For the last few months (most recently at Chisenhale Dance Space as part of Dance and the Homemade, and now with Bristol Ferment) I’ve been thinking about and exploring with a new project idea that—for now at least—I’m calling Comeback Special. I still don’t know much about it yet, so it’s a little difficult to write about, but I’ll give it a try.
Following a long-term fascination with celebrity tribute artists (some would call them impersonators, but the serious ones call themselves tribute artists), I went to the Elvis Tribute Festival in Porthcawl, Wales with a group of artists last year. It was a project called Probing Elvis, led by the wonderful Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari. I made a small dance-performance in response to our trip to the Porthcawl Elvis Festival that involved backing dancers.
Since then, my interest in impersonators has shifted to an interest in re-enactments, which is where I feel this project might be going. While at the Elvis Tribute Festival I learned that many Elvii seem to identify with a particular Elvis-era (50’s Elvis, Army Elvis, 70’s sparkly jumpsuit Elvis). One of these is the 1968 Comeback Special Elvis (referencing an iconic TV special that was retroactively known as his big comeback).
I am attempting a re-enactment of Elvis Presley’s 1968 Comeback Special.
My interest shifted to re-enactments after reading a text by Rebecca Schneider called Performing Remains. She talks about an idea (which she herself borrowed) called ‘temporal drag’, so taking an event from the past and wearing it as a form of drag; a sort of costume piece you put on yourself to access something that exists within you and another way to ‘touch time’. The term also refers to the idea of a ‘time drag’ or lag.
I’m interested in the slanted-ness, the queerness, the slippage that’s involved in the act of re-enactment.
So in this early stage of the process, I’m just playing. I’m watching the 1968 Comeback Special over and over and over and over and over. I’m trying to figure out the possibilities for what a reenactment could mean. What a reenactment could be.
I’m doing reenactments of reenactments. It’s like Chinese whispers or two mirrors facing each other or repeating a word so much it loses its meaning.
It’s a start.