The manual seeks to explore the significance and extent of re-enactment. Re-enactments will be considered as basic utterances, or sets of utterances, whose aim is not to describe or reflect something, but to create something. Re-enactments create situations at the very moment they utter something, and they are therefore very similar to what linguists call “Performative utterances”. This is why re-enactment prefers metonym over metaphor, and contiguity over resemblance; this is why its “illocutionary” dimension reconnects language with reality and lastly reminds us how abundant reality is compared to language.
By translating six complex grains or utterances and actions from one language to another, from one context to another, from one intention to another, the manual explores how re-enactment reminds us how unspecialized, how “open to the world”, and how explosively creative humans are, and it speaks of the inexhaustible reserve of words and actions contained in the human language faculty.
The artefact/event itself is only a fragment of a larger moment. As such the manual explores how artistic re-enactments therefore do not view the original event as something singular and irreducible, but on the contrary, as a complex set of elements that can be interpreted in various ways. It is as if the event, work or performance that serves as the point of departure for the re-enactment, was viewed as a “field of differences”, not fully deployed and therefore only potential, from which more than one meaning can be extracted.
The manual explores the body as a means of re-enacting. While a re-enactment may depend upon historical documents and artifacts – from newspaper reports describing an event to the clothing worn by key figures – your body remains the vehicle that can carry the past into the present, that can give the past presence.
We are no longer witnesses to re-enactments of the past. In realm of reproductions, we are actors who both play the role of spectator and who perform ourselves. The past is significant only insofar as it provides material to create a sense of the present, if not a sense of the human presence itself. Seeing is more credible than breathing.