Repertoires of remembrance: violence, commemoration and the performing arts

by Ariana Phillips-Hutton

15 Jun 2020
Journal of British Academy
21 (pp. 51-71)

Abstract: This essay argues for a reconsideration of performative and embodied memory in illuminating how the performing arts – and music in particular – offer a unique means of embodying knowledge and of performing memories of violence. Incorporating insights from these fields provides an alternative approach to the questions of who, what, and for how long we should remember. After establishing a conceptual framework for the mobilisation of rituals of artistic practice and cultural memory, this article discusses examples from a range of cultures and performance practices to explore aesthetic and ethical characteristics of performative memorials. It concludes that performance’s self-consciously ephemeral, temporal, and iterative character means performative memorials can refocus the commemorative impulse away from the past by shifting our collective attention from the question of what should we remember to the question of what should we remember for?

Keywords: Commemoration, embodiment, ethics, music, performance, performing arts, repertoire, violence.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 8, supplementary issue 3 (Memories of Violence).

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