7.10.2017-8.10.2017 // Underbelly Arts Festival at National Art School, Sydney and live streamed at: aparilamentofowls.net
Live and mediated durational performance with Susie Anderson, Louise Curham, Holly Isemonger, Emily Stewart and Maria White.
A parliament of owls:
⚬ A solitary, nocturnal bird of prey characterised by its small beak and wide face.
⚬ A farsighted bird, the owl cannot clearly see anything within a few centimetres of its face.
A parliament of owls is a project that explores the intersection of performance, writing and experimental documentation processes. Working in a collaborative space, this project seeks to make visible the inherent subjectivity and multiplicity of experiencing a live moment. Here, the performer-turned-scribe acts as expert witness for the festival, recording their observations as narrative and graphic notations. These observations appear in real-time via a textual live stream housed on this website, evidencing the generation of a type of subjective real-time documentation.
At its core, A parliament of owls is an exploration of sight. Since antiquity, western culture has privileged vision and its deeply entwined concepts of truth, knowledge, leadership and rationalism. From Ancient Greek culture comes the motif of the owl as a symbol of Athena, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom; and Aristotle’s theory of the five-sense hierarchy, which privileges sight as the sense most closely associated with God, abstract thought and contemplation. Seeping into contemporary contexts, historical and cultural constructions of the senses influence what is paid attention to and what is overlooked. When thinking about the creation of archives and collective memories, the role of visibility is undeniable in the process of record-making. Histories are preserved through tangible objects and records that can be stored and displayed. Populations are surveilled, catalogued and represented. More recently, social media encourages individuals to document personal lives in minute detail.
A parliament of owls takes these ideas as a starting point to ask: who is accorded the task of record-making? How are events streamlined into a singular narrative? What is overlooked and lost in the process? By experimenting with the form and method of documentation, A parliament of owls acknowledges the vital role vision plays in constructing collective memories while also attempting to find space for multiplicity and the multisensory, both in terms of what is recorded, but also by whom.