notes on form, risk and towards founding a practice on theatricality

I shan’t yet attribute the question, but here acknowledge the questioner(s) with notes towards an answer:

You speak here often of the specters of risk and of danger, of the apparently motivating effect of such for this present work. Tell us more about the significance for the project’s form of the risks which it embodies.

“Form will never inspire anything but conformities”

Risk lies therein that thought should “seek its models among stranger and more compromising adventures.”

– Gilles Deleuze, from Difference and Repetition (cited in Levy Bryant, Difference and Givenness, Northwestern Uni. Press, Illinois, 2008)

Seeking its models among “stranger and more compromising adventures,” it, thought, thinking, risks being lost or found; found in the sense of established; lost in the sense of folly and even la folie. Deleuze addresses the natural stupidity of thought. Its tendency to avoid risk. So that it remains eternally possible but never arrives at itself, the thought of thought itself.

Thought doesn’t happen without a qualitative change, without introducing a difference, which it also undergoes: that is, without this constitutive risk.

It is not that Deleuze denies […] forms of recognition defining empirical experience. Recognition is all too real as a cognitive phenomenon. Instead, what he rejects is their illicit universalization. Formalism always sanctions the universalization of that which is historically produced in such a way that the production of the produced, the fact that it was produced, becomes invisible. Formalism sanctions the decontextualization of the produced. It is only in terms of a transcendental philosophy that would determine the conditions of real experience that such illicit universalizations could be avoided.

– Levy Bryant, op. cit., pp. 85-6

According to Levy Bryant, Deleuze’s method of intuition leads to a search for that which differs in kind. Internal differences are qualitative differences. Whereas, those which differ in degree constitute purely external and therefore contingent differences.

The difference of difference, internal or qualitative, gives rise to external differences. It is genetic. It creates. It is is the ontological antecedent of external differences and therefore primordial, and before either general or particular differences.

Being is on the side of creation, as in that which produces differences. This is why, for Deleuze, the infinitive expresses so well the event, by catching it in the middle, as it becomes.

To form, thus, is the making that is by this logic prior or superior to form, as in the self-identical shape, mould or look of a thing. The form possesses only external difference. It is itself formed by that which differs in itself.

What forms it merits analysis, forming it in its various modalities or modes of form and content. Since form and content differ only temporally. They offer up only a difference of degree. Analysis, in theory or theatre, is to show how it works.

In addition, Bryant draws attention to the topological. In Deleuze’s thinking it becomes essential as the field in which singularities or monads relate without communicating, a relational matrix. How we draw or cut out the matrix entails a risk, that of ending up not with concepts but with clichés.

What we want to do after all is end up in a place which we do not recognise. The method we use cannot be one of recognition.

We are however already ahead of ourselves, seeing as what inspires us to think the thought itself and to engage in the encounter endures in the thinking, inheres in and informs it. Once this breath of love or trauma leaves, we are either going to exclude it or be excluded by it. Such an exclusion is the compromise Deleuze wrote of as an adventure.

We can’t have chosen this but must be equal to it. How? It is in Deleuze the thing or flow that escapes which shows us a way (or a weapon). It can be capital or the simulacrum. To follow capital without taking a moral stand on it or to retrace the steps by which the fake, the lie, the simulacrum, all are sidelined by the model, the copy, the form and content, by representations, we deterritorialize absolutely.

The risk is leaving behind common and good sense and the subject’s superiority, of will or morality, to risk madness, destruction and death in the encounter, to cut across a ‘blasted heath, in other words, and face permanent exile from our right senses, from our sovereignty (even if it be one of role), in the family as in the state.

This is neither an ascesis nor undertaken in a spirit of self-sacrifice. As noted above, we have already entered the desert when the thought occurs to us: it is why the thought occurs to us. To be true to the initial encounter we engage in risk.

The encounter is for Deleuze what moves thought away from habit and leads the thinker to present the drama of his exile in thought and constrains him to an escape which can only be realised in the medium in which it is caught up. Thought and thinker are taken by force. And put at risk. Hence, for Deleuze, philosophy can be seen as a whodunnit?

I am suggesting that theatricality can act as a deterritorializing flow, turning over representation upon representation, amortized plane after amortized plane, showing the hollowness at the heart of existence and doing something else: running off in another direction entirely from what is expected.

Rolande Barthes wrote of death and theatre being close. He cited the white pancake and theatre’s roots in ritual. But is it a death which is speaking of representation? Or a mere representation of death?

My impulse is to say it is the former, death and representation possessing only difference of degree. This impulse says more about the encounter than the risk. In thinking through theatre, a philosophy of theatre – a necessary theatrum philosophicum – the stakes have to be high to measure up to the encounter.

My project might be called an attempt to found theatre … ontologically … in theatricality … while in the same theatre, the death of man is playing tonight.

It will be back tomorrow, out of habit as much as by popular demand.