Site, Sight, Cite: (Re)Making Locational Identity through Walking and Performance
James Layton and Richard Molony
University Of Chester
In August 2014, James Layton, Richard Molony and Julian Waite (University of Chester) conceived and presented a participatory performance titled (V)-Is-it Chester?, in which spectators were invited on a walking tour of Chester city centre, reimagining its history and present day reality. Currently, Layton and Molony are using the seeds of this performance to curate a community project that employs participatory performance and walking art practice as a means of engaging a range of Chester residents in the arts. The participants will be invited to make connections between their own identities and familiar locations, thus foregrounding autobiographical and non-rational associations (Smith, 2010). Through the (re)exploration of locational identities, Site, Sight, Cite aims to raise awareness of and engagement in the arts in Chester as the city's new arts centre moves towards completion in 2016.
Site, Sight, Cite aims to work with participants in creating their own personal histories of the city. In doing so, the project draws upon notions of 'sited community' (Kwon 2004); performative walking (Smith, 2010; 2014; Heddon, 2012; Mock, 2009), mythogeography (Wrights & Sites, 2006; 2010), and relational aesthetics (Bourriaud, 2002).
In this paper, the authors offer a prognosis for the future of the arts in Chester and how, through engaging the city's denizens in walking art practice, locational identity can be (re)examined and (re)evaluated.
Bourriaud, N. (2002). Relational aesthetics. Dijon, France: La Presses du reel.
Heddon, D. (2012). Turning 40: 40 turns: Walking and friendship. Performance Research, 17(2), 67.
Hodge, S., Persighetti, S., Smith, P., & Turner, C. (2006). A mis-guide to anywhere. Exeter, United Kingdom: Wrights & Sites.
Kwon, M. (2004). One place after another: Site-specific art and locational identity. London, United Kingdom: MIT Press.
Mock, R (Ed.) (2009) Walking, writing and performance : Autobiographical texts by Deirdre Heddon, Carl Lavery and Phil Smith: Bristol, United Kingdom : Intellect.
Smith, P. (2010). Mythogeography: A guide to walking sideways. Axminster, United Kingdom: Triarchy Press.
Smith, P. (2014). Performative walking in zombie towns. Studies in Theatre and Performance, 34(3), 219-228.
Wrights & Sites. (2006). A manifesto for a new walking culture: 'dealing with the city'. Performance Research, 11(2), 115-122.
James Layton is a lecturer in Drama & Theatre Studies at the University of Chester. Currently, his research concerns two areas: firstly, the role of duration in contemporary performance practice and its transformative potential; secondly, using pyschogeography and mythogeography as socially engaged arts practice. The latter is being explored in a project funded by the University of Chester. Previously, James has presented at the On Walking (University of Sunderland, 2013) and The Art of Walking conferences (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, 2013).
Richard Molony is a senior lecturer in Digital Performance at the University of Chester. His primary body of research is concerned with digital performance and stand up comedy, which are both explored, to varying degrees, under the same umbrella of creation of self and personal identity. This research has expanded to contextual identity and how we can both be identified by and place an identity upon a location, through a mixture of our personal history and the history of the area.