The twelfth Tonight event featured Ruth Buchanan. Circular Facts is a performance that takes mystery novelist Agatha Christie’s disappearance for 11 days in late 1926 as its departure point. Christie was eventually found but under circumstances that raised more questions than they answered: staying in a hotel in small-town Northern England under a false name and claiming she had amnesia. Three years ago this event was ‘solved’ when Christie was retroactively diagnosed with fugue. Fugue is a complex psychiatric disorder that is characterised by inexplicable journeys occurring in a state of intense mental pressure where one literally flees from their ordinary context to another location and is often coupled with the loss of awareness of one’s own identity.
One could say that by entering the space of a hotel, whether aware of ones identity or not, a point of disappearance is created in that one enters a script of established behaviors, poses and positions. This script creates a strange tension between on the one hand the radical desire to disappear and on the other hand the need to maintain a normative mode of presence to remain disappeared. In this script there are two characters, the guest and the host combined with a highly choreographed spatial setting. The spatial setting encourages the characters to stay in character by offering a series of static, prop-like forms; a bright entrance, a curved stair case, an elegant table cloth, a person. It is this staticness that controls the way in which one appears.
This summer Buchanan lived in a hotel in small-town Southern Germany. By staying much longer than the standard weekend guest and not being employed as a staff member she inhabited a strange position, almost invisibly, that unscripted these registers. In the performance this unscripting or slight disturbance of both character and set becomes the focus in a scenario where these elements are handled physically, neither simply appearing or disappearing, but flickering.
In Lying Freely Buchanan works across three platforms by constructing ‘meetings’ between herself and the practices of three well-known female literary figures – Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, and Janet Frame – in order to ask how one speaks as an artist today and what kind of space it is that this voice makes? Understanding that each of these women have dealt with what it means to have an artistic life in public in highly specific ways, Buchanan explores the tensions between private need and public expectation, and individual desires and collectively received legacies. It is through entering into an intimate negotiation with these configurations, that notions of ones public and private presence are contested.