before-the-scenes notes for study for a passion/telling on the telling: towards a machinic meez

Mise for study requires a shaker, an automated system to deliver a continuous shower of ash onto the stage, increasing in density as the piece proceeds. Possibly a machine driven by belts to link a quiet electric motor to an offset wheel, connecting, in turn, to a fine mesh cage full of ash. Simple. But to make the belt-drives an element in the mise, working decor. And of course pulleys to raise the cage. Possibly also a loading hopper for the ash to imply its source in the incineration of people.

To show the mechanism in order not to be the mechanism, i.e. remove the motor or sense of a motor, deus ex machina, or simply behind-the-scenes, by having a sensible motor doing a tangible job, before-the-scenes. [Cf. Peter Hallward’s Out of this World, p. 114]

What the belts and wheels accomplish is a series of “immobilisings, petrifications and repetitions” which are not related to and not integrated into the actions of the characters. [Deleuze quoted in ibid.] Although characters may comment on these incidental events, observing their effects, rather than coming from the character or story, they precede them and constitute the very dimension occupied by them. [Cf. ibid., p. 115]

The ‘autonomy’ of elements: scenic and acting or those in the nature of properties belonging to a character, an action or to a narration. The autonomy of all the elements of classic psychological theatre. Which is as old as Stanislavski and Chekhov and reaches its limit in Beckett and Artaud. These autonomies, then, release the ‘anorganic,’ validate the virtual: autonomous elements rule!

It’s not so much a thing of anti- or non-narrative theatre but of stories confounding, complicating the erstwhile central or master narrative, because implicating the latter. Taking it down. Wrestling. Overcoming or indeed liberating that type of theatre which is voluntarily enslaved by story-telling and psychological narration: that oedipal theatre. A theatre comes of many masters, many stories, stories crossing others, chance intersections that have nothing to do with interest!

Narrativity is therefore not the enemy. Time is. The present is. The psychological present time in which character and audience are forced to be interested. Have interest thrust upon them! Clock time. And stakes in clock time. The time divided and limited by, and made finite by, the actions of an actor or of a story told through actions. The telling is the enemy, not the teller or her story.

To find elements, machines that tell on the telling, and not just by recording it. Live elements, tangible machines doing sensible jobs. Exposing not the telling’s limited – or shallow – finite and divisive – or conservative – sense but betraying it in favour of a continuous story, time-story(!)-drama, become particular to all and general to none. A story or drama that is not mediated by the telling. Virtual (hi)story.

The teller of a human story must first grasp it in its inhuman aspects, by the absolute potentiality signalled in its autonomous elements. The contribution of an impersonal prop with its magical attributes and lack of belonging. An atmosphere suddenly suffocating all action. The incidental music which becomes properly incidental and pursues its own musical tangent. Or beginning at the point when one can go on no longer. Where is it one goes who can’t go on?

The beginning beyond any end in the state of continuity’s pure memory or the whole of the past: time’s other country.