Absence, Presence, Indexicality: The Mise en Scène of 'the Heart of Neolithic Orkney'
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
I sketch those characteristics of the mise en scène at the Ring of Brodgar stone circle and associated sites that might solicit within the visitor something like a dynamic performance. Drawing on surrealism, Robert Smithson and archaeology, I argue that the mise en scène at Brodgar – and the visitor's response to it – is characterized by a sense of presence which exists in a dialectical tension with the perception of that which is absent. Brodgar is indexical (like a photograph) and hauntological, in semiotic terms. The Neolithic site is, at some level, unknowable. The visitor becomes aware of coincident yet incompatible manifestations of time and space (heterochronia) and imagines the potential return of unknown, cryptic ritual performances (metatheatre). This solicits within the viewer something akin to Max Ernst's model of frottage. As Breton put it, ‘The imaginary . . . tends to become real’.