day 13 @ sf/surface/soapface

When is a pulse a rhythm? And a rhythm a pulse? Where is the stage a square, a yard, a stockyard, a human stockyard and the stockyard a painting?

Paul called me up on the metophoricity of these concrete generalities, where everything consorts and difference cannot obtain. The point is simple: If, in the piece entitled “on the square” (page opposite), the “friend” is following, where is he? for the actor? It’s a given that we avoid illustration, after the example of Francis Bacon, so is the pursuing “friend” an immanence? to stage right or stage left? above or below?

Is he located along the plane of the fourth wall, in the actor’s sightless gaze out at the audience? Where is the focus for the action?

In fact, is it all the same? Can the actor perform the general universalism of a point of focus? (that is, a point of focus from a distinctly embodied (in the actor) point of view?)

Make the stage the painting, the painting the yard, the yard the space to be crossed before taking a forced shower, under the watchful eyes of our “friends,” who wear their distinctive armbands, and what have we? The same of the same? Or a progress by surface transformations? Or the schizoid connection of every point with every point, of simulacra? Everything is everything at the same time. What good is this lack of particularity to the performer who is asked to cross the stage?

I’ve often had to think about this problem when presenting work I’ve written for the stage and have never arrived at a satisfactory answer. Of course, the friend is Judas as well as Nazi, object of desire as well as monstrous other. The stage is gallows for being platform, test-bed for presenting irreversible but replicable events, stockyard for being empty – except for this solitary figure passing over it with his shadow and his big straw hat and his eisel, Van Gogh.

Samuel Beckett’s specificity in his requirements for staging his plays, his concrete particularisations of urns, mounds of earth, rubbish-bins, rooms which are not skulls but are skull-like, having windows up there upstage, bear additional consideration in light of the impossibility of the generalising abstraction of “the stage is a stage and therefore all places”… The stage is never what it is when it is a stage. That’s just how it works. The stage is reducible to itself in the first place because it is never what it is. Just as the world is reducible to an image because it is not, after all, an image. Where’s the univocity of being when you need it?

The answer this time – the implication of the problem in its solution, in the particular case – was to put the character in charge of the metaphors: the stage is unlike a square but for the character here and now it becomes a square; the friend’s only resemblance to a Judas or a Nazi comes from the character’s act of imagination here and now; and the here and now must be a point in time when, a place on the stage-square where, the transformation occurs – a time and place on the surface of the performance, from the point of view, generating the point of focus.

The “friend,” in turn, cannot be imaginary but must be a real actor, an attendant Figure, and only then imagined by the character speaking, the active Figure. Imagined by the character into the reality of his singularity, even as that singularity shifts and slides over the series of imaginative identifications the character makes. (The attendant role Gilles Deleuze considers in Francis Bacon, Eliot’s ‘third who walks beside you.’) Jeff, in the event, took on the role of the attendant for the purposes of pursuing this logic.

Is this a sufficient answer to the intractable fluidity of a general metaphoricity? Again, in Francis Bacon, Deleuze offers some useful observations. There is no code of codes but there is a logic and a system in operation through the different periods and stages of the work. How it works takes precedence over why it works.

We opened the stage to the possibility that the character could call it – and the “friend” – into being and beings, now square, now yard, now stockyard (and, friend, Judas, Nazi), without any contraction of results onto a single term and without, in effect, displacing one term onto another. So it was less a matter of naming beings than of providing the conditions for the improbable arising of the next condition, of speaking being and of that univocity, being under the rule of difference.

I’m no doubt not being clear enough about this but at each point to allow the character to change and to have an imaginative representation of himself which changes gives the actor little opportunity to fall into the cliches of identity or of a fundamental identity of the world, the “friend,” the stage. Point of view here constitutes point of focus, where ‘focus’ is already a dramatic term.