SPILL STINGS 13: Sylvia Rimat

Thu 01 Jan 1970

Mary Paterson responds to I Guess if the stage exploded… by Sylvia Rimat, 22-23 April 2011


What do I remember?
A woman standing under a lampshade, her body hiding the stem of the lamp, the fringed, red velvet hiding her face, her eyes projected onto a screen nearby.

She wants us to remember her.  She gives no reason why.  Remember me.  Remember this.  Perhaps it’s because she’s a performer.  Perhaps it’s because she’s a celebrity, or wants to be.  Perhaps it’s because she knows she’s going to die, and she can’t ignore it.  A man’s voice, playing over loudspeakers, says that everyone wants to make a difference; everyone wants to be remembered.

What do I remember?
A man introduced as ‘Kyle, the one who is being celebrated in a kitchen in Sydney.’
A woman introduced as ‘Lucy, the owl woman.’
An owl.

She introduces audience members with a name and an attribute.  ‘Here is Peter!  The one who laughs loudly!  Is there anyone else in the audience who laughs loudly?  If so, please stand up!’  A few people do, identifying themselves and performing themselves at the same time.  She introduces one audience member as ‘The one who nobody really knows.  Is there anyone else in the audience who nobody really knows?’  Only two people stand up, even though all of us should have.  We all want to be remembered; we all pretend we are known.

What do I remember?
A silver card.
Two people in Sydney having a party nine hours in the future, their celebrations caught on webcam and beamed live into the theatre.
An elephant walking on stage, gazing at us, and then looking away as if nothing happened.
(But that was imagined, not real.)

Kyle’s memory is being celebrated in the future, on the other side of the world.  It’s night time in Australia, and Malcolm and Georgie are wearing party hats.  They’ve made a banner for Kyle.  They have a cake, and Georgie is blowing up a balloon.  The images on the webcam are slow and unclear, like a distant memory.  The picture keeps sticking, then jumps.  It’s the past, the present and the future all at once.

What do I remember?
Footsteps made of flour and water.
The voice of a man, a scientist, talking about memory.
A woman pointing a rifle at her feet and shooting herself in the foot.
(But that was imagined, not real).

She asks us to visualise a journey in our own homes, and to pin the image of her to a familiar piece of furniture.  This will increase the chance of us remembering, she says, as if that is something we all want to do.  I close my eyes and go along with it, but when it comes to the pinning of her image I find I can’t do it.  What if I run out of room for other memories?  What if this piece of public performance becomes a permanent fixture in my private life?  What if I have to pretend to know this stranger every time I walk between rooms?  What if my memories change me?

What do I remember?
Two silver buckets.
Somebody drinking rum on stage.
Somebody hiding beneath a lampshade, whispering into a microphone.

She wants us to remember the owl, she says, as the messenger of the Gods, as the one who can predict thunderstorms, as the friend of Winnie the Pooh.  The owl is symbolic.  Its memory is not constrained by the aspirations of its ego, or at least not in a way that we can understand.  Somebody referred to as ‘the owl man’ hoots at it through a webcam.  The owl does not recognise the noise.

What do I remember?
Sylvia, pronounced with a Z, who asked me to remember her.  Because ‘one day I will be gone,’ she said, ‘and you will be gone.  And then, will we really both be gone forever?’
Sylvia with a Z pulls on the lampshade like a skirt and jumps in neat, abstract shapes.   ‘This one goes out to Bauhaus and Oskar Schlemmer.’

What do I remember?
‘Remember the name! Remember the name!’ written on the screen behind her.
‘Repeat! Repeat!’

If I squint, I can see a serious dancer from the last century.  She occupies the stage along with an owl, an elephant, a deer, and pieces of screwed up paper with audience members’ names on them – some of it real, some imagined.  The images float somewhere between a memory and a dream, but they’re always collective.  It’s not that I’m remembering something, but that we’re remembering something together.

What do I remember?