On June 13, Peta Murray began a three-week-long residency that sees her in attendance in the Urban Writing House every weekday (until 29 June) between the hours of 10.30am and 3.30pm for The Thesis is Present(ed) – a durational, live art work. The project will see every word of her 400 plus page doctoral dissertation read out loud. The point is a “re-sounding” in quest of what – if anything – within the tome might merit further attention via other forms of scholarly and popular publication or through different forms of broadcast. An extensive archiving of the project is underway, and Peta plans to write about and around the process as well as “out of” the thesis itself.
On day one, Francesca Rendle-Short donned the yellow ‘wit(h)ness’ sash and read the first twenty pages aloud. It was a perfect start and confirmed that it need not be the author’s burden to do all the reading. Anyone who comes to sit in the space is offered this choice – to read or to be read to. Most choose the former. Many choose both.
On Day 2 HDR candidate, Laura Fulton, read carefully and with generosity, weaving the patchwork of texts together towards some kind of sense. She also read a chapter called For the Fallen Women, a list of the names of women artists, advocates, activists who died during the period Peta was conducting her research. Later, David Carlin stood at the lectern to tackle some of the more difficult sections from the early part of the text, notably an extended exchange between two speakers, delivered in a “most bothersome font”. This he achieved, with the assistance of some illumination, and a nearby magnifying glass.
As the week went on more friends and colleagues appeared and the reading continued. Little webs of connection began to reveal themselves, and certain themes to emerge. The loss of voice. Its recovery. The tenuousness of that voice.
In week two Peta will be joined by dramaturge and collaborator, the lighting designer Rachel Burke. Their plan is to consider how to introduce theatrical embellishments to the text so as to “illuminate” the manuscript in revealing and unexpected ways. Feel free to call in to listen, or to read. All are welcome and no appointment is necessary.