150,000 Ways of Saying Goodbye: Constructing the Space of Ritual Mourning in Digitalised Memorial Sites
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In this thesis, I present a reading of ritual mourning from a scenographic perspective. Using the digitalised memorial sites Walk the National Covid Memorial Wall and In America: Remember, I deconstruct their spatial qualities to depict how expressing grief, as a subset of identity formation, is inextricably linked to the context of a performance environment. Within trauma studies, a significant body of work exists examining the impact of traumatic representation on an individual. Within theatre studies, however, the research I have found engages largely with notions of liveness and how technology alters such processes of representation. I have thus attempted to assign digitalised memorials – as performances - equally affective agency. Combining a methodology of expanded scenography with a reading of ritual as performance presents a transformation of the memorial sites into dynamic forms of cultural activity, whereby expressions of grief take on relational forms. With supporting notions from commemorative, site-specific and nomadic theatre practices, I present the term ritual mourning as a processual method with which to transform and contextualise identity and grief in communal forms. I thus come to propose digitalised memorial sites – as affective, commemorative, and navigational spaces – as sites of ritual mourning in their ability to create transformative spaces which are open to the relational encounter and exchange of bodies, objects, and environments. In employing the lens of theatre studies, I attempt to ground digitalised memorial sites as spaces in which expressions of grief are granted transformative potentials, thus insinuating the possibility of offering a diverse and communal space in which to tackle collective trauma.