Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine

by Anette Lundebye

Review of Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine, Fierce Festival, March-April 2012, Birmingham.

We live in a time when the role of libraries and books are changing with the advancement of digital media. Some believe libraries will shift into learning and information centers, others insist that they will continue their role in storing and loaning physical books alongside enabling access to information technology. Whatever happens, providing the access and freedom to read is essential.

Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451, Mette Edvardsen has created a performance project: “Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine”, that has reading and memory at it’s heart. Bradbury’s novel is set in a future where ‘ignorance is bliss’ and books are forbidden as they are considered dangerous. Yet, an underground community of people learn books by heart in order to preserve them and pass them on for the future.

For this project a group of eight people/ performers have each chosen a book and committed to memorize it. The performers become their book for the time of the reading, as they recite the memorized stories to their solo audience. The performance is a constant process and as Mette says: “there is nothing final or material to achieve, the practice of learning a book by heart is a continuous process of remembering and forgetting.” During the Fierce festival anyone can come and consult a book of their choice and experience a reading session at the Birmingham Central Library.

For me, the experience of consulting a live book was quite emotional. My first book was “Aesops fables”. As the book started to tell the fables I was reminded of the vague bits of fables and morals that I have heard and stored somewhere in my mind. It felt quite intimate to be read to – probably because it reminded me of being read to as a child. It is a situation that demands focused listening, and whilst I was listening I was transported by my imagination to situations that the fables evoked. Afterwards I started to think about how many other people must have memorized these fables throughout history as they are estimated to be from c. 400Bc. And also, how the practice of learning by heart is fading as technology stores information for us. I realize how dependent I am on devises to not forget…

Forgetfulness is relentless. History has a few patterns to show for that. To memorize we have to go back again and again to the source. But with lived memories we cannot go back to the source. So how much of our memories become mere reinterpretations? Like xerox copies that loose definition and become fuzzy the more we copy a copy. Whilst written books provide a source to refresh our memories, to remind ourselves and to reconfigure interpretations; Mette says: Books are read to remember and written to forget. It seems like an ongoing cycle. So is practicing memory futile? Some might think the same of poetry and storytelling.

Article published online in Senseness.wordpress.com, 3. April 2012