The Sentient Archive: Bodies, Performance, and Memory

Cries and Whispers, directed by Ivo van Hove. Pictured is Chris Nietveld. De Singel, Antwerp, March 16, 2009. Photograph © Jan Versweyveld.

The new publication, The Sentient Archive: Bodies, Performance, and Memory gathers the work of artists and cultural practitioners in dance, architecture, science, and the visual arts with essays that cross boundaries within and between disciplines, and illustrate how the body serves as a repository for knowledge. The book is available on the Wesleyan University website.

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Edited by Bill Bissell, director of Performance at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and Linda Caruso Haviland, professor and founder/director of the dance program at Bryn Mawr College, the volume features 28 essays by contributors including Tomie Hahn, Patricia Hoffbauer, Jenn Joy, Ralph Lemon, André Lepecki, Bebe Miller, Juhani Pallasmaa, Marcia B. Siegel, and other notable artists and scholars. 

In drawing connections between body and archive, the essayists consider how and why the moving body generates and stores information for recall, retrieval, or reenactment. Collectively, the writers address issues of history, memory, and agency, but the knowing body, performed or reenacted, remains a focal point.

“This volume presents a marvelous and diverse group of thinkers who, as artists and scholars, are reckoning with the dancing body as a site of knowing, remembering, and performing,” writes Susan Leigh Foster, distinguished professor in the department of world arts and cultures/dance at UCLA, in a review.

The Sentient Archive summons a feast of diverse voices, giving each the space to speak without forcing them into a single chorus. Instead, the book works like a landscape where these voices and their shimmering echoes intersect, inviting us in to join the unfinished, disappearing dance of movement and memory, of the sentient body and its archival impulse, its fragile yet insistent resistance to the slippage of time. Collectively, these voices testify to the whispers and the wild feelings in our bones that can hardly be put into words, but bear our social flesh forward,” notes Elizabeth A. Behnke, creator of the Study Project in Phenomenology of the Body.

Development of the content of The Sentient Archive was supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Image: Cries and Whispers, directed by Ivo van Hove. Pictured is Chris Nietveld. De Singel, Antwerp, March 16, 2009. Photograph © Jan Versweyveld.

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