In Draft Hands, a performer edges around the perimeter of a room, with her hands always touching the walls. She has a sign with ‘interrupt me’ on her back. When members of the audience interrupt her, she turns and offers them a choice of two clenched hands. They pick one. She opens that hand, which reads either ‘personal history’ or ‘local history’. Each option activates a different response.
i. Personal history
The performer whispers in the visitor’s ear, “When I was a child I was afraid of the sound of a door closing. I touched the wall and it brought me comfort.”
ii. Local history
The performer takes a slip of paper from her pocket, folds it up and hands it to the visitor. The papers each contain an article from the Jewish Chronicle.
After running through either of these actions the performer draws a chalk line above her head on the wall, marking the spot where the interaction took place, then continues to edge her way around the room.
Draft Hands was shown at the Rag Factory in east London, and was made in response to the site. Dating from a time when the Jewish diaspora was settled in the east end, this building was a garment or ‘rag’ factory owned by Jewish merchants.
For ‘local history’, Emma uses articles from the Jewish Chronicle from the 1920s – when the Rag Factory was built – that have some relation to prejudice directed at the local Muslim community now. The whispered line from ‘personal history’ is a true story about fear and comfort in Emma’s childhood.
Draft Hands explores the connection between personal and local histories, and how both have echoes that can still be heard in the present.
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Performed at my site | in space, curated and produced by Switch Performance
‘Interrupt me’ sign made by Adi Hollander