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.