Grief Symbolisation, Multiple Becomings and Anachronistic Space
The Cemetery as a Unique Ground for a Walking Practice
11 June @ 5.00pm
In this paper I will explore three key theoretical considerations regarding space and place in regards to a walking practice within a cemetery: symbolisation and placing of grief, as explored by Elizabeth Hallam and Jenny Hockey in their study on the ways in which Western mourners relate to their dead, and the collected work of Doris Francis, Leonie Kellaher and Georgina Neophytou, in their expansive inquiry into the cemetery as a space of mourning practice. I will then introduce Doreen Massey’s concept of ‘contemporaneous multiple becomings’, as it relates to historical sites, and expand upon this to interrogate and unpick possible new meanings for Anne McClintock’s concepts of anachronistic space.
The relationships between each of these theories will be analysed with a view towards offering a greater understanding of the complexity of a cemetery space. I aim to illustrate that this complexity lends itself well to crafting an audio walking practice. Cemeteries offer a unique chance to explore the possibilities of ‘contemporaneous multiple becomings’: they are at once historical places, with rich opportunities for an imaginative opening up of space, and contemporary green spaces. Cemeteries are also excellent examples of ‘anachronistic space’, that is to say modern life continuing in a cemetery that is preserved in an anterior time and dedicated to the memory of people long past. The kaleidoscopic potentials of place within a cemetery provide fertile ground for a walking practice, and a richness of possibility.
With the disembodied audio format, the listening walker experiences a fragmentation of temporal awareness. Listening to a voice already from the past (whether that be a remove of weeks, or years) brings to the fore thoughts of the cemetery at once moving forward and backward through time. Audio stories of happenings long past, overlaying sights of modern joggers and anachronistic gravestones, offers a way to experience an artistic culmination of the cemetery as a multiple becoming.
Romany Reagan is a second year PhD candidate in the department of drama at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her practice explores theories of anachronistic space, grief symbolisation and cite-based performance through the medium of audio walks in Abney Park Cemetery. Areas of research encompass theatre archaeology, heterotopias, liminal spaces, human geography, the uncanny and the Victorian ‘cult of the dead’.