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    Re: Theseus' Ship; the Morgan; Fluid Texts
    From: Christine Wenc
    Date: 2014 Jul 7, 20:23 -0700

    I'm a creative nonfiction writer with training in history. I've also thought a lot about theater and performance. In a play, what's "real" as an audience member is your emotional experience of whatever's being performed. (What's "real" to the actors might or might not be the same thing.) All kinds of things go into this experience -- it's a combination of your expectations for the play as well as how the play is written, directed, performed.

    Maybe something similar happens when people sort of fetishize a certain kind of authenticity, or imbue all kids of extra meaning onto something just because it's old or was owned by someone famous (meaning that the object would never have without the provenance). I loved the old fakes & forgeries gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London -- I think because you got to experience, in an exalted museum setting, a bunch of clearly labeled fakes all jumbled together in one room, one "period" juxtaposed against another -- it really messed with the idea of real and unreal, what's worthy of being shown and what wasn't -- the whole traditional museum experience itself. Plus it was also just fun to see how they did it. (I trained for a little while as a decorative arts/furniture restorer at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, and after a short time it really seemed like a good chunk of the fine antiques world, including the most fancy auction houses, were in no small part an elaborate scam made of stories, speculation, and outright fraud. Including the revelation later on that our program chair's PhD was also apparently an exaggeration. On the other hand, people love stories...and he told GREAT stories. His weekly tours of the Met's period rooms were just fantastic.)

    Anyway. I wanted to go on this trip mostly to just have the experience of being on a ship like this so that I could get some idea of what it might have been like for people doing the same 150 years ago, sort of like going to a performance. (Diesel fumes from the tugboat aside.) So on that level, it doesn't much matter to me how much wood on the ship is original and how much is restored. I want it to have an authentic form, and be made of authentic materials, but whether the wood has been there for 2 years or 200, I don't care that much.

    I'll be writing an essay about medicine on 19th century whaling ships for this project -- I will be on the leg to Provincetown this week. Being sick or injured is a personal, embodied experience. I'm hoping being on the boat will give me just a little bit of insight into what that might have been like, add a 3rd dimension to the many published and archival documents on the subject, maybe in the way that going to play about it also might add something. The physicality of this large wooden sailing ship is what is important to me. (Also hoping that the Bonine will work and I won't have an extra-authentic experience about illness on this trip...) 

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