- Performance and the City: Performing and Writing Urban Space
With the precision and detail of an A-Z guide, Performance and the City charts the terrain of what performance in the city is and can be. The sections of the book are extremely well mapped out, giving a clear passage for the reader. The city expands and contracts through the pages of this book. We are allowed access not only from above and down below, but we are also led down side streets, we are shown hidden corners, and we are guided into unknown territories.
In Marla Carlson's beautifully written Ways to Walk New York After 9/11, Carlson intertwines Michel de Certeau's Walking in the City with her personal experience of witnessing 9/11. She, as do several others in this book, acknowledges the resonance of de Certeau's words in the shadow of 9/11. She examines two sound-based works, Janet Cardiff's Her Long Black Hair alongside the Ground Zero Sonic Memorial. She concludes, echoing de Certeau, that "we inhabit these walking texts as rented apartments, filling them up without memories and acts of imagination" (29). Her reclamation of nostalgia, enabling it to become transformative, is particularly helpful when looking at place and memory and provides a relevant segue into the following chapter "Memory/Memorial/ Performance: Lower Manhattan, 1776/2001" by D.J. Hopkins and Shelley Orr. Orr and Hopkins draw our attention to the local, to the small marked grave of Sarah Minthorne in Trinity Churchyard dated 1773. This inconspicuous memorial acts as a catalyst for the authors in their analysis of space and memory in Lower Manhattan. Past meets present as they juxtapose the memorial for the War of Independence and great fire of New York City in 1776 with designs for the memorial for Ground Zero.
Hopkins and Orr remind us that "buildings alone remember nothing" (36) and this chapter, indeed this whole section on remembering and memorial, brings to mind Ariel Kaminer's New York Times article entitled "In your Palm, Memories of 9/11." Kaminer starts by stating that "New York is not meant for memorials. In a city where everything lurches relentlessly into the future, who has time to mourn the past?" (3).1 However, she then goes on to detail the new free iPhone app, Explore 9/11, which "is a guided tour around the perimeter of the World Trade Center site, narrated by the people who lived through it all" (3). According to Kaminer, Explore 9/11 has already been downloaded 100,000 times. This is a memorial that is whispered straight into the ear; it is [End Page 101] a memory that is carried in the palm of a hand.
Rebecca Anne Rugg's chapter "Mission Accomplished: Broadway, 9/11 and the Republican National Convention" provides an interesting account of the performance of activism—and in particular the performance of silence in the city—making a comparison of the ritual of observed silence after Broadway shows after 9/11 and the arts-activist silent protest performances in Times Square in 2001. Key voices in Performance Studies such as Jill Dolan and Peggy Phelan echo in this chapter and resound throughout the book: Dolan's voice calling for the "utopian performative" and Phelan's calling attention to our current condition of witnessing what we did not or cannot see.
Marlis Schweitzer's delightful piece "Surviving the City: Press Agents Publicity Stunts, and the Spectacle of the Urban Female Body" brings us up close and personal with turn-of-the-century "celebrity culture" of the early 1900s where the city plays a significant role in visibility and agency for women.
In Kim Solga's "Dress Suits to Hire and the Landscape of Queer Urbanity," Solga examines Lois Weaver's and Peggy Shaw's Dress Suits to Hire, inspired by and set in a New York dress shop (and its restaging and performance in Austin, Texas). The territory Solga traverses is both the cramped dress shop that is the set of...