Marsh Hermeneutics: Performing Sites of Disorientation

Sleigh-Johnson, Sophie. 2022. Marsh Hermeneutics: Performing Sites of Disorientation. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The aim of this thesis is to perform an originary ‘Disorientation’ of particular sites: one that attempts to performatively tune into and map the affective technological patina of the past as a willing displacement of the present as Real Time. Disorientation is a theoretical term I take from philosopher Bernard Stiegler – and through which he, after Derrida, locates the historical ruptures brought about by successive phases of technology as externalisations of memory, as the medium of individual and collective individuation. My aim is to move an understanding of Disorientation from this solely theoretical realm to that of practice, as a willingly generative modality: to perform an understanding of place as originary technics, symbolised by the mythographic site of the marsh. Disorientation is thus uniquely understood at the material level of place itself, as its originary mode.

To perform this, I develop a method of ‘Anachronic Collision’ whose fundamental elements are the tripartite relation between tool, site and personae that, when activated, release the effect of Disorientation. At the centre of this is a ‘Blind Spot of Technicity’ whose modality is spatialised delay, at stake in which is a questioning of the smoothness and speed of the past’s recall in digitised culture, as adverse Disorientation. Contra thinking Stiegler’s Disorientation solely as an effect of memory’s externalisation, this thesis perversely attempts to conjure that which has never occurred in the past, and thus what is not indexed as nostalgic loss through technology. In my multi-disciplinary art practice, this revenant zone is mapped across radio; sculptural installations; re-enactment performances; printmaking, and spoken word, as a repetitive and inter-temporal relationship with the terrain that moves between Disorientation as mode and effect.

To start this ‘Marshography,’ Chapter 1 sets the scene for Disorientation in the marshes of ancient Mesopotamia, as figured in the technicity of the cuneiform tablet, the earliest known writing. Preforming the cuneiform tablet, I make manifests the ‘Marsh Regime’ as the first pre-existent technics, and the source of Ur-Disorientation. Chapter 2 is a case study of Antonin Artaud and his methodology, including props, itinerancy and hole making, which outlines his spell-casting practice as an imbrication with the geological. Chapter 3 develops both previous chapters through formulating re-enactments of a geological form of dérive through my own practice, and an emphasis on the minor mode of comedy. Ultimately, this thesis conceives of Disorientation as the original currency of spatio-temporal collaging, the originary force of life: an intervention on the ground of individuation.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Antonin Artaud, The Blind Spot, Cloud of Unknowing, Cuneiform, Dérive, Disorientation, Fragment, Holsten Pils, Magic, Marsh, Parochial, Leonard Rossiter

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 June 2022

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 Jul 2022 14:47

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:20


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