‘Mnemonic-Mimetic’ is a 4.8 by 1.8m wall collage, commissioned by Maidment Theatre, University of Auckland. I had the pleasure to work on this project from 15-18th of November, using old posters from shows staged on their premises. Photos by Kim Annan and some progress photos at the end of my rationale.
“The self… is not an organic thing that has a specific location, whose fundamental fate is to be born, to mature, to die; it is a dramatic effect arising diffusely from a scene that is presented.”―Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life1
Theatre is mimetic. Mimetic in a sense that it imitates the ‘stage’2 of life, an ever-changing representation of reality, culture and society. This ‘stage’ cannot exist without context, the environment, or the ecosystem it operates in. They feed off each other, overlap and infuse each other with agency and significance, engendering a symbolic interaction.
The overlayering and pasting of torn fragments from these theatre posters is also mnemonic. It calls on memory, an imitation of an urban wall or a palimpsest–reused, altered, but still bearing the traces of its earlier versions. An exterior wall, where new covers the old; the recent, overlays the forgotten, portraying passing of time; an archive and an account of history and experience. The work, at the same time, draws on the intersection of representation and language, alluding to the “stage” or the “dramaturgy of life”, where the actors (now reversing situations) look down at the audience, exchanging roles and situations, gazing, watching, learning from each other.
1. Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) is an influential book by the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman, using the concept of theatre in portraying the importance of human interaction in society.
2. Goffman uses the analogy of dramaturgy to explain social interaction. A “frontstage” where the actors are in front of an audience, and “backstage”, where individuals can be themselves and set aside their roles in society.