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Imitation as vehicle – and memory as hindrance

  • Kent Sjöström
Publiceringsår: 2019-09-23
Språk: Engelska
Dokumenttyp: Conference - other

Abstract english

What is the relationship between identity, representation and memory in contemporary performance practices? Does memory function as a basic tool in artist’s work or can it also be regarded as a hindrance?
In current performance art, identity is often defined as an accumulation of one’s embodied experience and memory. The artist’s body can be seen as an archive which is re-enacted in the encounter with a dramatic material. To perform means, thus, to reactivate one’s own memory and to bring it on the stage.
With reference to the qualitative research that I pursued through organizing a series of workshops (“Observe! Imitate? Be yourself!”) in several European cities during the last 4 years, I will argue that the relationship between identity, memory and performer’s work is more complex. The workshops repeatedly showed, that in performer’s work personal embodied memory is interrelated with copying the gestures of others, including the capacity to transcend one’s own experience and memory based identity. Intentionality and imitation appeared as crucial for a widening of the performer’s register.
The knowledge gained through practices and interactive exercises will be further supported by references to existing accounts of identity and memory, such as Echo and Narcissus (Ovid), Stories of Mr. Keuner (Brecht, 2001), “An actor is one who remembers”( Marowitz, 1995), the notion of original, copy and aura by Walter Benjamin (Benjamin 1992), and the concept of re-enactment introduced by M. Rau (Rau, 2017). I will conclude that the practice based exercises showed that to limit one’s expression on the memorized self-identity considerably narrows the representational potential of the performer.


  • Humanities
  • Nietzsche
  • Memory
  • body and soul
  • cognitive strategies
  • Stanislavsky


Teaterhögskolan i Malmö, Medarbetare Kent
E-post: kent [dot] sjostrom [at] thm [dot] lu [dot] se