February 2008


CITY ART ROOMS LAST NIGHT WITHDREW THEIR SUPPORT FOR study for a passion. THE SHOW, which was to have run from March 18 to 29, IS CANCELLED.

further details will inevitably follow here – however contact me should you need more now.

point to point

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eph-use eph-art

– Jayne Hinds Bidaut (American b. 1965), Tadarida Brasiliensis (Mexican Freetail Bat), tintype, 14 x 11

one must fight by fair means or foul for the opportunity to do one’s best. There is no satisfaction in anything less.

– Ralph Steiner (1899-1986)


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ultima dea: the opportunity to support a production of study for a passion remains

We invoke Spes, the last goddess.

You are the angels.

Money from ticket sales to study for a passion feeds actors.

We are not Hungerkuenstler.


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Offers of financial assistance are urgently sought to mount study for a passion. If you can help, please contact me here.

Alternatively, donations may be made via paypal or paymex. Use the button-images on the appropriate pages at the top of the list opposite.

study for a passion
a theatre piece by night
an art installation by day

imagine the painter, Francis Bacon, meets the writer, Franz Kafka:
where would they meet? whose skins should they wear?
and what would they have to say and do?
what horror would come of it?
what terror would have
brought them to
it? what

at City Art Rooms
18 March – 29 March



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the soul of brevity is a want of wit; if you can dance it, why talk about it?

two-pronged corn forks with red handles. Why not?

The Royal New Zealand ballet in their new stiff tutus. If you haven’t seen ballet for a while, it can seem an absurd artform, a ridiculous discipline. The ballerinas bisected by these tulle discs, the bottoms moving without the tops, and the former attempting to resemble the latter and liberate themselves from gravity, or, at least, trying to leave the floor. On point.

Is it the erotic appeal of the calf? Or arch of the foot? Is it a speciality, a fetish, and, at root, erotic? But erotic like great grandmother’s knickers? When a glimpse of lace did it. Does it need to be justified? As if one should say to lace-makers today, all very well you do what you do but don’t expect anyone to take it seriously. Nobody’s turned on by a dainty these days.

Then lace is a making-lace, a braiding of the body, a turning out of its inner parts, a meshing with the air. And what does ballet do? You have to wait till the end piece in this programme, Red, of the Royal New Zealand Ballet to find out. Jorma Elo is a choreographer equipped to show you how ballet can become what it is.

The brilliance of this particular programme lies therein that it is only at the end of its journey you know why you were submitted to Paquita.

But even here something struck me – apart from finding it delightfully absurd -, possibly as it’s struck a great number of actual enthusiasts before me, the dilettante: ballet is born with opera houses; it comes to be an independent artform from the gallery.

The notion of elevation, specifically, relates to the angle from which the viewer regards the plane of the dance. Point is a function of freeing the dancer to occupy a place midway and therefore central to the horizon of the proscenium stage. That is, looking down from a relatively steep angle at the stage, a grounded dancer, a dancer with both feet flat on the ground, occupies a position which simply does not succeed at the elegance of a ballerina viewed from the same angle on point or lifted. Not a compositional issue. One of architecture.

The architecture of the theatre does not create a level playing-field. It pursues these strange and pleasurable underground relationships with what takes place on stage. Like the advent of ballet, for example.

What is it with the Russians and ballet anyway? What is it with the old colonies of Europe and some of the high artistic forms today? I recall seeing an extraordinary exhibition of West African high modernist sculpture maybe fifteen years ago. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska would have wept. Had he not been dead, along with a generation of artists. Tradition=smishrthleghvc-ition.

The Russian school was a dangerously fundamentalist offshoot. They invented nihilism. They lived at the limit of the old Europe and they knew it. And in the vital arts, notably theatre and dance – but think also of Malevich’s notebooks, which as Bruce Chatwin said, held in ovum just about every major artistic movement which was to come to pass – and in film, don’t you know – the traditions involuted. Folded into themselves.

What began as snobbery, ended as a thing nobody could live with: a pushing to the limit of an adopted line of enquiry in the arts. Although, too, think of sports, of science: consider the steroids in the great Soviet era of female weight-lifters; remember the electrification by which Uncle Joe got half a continent line-dancing; and the art trains of the 1920s. Ah. The 1920s.

Makes me wonder about NZ’s powers of incubation: there are, no doubt, some European cultural legacies yet latent in the backlands of our sheep – and latterly, dairy- – farming nation.

A further note about the Russian ballet: wasn’t it exactly because of its superficiality, its outward show of a cultural fealty to Europe, that it could sustain being weighted with an entire nation’s nationalist wannabe-European bliss-seeking? For its Nietzschean lightness, on point, the higher it reached, the ballet, the higher it leapt, the ballet, the higher it was lifted, by men who were about to become more famous than the women they lifted, the greater the aspiration betokened thereby, to be European. A football game can mean national shame. A ballet equally can show national pride. Nothing to do with the artform, but good for it.

I follow, I think it was Raeywn White, in her review of the Royal NZ Ballet, on Eva Radich’s Concert FM show, in taking “Abisheka”, the second part of Red for a wholly excellent, however, predictable piece of balletic choreography. By Adrian Burnett. It was derivative, said Eva Radich. NO. My analytic brain outpaced my sensory involvement with the piece, effected the words said by the reviewer.

I’ll hang with that summation. Sources were visible. Maybe internal to the tradition but the piece not solid, transparent to its sources. Your ancestors are showing, one might say. And so are John Psathas’s. Here.

“Abisheka” added a wholly necessary layer of sense: ballet interpreting contemporary dance. The star in this part of the programme was Tracy Grant Lord’s set and costume design. But the nose kept striking the glass of a representative piece.

I’d like to know if it was Raeywn White’s review that set Jorma Elo up as the legatee of William Forsythe’s reimagining of the balletic tradition, and Jiri Kylian and Matz Ek’s contribution to meeting this reimagined tradition with a gewisse musicality and sense of innovation in movement.

Where execution in “Paquita” had been questionable, here it was exceptional. Where conception in “Abisheka” had felt external to the drive of ballet – like there could be anything proper to it -, here was ample justification for the suspension of the dancer between the ground of contemporary dance and the ceiling of a transcendental dance. Viewed from the gallery and wondered at.

Shut your eyes. You can see it. Because it’s art, not representation.

This is probably how I managed to watch the last third of the programme through weeping. And, these days, my eyes aren’t up to much. I didn’t need to look. I knew. … Like a slaughter, I suppose. One that you know is for the best. You see the knife, and the opened up throat of the beast. You shut your eyes. If you’re in an Eastern European movie, you know it’s over because you feel the splatter on your face of warm blood.

Heinrich von Biber. Would be nice if they told you who was making the music. Inspired, jointly, choreography – and retroactively, this music. Check it., yeah.., (The choreography inspires the composer. He just happened to live and die 300 years ago.)

Bring on the groupuscles of the corps de ballets. The dance is irreducible and inhabits the suspended realm.


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the big little taylor as a very annoying theatre worker with a tail: don’t get beastist on me but tappin’ as I am here on this sack with my fist is highly questionable despite the knowingness of the big smirk on my little mug; perhaps I’m a council worker


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AUCKLAND is premy – or une queue lost in the telling – number 1


go on. have a look. I dare you, the big little other. the big little majority and the big little minority. they’re all behind the big little lie.

Of course it makes one think of Big Chief Little Feather. It makes one think of the TV show, That’s fairly Interesting and its so-old-fashioned self-deprecating self-deprecation. The irony that its irony was ironic.

I love this city. It’s a wasteland. It’s Sydney’s depressed and old-before-its-time but young-and-doesn’t-look-it and phobic (gynophobic, homophobic and heterosexist!) lead-tongued and actually-preferring-shit, passive-aggressive neighbour-who’d-like-to-think-of-her-sexless-self-as-related-by-blood-when-it’s-lithium-that-flows-in-her-dark-dark-veins.

Premature, it is. But as I’m old now, and as Brazil has fucoffee now, I’ve thought to re-brand myself the big little taylor – a theatre guy. I’ve spent nothing on this project so far but what has gone on cellphone calls and worry. I’ve worried about kiwitheatre company’s production of The Cape. And answered the one review in the one newspaper you get in this city, with an argument which is not ad hominem. (See earlier post, not a who’s Huse.)

I’ve concerned myself with this big little case of critical malfeasance because the show was not big little enough to warrant Shannon Huse, to warrant being damned.

You see out of this big little thing you get the horrific synthesis: average. Average becomes an escape route. And the really funny thing about it is that average is the escape route used by the mainstream. Who, I’d say, are those who contrive to pass through the big/little gate. Die, you worms and tall poppies! Let the luke inherit the warm it’s-all-good, pee-smelly.

Big little has that “knowing” bullshit going on of premature challenges to status and authority. That “level-playing field” bullshit. Which is the biggest load of pushable-around pigshit, of manipulable clicheed fuckheadery.

To support my personal rebrand Q Theatre comes along. The exemplary big little project. Because compromised from the get-go, way back, by go-getters who decide Council – Auckland City Council – can help.

Red tape and so much of it that the bandaged corpse of this idea is turning pink with age. If only it were that other kind of dollarific pink and gay that used to get things done. Not the naff gay.

Councils can help. At a price. The price being a strange big little silence. Well, it’s the usual kind of silence. And there’s no mystery to it. It’s a Secret Service kind of silence. A The Lives of Others kind of silence. Still, so long after 1984, Eastern Bloc-ish.

I recall, way back then, hearing about the New Theatre Initiative and raising Justin Lewis, via e-mail, from his bath at Indian Ink. I asked him for the big little lowdown on tricks and plans. I remember the big little surprise of being informed that before he could give me any info I’d have to subscribe. Pay money. That’s what I said. Pay money? For such a big little thing as word on what up?

Then Mike Mizrahi helped design/organise the unapologetically big party to rebrand New Theatre Initiative as Q Theatre. It didn’t need to apologise because in the big scheme of things it meant little to nothing. (And, to repeat, not for comic effect, but post-comedically: If only Q meant a Queue for Queers, Queens, or the French Equivalent, some assy sassy-ness, not this big little continuo.) The Q rebrand was not so much a rebranding as a retarding. I wonder if my own will fair so dull, so far so… solfeggio!

Mayor Banks, I declared to Q unbidden this week past, may cut funding, now, after nearly a decade. But think on this: A silver-lining to this cloud of Banks! You have raised $5 m. … No. We haven’t. It’s with ASB. … You have access to $5 m. to buy a building. Claim your inheritance. Escape from beholdenness to Council … No. We’d have to convince trustees if we were to change venue. …

And so long ago you could have bought a carpark. And then worried about how to make it a theatre.

The big little plans of men who are mice.

My personal rebrand has not gone well. Mayor banks gave Q $200 K, saying, the big littleness of the man, after that, beg. Short leash, I’d say. Council love you actorly types.

I hear Auckland’s architectural heritage getting destroyed because it’s not big or little or knowing and big-little. Tossers sitting on their fences, those favourite big-little blockades of the big little league, the in barbarians. Q or New Theatre Initiative or however you want to call it could have saved several existing buildings already. What do they want? More and new big little architectural mistakes.

And there’s kiwitheatre battling the void around the big little word of the one paper the one reviewer the one, the void opened up by that one …


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fx untwinned in their affects

Fx should be a by-product of what you do not your reason for doing it, fx like realism, surrealism, pomo-ism, all the -isms. Consider Steve Reich’s Violin Phase. Reich extracts the effect, phasing, isolates it, inside a minimal repetitive structure, and anatomatises it, by making the music programmatic – or illustrative – of the effect. [London Sinfonietta, Clio Gould violin, Warpcd144, Warp Records, 2006.]

Compare with Biber’s Resurrection Sonata, where the strings are so long, resonant and thick with rosin, and reverberant, they sound to phase against themselves. Interesting fx, you might say. Yes, in an artworld where, to quote Bertand Tavernier’s Deathwatch, “everything is of interest but nothing matters.” [John Holloway, Davitt Moroney, Tragicomedia, Virgin Veritas x2, Virgin Classics, 2002.]

Gilles Deleuze, in Francis Bacon, talks of Jackson Pollock’s work as being all diagramme. The diagramme has taken over the canvas. Does the work matter? Of course. But it exists as a philosophical diagramme or conceptual programme made flesh, as the incarnation of a pictorial fx and works as such: reflecting on the long internal argument of the painterly tradition. It communicates less its self and its vitality than its vital statistics: I am so many painting-actions on so large a canvas. The paint has been drinking.

Any -ism amounts to fx. This is why a less than realistic effect can work, or create an affect, or affect, as well as a slickly produced verisimilitudinous device. Think of the old guy in No Orchids for Miss Blandish. If I remember rightly, unlikely, it was Des Kelly in the Downstage production in Wellington many years ago. He’s strung up in front of a raised rollerdoor. Car headlights fitted to the wall beyond the rollerdoor silhouette him. And he’s slit down the front and gutted. His entrails fall into a bucket. Clearly, the whole thing’s a complete have, a camp old piece of theatrical nonsense. But just the ticket.

What happens when we slice thinly the ham? How much less is less is more? With camp, you might think the slap can never be laid on too thickly. And then there is the kind of visceral horror of the undead starlet after too many facelifts. The hard camp or hairy drag. Ugly. Imperfect. Dappled things?

In Stronghold’s production of Howard Barker’s The Possibilities, stagehands (who became thereby characters) took certain actions from characters, actions which had fx associated with them (and became thereby fx), or produced fx. A character vomits, for example, in the splash on the floor, the splash of a stagehand inverting a cup of vomit. The additional joke here came from the realism of the stuff in the cup. The timing has to be on. But that’s about all. Coincidence. Fits somewhat into Deleuze’s notoriously complex conception of time.

Deleuze’s special theory of eternal return allows this appropriation of artistic fx, as that which may be repeated because it hasn’t happened yet. A necessary repetition of effect inside the affect.


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Deleuze’s “notoriously complex conception of time” [Peter Hallward, Out of This World, p. 146]

Still the absence of time divides itself perpetually
into the one same moment
(repeat) –

– Anne Carson, “H & A SCREENPLAY” in DECREATION, Random, N.Y., 2005, p.131


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& feel. sentir

And then everything had gone comical again: whatever he was made of changing its course and lifting him, stinging. One afternoon, there’d been this rushing inside his arms and his heart doubling, racketing about – there was no way to misunderstand the terrible life that roared back in.

– A.L. Kennedy, Day, Jonathan Cape, London, 2007, p. 62


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