“I cannot afford to be a spectator, an outsider, divorced from what I see and hear. It is my cultural humanity that joins me to everything I observe. I recognize, I understand, I see difference from within myself first. There is not a word that I read that does not have many meanings—for the occasions in which it is used, for the relationships among its users, for the trope of which it is a part. Nothing I observe is so trivial or particular that it is not larger than itself in some way, not interconnected with everything else, not suffused with system or structure. Nothing is so boxed in my theoretical or disciplinary vision that it doesn’t jump out of that box into another box… .” (Dening 4)

“There is a heavy obligation that I owe the past. If I claim to represent it— if I claim to re-present it— I owe it something, its own independence. I owe it a gift of itself, unique in time and space. The history I write will always be mine and something more than the past, but there is apart of it that is never mine. It is the part that actually happened, independently of my knowing that or how it happened. My true stories are ruled by my belief that I have always something to learn.” (4)

“Our performance will always be reflective. We always will be mirrored in the otherness, but it will always be an enlarged self that is reflected, and the more authoritative because there will be no reflection at all if we have not given something of ourselves to see and hear otherness. Our performance will always be artful, something other than the past that we present. Our creativity will always be obliged by the ideals of truthfulness. Why that should be so, I cannot say. Perhaps I should end with that declaration and witness. The ultimate performance for a historian is truthfulness.” (22)

I read the piece from which all those quotes are pulled this week in my performance & narrativity class. It’s Greg Dening’s “Performing on the Beaches of the Mind: An Essay.” And, I have to say, it was beautiful. It captured in such an articulate and moving way why I’m here and why I’m studying history. The ideas Dening puts to paper here are exactly the feelings I want to come out of my digital project. It’s the contrast between feelings of familiarity, connection, reflection, ownership, with those of uncertainty and distance that I’m looking for. Something that recalls a memory, but maybe only half, or - if whole - blurred; something that sounds like it happened a long time ago, and even though you might not have been there, you remember something at the back of your mind that makes you think that maybe you were, afterall. It exists outside of time - what is, what was, what isn’t or will never be.

I want to “render space in both its physical and emotional dimensions” (Bruno Ramirez).

I can talk on and on about this - and I have - even about the anxiety that I’ll be “stuck” in this conversation, with myself and my classmates and this blog, with these ‘feelings’, and never move past this point. I like to think about this stuff. I sometimes worry that I like reflecting or theorizing more than I actually want to complete my project (oops). And that’s when I wonder: am I really doing history? After lots of talking, reading, thinking - - I’m sure that, yes, I absolutely am.

So… the project. I have these ideas. I want to work with sound. I have this old dress and Arduino that don’t work anymore (at least, they don’t work together anymore, as they were supposed to). I’m still working on getting an SD card reader so that I can access the code from that project again. I like the idea of working and reflecting on archiving this piece - - how can I reconcile the physical and digital remains? What would this archival process and product look like? What does it mean that, while all it’s individual parts can be logged, documented, and saved, this piece will never exist or work in the same way it used to (unless it is re-made or copied)?

These questions of documentation, and presenting paradata, were not really a concern in the class for which I made the soudntrack dress. We had to document our progress, but it was a very different method, or concept of what that meant - - therefore, I have drawings, sketches, diagrams, patterns, but nothing that would actually help anyone (including myself) who wanted to understand how the tech and the textile came together. Even though I’ve done this before, looking at these diagrams and physical remains of my project now, I have no idea why things are connected where they are, what things mean, or how to re-do it. In fact, archiving this now would be almost like the documentation process I should have done, but in reverse. So that’s an interesting dynamic as well - - archiving something in the present by re-making/re-presenting data from the past.

I also really want to do this for selfish reasons because I’d love to eventually make a new version of this dress, and expand the series like I had wanted to (for example, I wanted to make a horror movie version). This is not necessarily here nor there when it comes to what I’ll possibly be doing for this course. Although, as I think more and more about it, along with the obvious link to performativity, there are concepts about costume, self, projection, image, and identity to be had here. Although, I’m not sure if I necessarily want to go down that route at this particular moment because it doesn’t really fit with what I have in mind (ya, still committed to those ‘feelings’).

What I want to do:

  • use the digital space as physical space/imagining it as a physical space - - or as an emotional space
  • avoid mere “tool use” of the digital, it’s not an means to an end
  • fold my insecurities into the process
  • make a list of what I actually have to know to do this, what I already know, what other people are writing and doing

Here’s what I’ve been looking at:

Written on February 8, 2018