Peta Murray's acclaimed PhD project, Essayesque Dismemoir: w/rites of elder-flowering, concerned the lived experience of ageing – especially in one's artistic practice – and the particular arts-based methodology she devised to speak to that experience. The Thesis is Present(ed), a live performance of this hybrid work, will be staged over three weeks in the Urban Writing House as enacted research, exploring what this arts-based doctoral thesis might become. The performance will include light and sound elements produced in collaboration with lighting designer, dramaturg and scenographer Rachel Burke.
"My aim is to read the work aloud from cover to cover. Every word, every mark, every footnote, every reference will be somehow given voice," says Peta. "My questions of the moment include: what have I got there already in those 400 pages? Might there be other methods of editing, via processes that are participatory and immersive? Can such a reading be cast as a form of publication in its own right? How do I pare back the existing work ( 113,712 words, 3,111 paragraphs, 10,871 lines) to something manageable, and what might those remaining words be?"
Peta's multi-modal doctoral dissertation was presented to her examiners via a range of text-based experiments in the essay, housed within an ornate illustrated florilegium. Its pages combine the memoiresque with scholarly writing, and include traces of Ware with a Translucent Body, a triptych of performance-based works that formed the creative component of the thesis.
Through a live enactment of her thesis, Peta will explore what it might mean to publish from a work that was often delivered through live performance, and was therefore designed to be ephemeral. Will it become an artist's book, or something artful, composed of imagery and text? Is it a book about elderflowering? Is it about queering? Is it about ageing and death and dying? Is it about creativity? The Thesis is Present(ed) is an experiment in 're-sounding' a work to determine who its possible audience is and where its readership resides.
Peta Murray is a writer, dramaturge, teacher and newly appointed Vice Chancellor's postdoctoral research fellow at RMIT. Her practice-led PhD project, 'Essayesque dismemoir: w/rites of elder-flowering' employed variations of the 'performance essay' to devise playful and participatory nonfiction on themes of the creative life course and the embodied experience of ageing. Peta's best-known plays are Wallflowering and Salt. Critical writing includes a chapter in Creative Manoeuvres: Writing, Making, Being (2014), and a contribution, Please Supply Own Title to Text's Special Issue on The Essay. Peta is co-founder and Creative Director of arts-and-health organisation The Groundswell Project.
For more information please visit nonfictionlab.net.au/the-thesis-is-presented