August 2007

days 16 & 17 @ sf

day 16 came and went without the numbers we needed to have the rehearsal. day 16 was deferred to day 16. In the event, day 16 was very odd.

Paul sat at the piano, Erika on a barstool: If there were a style we’re making a pastiche of, what would it be? This is the setting for the ‘song’ “fun at the soap factory” (pages opposite) Paul’s talking about. What had I in mind? Well, there are five lines in: 1) Guillaume Appolinaire’s “Suicide” set by Dmitri Shostakovitch in Symphony 14 (why? because “trois grands lys” sticks in my mind as a beautiful setting); 2) the cicada rhythm zero of Shostakovitch’s Symphony 15, at the end of the final movement, which for some reason always reminds me of Anton Chekhov’s minimal human activity, a sort of entropic (and pathetic, empty-cherry-orchard) humanity, a propos here; 3) the rhythmic turnarounds of The National’s “Fake Empire” on their Boxer album; 4) Kurt Weill’s blend of the bar room, the Biedermeier and the broken rhythms and dissonance of a popularised (socialist) high avant-garde; and 5) the Colony Room Club singalongs around the piano if there were such things and a piano at the Colony Room in the 1950s in Soho (although we know of Sod (nee Edomie) Johnson’s, who was also known as “the buggers’ Vera Lynn,” club nearby [The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, Daniel Farson, p. 41]). Paul composed, being brilliant, and we watched, Anja saying she felt herself privileged to see this writing process in action. day 16 was odd because at a certain point the various actions diverged. Erika and Barney wrestled. Then Anja and Barney improvised these sort of sexualised shapes of a frustrated familiar, the Ida character, the K. character ignoring her Felice-like advances. This last was leading and interesting but I still don’t know entirely what it means.

The Ida character we decided needed the force of her sexuality to come through, her frustrated sexuality. She needed an answer beyond the passivity of her spectre-like presence as the forgotten character: how to make the lack of dialogue, which is a theme for the actors, work for the dancer theme; the gestural (anticipatory) anacting becomes spectral in the dance but in so doing the effect on the dancer as character is to make her (in this case) a sort of repository for the unexpressed between actors – regardless of their characters – and therefore gender her passive, play into the cliche of the lifted, pulled, pushed, killed, fucked female Classical dancer. Give her sexuality – not a gift, balls, an erection – and what happens.

day 16 this was the thinking but I think now as I did at the very outset of considering the dancer theme that there has to be some other point of view she provides, some other eye on the proceedings of which she is a part. I’ve got no idea how to get there and the best clue I’ve got on how to get there is her laughter in her interaction with the actors … something that has to be worked back from in order to arrive at how it works, counteractualised. Really, I suppose, I want to synthesise the conditions that give rise to this involuntary joyful and optimistic laughter. As usual it is the wholly fortuitous which holds the greatest interest. So, let us return to Francis Bacon. And Gilles Deleuze.

Sick of the hollow ironic laughter. Look at the dancer.

day 17 we are at Paul’s scoring the song: the sun is shining on the bay and Paul says, I might vomit at the inadequacy of these chords, these notes, this lack of a power to pull me out of cliche. Very like Bacon. Out of the rehearsal environment there’s nothing to bring the process of musical composition back to performance, to his performance. Hence a performance anxiety, awful, with Erika and I sitting on his shoulder. We shudder along and sketch out the eclectic borrowings which might make a musical structure. And it becomes a question of choosing the patch-work over a straight composition in D major, say. Don’t know. But we get through. The harmonic language begins to gel. A B goes down to an A, a two octave slide, to a low A. We discuss hemiola. Talk out the rhythm. Igor Stravinsky keeps calling. But you know nothing dates a piece less than its references.

You know also strategies of appropriation and ironic distanciation, working at something like an n+1 dimension, mock the idea of a whole with the mutiny of its parts. And these parts claim for themselves the autonomy of having histories and dates such that they cannot have imposed upon them a sense in excess of what they already possess, a modernity of which they will already have taken possession. It’s this previousness, this pre-supposition of modernity which makes postmodernity date so quickly, so badly.

The over-reaching of modernity in postmodernity is a semantic precursor to the same movement. Yes, there’s a dimension to be overcome but it’s already immanent – as the future – in the reference to the past. It never arrives, having had its arrival in its beginning, in its expropriation from a context deemed past but in fact present, to the work – as present as a question mark. So the imposition of sense on a work aware of its references, its polemic, its ‘internal’ argument with referentiality, does not mean an imposition from the outside, from the now, onto materials gleaned from the then, whether such materials form a whole or not (whether they are ‘digested’ or ‘incorporated’ or not). The compromise with found materials exists insofar as an extradimensionality is inferred from them, which, in the case of the contrast between postmodernity and modernity, is temporally overdetermined, signifiant.

The problem of a past that supervenes in the present by asserting its futurity is not the same problem as that of the work in its identity with its time or that of its adequacy to its time. But do the identities and adequacies or inadequacies of works and images nest into their time, entrain? Is the problem then the problem of the self-identity of a time? a time being given a certain character? Or can we say that the problem and those that nest into it lies in the relation of a given character of a time and the passage of characters through it? Wouldn’t we thus avoid the essentialism of even those essences, like postmodernity, which subsist sous rature but seek to prevail nonetheless, and those types of relation which form – and perform – hierarchies before they generate events?

You may know these things but Paul in a later conversation confides it’s because he takes music so seriously that putting his composition out there turns his stomach. He says, I’m inured to the nakedness I have when performing, as an actor. But he lacks similar defenses writing music, similar self-defenses. And this is where the idea that you can write in character comes in. What else is finding one’s voice – as a writer, a poet, a composer, an artist – than settling for less, for the alterity of a recognisable, dependable and, above all, identifiable character in which to write, versify, compose, consist? Formal constraints inform a character. And there would have to be a whole theory – of individuation and morphogenesis – of character to which lack of character would not be opposed. Character, once it ceased to show good character, would be an answer to the problem of identification, but more so, perhaps, an answer to the problem of incorporation. The mask to the skin.

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towards day 18 @ sf, part 1

In learning by doing, or by interacting with and adjusting to materials, machines and models, experimentalists progressively discern what is relevant and what is not in a given experiment. In other words, the distribution of the important and the unimportant defining an experimental problem (what degrees of freedom matter, what disturbances do not make a difference) are not grasped at a glance the way one is supposed to grasp an essence (or a clear and distinct idea), but slowly brought to light as the assemblage stabilises itself through the mutual accommodation of its heterogeneous components. In this assemblage the singularities and affects of the experimentalist’s body are meshed with those of machines, models and material processes in order for learning to occur and for embodied expertise to accumulate.

– Manuel DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, Continuum, London, 2004, p. 177

Manuel DeLanda is addressing himself to the nonlinearity of the laboratory, with all its props, actors and machina, when it comes to pursuing phenomena and establishing causes. What the laboratory causes to happen in a nonlinear fashion is the progressive individuation of a desired outcome or phenomenon. Theoretical models, experimental precedents, in addition to the skill levels of the various actors, play their part in this assemblage, as do the usual materials, equipment and techniques of the laboratory, in a directed but adaptive and therefore open-ended sense. The sense of the experiment is after all what is at issue, its differentiation and stabilisation as particular to the given conditions, as individual and singular but replicable. In view of this sense, the experiment can be described not only as the enactment or actualisation of a probabalistic field but also the close observation and progressive definition of all the conditions in the field including their recording. This recording will of course conceal the actual causality by omission. It will presuppose the sense of a given experiment and like any other set of instructions omit the givens of the given, for example, that an experimentalist must needs have acquired a certain degree of skill or expertise in order to follow and replicate the experiment. The transmission of expertise, in order to say an experiment may be repeated and the results replicated, or rehearsed and the production realised, assumes a function contributing to causality. The idea, sense or problem of the experiment is rehearsed surely only insofar as there is a chance element, a diversion into the aleatory through which all the givens must pass. Such a chance would not simply allow mistakes to happen but would open up the assemblage of parts, in the laboratory, to the generation of unforeseen individuations, whether by mistake or design. Wouldn’t this also mean that the replication of standard results in an experiment, that replicability, requires this chance and invokes it? and that the rehearsal of the same rests on the difference made by the introduction of the arbitrary?

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reviewing a further comment on a preceding post: Uri Khein on “towards day 16 @ sf: the dancer’s role in RJF project, pt. 2”

Inevitably, that gesture of definition IS the argument.

– Uri Khein, comment on preceding post, all further quotations are in italics.

The gesture of definition anticipates an argument.

Here I am happily bastardising my little understanding of Gilles Deleuze on the order of a risk (material) and a challenge (anti(philo)sophical) and you come along and scientise the presuppositions of the stage. What recourse for me but to betray my sources by returning to them. Gilles Deleuze writing with Felix Guattari:

… the relationship of science with philosophy is less a problem than that of its even more passionate relationship with religion, as can be seen in all the attempts at scientific uniformisation and universalisation in the search for a single law, a single force, or a single interaction. What brings science and religion together is that functives are not concepts but figures defined by a spiritual tension rather than a spatial intuition. There is something figural in functives that forms an ideography peculiar to science and that already makes vision a reading. But what constantly reaffirms the opposition of science to all religion and, at the same time, happily makes the unification of science impossible is the substitution of reference for all transcendence.

– Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy, trans. Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson, Verso, London, 1994, p. 125

… the argument is … about a fundamental apprehension concerning where the actor is. By where the actor is, I mean where he or she is, prior to the generative deduction (or the false lead or impasse) prior to coherence-optimisation-emergence, prior to the assimilative and originary processes that would seem to intimate a something that is entering the psyche and transforming it, as well as galvanising body and mind. The question then is whether that priorness, that immanence, can rightly be called the generality ….

I would rather pin an actor to the boards, and have done so, or so I have been told, than claim on his or her behalf conceptual access to a generality which precedes him, or her, and is prior. “Priorness” I take to be a mere slip away from ‘priority.’ To be clearer: the question is the benefit in calling what is prior to processes proper to an actor generality. Even if we say the calling is done because of an immanence presupposing certain other things, as yet obscure, the question is a passive position but an active preposition: to whose benefit “rightly called”? The reason I say you make the call and stake the terminological claim on behalf of an actor, and not directly on your own behalf, as your right to rightly call, is that an actor ought neither to be the object of a subject in generality which precedes him or her, nor the object of a science, a definition, that has priority. The call I’m making is that as far as I can tell there is no immanence of the stage planular or otherwise without an actor. It is certainly not prior. An actor might arise from immanence but would at the same time as the place of generality becomes discernible. Which is no more than saying that before the mise-en-scene and character there’s an actor and a stage.

… in specifying the generality as plane or screen of immanence or abiding significance …

In seeking to describe an immanence rightly belonging to theatre, whatever it’s rightly called, what are we doing but addressing ourselves to the presuppositions already at work in the history of theatre, to works and histories? It’s our job to find out what has “abiding significance.” Certainly, I don’t think you mean to give generality the rightful authority to decide for us, however, in giving immanence significance you install a signifying regime, which regime is explicitly said to preexist an actor: I’m saying it therefore preempts, prescribes, actor and director and writer in the theatre since all significations they might make have already been submitted to the one general abidingness.

… I do not intend to imply “a condition of an all-pervasive representation.” Rather, that the generality is necessarily pre-conditional, imageless, non-summative, non-representational: prior to but—and this is the key—neither causative of the gestures or ideograms of representation, or of any particularity, nor reducible to the mass of indistinctions that are prefigurative of representation itself. In other words, the generality has nothing to do with the stream of equivocations that cling to nothing, not even to themselves; nor is the generality an integral unit or function of cohesion! All in all the generality is not the generality of a something. It is generality itself. It is irrefutable not because it is imposed or because it imposes itself but because it is not, and cannot be, imposed and does not, and cannot, impose itself. The general is, in every possible sense of the word, appositional.

Whether representational or not, generality thus defined does impose itself. It imposes itself by prescription. And, I would add, by relying on a plane of reference “that already makes vision a reading.” [Deleuze and Guattari, loc.cit.]

The generality simply abides—as the very condition of the stage itself. … The inherent indefinability is perhaps, above all, what the generality is.

This may be so. But as the condition of the stage what does generality have to say about the condition of the stage?

The impulse to reverse out of, or better said, recoil from immanence is the human impulsion of identity and differentiation itself.

Here, I think you equivocate. Immanence may still have consistency, the consistency of chaos. And identity and differentiation are confused. Identity invokes generality. Differentiation revokes the specification of the human, the unification of the drive, the definition of generality.

.. it is almost always the impulse of the actor to release the problem of identity and differentiation—or simply to suspend it, for at least as long as is required for another emergence to occur.

In the event, difference provokes just such an emergence, doesn’t it?

… the generality, the stage, the plane of immanence, the primary or primordial significance …

I’ve already stated why I object to making significance primary. I’d opt sooner for a primordial insignificance.

… what is immanent or innermost and even pervasive is inevitably consciousness …

Consciousness! Here we come to the reason for my inclusion of the excerpt from Deleuze and Guattari above because I can only assume your vision of consciousness involves a spiritual (or scientific) reading. You may as well have said that what is immanent or innermost to theatre and even pervasive in it is theatre, so often is the analogy made between consciousness and theatre. I would argue theatre can be the best critic of consciousnes because it has this analogy in its history, in its works, and wants constantly to spit or piss it out.

… why would the generality be perverted and why would it be maintained as a something to be opposed for the sake of making sense or of staking out a position?

The question is not why but how. That’s the question: To make sense, stake out a position, which will be the position of the parts of a theatrical production, including the actors, and the whole piece, that perverts – or shifts, one might say, from screen to screen – the generality as the “pre-conditional, imageless, non-summative, non-representational” and “appositional,” exactly as it is maintained, and oppose it for the sake of ridding theatre of significance, especially that dreadful acquiescence, that awful and awesome receptivity it has – its first power – to ideas, ideas that want to make of themselves its precondition.

… it is sufficient that the particularity simply plays itself out upon the generality, the screen of immanence … the very and indefinable thing that may appear to be holding the performance literally in place. It is something greater than praxis. … One couldn’t say how it works or why it works, only that it does work.

Michel Foucault writes: to know how a thing is made so that we know how to unmake it. So I think we need to find out how it works if it does. And that this necessarily entails fieldwork while praxis is still a means of discovery.

If … there is recoil from the generality, then particularisation becomes distorted. In that event, significance will be inevitably attributed to what is insignificant. … There is no malady of significance inherently and none at all of generality.

Deleuze, writing with Guattari, in One Thousand Plateaux, diagnoses two maladies: semiosis and signifiance.

… for the child, language is an inheritance …

The child is different in language from what he or she is outside it. Language inherits the child. But even in this inheritance things aren’t so simple. Parts remain of what the child was before language throws the symmetry of language off-balance to the point of decentering the identity of linguistic consciousness. Language is not ideal. It’s rife with symptoms, crazed with cracks; strange folds appear just when we think we’re ironing it out.

… significance itself will obtain not merely to a given significance or significances but to the literally meaning-less ground wherein radical or primary significance is always pre-eminent. And even if such radical or primary significance should not be fully or apparently available, that selfsame significance is yet guiding the actor as nothing else can or will.

Do you have in mind here significance as a transcendence? To refer back to the excerpt above: the scientific reference happily vetos the spiritual transcendence.

… the actor is free to allow the ideal or originary gesture to appear as the primary resource from which performance can be actualised and in which significance may beget significance.

Ditto. And an actor’s act of allowing strikes me with the same force as the acquiescence, the pusillanimity of the historical stage. If an actor is free then an actor is free. But in practice an actor is not. The character squeezes into whatever space is left after we take into consideration everything else an actor is and does. All these demands on an actor’s attention! Don’t we want to free him or her in order that an actor is able to pursue certain lines… certain experiments? Not for the gesture to be originary or ideal but for the sake of the gestural; not for an actor to “appear as the primary resource from which performance can be actualised” but for the appearance of an actor in performance to be the primary fact. (To clarify: the virtual resource of the actor becomes in the actual performance the fact, the event, articulated by appearance for appearance’s sake.)

If the generality is taken as a given …

If the generality is taken as a given it is a cliche.

… the truth is that the actor is projected. The actor is a prominence of consciousness, uniquely displayed in the sacral space of the stage itself.

Sacrums and fundaments, here is a foundational myth! The truth is in the lie that tells it, on the screen which hides it, in the erection from which it’s cut; the truth is in the act acting it, on the consciousness covering it, below the prominence from which the ground’s taken and, if displayed under arc-lamps, no more than the subject of a desire which annihilates.

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towards day 16 @ sf: the dancer’s role in RJF project, pt. 2

To preface these notes with an additional note from Gilles Deleuze – the painting arriving whole and gradually…

“And then I made these things, I gradually made them. So that I don’t think the bird suggested the umbrella; it suddenly suggested this whole image.” This text seems obscure, since Bacon invokes two contradictory ideas at the same time: a gradual series and a sudden whole. But both are true. In any case, he means that there is not a relationship between one form and another (bird-umbrella), but a relationship between an intention at the beginning, and an entire series or ensemble at the end.

– Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W. Smith, Uni. of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2003, pp. 166-167, n. 5

There is another aspect to the problem of the dancer in the project which despite the length of the sentence in the preceding post (towards day 16 @ sf: the dancer’s role in RJF project, pt. 1) I didn’t address. Through the course of this series of derailed observations and comments on what we’re up to at the soap factory down in the cellar, I’ve presented an idea that has been useful to us in practice but is possibly a theoretical redundancy, anacting, meaning a zero degree of acting relative to performance and not the expunging of character but of the character as personal or individual. At the level of anacting the actor becomes his or her own supernumerary, which means in addition that anacting remains a modality available to the actor. I’ve also talked about half-mime, an idea that so far has been more gainfully discussed than usefully employed.

Half-mime relates to the sense in which the performance space, like the pictorial space, is already full before you start. Rather than there ever being a tabula rasa, there it is, a sponge soaked in all manner of cliche, memory, feelings and misgivings – and objects – and subjects. Half-mime suggested itself as a way to overcome the pretence of the empty space. Everything already there in the space to the performer, which sometimes sucks the life out of performance for being unacknowledged, may gesturally be acknowledged, may exist as part of the performance in half-mime, in recognition of its sometimes suffocating half-life, may be liberated indeed, in-half-deed. Of course, in practice, this has been the concept to show its redundancy.

Actors fill up the entire offstage area with their everyday personal mental furniture. It’s part of the routine to get rid of it before entering the stage and every role is a new one for the reason that the actor’s focus, unless it drifts, is on the present, the thinnest possible present, as Gilles Deleuze points out. So that the actor actively clears the space of the distractions of cliche and memory, etc., and relies on the actuality, even as it exists only in the imagination, of the specific mise-en-scene and the particular make-believe prop in hand. However, to ask an actor’s focus to drift… well, we might call that improvisation. I had had in mind thinking about half-mime that the gesture retreated from its object before fully engaging in the mime of its being there. Hence, half-mime. But there are also zones between half-mime and mime which may be profitably considered.

The gesture anticipates. The mime illustrates. There comes with the gesture a pathos of half-remembered things, a half-light, a romance of the image, the veiled, the iridescence of the body seen through smoke, a field of fallen gazes and the failure of love: the pathos of that which may not arrive. The broken-tones Gilles Deleuze liberates as pseudo-causes in Francis Bacon, in the paintings of Francis Bacon, are related by analogy to the diagrammes of this still tentatively suggested concept of half-mime, to its zones of indiscernability. Things are there for the actor or actress but not visibly there: mime. They are in addition, in half-mime, made mutable by the gesture which stops before encountering and drawing out from the air the shape of them, the weight of them. They therefore mutate one into another in a cascade of indiscernably different objects linked only by the performer’s attention and not represented.

The contents or modes of representation differ between the canvas and the stage. We can begin to think of half-mime as being the pictures in the mind. And of the gestures as experiencing a fall before they reach their ideal object. And of the fall as a terrible optimism, leading into areas of chance relations. What I am suggesting is that this concept with the degree of abstraction of movement it entails is more useful for dance than acting, where gesture has a different function, acting having made the historical psychoanalytical jump from externally conditioned instincts to internally derived drives.

It would be nice to think of putting the cause of theatre back a hundred years or so. This is what I had had in mind: a Bernhardtianism revisited, a revitalised gestural language. But that last word calls to our attention why this could never be so. What is at stake in the language of the theatre is the closed system that naturalises signs, which is to say that the purely gestural will get mixed up in the bad company of what is natural, characteristic, or what is abstract, or what returns it to itself, before it is considered on its own behalf. Its anticipation of analagous gestures to which it refers within the closed system of the work is what returns the gestural to itself as natural. Dance in contrast – hence that nebulous term dance-theatre – denatures movement, at the same time as it brings all movement, up to and including the gestural, within its ‘natural’ ambit. This happens in a way resembling John Cage’s naturalisation of sound within the medium of music.

The actor’s gesture represents an emptiness or fullness won from the naturalised mode of, because relative to, theatre as significant action. Let’s just say that it’s hard won. The art of theatre resides in inverse proportion to the degree of insignificance in the behaviours exhibited, including the actors’ gestures. Their systemisation may therefore be viewed as extra-theatrical. The closed system of an accepted code of (an ahistoricised) naturalism – naturalisation – provides legimation insofar as it guarantees the meaningfulness of the spectacle. And so in theatre we can again speak of a code, undersigned by language where language is taken strictly to refer to the closure of the symbolic system.

Herein lies the tension of contemporary theatre, the reason for self-referentiality, for a closed system of internal references, and the reason for its great pathos in terms of anticipating a movement which may yet not come. Theatre has slipped from that level of the aesthetic which was already in slippage from beauty to be almost completely usurped by theory. And not its own theory. That is the irony. Theory has arrogated to itself the staging of its own simulacrum, sucking it in through a small hole before which it contorts without ever really being able to pass. Stuck on a ship-bound anti-Robinsonade.

The preceding leaves out what is essential to say: alongside the dance theme’s critique of theatre there is the acting theme’s critique of dance, in which the dancer, Anja, playing the role of Ida, dances parenthetically, within theatrical parentheses. She steps into the preconsidered dance-like image with the casualness of meaningful acting, makes the image and then steps out, out and back into her proper milieu. If there was to be an anacting before this would be its counterimage in dance.

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nothing in general: reviewing a comment on the previous post

Generality is not the problem. Generality itself is the plane of immanence, of unspecified, all-pervasive significance out of which the actor never reverses.

– Uri Khein, “Consciousness is the Stage,” part 1, (c) 2007

If generality is not the problem, how does it constitute the immanent field of significance out of which the actor can not reverse? It’s as if the actor would want to reverse out of a condition of an all-pervasive representation that itself cannot be specified except as immanent. The irreversability of the actor’s position with regard to this allegedly unproblematic generality suggests a crisis, a crisis of a totalising order, called by Uri Khein immanent.

The actor – what actor? – hits a wall – the fourth wall? – and wants to back up. At least insofar as it is impossible to do so and he or she never can, isn’t the point of liberation, perforce, that point at which the actor takes on those powers to impose order represented, projected onto the wall of an all-too-readily acceded to, and only therefore general, generalisable, regime of the stage? To pervert the generality is to make sense of his or her position as having the generality imposed. She can not back away from immanence. But this is not a condition of generality, rather of representation, the condition of which, in turn, is not coextensive with significance, however all-pervasive.

That muteness inferred of generality; the seeming imparticularity: the absence of polarity—of tensions is founded on a presumption of reactivity and is not anything to do with characteristics inherent of the generality itself. The generality is not an amorphous or voided field, a bardo or tohu-bohu, unless these presumptions are applied and the ensuing dereliction gives rise to limitation to be struggled with.

– Ibid.

I’m not quite sure what this means. The muteness would be very particular. It would be the useless direction, the pointless note. Not mute, then, but insufficient to the content. Muteness would then mean “not speaking to” a particular content for being too general. So general, in fact, as to mean “nothing in particular.” We can then populate this “nothing” with characteristics. They would have an existence relative to the content and betray it for want of sufficiency. The dereliction, then, would be one of good intention. The word from above that is not exactly meaningless but excessive to its meaning. What I don’t know is how you struggle with what is presumed to be a void or how such a presumption may give rise to limitations to be struggled with. I think you struggle with generality as the problem in terms of significance and representation.

Inevitably, the failure to perceive the generality as radically subjective will obtain to a fruitless search for the ideal gesture and for its ideal context as legitimation.

– Ibid.

What is inescapably true of the generality is that it leads you to do otherwise than as intended. This is indeed a voiced generality. And I am inferring the context to be that which obtains in rehearsal. In an earlier post I’ve considered as an overdose of metaphoricity the problem of a text’s or a director’s meaning so many things that an actor struggles with too many options. I don’t think the latter should be confused with a surfeit of contents brought together by analogy. Metaphor leaps. Too fast or too far and we are in the marshland of generality. It will be a fruitless search to find the ideal gesture and its ideal context in a marshland. And if a director or text leaves an actor or actress searching in the muck it will be in order to find not the ideal but the good intention to which the generality gave voice as if it were its beyond. Because I think we can say that what gives rise to the too-general note or direction or interpretation in rehearsal is the desire to do or have the actor or actress do otherwise than as intended, for him or her to find something different. Where of course this gambit fails is in giving too many things, meanings, particulars too much weight. The generality then contracts the disease of signifiance. Nothing in general is more productive than nothing in particular.

In that case, the subjective impulse of the actor will be only the incoherent gestures of necessary partiality that seek to defy the generality as plane of immanence. And yet to so astringe—to recoil from the plane of immanence and to endure that costive effect is more than the actor can live with. Hence no actor will consent to live with it. Instinctively, if not consciously, the actor will, even with much struggle, locate the ideal or originary gesture and will do so not as a concession to the generality but as an incarnation of the generality itself. In that case, an atemporal significance will be confided to the actor; timelessness will be coextensive with a moment in time; an instant of configuration that is particular but not partial: an ideal gesture that need be neither delimited nor eternalised.

– Ibid.

What seems to be the case in the foregoing is that generality provides the solution to its own problem. The actor or actress incorporates the generality in its immanence and all-pervasive significance, where the former concerns time (the temporal) and the latter the ideal or originary gesture behind the generality (the sacral). So that it is as if significance suffuses generality rather than, as I thought, exceeds. In any case, significance succeeds. However, so does ideality and the notion of the original. It is in the foregoing the whole of the generality, its totalising success, that comes to be represented in the body of the actor or actress. This I cannot consent to live with.

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towards day 16 @ sf: the dancer’s role in RJF project, pt. 1

So. If in each section or piece, Ida has an ideal object, which is the picture carried in the mind, and she rehearses the steps to reach it and from these steps come phrases of movement; the phrases either head off into unknown territory or already suggest the ideal object but are simply not it rather gesture towards it; then there is a rhythm of more or less rapid but distinct phrases, allowing repetitions, again, the repetitions are not constrained to having an immediate relation to the ideal object; as if she tests the steps, finding some, even the helpful ones, lead off in different directions; but she invests each with the import, intent, or sense to be reached by the final picture; because the smallest movement in a single direction involves a full bodily commitment, a plexus, and this smallest unit can be called the clinamen, there exists in it a chance element which can only be analysed as it resolves, that is, when it has leapt from the quantic world up on to the plane of representation by way of the nervous system of the dancer in the instant, where it receives its full import, by way of intent, and its sense, in regard to, and in the regard of, the ideal object; so every phrase of movement has about it this intense optimism; what the chance element throws up may be a fall, in terms of a catachronous movement, in terms of the fact that it enters the time of representation through a small hole, the appearance of which exists by chance and through a commitment by the dancer to the total bodily risk involved; therefore, this optimism is also an affirmation of risk that a given phrase might lead to the ideal object as well as that it might not; however much such a non-goal-oriented approach resembles play, insofar as it contains the accidental and the determined, it is not; and it is not not by the authority vested in the symbolic picture carried in the mind or the height from which the ideal object views the futility of the dancer’s optimistic gesturing, it is not play because everything is at stake at the instant of the fall into representational time, a chance event; what analysis means, insofar as there is a point of view at work in the making of the phrase, in forming the movement, and what can be analysed is neither the starting point, the chance event, nor the proximity or distance of the movement in the phrase from the ideal object (and let it be said that the movement is already in repetition, the point of view taken by analysis being one of its repetition and the point of view given by its repetition in the phrase) but how the phrase works and exactly where it is in relation to a totality in which it is included and in which the picture in the mind is also included and has its own relative function and position and sense; both the phrase and the ideal object are constitutive elements with an assymetrical relation one to the other, since the chance event through which the whole series of movements making up the phrase passes encounters the picture in the mind only at the level or time of representation and only then puts it into motion, anatomising the ideal, reproducing it as a second series; this destabilising and decentring of the ideal object so that it stretches out in series, like a series of hopes of which we may repent, phantoms betrayed at each step by the optimistic traits of the first series, this anatomisation belongs to the figure, a passional body of points (points as on a die and points localisable in space and time); finally, these points are the very points of contact and encounter between the chance event and the series of movements: a generative contact and a transforming encounter in the physical instant of the dancer’s steps, movements and phrases. So. If this, then can we say that for each section or piece of our project in rehearsal there is for Ida, the dancer, a figure and begin to assign figures as if a given piece had already thrown up on the screen of the mind an ideal object? For example, in the piece the Francis Bacon character has, that starts, My theory of beauty is…, we’ve already talked about the inverted crucifix of Cimabue, the worm of God. And might we begin our dancer’s portrait with this initial betrayal?

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the other is annihilated, the object is hopeless and the subject in his presence is erect: cherchez la femme. Douglas Glover’s Elle.

– www.mexartes-berlin.de/deu/film/arsenal.html

Reminds one of Cabeza de Vaca (1991, Nicolás Echevarría, dir.). Shamanism meets European rationalism.

something warm washes through me like a tide of blood, bringing a sensation of peace. I think, I give up. Which is strange. I don’t know what I’m giving up. And then I think, yes, I am giving up all my vanities, all my desires, designs and hopes, along with the claims of family, race and religion. Till now, when I felt despair, it meant feeling frustrated and regretful. This time hopelessness fills me with contentment. In my heart now, there is room for pity …

– Douglas Glover, Elle, Goose Lane, New Brunswick, Canada, 2003, p. 102

what if memory itself is a foreign object which the body longs to be rid of?

– Ibid., p. 130

I am the herald of the new, a new world for the inhabitants of this New World, as disturbing for them as they are for us. I believe she peered into the future and foresaw the end of everything that had meaning for her. She would no longer fit into the world without an explanation, everything would have to be translated, just as in my Old World the disruptions which are only beginning will end by sweeping all the ancient hierarachies, courtesies and protocols away. For it seems to me that their world is as much a disproof of ours as ours is of theirs. One of our advantages will be our ability to live and fight and destroy while remaining in doubt. But the doubt will gradually eat away at us. That is what I think.

– Ibid., p. 142

by turning into a bear before their eyes, I have made literal what should remain mysterious. Yes, yes, I think, I have always had a difficult time keeping in step with convention.

– Ibid., p. 143

When the New and the Old Worlds meet, first we exchange corpses.

– Ibid., p. 178

This is how we will all go in the end, dancing to some half-forgotten rhythm as the clockwork inside runs down.

– Ibid., p. 190

The mistake of theories of knowledge is that they postulate the contemporaneity of subject and object, whereas one is constituted only through the annihilation of the other.

– Gilles Deleuze, “Michel Tournier and the World Without Others,” Appendix II, The Logic of Sense, p. 349

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days 14 & 15 @ sf

The actor occupies the instant, while the character portrayed hopes or fears in the future and remembers or repents in the past: it is in this sense that the actor “represents.” … This is how the Stoic sage not only comprehends and wills the event, but also represents it, by this, selects it, and that an ethics of the mime necessarily prolongs the logic of sense. Beginning with a pure event, the mime directs and doubles the actualisation, measures the mixtures with the aid of an instant without mixture, and prevents them from overflowing.

– Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, p. 167

The actor is not like a god, but is rather an “anti-god” (contredieu). God and actor are opposed in their readings of time. What men grasp as past and future, God lives it in its eternal present. The God is Chronos: the divine present is the the circle in its entirety, whereas past and future are dimensions relative to a particular segment of the circle which leaves the rest outside. The actor’s present, on the contrary, is the most narrow, the most contracted, the most instantaneous, and the most punctual. It is the point on a straight line which divides the line endlessly, and is itself divided into past-future. The actor belongs to the Aion: instead of the most profound, the most fully present, the present which spreads out and comprehends the future and the past, an unlimited past-future rises up here reflected in an empty present which has no more thickness than the mirror. The actor or actress represents, but what he or she represents is always still in the future and already in the past, whereas his or her representation is impassible and divided, unfolded without being ruptured, neither acting nor being acted upon. It is in this sense that there is an actor’s paradox; the actor maintains himself in the instant in order to act out something perpetually anticipated and delayed, hoped for and recalled. The role played is never that of a character; it is a theme (the complex them or sense) constituted by the components of the event, that is by the communicating singularities effectively liberated from the limits of individuals and persons. The actor strains his entire personality in a moment which is always further divisible in order to open himself up the impersonal and pre-individual role. The actor is always acting out other roles when acting one role. The role has the same relation to the actor as the future and past have to the instantaneous present which corresponds to them on the line of the Aion. The actor thus actualises the event, but in a way which is entirely different from the actualisation of the event in the depth of things. Or rather, the actor redoubles this cosmic, or physical actualisation, in his own way, which is singularly superficial – but because of it more distinct, trenchant and pure. Thus the actor delimits the original, disengages from it an abstract line, and keeps from the event only its contour and its splendour, becoming thereby the actor of one’s own events – a counter-actualisation.

– Ibid., pp. 170-171

day 14 we have a dancer join our small group who looks to be in for longer than the instantaneous present, Anja. day 14 we read through a reordering of the pieces which make up the RJF project. I read for Paul, absent. The read-through also serves to orientate Anja, who, gratifyingly, chuckles at the inappropriateness of our images. Her immediate affinity is with the K. character, the one who announces that he is not a writer but a mole and that being a mole is a dirty job but somebody has to do it.

The mole’s blindness is with the Joseph Plateau character’s a short-sightedness which may be given in its metaphoric formulation as a lack of insight. Such a lack, further, carries over to the Francis Bacon character strongly expressing the foolishness of insight, either as a quality attributed to the artist or as a procedure whereby the artist arrives at the surface, painting, the finished obscure distinct image or the figure. The Muriel Belcher character, in her turn, throws back at the speculative audience its insight, the cynical view, based on scientific probability and historic evidence, we now know making humans into soap is an almost impossible thing to do, but that in every generation there are magicians who are able to do this… and similar things. As for the character called Ida – a conflation of Ida Bauer, Freud’s “Dora,” and Felice Bauer, Kafka’s epistolary inamorata (that is, by the letter) before Dora (sharing not the same symptoms at all) – Anja suggests we’ve been short-sighted in describing her in our working script as “the dancer,” with its implication of the world of the Classical Dance and dancer and tulle and private pain en point and the dying swan of Europe in her stagnant pond, possibly found last in the tepid interior, in the overheated rooms of the good Viennese doctor. … And then I point out the description has little to do with the character or, rather, is in the character of the role, and more to do with the skill-base of the actress or performer.

As a performer the piece seems to require that she be a dancer who speaks in the character of a dancer as well as playing the role of a character who is not a dancer. There’s a dance theme here, in the sense Deleuze gives it above, as well as an “Ida” role. … Why does the piece seem to require a dancer? And are we really being short-sighted in playing to this seeming requirement by casting Anja, a dancer?

The flippant answer would be that you’ve got be close enough to see, if you’re short-sighted, close enough to the work and then that nobody can gainsay your authority in making the call as to what is required by the work. An equally flippant self-reproach would be that in standing so near you lack sufficient insight. The code of the latter’s lack would have invaded the process of the work. (As in the therapist who bases her understanding of alcoholics on being one, on having to be or having been one. Or, again, as in the case of the patriot artist whose embrace of the pat formula “our own stories in our own words” leads to a puerile literalism, a fundamentalism, where imaginative identification does not suffice to speak for, where only identity gives the right to speak as. (Are these transactional actualisations? which overdetermine in a way analogous to the overcoded flows and effects of capital? the results of a sub-Adamsian self-interest?)) But the question Anja raises, day 14, why do we need a dancer? is exactly the right question because now the dancer is individuated and the role – theme – individualised to ask how does Ida add anything? and what does Anja do? even in regard to the sense of insight? … Anja says, It seems like she’s the forgotten character. And it’s true that we have to readdress (or is it redress?) the seeming necessity of working with a dancer and not just the existing group of four actors in light of the singular and individual qualities brought in by Anja. What does she do? How does she work? in the piece to be of a piece with and in it.

day 15 life has left me hungover. We have in our kindly donated cellar (thank you, Rowan) Erika for the first two hours, an hiatus of half an hour, Barney for the last two to three hours and Anja throughout. A serial rehearsal and a director of limited insight. And it’s true I have failed to reappraise the piece’s requirements in view of this new force, hoping pathetically – in the sense of pathos Francis Bacon rejected – for a lucky break, before installing the conditions under which the purely fortuitous can make a difference. And add anything. (Again, this is what Deleuze calls attention to in Francis Bacon: the chance, the diagrammatic, with its risk, manipulated, turned back in to the work, changing it, changing everything in it; having everything resting on it also run through its singularity.) The lucky break comes. It’s unexpected. I don’t know immediately how it works (in the piece).

Anja says, It’s like Ida is dead. A spirit. Forgotten but still haunting the performance space. We’ve talked earlier about Douglas Wright’s Black Milk. She’s called attention to what many saw as the Guantanamo Bay episode, in which Douglas spraypainted each of the dancers with a number, reserving the zero for himself. She’s said how like Douglas. I’ve bemoaned the insulting – to the work, to Douglas – lack of insight of our Auckland audiences. How I heard a wannabe actor and self-declared poet to boot say (I’m not making this up), He should have died of AIDs before making work like that crap. Douglas is HIV, positive. Boot. I recall Anja to the point of “zero.” We watch Erika’s piece (Third Rendering, pages opposite).

In this piece, the Muriel character challenges the audience to use a piece of this soap made from humans, made possibly from the human in the audience next to them. Anja launches herself onto Erika’s shoulders. Becomes a human prosthesis, something like a fox fur. Erika strokes her. The two women, Erika and Anja (and me, us girls; why not? like The National sing, “Your mind is racing like a pronoun”…), call attention to the Muriel character’s description of another woman, a soap-woman, as worn out, worn down to a sliver. It’s grotesque-comic. Challenging. Like Ida draping herself over Erika’s shoulders and dropping at the last, for the casual look, like a too-warm fox fur, shucked off onto her arm.

day 15: what insight into Ida? None. Some. Short-sighted. She haunts the space. She ghosts the principals, transposing their presence into another sort of presence, their instance into an other (of) acting. A dance which is not the past-future of the character, the role, but the theme dance ghosting the theme acting with the full force of a personality alterior to the actor. She possesses a natural affinity for K., the character Barney plays, in the sense that she tries to stop him and loves stopping him but he cannot stop. The thinness of his present cannot stop. Her lack of insight turns on the point of her innocence – and here the idea of Louise Bourgeois comes back, the original for Ida’s character – that she doesn’t see that the space she haunts, that the roles she ghosts, that the character she loves mean her harm, have harmed her, will harm her, that she is in fact a sliver of soap-woman and a zero.

She’s all over this piece as an emotional intensity of mime-dance, half-mime dance. She’s rendered and rended. In the moment she affirms none of this negative victimhood or Classical Dance dying-swan-ness, lifted by men, ignored by men, because imagined by men, no. She affirms the difference in her outlook, of her lack of insight. She glues or spreads out like a surfactant softening the meniscus. She dies and affirms dying for something. For perhaps the very affirmation she represents. She is the pity of soap. She is the surface of the movement inside the space as if it were in fact a burrow where she makes love to K. without him even recognising that she is there. She’s a better mole than he is. And being so, she’s the word we’ve been looking for.

day 15 Barney says, That’s the kind of random stuff that can happen when you introduce someone like Anja into the thing.

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