For an Effective Aesthetics- Includes an original essay by Jean-Luc Nancy
Edited By Lorna Collins and Elizabeth Rush
Part 4 Performance Art 131
PART 4 Performance Art SUSAN SELLERS AND ELIZABETH WRIGHT Painting in Prose: Performing the Artist in Susan Sellers’s Vanessa and Virginia Our contribution to the first Making Sense colloquium at Cambridge began with Susan reading from her novel Vanessa and Virginia (Two Ravens Press, 2008, and Houghton Mif f lin Harcourt, 2009), an imaginative exploration of the relationship between sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. In the pas- sage Susan’s fictional Vanessa is portrayed working on Bell’s Abstract Painting of 1914 (see figure 6). The reading was followed by an excerpt from the staged adaptation of Vanessa and Virginia by Elizabeth Wright, which included an animated visual score of Bell’s canvas. Elizabeth Wright and Julia Bevan per- formed the roles of Vanessa and Virginia. SUSAN: Making sense, according to Jean-Luc Nancy, resides in the act of making, not in the object made.1 Writing a novel about the real historical figures of Bell and Woolf was, for me, already a praxis of ‘making sense’ in the way Nancy interprets it, where what was at stake (Nancy might say ‘at play’) was precisely an attempt to understand and communicate my own sense (intuited and imagined) of both women’s lives. It was a ‘sense’ derived in part from years of reading and viewing all the available extant materials: in the case of Woolf, numerous published texts, unpublished drafts, corrected proofs, notebooks, diaries, personal correspondence; in the case of Bell, paintings, sketches, murals, room and furniture décor, a few essays, some correspond- ence....
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