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Lady Emma Hamilton’s attitudes renewed: Art gallery performance project

Lady Emma Hamilton’s attitudes renewed: Art gallery performance project

Wallis, Jillian (2016) Lady Emma Hamilton’s attitudes renewed: Art gallery performance project. Scene, 4 (1). pp. 43-49. ISSN 2044-3714 (Print), 2044-3722 (Online) (doi:

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What happens when a contemporary, live art performance is designed and staged for a Renaissance building that is an international tourist attraction in its own right, and displays an outstanding fine art collection in its rooms and corridors? In 2014 I helped to create a theatre performance at The Queen’s House art gallery in Greenwich and in so doing attempted something fairly radical for a museum setting. Lady Emma Hamilton’s Attitudes Renewed was a collaboration between Akleriah, a visually experimental performance collective, myself as a theatre director, and film-maker Jason Wen. The iconic Emma Hamilton was arguably the first female performance artist and the piece was commissioned to tie in with a display of eighteenth-century engravings and paintings in which she features. The flamboyant costume design and choreographic nature of Akleriah’s work instigates immediate audience attention in non-theatre spaces but the art gallery setting for this performance made additional demands. This article considers the negotiation of that space as a venue, navigates the production process from conception to realization, and asks if and how the expectations of the gallery Programmer, and the 350 viewers who saw the piece, were met. The research and rehearsal period is critiqued to track the re-imagining of actual historical characters with an inventive contemporary lens, using intersection between live and filmed images, and fragments of text. The semi-lit location of the performance, its relationship to the pictures on the walls and the recurring frequency of the fifteen minutes duration are key issues. An outcome of the event notices how the close proximity and presence of the semi-transitory audience needed a particular theatrical complicity, a trust within the space. The film projection enhanced the fluidity of the piece, with its shifts in reality and perspective. Feedback included ‘ghostlike… beautiful… intriguing’, bringing alive characters and space.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: art gallery, performance, historical representation, film, paintings, choreography, refracted images, tourists
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 10:22

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