rule of engagement, two: Max Black by Heiner Goebbels and Andre Wilms, the Maidment Theatre, Auckland, 23 March, 2007

An image is an action. That would immediately be enough to clarify an image in poetry – an action of language on language – and how poetry overcomes the limits of language by ingestion, by eating (see the page corpocracy and plaguology). But in Heiner Goebbels’s Max Black with Andre Wilms an action is first a meaning.

What is an illogical action? Not one that doesn’t have a sense. It’s too late. The sense has already happened. It was in the action. A logic of actions proceeds from the joy Andre Wilms has in performing them, that is, from our projected enjoyment, watching the actor. We want him to have enjoyed making sense.

Deleuze, in The Logic of Sense, seems to say that that sense is incorporeal. But on the stage in front of us, Andre Wilms incarnates sense, corporeally. His performance speaks actions and assigns to them meanings, before it addresses itself to language. Although the textual sources for this piece of theatre include Ludwig Wittgenstein, along with Paul Valery, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and Max Black.

The game, no doubt, has its logic. All games do, just as all instruments have voices. So you could say the illogical falls into the class of the game. However, if it is here rather as an action game or, better, a musical action game, than as a language game (but aren’t all games made up of actions?), then the illogic will go to what is said and spoken. But this will already assume a logic, underlying, of the game of theatre.

Of course, time decides. It doesn’t decide outcomes. It decides wins and losses. And this within the logic of the game, absolutely. (Although the absolute comprises outcomes which are supposed to go beyond the game, you wouldn’t want to relativise your wins and losses.) Time is musical. Igor Stravinsky said something like music is the best means we have of passing time. Or was it marking time? And that would necessarily entail cheating time. Winning. We win just by standing on the other side of art and, as they say, cashing in our chips.

An actor is illogical, an actor in the theatrical sense and an actor in the broadest possible sense of that which produces effects. We are not dazzled by effects. We are impressed by precision. The affect of the actor is all too readily subsumed under character and relativised by drama and passed judgement on by story. Or history. The empty actor does not exist, although science might propose to the contrary.

How does Max Black work? By showing what science proposes to the contrary. By musicalising time. And by showing how this is done. You could say this is a shallow cheat, seeing how it shows its hand. But then you are forgetting the actor.

Language remains. It remains, in fact, largely misunderstood. Not a situation you’d wish to exacerbate. That is why we engage ourselves so radically. Yet here we have it and only a voice allows you to do it: bodying forth all these words that say nothing – with one hundred percent seriousness – in order that we mean something – with a sense of humour which exceeds that one hundred percent.