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.