NOTA: NOT, NOTES, NOTER (NOTA), NOT/A, is a research framework produced by Open Dialogues (Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson) that presses on the time, place and quality of notes in relation to performance. NOTA takes the form of performances, installations and a book published in ten chapters. To date, Open Dialogues has performed NOTA at SHOWTiME (London, 2012), Oh! Seminar (Florence, 2012), Critics and Cocktails (Copenhagen, 2014) and the Cross Cultural Live Art Platform (London, 2014). Chapter One of NOTA was launched at I’m With You: Index in February 2014, and is an 80 page book of risograph prints of notes produced at NOTA’s first performance. The books were assembled during the launch – no two books are the same.
For each performance of NOTA, two (female) writers sit at a desk alongside a live event. We face the audience and write and stamp notes. Our position is both powerful and powerless – we could be sitting in judgment, or we could be discharging an administrative function; we are watching the audience, and we are subject to their gaze. This doubled status reflects the role of a writer: someone who is in a position of privileged communication, as well as part of a work-force charged with generating content for ever diminishing returns.
The desk is significant. It is a location for administrative work, a staple item for a professional writer, and a choreographed table-top performance space that invades the distance between audience and stage. As writers and as women we occupy all these modes at once – labour, creativity and the aesthetic realm.
During the performance, we mark each note with a customised, heavy-handled, rubber stamp dabbed in a pad of ink. Each stamp-mark shows the time and date, alongside the words ‘NOTA’ and ‘RECEIVED.’ ‘Received’ is a scar of the rubber stamp’s humble origins in office stationery: in its un-customised form, this stamp lines the shelves of STAPLES next to calculators and index cards. ‘Received’ also suggests the movement of the note, from writer to reader perhaps; or through the theatre floor, rising up through our performing bodies, and out of the tips of our pens. The stamp, its action, seals this movement onto the page.
This administrative punch is the only form of editing the ‘finished’ notes receive. Instead, the editing of NOTA takes place in the foremath of the writing: the choreography of the installation, the choice of materials, the placement of the table.
The aftermath of the writing, the notes themselves, are displayed in the performance space after each event, without any editing – typos, inaccuracies, blunt questions and all. They NOTAte the performance, translate its experiences and become its remains. And they exhibit the role of writing, as both form and action, in the production of meaning. Handmade, often unintelligible and critically unleashed from the subject that is their alleged focus, these notes appear to be exorbitant and unpublishable.
In NOTA, our notes make a particular invitation to the reader – as a form of conversation, they suggest there is space for other people to speak. And in fact, each element of NOTA – the public writing, the role of the writer/ worker, the display of private documents, the delayed and deconstructed publication – is an attempt to open up the processes of writing to the possibility of dialogue and intervention.
NOTA’s always already fallible notes are almost impossible to change after the fact, and any corrections simply draw attention to themselves as clumsy redactions. As a framework, NOTA performs these errors as innate, and the writing as bodily and simultaneous.
The notes on this page were all produced as part of the Cross-Cultural Live Art Platform, curated by Something Human, at the Proud Archivist in London, November 2014. More more notes from this event are below:
Open Dialogues is a collaboration that produces writing on and as performance. Founded by Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson in 2008, Open Dialogues works with artists, curators, festivals and publishers in the UK, Europe and the US. www.open-dialogues.blogspot.com