Rose English (UK)

The After-Image of the Act

The Study Room, Theatre Museum Covent Garden, Saturday 27 May 2006

The After-Image of the Act was ‘a talk and an event’ and, as English’s proposal explained, a consideration of ‘materials left over from ephemeral practices, and how things do or do not transform in the moment in the same way as a performer does or does not have presence. It will be light, as light as the shoes I had made from horses hooves.’

The After-Image of the Act was a hardheaded but humorous analysis of the nature of aura: the sense of the continued attachment of an object to a performance: the life of the prop after the show, and by implication the introduction into the room of the very energy of artifice itself: the spectre of theatre.

Directed by English’s two assistants, audience members were seated around a long table. The artist showed slides and video of her past productions. But most of the evening was devoted to the objects placed in front of each person. Many were in boxes, to be opened on a cue from English. An interaction then took place between her and the participant, who might also be required, for example, to wear the shoes she had made from horses hooves, or the belt with the horse’s tail; to read an article and explain its contents, or to otherwise display any number of auratic objects from the performed past of Rose English. And thus she created a strange meeting of backstage, frontstage, artist, audience, critic and museum.

English was once described in Harpers & Queen as ‘either a complete genius or a complete fraud: stand-up comedian, Wittgensteinian philosopher and camp icon’: we see her as the godmother of the style represented in Wild Gift I.

Thanks to:
Phoebe English, Sara Santos (assistants to Rose English)
Roddy Buchanan, Oliver Vicars-Harris (Theatre Museum)
Siena Barnes