPLORING AUTOTOPOGRAPHY

The Frieze, The Anatomy Lecture Theatre and The Security Hut were performance outcomes of a two-year period of research into autotopographical performance and performed at the University of Cape Town on the 21st and 22nd of November 2014. I constructed these autobiographical works to respond to particular places and the histories that they seemed to embody.

The works interweave personal memories that involuntarily rose up when encountering the sites and archival materials that opened up ways of understanding them. I called upon these sites to index memories, histories and ideologies.

The Frieze  15-minute live installation.

The Frieze is as much about the moment I remembered the Beethoven Frieze as it is about the painting itself. It’s about storing memories in places, like letters under your bed, or a photograph, or a painting. Sometimes the memories are repressed. They’re stuck behind walls or in an itch in your back and they seem to want to be unblocked or unfrozen. The performance is about facing the task of giving an account of myself as a full and complete story to an audience member, a doctor, or a pillow.

The Anatomy Lecture Theatre 30-minute live installation.

The Anatomy Lecture Theatre is based on my encounter with the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at the University of Cape Town, an encounter with the uncanny – the room was both familiar and terrifying. Taking my position as the student/spectator I was looking down from a distance onto the stage in a place shaped like a cave or a womb. I sat in the place or ‘home’ of knowledge, facing forwards, in a phallic direction, a phallic line, a phallic time, back turned on origin.

The Anatomy and Physiology laboratories at the University of Cape Town were officially opened on 6 June 1912. The colonial biomedical research which was undertaken, and then disseminated and practiced there, was part of a particular system of thought and action where the body was the site of authority, legitimacy, and control. The ideal model of the body based on the white European man and models of acquiring and disseminating knowledge crafted in relation to this, supported the ideology that progressing from this position was to progress universal humanity.

The Security Hut 30-minute live installation with George Musumb.

The current geographical position of the Little Theatre – where this performance takes place – means that those people deemed ‘undesirable’ by the urban managers of the Central Busincess District are excluded from it.

Furthermore, the position of the theatre inside the gated campus of the University of Cape Town might exclude those who do not feel authorised, are not connected socially, or are not invited into the enclave.

Thinking about exclusion and inclusion I decided to interview my friend George Musumb who works as a security officer and who performs with me in this piece. The Security Hut is based on several interviews with different security officers working in Cape Town. Sensing that the frames of urban space often come to feel more real than the body that makes the frame possible, I seek remind the audience that places are socially constructed – they are thrown-together by actors. Places are shaped by our desires and our fears..