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Addendum #007




: addendum; plural noun: addenda

In September 2019, Abbotsford Convent's 2019 Artist in Residence, Leisa Shelton will launch a major new work - addendum; for which she will collate, publicly display and then burn her full performance archive of 30 years continuous arts practice in Australia.


October 05, 2019.

Absence AS Presence.

Now in the bridge between the first public program and the second, the focus has shifted from the preparation of the documents to the preparation for ash, the transformation from presence to absence.

This process began in the first stage as I placed the Archive into the hands of the public, my role shifting from the ‘holder’ of the Archive, to one of Witness. Those days allowed me to take the first step away and to engage in the privilege of witnessing such tenderness in the way the folders were held, opened and sifted through by others, to watch their strings re-tied with the same care I had originally offered, and to overhear the contents shared with another through the memories of another. The pleasure of seeing the installation room on the opening and closing of stage #01, full of people engaging with the Archive went beyond my imagining of the event. What had been static for so long was re-activated and in very real ways, no longer felt like “mine”.

addendum; #01, had been months in the preparation and the highly aesthetic presentation was intentionally filled with the implication of what the next stage of burning would hold. The loss, as there is great loss ahead, ever present. But also, much more present, for others is the intention and recognition of the intention, the wider cultural implications.

The realisation of the absence of Archival Centers to hold this work, or of archives within the many major institutions represented within my personal archive – VCA, NIDA, STC, Belvoir St. Theatre, Meryl Tankard Co, Malthouse Theatre, Performance Space, Artshouse etc; has been shocking for many. That there are NO ARCHIVES in which this history is otherwise held amplifies the looming sense of loss. The presence of my work and of those before me within these institutions is a continuing absence, the linage of practice for Contemporary Australian Performance is eternally absent and this, this is the real loss.

Cultural absence is the absence that I am responding to through my practice. Any sense of personal loss is overshadowed by this larger cultural loss. My archive, like hundreds before me and hundreds to come, could have continued in obscurity until eventually it was “trashed” to re-echo the words and actions of poet Mary Oliver.

addendum; this long and steady process, has offered a private and public engagement to these documents that would otherwise never have happened. Across these long months of solitary work, I have returned to every project, recognised the value and learning each work offered and most importantly, recognised that the ‘life’ of each work was IN the making and performing of the work. It has always been the Liveness that interested me, and this remains true /truer.

The ASH as representative of each work will hold the same function as the documents – to remind, provoke and elicit the RE-membering of the work and its significance – no longer as nostalgia, but as an enduring, living work in its own right. There will be a resonance, otherwise absent in the static document because of the processes undertaken.

In this way, the work is transformative and completely affirming of how very valuable the work has been, enabling Presence beyond Absence in the form of continuance.

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