Riding the Centaur of memory

Riding the Centaur of memory By Johannes Lothar Schröder
On Rose Hill’s performance „Remember – Dismember“
at June, 11th, 2006-11-04

A German version is also available at “www.performance-festival.de”

Although I find it hard to concentrate on the events, which happened several weeks ago, I decided not to sacrifice the records to daily routine and preserve some of the memories of these days, we spent together in May, in words.

There might be a reason for putting a photograph of Rose Hill’s performance „Remember – Dismember“ at the top of the Website. I like the title, as it touches one of the base of Performance Art, which is remembering and amnesia. Both sides of memory can be pleasant as well as painful experiences. This is reflected in art works, in which remembering and dismembering are important techniques. Linguistically belonging together, both terms refer to different spheres in artistic production. One is the field, which is active to recall something, which is already in mind, the other is physical and is active as negation of an existing production: damage. It might also be of significance, that art is about reduction, which means cutting off the affluent.

Horses are very precious animals, as they may remind us of stage in autobiography. As a toy a horse might have manifested power and protection, which is deeply woven into our collective memory, as horses were animalistic machines for work and transport in history and prehistory. It extended the scope, the power and speed of humans.

When Rose Hill destroyed the maquette of the black horse, after hanging it in a tree, questions rose about the sense of this doing. It seems that in post-industrial times there is the necessity to take the powerful machine into question although our dependence on it was never greater than today. Post-modern discourses therefore can be compared with a children’s game, in which things tend to become smaller in size and power. When little, it is easier for a child or generally a human being to deal with the unknown and to understand it. So the reductions of a horse into a toy’s size can be seen as a technique of civilisation, generating understanding. In analogy the threatening face of technology has to be reduced or belittled to make its power acceptable. So it becomes understandable, that the most dangerous weapons are controlled by similar computer-programs as those which are used for games. Consequently a majority of these games is on violence – a remaining challenge of our time, as the violent potential in human nature is exaggerated by technology.

In fact toys and games are extraordinarily abstract, although there use is extremely concrete and often spontaneous. This is a binary principle art generates its power from, which we have to analyse and to test to make use of it. This especially is the fact, if we dig from its sources in prehistoric and anthropological past. The performance of Rose Hill provides a chance to discover and to understand, although we are not yet able to intellectually realise it. This is the specificity of rituals, to which performances quite often refer. Differing from annual festivals rituals do not only consist of repetitive action, in which annual or biannual performance-festivals play a part, but often belong to a personal search in biographical, familiar or collective past, to let it come closer to mind and make it a sensual experience. This is also related to the dismembering. As remembering cannot be complete it means also to make a choice of the vast treasure of memory. These priorities prevail emancipation from the past, while we make cuts, we cut off s.th. and feel the pain of a loss and amputation. A part of us is dismembered, although sometimes we feel the phantom-pain.

A physical image of shared past of animals and humans is the centaur.

The black horse of Rose Hill travelled overseas in a cardboard-box from Seattle to Hamburg and to Kiel. It was her only luggage. In Salzau she destroyed it to burry it. Those who attended the procession from the place of the performance and accompanied Rose to the ritual burying of the remains of the object, saw it.

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