My research leads me to suggest that the combination of live performance, film and social engagement has the potential to produce a living monument. This innovative methodology has emerged since I discovered that eighteenth century feminist and human rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft lived and worked near me in Newington Green, East London.
Mary Wollstonecraft is the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman published in 1792 where she advocates the possibility of a transformed future for humanity through her writing. She was born in 1759 and died giving birth to Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein in 1797. My living monument to her includes a commissioned multimedia and site-specific play Wollstonecraft Live! produced on Newington Green, London, UK and a series of films, performance installations in galleries, outdoor screenings, book publishing and a specially curated museum exhibition. The historically inflected site of Newington Green impacted on the dramaturgy and scenography of my practice research.
As a result of producing this living monument we were invited to curate an exhibition about Mary Wollstonecraft for Hackney Museum. This opportunity became a turning point when I discovered that the Hackney archive holds an original version of Wollstonecraft’s book and as a response to this we produced an art book documenting the living monument to Wollstonecraft as a journey.
Our book is now deposited next to Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in the Hackney archive to produce a dialogue between the 18th and 21st century.
As I argue in my essay ‘Repetition and Performativity: Site-specific performance and Film as Living Monument’ in a collection edited with Professor Joanne Tompkins titled Performing Site-Specific Theatre: Politics, Place, Practice, this distributed practice questions the notion of ‘place’ in site-specific performance and casts this approach to performance as a ‘recycled, mediatised and distributed presence’ (Tompkins 2012: 13)
I have applied my findings from the Wollstonecraft Live! project to the present-day performance of women’s suffrage drama. Since 2010 this has led me to follow in the footsteps of Edith Craig, the lesbian, suffragette and theatre director daughter of famous English actress Ellen Terry.