Mimesis and Remembrance

Kendrick, Lynne (2012) Mimesis and Remembrance. Performance Research, 17 (3). pp. 109-113. ISSN 1352-8165


This article asks what is the function of theatrical simulation, or mimesis, in the testimonial performance genre? The analysis focuses on a verbatim project by Daedalus Theatre Company, A Place at the Table, an eye-witness expos of the atrocities of the conflict in Burundi and the civil war in Rwanda, 1993 - 1994. This production was a design-led, overtly theatrical response to the varying documented truths about these events, from UN Security Council reports to personal testimony, that positioned the performers as multiple testifying subjects, emerging in a range of performance genres from seemingly realist performance, to abstract embodied simulation of the disputed territories. These performances, a combination of conscious theatrical replaying, testimonial and remembrance, drew heavily on theatrical simulation; a particular testimonial mimesis. To explore how this might function as a part of the testimonial genre, I draw on the theories of mimesis by Roger Caillois and the more positive version thereof by Michael Taussig. Caillois's material mimesis is a dangerous lure between self and space based on the desire not for visual replication or the facsimilie of similarity, but for the act of being similar. Taussig interprets in this temptation a potential for the self to playfully sample the Other, an act of selfing of space which suggests agency in mimesis. My analysis of this in A Place at the Table countenances possibilities in the performance of the intolerable, and offers an example of Ranciere's witness as artist, not victim. Thus I argue for an emancipated understanding of mimesis that asks us to consider the agency of performing the remembered.


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