Publication Details

Hayes, J. "Sites to remember: performing the landscape in cultural history." Journal of Literature and Art Studies 6 .10 (2016): 1194-1203.


This paper aims to compare and contrast two site-specific performance productions, both designed to grapple with processes of cultural remembrance, whilst also operating as successful tourist attractions. The narratives encompassed by both productions revolve around shared Australian histories, for audiences attracted by place and what it is able to represent. Re-enactments of past events call into the present a consideration of what still remains, with both shows enabling new subjective interpretations of earlier times. The defining difference between the two, however, rests in the context of each performance, in the one case as a commodification of heritage and in the other case as the desire to produce an artistic yet popular theatrical product. Ballarat’s, Sovereign Hill’s light and sound show, Blood on the Southern Cross celebrates and commemorates, in mega-spectacle style, the Eureka Stockade, one of Australia’s key historical events. Using a mechanised display of the original goldmining site of the Eureka rebellion, the performance is operated by computers with video-projection, multi-phonic sound, and moving model forms, with audiences moved around the massive site on transporters. The Piccolo Tales, a contrasting performance most notably in terms of size, unfolds the history of Kings Cross, through its setting in the miniscule iconic Piccolo Bar, in one of the tiny side streets of Sydney’s bustling and densest suburb. This paper encompasses an investigation of how the cultural inscriptions of the two specific sites interweave with the performance styles, materials, political and social positioning of the works. Previous performance studies examining site-specificity are utilised, including the author’s analysis of particular festival performances as “place-making” (Hayes, 2012, 2013). Smith’s (2009) model of “signposts” is used to consider acting within site-specific productions in a new light, whilst both performances are more completely analysed through Schneider’s (2011) concept of incomplete pasts forming “cycles of memory”.



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