Mobility, Immobility and The Disappearances Project

An examination of stasis and movement in Version 1.0's performance of 'The Disappearances Project'.

The current ‘mobility turn’ studies the mass and small-scale mobilities of objects, people, information, and capital on global and local scales and the implications of these passages. Mobilities theory also ‘places an unprecedented emphasis on (im)mobility, moorings, dwelling and stillness as much as movement, speed, or liquidity’ alongside the analysis of temporalities, kinaesthetic and sensory environments, embodied practices, political power structures, and more (Sheller 2011).

A mobilities focus offers new ways of approaching and examining performance. I will analyse the work of Version 1.0, focusing on their 2011-2013 verbatim theatre production, The Disappearances Project, which toured Australia as well as having a short season in the UK. Disappearances focuses on Australian individuals and communities affected by the unexplained disappearances of friends and family members.

This production is something of a departure for a company renowned for highly physical performances. Here, two actors sit immobile on stage in front of a large projection screen. By contrast, the screen images are in constant motion, displaying footage taken from a car window, searching slowly through deserted streets at night. In a parallel effect, the actors speak the testimony of a range of individuals without changing accent or expression. The identities shift or ‘move’ rather than transform, in a manner not unlike the repetitive images of night streets. These juxtapositions between movement and stasis have an unsettling and mesmeric effect, capturing, in part, the inertia of non-closure felt by those left behind by the disappeared, as well as the ongoing desire to search for what has gone.

In this presentation, I will unpack some of the ‘mobilities’ practices and effects utilised in the production, examining what is at stake and at play in this interplay of movement and stasis.