T-CELL: draft project proposal

The problem would be: If theatre is the art of representation par excellence, can we make a non-representational theatre? I suggest such a theatre would be one siding with art against representation.

Dorothea Olkowski holds up Deleuze as the philosopher most responsible for and answerable to the ‘ruin of representation.’ [Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation, Dorothea Olkowski, Uni. of California Press, London, 1999] Can we make a theatre of ruined representation (that’s not Tim Etchell’s Forced Entertainment) with Deleuze’s philosophy as our guide to thinking it through as far as it will go?

Dorothea Olkowski asks, Can a feminist read Deleuze? We ask, Can a theatre practitioner? Can theatre use Deleuze?

Olkowski provides a possible way of thinking theatre with Deleuze: the ‘theatre of terror.’ [In op. cit., pp. 182-189] She explicitly connects Melanie Klein’s ‘theatre of terror,’ in Deleuze’s reading of it, and Antonin Artaud’s ‘theatre of cruelty.’ Is, however, the term ‘theatre’ metaphorical in the former case of infantile terror? Does the link then dissolve between Artaud and Klein into a rhetorical residue?

Where I want to begin is at this point. I suggested we side with art against representation, in considering theatre as ‘the art of representation par excellence,’ so as to get beyond, but, in fact, to jump to before representation, to art. Here I suggest we might overcome the obstruction to thinking posed by the term ‘theatre’ in its metaphoricity and so favour the term ‘terror,’ as a different way of thinking than that of representation, analogy, identity or metaphor.

Psychoanalysis has used the metaphor of theatre for so long and to such extent that it has practically metastasized, both in the field of psychoanalytical and theatre practice, as bodies of work and works in progress. My point of departure in privileging terror is I hope out of reach already, by way of a cordon sanitaire, of the semiotic mud-slide and sinking-sand of this psychoanalytical theatre or psychoanalysis on stage, mirror-plays between the two bodies and works.

I intend to work in a theatre in which we can treat this semiosis, treat it with the drugs which art provides, that representation merely monitors. With any such treatment things are critical. There is risk where there is engagement. But the goal is to bring theatre to Nietzsche’s ‘Great Health.’

To complicate the theatrical metaphor with a pun: a theatre will be our clinic. Our clinical findings will be expressed and recorded in the word, spoken, written and performed.

Practically speaking, I will form a theatre group from performers with whom I’ve worked already and from those interested enough for this critical and clinical approach to work. Expressions of interest and donations in support are welcome here.

The name mooted for this group is T-Cell, a name I believe, given the project as I’ve briefly outlined it here, to have appropriate resonances, to hit the right nerves.