The more I experiment with the theatrical manifestation of memory, the more significant the space between the remembered past and the observable present has grown. In my experience, memory is observed internally - the recollection of an event in our mind's eye. That event is "observed" only by the rememberer, and therefore is subject to interpretation, manipulation, and inaccuracy. The remembered event may be relayed to another individual - in particular, an individual who did not witness the remembered event himself - but this individual is in turn interpreting the event and creating his own memory of that memory (as well as the active recollection of that event) as projected in his mind's eye. Thus, the act of remembering may be viewed as a form of storytelling - one remembers an event and then must relay that event to another in order to share the memory. Memories themselves are not necessarily being conjured by the act of storytelling, but rather individual adaptations are being presented in order to best represent an internal memory in the external world. Individuals are then often challenging the conventional forms of storytelling as they struggle to "perform" their memories in the present moment in ways that best convey the "essence" of their remembered past. How do you relay (and thus interpret) an image in your mind's eye - an image that was created by observing what was once a present action - as a performative activity in the observable present?
Let's assume that present activity - an action that's being performed directly in front of an able and willing spectator - is observed not by the mind's eye, but by what I'll refer to as the physical eye. This assumption is inherently problematic - aren't our physical eyes constantly "projecting" and interpreting external images using our mind's eye? But let's acknowledge and accept these glaring issues, and thus assume that the mind's eye (where our internal memories are observed) and the physical eye (where the external present is observed) are separate. An activity taking place in the present can be observed by the physical eye by multiple individuals from multiple angles, and thus interpreted individually. These individual observations form individual memories of the event, which are then observed in our mind's eye. So let's then assert that the "observable present" involves some sort of external/physical action, while the "remembered past" involves an internal/intellectual action. Present action exists in the world beyond one's own self (again, I acknowledge the phenomenological "can of worms" I'm opening with this statement), while remembered action exists in one's own mind.
The performance of memory, thus, may exist in the space between the present and the past - the area between the internal recollection of a memory and the external representation of that memory. How do we "perform" the interpretative act that takes place when one attempts to convey the image seen in the mind's eye as an observable act in the present moment? In order to develop such a style or method of performance, we must first begin to explore that act of interpretation. What occurs both internally and externally when we set out to remember an event and thus convey that event to others? How are our mind's eye and our physical eyes communicating? And how might that method of communication affect the more traditional methods of communication executed by theatre practitioners?
In posing these questions, I find myself often recalling images or films that seem to pose similar questions within their own artistic mediums. The image above, for example, depicts an outstretched hand that is clearly in focus, while the head and body attached to the hand are out of focus and in the background. The definable "action" of the image - reaching out - is clear and observable, while the individual behind that action - and thus the motivation for reaching out - is blurry and amorphous. But the image itself represents a distinct memory - a moment in time captured by the photographer's lens. The physical eye observes the physical action of this memory, while the mind's eye must assume a motivation for the action. The middle ground - the space between the action and its motivation - is unobservable, but somehow becomes the focus of the image. This middle ground is seemingly where the physical eye and the mind's eye meet and communicate. It's where the past and the present merge in order to convey the memory of a specific event.
Similar examples of this unique mode of communication pop up throughout film and television. The most glaringly obvious example is the use of a flashback (specific examples can be found in the video above). Consider the moment a character in a film begins to recall a memory to another character. The camera may zoom in on the rememberers face as the image crossfades to the scene being recalled. For several moments, the two images exist together - blurred, yet in direct conversation. How are these two images - the present action of remembering and the memory itself - communicating? And what is occurring performatively during that transition?
Without the ability to capture and manipulate two images simultaneously, how do we begin to explore the space between the remembered past and the observable present in live performance? What does that space look like in a theatrical setting or a performance-based process? And how may we begin to set more traditional theatrical texts in such a setting? In other words, can a dramatic text be presented in such a way that both the mind's eye and the physical eye are observing the same action of remembering in the present moment?