July 2008

I do not stand corrected

There is no stricter moralist than Fear; and no moralist is a stranger to Fear.

– Declan Donnellan, The Actor and the Target, Theatre Communications Group, London, 2005, p. 36

– Kaloust Guedel’s All Men are Created Alike

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to free art from lying and violence

– Isaac Ilyich Levitan’s portrait of his friend Anton Chekhov. Levitan greeted Chekhov with, Are you there, crocodile? Levitan 1860-1900

I went home and fell asleep trying to read The Brothers Karamazov. Oh dear, oh dear.

He sits downstage of his desk.

So long-winded and indelicate. Too pretentious. Writers like Dostoyevsky think we should be solving great questions, like God and pessimism. But we have specialists who deal with specialised sugjects like that. For the most part people have dinner, that’s all they do, they have dinner, and yet during this time their happiness is established or their lives are falling apart. I mean, why should I write about a man who climbs into a submarine and goes to the North Pole in order to achieve a reconciliation with the world, while at the same moment his beloved hurls herself with a shriek from the belfry? No. You should write about ordinary things. Pyotr Semionovich married Maria Ivanovna. That’s all.

– Chekhov speaking in Anton Chekhov by Michael Pennington, in his Are You There, Crocodile? p. 242

– an example, according to the site, of what you might expect to see on a Russian wedding

Sunny Day, Isaac Levitan, 1883-4

the sun only rises once a day, so take hold of what’s left of your life and save it. My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, love and the most absolute freedom imaginable, freedom from violence and lying, whatever form they may take. That’s the programme I would follow if I were a great artist.

– Chekhov, in ibid., p. 270

The Gully, Isaac Levitan, 1898

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what is called freedom is found in space by Laika

The best tickets in town at the moment are … [Moscow, February 1998] meditations on the classics clog the vacuum into which new writing might have rushed since 1990. This lack of creative nerve is typical of what is called freedom; but while Russia waits for its new agonies to find a voice there is at least a sincerity in its theatre not always typical of the West – the assumption of first-class acting in a company style puts to shame our creeping find-a-star-and-build-him-a-luxury-vehicle paralysis. Here, drama is definitely not just a means to pass the time: an English professional worn down by casual humiliations should take a bracing trip to Moscow, where artists are celebrated as they always were.

Are You There, Crocodile? Inventing Anton Chekhov, Michael Pennington, p. 218


Our psychology is a dog’s psychology: when we’re beaten we whine and run to our kennels, and when we’re stroked we lie on our backs with our paws in the air. How little justice there is in us, and how limited our patriotism…

– Chekhov quoted in ibid., p. 219

The Taganka, whose walls used to hum with provocation, has become [by 1998] a harmless freeway for political cabaret which weighs in like Spitting Image.

– Ibid., p. 219

– Sputnik 2’s Laika, the space dog, 1957

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Forms that turn: the Biennale & WYD, Sydney

– an aboriginal walking Jesus outside the MCA blesses you

Sydney was hosting two major events during our visit, 12-19 July. The series of ‘Jesus Walks’ statues placed in small groups, usually trinities, around the city seemed to serve as the intersection between the two and suffered from the same strange sort of compromise we saw afflicting both the (Sydney) Biennale and (Catholic) World Youth Day. A short-hand as to what constitutes that compromise might be Ozzification or Sydnyficance.

Artists had been presented with concrete ready-mades of Jesus in robes doing his famous reconciliatory hand-waving

(a gesture Prime Minister Kevin Rudd seems to be indicating is the one that got away in his apology to First Nation Australians) on plinths, which, after Jesus got the treatment, would bear the artist’s name and a brief explanation. The problem was, of the nine or so Jesuses we saw, the treatment amounted to an artistic paint-job. This hardly makes for a pimped-up Messiah.

Xzibit nowhere to be seen, so no jacuzzis, no vid-screens, no re-imagining of the divine vehicle of salvation (I am the way, drive me!): just a placarding of different and similar for their different symbolic representations of current ideological interests. Here a modernist Jesus (Mondrian). There a pop Jesus (Lichtenstein). There a land-rights Jesus. Here an animal-rights Jesus. And here, possibly the most interesting in terms of superficial treatment, a natural-resources green Jesus, covered with plant-fibre goo, not paint, turned sepia and fibrous. And, there, my favourite (possibly because of a despite-itself decorative series the most decorative), a dot-painted Jesus (pictured above), outside the Museum of Contemporary Art, which, on our last stay in Sydney, in 1995, had been the venue for Jeff Koons’s Puppy:

The final Jesus in the series hung alone and didn’t really belong to it. But he was the most obvious thing you saw on entering the MCA, as if an act of curatorial provocation, León Ferrari’s jet Jesus.

A civilização occidental e cristã [Western Christian Civilisation], León Ferrari, 1965

An Argentinian artist, Ferrari made the piece at the time of first US bombings of Vietnam. The figure in loin-cloth unmistakable, crucified on an unmistakably American FH-107, dives at the floor.

Provocative, yes. Yet, here and now, to whom is it provocative? And, of what is it provocative, if not of comparison to all the other Jesuses on plinths outside the gallery or hung on coloured beads in the sweaty palms of @300 000 so-called pilgrims from 28 countries attending WYD?

To the papal entourage of some 200 prelates and curates, to the principle of Benedict XVI’s perambulated appearance in the popemobile, itself flown to Sydney, and accused of speeding past the eager-faithful, and to the idea of all those pilgrims using all that jet-fuel, the vehicular impression of Jet Jesus is appropriate but hardly adequate. The work’s title, in English Western Christian Civilisation, is a response so general, now, here, as to seem inclusive, without irony; to answer and uphold and not question its eponymous dominance.

Both WYD and the Biennale involved great expense to New South Wales, approximately $100 million going to the former, to whirl His Holiness in his ruby slippers from Rome to Oz.

And of course pay for all those extras: cut-price rates on public transport for pilgrims, ID cards and natty backpacks,

in colours reminiscent, along with their nationalistic associations, of:

Under the theme Revolutions – Forms That Turn, the exhibition explores the urge to revolt. Artistic Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev says of the exhibition “artists are visionaries, and the leaders of our imagination. At every point in time where there has been a revolution, it is artists who have seen it and articulated it first.
In this Biennale I wanted to show this by bringing together some of the most revolutionary moments in art
from the past century and today. Some of these artists are very famous, some are new discoveries. I am
thrilled and honoured to have been able to bring all of these people and artworks together and I am grateful
to our magnificent artists for entrusting me with their visions.”
– Media release 18 July 2008

It’s not the hypocrisy, it’s the consistency that gets you: WYD flows into the Biennale. Whether its wrapped in papal white or cardinal, or Alvin, purple or brought together and hung according to the protocols of art, or bears flags – everywhere throughout WYD -, or whether it was formerly ironic or not, a nihilism prevails which announces itself and its judgements in a sort of Dadaism. For example, the criticism of the American Evangelical Movement (heavily represented at WYD) is made that it’s American! Evangelical! A movement! To which the aryan adolescent from Lincoln, Utah: The greatest God! The greatest nation on earth! The numbers to prove it! And, I Love You.

He makes a loveheart with his hands against the bus window and points to his fellow pilgrims: And I love you! He mouths. And you, and you!

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI declares the Catholic Church to fulfil that most human of needs, the need for meaning and that this is what has brought us onto the streets of Sydney. This is very true. Since my personal pilgrimage is to the Gallery of New South Wales to see Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel of 1913.

A personal need for meaning left unfulfilled: the Stations of the Cross, with the police presence and the barricades, and crowds of flag-waving pilgrims get in the way. And arriving finally at the gallery, we find it closed.

No thank you, Papa.

Cockatoo Island was our highlight of the Biennale, for its scale as a venue more than for what it housed.

And when we heard about the party which opened the event, held in the massive turbine hall of the former ship-building yard –

which went off! which filled and made use of the structure in a way the art did not, which we missed, as well, we wondered whether that’s where the budget went, knowing well the sydnyficance of partying.

After all, how much does it cost to bring in a DVD and hire a projector, even if it is to show the work of William Kentridge?

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posabilities / compossibles

1. durational – time – Tim Etchells provides this note on Forced Entertainment’s durational performances.

KA MOUNTAIN and GUARDenia Terrace, staged in Iran by Robert Wilson and The Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds, took 7 days. Wilson was incarcerated on drugs’ charges during the rehearsal period. Artists and writers, Henry Miller among them, interceding with the authorities on his behalf, he sent drawings of his intentions to the company. In the end, the show had about three weeks’ rehearsal. Performers and audiences report hallucinating to the point of disagreeing about what was actually in the show. Wilson collapsed with dehydration. On awakening, he quickly discharged himself and returned to the mountain.

2. stations – venues & sites: i) karaoke bar – can have durational aspect, like Kouvola Karaoke Club, holder of the record for longest continuous karaoke singing sesh;
ii) strip joint –

as in this 2000 production of Measure for Measure, in New York, at Show World, directed by Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner (also responsible for The Karaoke Show);
iii) art gallery – like my unrealised production of study for a passion, discussed in previous posts;
iv) shop-window – ‘large-glass’ – grande vitrine: this picture, courtesy Reuters, 14/12/07, shows an audience of one watching a performance in a shop-window in central Madrid –

Works at Phantom Galleries, Los Angeles, an organisation set up to curate art exhibitions in shop-windows, also include durational performance works.

Station theatre usually implies a directorial interpretative gambit, wherein the audience goes from place to place, either inside or outside the theatre, and thereby actively engages in constructing the narrative, peripatetically. I recall a production in LA that occupied a villa for several years in the late 80s, scenes taking place in the various rooms, but I can’t find a reference online. Wallace Shawn, I think, wrote it. Station theatre as an approach or strategy seems to have come about, particularly in German theatre, in answer to – and therefore raising – the historic problem of the Repräsentationskrise.

(Montgomery Burns: What do you think of today’s popular music scene? … Lisa Simpson: I think it distracts people from more important issues. … Montgomery Burns: My god, are you always on?! Simpsons, 7.30 pm, 20/07/08)


Peter Stein outstanding exemplar and outspoken opponent of Regietheater moved his audience from the narrow court to the forest of Arden, an indoor forest, complete with a stream, for his three-hour production of As you like it in 1977. In his Faust, in 2000, the problem of scenic overhauls was dealt with by shuffling the audience between auditoria. On arrival, they might be standing, they might be seated. The journey itself, according to Johnathan Kalb, through the interactions of the audience, became a significant part of the experience of being in attendance, as, over the duration of the 21 hour production, the audience produced its own story of expectation and endurance.

3. modular – heterogeneity of forces – performers – numbers and skills: Heiner Müller allows, in pieces like The Hamlet Machine, for different numerical forces playing characters we recognise as singular, multiple Hamlets and Ophelias. The tradition of the Walter Plinge institutionalised the doubling up of characters played by a single actor or actress. In recent NZ one-man/woman shows, we’ve applauded the skill of the actor or actress in their characterisations and transitions among sometimes as many as twenty or thirty different characters. But, to be ‘useful,’ as John Cage might say, what are the ultimately minimum or maximum numbers a piece can be played by? Can we write for 1 as well as 50? And what of the proportion of actors/actresses to non-performers? or performers from other disciplines?

Our RJF Project [see left margin], last year, ended up being a piece for mixed forces, a dancer, singers, musicians and actors. I’ve discussed here, in posts, the problem of allocating roles for skills – i.e., our problems in filling a role that had become the dancer’s and could not thereafter be filled by an actor or actress.

I have no examples of the kind of modularity I’m suggesting, except perhaps the experiments conducted again in the name of director’s theatre, wherein a known classic may be cast with performers from different skill bases. Ariel is a dancer. The Mechanicals are a pop group. Albeit that such experimentation is not often brought into play, into the play, or called for by contemporary works of theatre.

– from Black Milk by Douglas Wright

In dance, or dance-theatre, it’s much more common. Douglas Wright uses speech and acting and often does so, or so it appears, as some kind of antidote or antithesis to the formalism of ‘actor’s’ theatre, does so with the amateurism, the mawkishness and naivety of the dancer’s vocalisations, readings, actings-out, in mind. But for what? With a higher conceptual aim, of course. As if the actor’s professionalism may compromise the authenticity of the performance. Non-actors, if I am to generalise, are what performance as an art-form is all about, in the way of ‘performance art.’ There’s clearly rich ground here for exploration of this prejudice.

What I would rather do, to be useful, is to write a compelling piece which could be played by different forces, using different performance skills. Semele’s orgasm could be a dance piece. Zeus is all about voice work, since he comes – in all senses – in utter darkness. And the ability to present the show with a relay of virtuoso solos or in a staggeringly on display of ensemble theatre. I’m considering here the writing as much as I am the contingencies of actors’ availability, non-availability, performers who are interesting but not principally actors, without the prejudice that authenticity is a function of amateurism.

4. polystylism – heterogeneous modes of form to suit modes of contents – a crack-process – Alfred Schnittke endorses polystylism as an answer to and where the problem is raised of composition in the pomo dispensation.

– Alfred Schnittke

Polystylism is where the form of contents passes over into the form of expression. Bakhtinian carnival.

I am talking here about the writing of the piece as implicated in the ‘world’ of the ‘play,’ and so neither world nor play. I am dreaming about taking the writing from style to style without encouraging charges of formalism or mediocrity. Style here would mean the actualisation of the particularity of a virtual being – not hiding the crack-process, not glossing over it, or making the veneer art; and this despite my contention that the greater the stylistic jumps an audient or onlooker is asked to make, the less difference he or she hears, sees, the less it is audible or visible – sensible: which is not the same as saying the difference is less. It has more to do with the bad habit of looking for the same before looking for the disruption. The contour is more readily perceived as an edge than as a middle. In the middle is where polystylism places the contour, or crack, and whence growth comes. Here we also find non-linearity: the self-organising of parts of a work with no effort to make them conform to a stylistic template to a narrative line.

5. larval characters – Tim Etchells’s company Forced Entertainment has used cardboard signs worn around actors’ necks to disrupt the recognition of an audience by hitting them with it right upfront. Brecht had his characters declare who they were in order to do a similar thing, but without a similar intention. In Forced Entertainment cardboard placards were worn, saying “Drunk lying in a gutter,” “Mummy’s boy,” or whatever, to add to the surface, speed recognition, make it smell like burning electrics.

What if characters compete in the actor? What if that’s why we need actors and actresses? because less able performers will not convey to an audience the absence of fit between the disparate elements that are said to make up the image of an identity. “I am an other” — only the actor can add: and another and another and another and another and another and another… the ubu-mensch-rimbaud.

– Arthur Rimbaud

To this end, I would butt up against Semele, the Burrow, and against the Unfinished Piece, the aggressive standup. We would begin with a thunderstorm and end with a carcrash.

– detail from Andy Warhol’s ‘naturalised’ Car Crash, 1978

It should be obvious that the idea of larval subjects comes from Gilles Deleuze: that can sustain movements and torsions and survive forces that ‘adult’ subjects cannot – again, this is the meaning of acting for me: subjective phase-shifters. Will this be a theme taken up by Felix Guattari in his Chaosmosis?

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The House of Cadmus: a further synopsis of Semele/Thyone’s story

Semele is beautiful. God falls in love with her. Even her own brother is in love with her. However, he can’t compete with God.

Polydoros’s jealousy, not detailed here, is a potential subplot, a license taken with a familiar story. No matter that it is incestuous, it is nonetheless, in keeping with the themes of the main plot, a sexual jealousy.

Cadmus and Harmonia [Semele’s mum and dad], Evelyn De Morgana, 1855-1919

The story goes that God visits Semele in mortal form. He drugs her nurse, who sleeps in the same room. It’s a massive room. In fact, the house of her father and mother, Cadmus and Harmonia, is as big as a city. Beroe is sedated and God has no witnesses.

God has another purpose, beyond the obvious one of having sex with a beautiful woman: he wants a son. He has watched Semele grow up. He has waited until she has been ready to bear a child. He has brought with him the chopped up pieces of his dead son’s heart.

His wife doesn’t understand him. She was jealous and had the Titans pull Zagreus to bits when still a child. She is barren and was not the mother. All that remained of his half-cooked, half-eaten body was his heart.

God, despite his lust for Semele, is a father in mourning. He convinces her to eat the pieces of Zagreus’s heart in a drink, so that his seed will mingle with the immortal remains of his dead son in her, and so that she will have an immortal child.

Semele falls in love on first hearing his voice. It would be love at first sight if it weren’t so dark. She will do anything for him. She eats the heart and they make love.

Being convinced to drink the blood and eat the heart of Zagreus will be the last conversation she has with God. Every night for almost seven months, until she’s heavily pregnant, he will visit her and have intercourse with her, and he will remain silent.

God’s silence leads her to question his love for her. After being in love with God, she now begins to doubt him.

The sex becomes mechanical. She talks all through it. Still, God won’t say a thing. She shouts at him, screams at him: nothing, no answer. Semele grows depressed and begins to resent and even to hate God.

It’s at this time that God’s wife learns of the affair. She sees that Semele is pregnant. Jealous, she disguises herself as Beroe, Semele’s old nurse, who is, again, shuffled off under sedation.

God’s wife plays on Semele’s insecurity. She tells her many is the time, down through the ages, that a man has tricked his way into a girl’s bed by using the name of God. She says that she won’t know if he really is God or if he truly loves her until he comes to her in his immortal form, leaving behind his mortal one.

She asks her to imagine how good it must be for his wife when he comes to her bed as God himself. She makes Semele jealous of her true self.

God’s wife shows Semele how to trick God into doing as she wishes, how to make him give his word and not go back on it. Semele puts the plan into action.

God gives his word to do as she asks. His voice affects her as it did before and she doesn’t follow through at once. But after they’ve made love, Semele asks him to come to her in his divine form when he next comes to her bed.

God protests that if he does it will kill her, because she is only mortal. What’s more, it will threaten the welfare of the immortal child she carries. Semele insists: if he loves her he must; if he cares for the baby he must. She says she knows he can’t go back on his word.

God comes to Semele as God. He grows bright enough to blind her; his increasing thunder deafens her; he gets hotter than the sun and burns her: he splits her womb. The infant bursts from its burning mother.

God slits open his thigh and places the baby inside. It will be brought to full term here.

When it’s born, it will be called Dionysus, the twice-born. When grown, the mysteries will be performed in his name, which survive today in the various ecstatic rites of theatre and religion, sex, drugs, drunkenness and all the organised forms by which the senses are deranged.

Dionysus will bring his mother back from the dead. She will be made immortal by God and renamed Thyone.

– the English painter, Evelyn De Morgana, 1855-1919

As the immortal Thyone, she will preside over the religious and theatrical mysteries performed in the name of Dionysus. In turn, the mysteries performed will give her immortality.

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being is the bomb — . art tech in other words —. tour de golgotha —.

– Marcel Duchamp’s drawing, the only one in the accompanying notes for the Large Glass, in Box of 1914, entitled To Have the Apprentice in the Sun, on musical manuscript, and duly signed, Marcel Duchamp, 1914

Anarchy is the bomb, or the comprehension of technology. Jarry puts forward a curious conception of anarchism: “Anarchy Is,” but it makes Being lower itself to the being of science and technology (Ubu himself will become an anarchist in order better to ensure that he is obeyed). More generally, Jarry’s entire oeuvre ceaselessly invokes science and technology; it is populated with machines and places itself under the sign of the Bicycle. The bicycle is not a simple machine, but the simple model of a Machine appropriate to the times. And it is the Bicycle that transforms Passion, as the Christian metaphysics of the death of God, into an eminently technical relay race. The Bicycle, with its chain and its gears, is the essence of technology: it envelops and develops, it brings about the great Turning of the earth. The bicycle is the frame, like Heidegger’s “fourfold.”

– Gilles Deleuze, “An Unrecognised Precursor to Heidegger,” in Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. D.W. Smith and M.A. Greco, Uni. of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1997, p. 93

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Неоконченная пьеса для механического пианино (1976)

Thank you Michael Pennington for recommending Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano as the “best Chekhov you could hope to see [on film], though it is not by Chekhov at all.” [Are You There, Crocodile: Inventing Chekhov, op. cit., pp. 80-1]

Режиссер: Никита Михалков

В ролях: Александр Калягин, Елена Соловей, Евгения Глушенко, Юрий Богатырев, Олег Табаков, Никита Михалков

Nikita Michalkov’s brilliant production takes Chekhov’s Platonov (better known to English-speaking audiences from Michael Frayn’s 1984 adaptation and abridgment of the play as Wild Honey) to be its jumping-off point. But having landed us in the doubly enchanted and disenchanted world of Chekhov’s pre-revolutionary characters, we find Vanya, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, scenes from the stories, integrated into what is as much a musical as a cinematic composition.

Michael Pennington tells us that these actors are clearly at home with the material. The performances are exceptional, each of them, for inhabiting a Chekhovian infratext, a world apart, and ensemble, together, for both their crashing crescendos and their crushing diminuendos.

What particularly strikes me is that although I may not know or recognise the characters and although they are constantly suprising, I know and recognise their realisms, their behaviours, as less true to type than true to people in particular. They have passions. They contradict themselves. They have irrational outbursts and outbursts that are all too rational and motivated. They can’t go on. And they do. They do go on.

I happened to see an American review, Amazon, I think, which said, unlike in American drama, it’s not the plot driving things forward, but the characters. There is a plot here. However, it’s fractured, broken by unexpected noises, snatches of music, quotes, while all quotes might be music. And while this music is unmotivated and incidental, it is always eventful. These are events and characters caught up in a music which is of their making but also most definitely not.

The film quotes Chekhov as music and like a piece for mechanical piano, unfinished, but also circular.

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laying the situation bare and leaving judgement up to us is not enough

Perm (or Пермь) is 700 miles from Moscow.

– Пермь [фото царской России]

– Андрей Петров Калганов, его сын и его внучка. [фото царской России]

take hold of what’s left of your life and save it…

– Chekhov, quoted in Michael Pennington’s, Are You There, Crocodile?, p. 165

When in doubt, Chekhov should be humorous.

– Ibid.

– [фото царской России]

Russia is an enormous plain across which wander mischievous men, convincing our people that their crass prejudices are the truth, as if some beautiful future could justify deceiving them now.

– Chekhov quoted, in ibid., p. 168

– вид с Волгой [фото царской России]

– [фото царской России]

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refining crack: the process

It would be disingenuous of me to say that the problem, Is theatre an artform? is being presented without prejudice. I’ve already made up my mind.

Now where should I look for support? and how prove it? Perhaps it’s better to ask: Is theatre not an artform?

– Robert David MacDonald (left), Philip Prowse (centre), Giles Havergal (right), directors of the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre, in a painting by Adrian Wiszneiwski, 1995

“A bunch of poofs strutting around in tights pretending their kings and queens,” is Robert David MacDonald’s summation of the view of a contemporary audience. Is this all that’s going on on stage to lead us to consider theatre not an artform? a camp theatricality? which, according to the logic of camp as the ‘the lie that tells the truth,’ swings both ways: to cheap and tawdry imitation and to expensive and shameless self-display?

Where I’m heading is this: both ‘ways’ deal with representation, a certain ‘distinct obscure’ relation of theatre to representation, and do so before they deal with concepts of incarnate or embodied or performance practice. It is a matter of priority, then, for me, if I want to show theatre to be an artform, or to argue the point, to see how theatre holds up against the charge made in Gilles Deleuze and repeated in others’ texts about Deleuze of theatre being the art of representation par excellence.’

– Dorothea Olkowski

Representation is – and this is reinforced by Dorothea Olkowski’s aptly titled Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation – the gatekeeper to theatre’s entry to the privileged group, art forms. Why Deleuze? Because, as his philosophy shows, the field of a concept’s contestation is often where that concept appears with the greatest clarity.

My argument in practice starts here: the concept of representation is most hotly, painfully, riskily contested on stage. Theatre engages this concept in a more problematic sense than other artforms (in fact, par excellence). And this is the reason for theatre’s relegation to non-artform status. Its status is rendered ambiguous by its relation to representation.

– Anthony Burgess in a photograph by Liana Burgess, taken in New York, 1972

A clear example of the preceding lies in the fate of the erstwhile ‘colonial’ stagecraft employed in New Zealand theatres. We had the British Rep. schtick down. A period of experimentation with other models marks the 70s and 80s as getting over colonial practice, developing postcolonial strategies. Today we might be said to have adopted a new abstract position, neocolonial. The metanarrative of representation remains, on at least one axis ‘colonialism,’ a barrier to what happens in these ersatz contexts being ‘art’ or, I would argue, ‘theatre.’ (And theatre is in this case like Anthony Burgess’s hand with which he composed music and not like the typewriter with which he wrote books: it has a direct line to the heart; this makes it highly, archly representative.)

Deleuze interests me as providing a strong conceptual framework – and, to be honest, a fluid one – for a valorisation of art as uniquely able to give access to what is: the famous virtual ontology or transcendental empiricism. And, therefore, because of the signally important place of art in his philosophy, and because he wrote little about theatre, the challenge is to bring his thought into theatre, to contest his concepts in theatre, and, thereby, to contest the concepts of theatre.

Deleuze called his two books dealing with cinema works of philosophy. In a similar way, I’m proposing a philosophy of theatre that is also a theatre of philosophy. In fact, to follow a Deleuzian logic, one cannot but be the other.

In our initial discussion over at Massey’s Albany campus, Dr. Paul said something like: I don’t see how, if you are writing the texts, you are going to find anything you haven’t already put there. My part-answer was along the lines of a radical differentiation between the arts of writing and of rehearsing. On reflection, this is hardly satisfying. Rehearsing is an entirely different creative process to writing (or reading, for that matter, pace, Rolande Barthes).

– W.H. Auden

I would rather say that the revolution is in the realism and align myself with Auden. Not quite any text will do but if the assumption is that theatre is first an artform where it is last or least representation, then there are any number of historically recognised dramatic texts which will do. It comes down to what we are looking for: not for what is absent but for what is non-representational in the text and dramatic practice, what is not actualised but virtually creative on/of the text or practice.

– Gilles Deleuze with Felix Guattari

We ask the preeminent question of Deleuze and Guattari: How does it work? How does Hamlet work? How do we make a Hamlet machine, Herr Müller? The text has its way of working, its ‘logic of sense,’ its ideal ‘realism,’ and it is different from theatre’s; it differs from the same question we would ask in rehearsal: How does this scene work? with this actor? this style? this aesthetic? (and so on, along the lines of representational logic).

To grab a bit of Barthes, borrowed for the same reasons by Olkowski, the punctum is a non-representational and non-matricial property of the photograph. The studium, knowledge of what makes the photo, knowledge of context and content, is quite a different thing. And between studia, as it were, between the studia of rehearsal and dramaturgy, a great and productive gap opens, a crack-process, generating differences: neither a text nor the interpretation of a text (how it works) is equal to its realisation in rehearsal or performance (how it works); they will always work differently and, if they do work, continue to generate differences.

There is nothing revolutionary about the idea that every revolution in the arts is brought about by a new realism. (Auden was a great exponent of Bergsonism, like Deleuze; some say to the former’s detriment.) In practice, the texts have to work at their own level. I’m sure you’ll recognise this as nothing new either. The level, or milieu, we exploit, to give us a plane of consistency, in rehearsal, is quite different. That there is this difference to start with points to the possibility of theatre as art.

What is a theatre of philosophy?

Étant donnés, Marcel Duchamp

Well, it’s a unique selling point!

And now tell me it’s anti-platonic!

Étant donnés, Marcel Duchamp

It is.

detraque
hommangerie
immedia
infemmarie
point to point

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