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ROBIN DEACON PRESENTS STUART SHERMAN'S HAMLET: A PORTRAIT / 2010

This ensemble performance is part of an ongoing project about the late US artist Stuart Sherman (1945 - 2001). Described by one commentator as “the Buster Keaton of Linguistics”, Sherman was a key figure in the downtown New York avant-garde performance scene in the 1970's: Sherman may best be known for his solo Spectacle performances, which usually took the form of quick-paced interactions with everyday objects over a table top. He created and performed eighteen Spectacles in total, twelve of which he performed solo, and six with groups of collaborators. A prominent theme of the Spectacles was Sherman's playful use of scale, either in the amplification of small gestures and details, or the miniaturization of theatrical spectacle.” Electronic Arts Intermix.

Since his untimely death in 2001, Sherman has been a somewhat under exposed figure in performance art, but recently there has been a real renaissance of interest in his work with two major exhibitions of his work in New York last three years, and an upcoming retrospective of his restored film works at MOMA. My project has involved me transcribing and re-presenting Sherman's solo performance pieces as a means of exploring the creative processes of an artist who has profoundly influenced my own practice.

In the case of this performance, I have staged a re-enactment of one of his ensemble pieces, namely, his adapted version of Hamlet. Relative to Sherman's experimental approaches to performance, the reference point of Shakespeare’s text might be seen as quite unusual, but in an interview Sherman explained it like this:
"I...wanted to confront the split between avant garde theatre and traditonal theater, and thought one of the best ways to bring the debate to a head as it were, was to take a work like Hamlet and show what relevance my way of working would have." Stuart Sherman, 1985
The original piece was first shown in 1981, and other than my own restaging at the Chelsea Theatre  in 2010 as part of the Sacred: US Radical season, it has never been staged since.