Redaction.

Vanessa Damilola Macaulay, with Broderick D.V. Chow, Sharanya Murali, Ella Parry-Davies, Bella Poynton, Stefanie Sachsenmaier, Azadeh Sharifi, Liyang Xia

This issue of Interventions focuses on the theme of redaction. I (Vanessa) am drawn to the new possibilities for redaction as a strategy of reclamation as well as sustaining spaces of conversation, care, and interventions. The Oxford Dictionary defines redaction as ‘to censor or obscure part of a text for legal purposes and confidentiality.’ Historically, redaction has been used to cover up racist or otherwise violent government actions that link redactions to typographic interventions and systemic inequalities. What these actions claimed is usefully challenged by artists that undermine the legibility of redacted text. By way of an example, poet Reginald Dwayne Betts and filmmaker Titus Kaphar use lawsuits filed by the Civil Rights Corps as primary sources of material. ‘Betts utilizes the legal strategy of redaction to craft verse out of legal documents, capturing the complicated and pervasive effects of time spent incarcerated.’1 Another useful example is artist Alexandra Bell’s series “Counternarratives” which features redactions and annotations of articles in the mass media, most notably the New York Times’ coverage of the murder of Black teenager Michael Brown. 

Redaction is therefore bound up in power, discrimination, and control which reveals significant inequalities in political and social life, including academia.  The role of redaction in relation to academic writing poses an interesting opportunity for ways in which we might think about the function of ‘editing’ text for publication. Thinking through the politics of knowledge production allows us to recognise that, redaction holds within it the power to write and re/write histories. That is not to suggest that redaction can erase the violence of language, but instead offers a visual indication of the possible moments of REDACTED. This type of editing might also be usefully expanded to think about creative and performative possibilities in redacting or censoring material.

This issue considers the question: how can redaction be used as a strategy or a tool for critique?

REDACTED was formed by Christina Sharpe’s ‘Black visual/textual annotation and redaction’ which argues for  a critical practice of ‘reading and seeing something in excess of what is caught in the frame.’2 Sharpe looks at the possibilities of annotation and redaction to imagine other possibilities of reframing Black bodies in images. Redaction proves an interesting visual and textual intervention into dominant narratives, editing and publication. I propose that this issue invites various provocations around redaction, including the stakes of repositioning ways of knowing that challenge censorship and omissions. Sharpe’s call for ‘the new modes of writing, new modes of making-sensible’ speaks to the intention behind redactions, which not only draws attention to language but punctures easy legibility.3 

Isabel Stuart writes about redaction as a dramatic technique in Lucy Kirkwood’s Maryland that not only emphasises the unspeakable horror of sexual violence against women but also draws attention to a shared embodied knowledge among audience members. Staged in October 2021, just a week after the trial and sentencing of serving London Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens for the rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021, Kirkwook’s play echoes the culture of violence against women that is so prevalent in the wider world. Stuart points to the intersection between redaction and state violence and describes Maryland as pushing back against this institutional gaslighting, secrecy and culture of cover-ups, and using redaction as a theatrical tool for critique.

In ‘Thoughts on redaction and care’, dance scholar and practitioner Tia-Monique Uzor takes us on a personal journey in revisiting her experience of almost drowning in the Atlantic during a period in which she trained at the École des Sables in Senegal. Considering the body and the sea as archival spaces, as keepers of histories and secrets – cultural and personal ones – Uzor ponders on the parallels between dance and water as containing liminal connections across time. Emphasising the current moment of racial and feminist reckoning as part of which what has been hidden and redacted from the public view is confronted, she considers her collaborative work on Katherine Dunham’s archive in terms of the choreographer’s resistance and refusal to disappear from history. In this context, Uzor discusses how digital methods can be used to reveal that which might otherwise have been obscured in the archive. She further draws parallels to her own experience as a dance scholar navigating an academic context marked by violence and REDACTEDaggressions, asking how to move on from here.

Aline Hernández’s essay “Doubling Down on the Spectacle” demonstrates how re-enactments of feminicide photography in Mexico disrupt necropolitical aesthetic operations, and perform, instead, a mode of critical redaction. Unpicking the relationship between death and time as scripted by feminicide photography, Hernández argues that the re-enactments shatter normative temporal expectations of violence, and present us with an ethical responsibility to think anew on how “women situated in the present can re-signify past events and, at once, lay their emergency claim into the here and now.”

This issue also features a postscript from dramaturg and scholar Melissa Poll responding to her article in the latest print journal, “Towards an Eighth Fire Approach: Developing Modes of Indigenous-Settler Performance-Making on Turtle Island.” In the Postscript, Poll outlines her emergent practice of Equity and Inclusion Dramaturgy, specifically within a Canadian, settler-colonial context. Our current Dispatches piece comes from Rina Arya and visual artist Allie Carr, documenting the interiors of theatres closed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On a personal note, with this issue we are saying farewell to editor Ella Parry-Davies, who has been with Interventions since the June 2017 issue on collaboration. It is fitting that Ella’s first issue was devoted to collaboration as this is the ethic and value she has continuously brought to the journal, and which has had enormous impact on the way Interventions has been shaped. Ella has taken on a new role as Associate Editor for Performance Research. We will miss you, Ella, and best wishes in editorial pastures new!

Vanessa Damilola Macaulay
Broderick Chow
Sharanya Murali
Ella Parry-Davies
Bella Poynton
Stefanie Sachsenmaier
Azadeh Sharifi
Liyang Xia

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Notes:

  1. MoMA, ‘Redaction A Project by Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts’ https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/5056
  2. Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016). 113.
  3. Sharpe, In the Wake, 113

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