This post is in the Presentation category

Dear Reader

A few days ago I watched a television interview with a serving officer in the Australian Defence Force who had recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan. It is very rare in Australia for such people to speak publicly, and the officer was not identified. Rather than using the typical method of hiding his identity by filming in shadow and manipulating the voice recording, the program chose to re-enact the interview with several actors playing his role and speaking the words from the transcript.

I found this approach fascinating on several levels. The text itself was interesting but what made it all the more compelling for me was the actors ability to convey another’s story, a real story, an autoethnographic story that, for reasons of anonymity and security, could not be told by the one who had lived the experience. It was no less valid, had not lost truth. I realised that that telling my story is also dependant in part on actors of a different kind, music of my own creation, and images of my own choosing.  They do not offer me protection through anonymity as the actors do for this officer, but like the human beings giving life to a story, these are the actors that I can press into service to help convey aspects of my story that do not find adequate expression in words on the page or screen. The director in film or television or theatre layers the mise-en-scène of the screen or the proscenium, defining the elements that the audience sees via lighting, props and costume. They assist the actor to build meaning on the text through physical attitude, tension and movement, examining the delivery of words in tone, accent, phrase and intensity. At this point the inadequacy of text is clear and the allure of “performance autoethnography” is becoming more apparent. However, my own experience of autoethnography in performance mode, albeit in recorded form, has not been especially fulfilling and I have found myself cringing slightly at the clash of practiced writer and amateur performer. I hope I have avoided this trap.

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