autobiography (of a sexually emancipated communist women) (work in progress)
this project is an attempt to adapt for performance the 1971 edition of russian revolutionary alexandra kollontai's autobiography. this particular edition, annotated by Iring Fetscher, reveals in and returns to the text those passages kollontai had excised before its initial publication in 1927. inspired in part by Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, autobiography features a solitary character on stage, trying to comprehend the past as she told it to herself then and her relationship to that past and its telling in the present. she records and rerecords her narrative, erasing or altering her thoughts and impulses, and sometimes leaving only silence.
I included excerpts from a workshop version of the project in my article about Kollontai's
Autobiography published in a special issue of Performance Research 20.6, "On An/Notations." the article, titled "The Body in the Margins: Alexandra Kollontai's command performance," moves between, on the one hand, a reading of the edited text's ambiguities and ambivalences—was it personal pride or party pressure that provoked specific alterations?—produced by Fetscher's opaque method of indicating excised passages and changed words, and, on the other, my imagining of the Autobiography’s theatrical embodiment. I explore annotation as an editorial act capable of reconstituting the extra-textual body of a writer over and above her attempts to discipline that body into compliance with a desired or intended disembodied narrative. Annotation, by drawing our attention to the page's unstable temporality, foregrounds writing as a physical, durational activity that transfers the undecidability of performance on to and into the seemingly stable text. Taking into consideration the tendency for annotative practices to displace the historical context of a text's production in favour of the historical context of its annotation, I contend that Kollontai's Autobiography, in Fetscher's hands, usefully works against this stabilization and exposes its historiographical limits. The 1971 edition functions instead to unfix and revisit a critical historical moment on its own terms, revealing a performative negotiation of circumstance provoked by the vagaries of revolutionary time.