Rachel Mars is a performance maker borrowing from theatre, live art, and comedy. Her work looks at the idiosyncratic cultural and political constructs that inform the way we are together, as people, just trying to figure it all out. Her recent obsessions have included the rhythms of jokes well told, Roller Derby, and the language of 80s pop.
Most recently she has developed work in the UK with The Royal Court Theatre, Tate Modern, Fuel Theatre, Ovalhouse London, and The Wellcome Trust, and undertaken residencies at The Orchard Project and Asylum, New York; Playwrights’ Workshop, Montreal and Cove Park, UK.
She has shown work at festivals internationally including at WOW, London; Wildside, Montreal; and Hot! NYC.
Rachel is a regular on BBC Radio’s ‘Pause for Thought’ and has written for The Stage, The Guardian, and The Jewish Chronicle.
Work created and/or continued while at UP
In 2014 the 100kg iron ‘welcome’ gate was stolen from Dachau concentration camp. A local blacksmith made a replica. It was exactly like the original.
FORGE is the first of a new set of work about memorials, replicas, and human behavior at spaces with difficult histories. It is a performance that will ask what and who memorials are for, what should happen to places where traumatic events have taken place and who decides. It will ask about decay, hallowing, closure and our responsibility to the present. Across the project I’ll be working with female welders and metal workers, trauma tourism academics and architects and custodians of memory.
At UP I began research into the propriety and ethics of trauma tourism, including Skype calls with artist/academic Laurie Beth Clark who is based in Wisconsin.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama opened while I was in Texas, and I closely followed its conception, design and how it has been received to date.
I also interviewed Megan about welding, being capable, the physical and mental space of metal work and the experience of being in a female body in often predominantly male environments.
I aim for the first piece of performance to be a duo for me and a female welder, incorporating text and metal work.
An audio piece which was commissioned by UK Performance Company Fuel for ‘Lock Her Up’: working with the research of academics at University of Warwick, for download and live installation at the Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, London in June 2018.
The piece considers the experience of solitary confinement.
What happens to your sense of self when you are encased and in silence? Whilst centuries apart, sources from ‘Mrs Maybrick’s Own Story; my fifteen lost years’, (a memoir by Florence Maybrick published in 1905) to contemporary documentation of US solitary confinement systems point to alarmingly similar emotional and mental results of being kept alone. Despite obviously different political, punitive and financial reasons for using segregation, the mental health effects on prisoners are comparable, and extreme. I was particularly struck by the loss of language that people report, and a sound world which is at times silent and at times chaotic. ‘No Soft Thing’ is an attempt to consider just for a brief period what happens to the shape of your world and the shape of your self when you are locked up in this manner.
Writing this work while at UP informed it greatly. Staying in the trailer made me consider spatial confinement (I wrote a lot of it in the trailer at night) and the sudden invasion of uncontrollable noise (like the freight trains that pass the trailer nightly) infected the work. The experience of being in Texas led me to research the contemporary use of segregation in the State.