November 2008

Big Russian I

– Condom Alley, Upper Symonds St., as at 28/11/08

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for when the “virtual and real world can’t be different any more”

go here for the source of the quote in the title. The virtual in the event of no difference being possible any more between it and the real signifies a totalization of the Image such that you get when code meets its nemesis: and there is a phase-shift; and code and encounter can’t be different any more.

‘Real’ in the event of reality not allowing a difference between the virtual and real world must however belong to the present which was. Or … the virtual world will not allow reality to differ from it at some point in the past.

This amounts to a prohibition on division or on decomplexification (to hold up against the prohibition on multiplication, the unnecessary creation of figures, characters, supernumeraries).

The real world was irreducible to the virtual because it was not after all virtual.

Then there was the law against reduction, pure and simple. And the incentivization of adding dimensions, to n-set.

With the proviso that we never arrived at the particular.

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Max Pam

– photo by Max Pam, South India 03 Journal, 2004

Late in 1969 I was over at the Student Union watching an anti Vietnam War demonstration when a friend drew my attention to a message on the notice board: ASTROPHYSICIST REQUIRES HELP TO DRIVE V.W. BUG FROM CALCUTTA TO LONDON. I applied and got the job because I was the only person in the university ready to just pack up and go. The idea drew me like a magnet. By February 1970 we had driven into Nepal. Three months later, we were in Istanbul. I studied photography for one year in London, yet I was never comfortable. All the time Asia was calling me back.

I quit college in 1971 and hitchhiked back to India. Just inside the Yugoslavian frontier I was given a lift by some English people driving a purple Transit Van, all six of whom looked like extras from the remake of Sinbad’s Rough Night In Cairo. Getting in the van was like flying inside a giant purple tab of L.S.D. They were intent on heading for Athens to finance their trip further East by selling drugs. I sold two litres of blood in Kavala for $12 and was picked up on the road outside Istanbul by an even larger busload of hippies. I stayed with them through Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, until the old bus blew up in Kabul. I had a Hasselblad camera with me. At some stage going east that year I had become a photographer.

Thirty five years later and I am still travelling. Last week I flew back from working on my new book project in Rome. The work is a compression of old world (Europe), new world (Australia) culture dysfunction. I leave Rome, the eternal city of 2.500 years of history, frying in mid summer heat and surrounded by 400 million Europeans. Twenty-two hours later I land at Perth on the Western edge of planet Australia. It is mid-winter, Perth is 120 years old and is the most isolated capital city in the world. There are 1.25 million people living in Western Australia and it has a surface area larger than Europe. This is why I still travel.
– quoted from Roving Eye Exhibition online catalogue, here

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Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker

If I could articulate it, the thesis of the proposed dissertation on Deleuze and theatre, it would include my frustration at not being able to make the work I want to, to work with the people I want to and to command the resources, at a global level if you want, I need to do so. It would be a complaint, in the old sense. The thesis would howl. And it would bay at the moon who remains out of reach.

I must come back to Constantine Cavafy’s ‘The Windows:’

In these dark rooms where I live out empty days,
I wander round and round trying to find the windows.
But the windows are not to be found –
or at least I can’t find them. And perhaps
it is better that way.
Perhaps the light will prove another tyranny.
Who knows what new things it will expose?

– photos by Duane Michals of the actor Joel Grey, a friend of the photographer, playing the poet, inspired by the writings of Constantine P. Cavafy (1863-1933)

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caged painting/caged painter -> -> -> -> an adequate image of internal exile -> -> -> n-set

– Arthur Boyd, Figure supporting back legs and Interior with black rabbit, 1973-4

the image is from Arthur Boyd’s ‘caged painter’ series, commenced in 1971 upon his return to Australia after over a decade in England. The year he left Caetano Veloso was recording his own record of exile, ‘A Little More Blue.’

Norman Manea repeats the mantra he learnt from Franz Kafka: in the confrontation between oneself and the world, take the side of the world.

Jorge Luis Borges is a poet of the pathos of time. He writes of Citizen Kane that it links the Koheleth to the memory of another nihilist, Franz Kafka. [Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Non-Fictions, ed. Eliot Weingberger, Viking, New York, 1999, p. 259]

Emptiness, emptiness, says Koheleth, emptiness, all is empty.

So I came to hate life, since everything that was done here under the sun was a trouble to me; for all is emptiness and chasing the wind.

I considered all the acts of oppression here under the sun; I saw the tears of the oppressed, and I saw that there was no one to comfort them.

Woe betide the land when a slave has become its king, and its princes feast in the morning.

Whatever has already existed has been given a name, its nature is known, a man cannot contend with what is stronger than he. The more words one uses the greater is the emptiness of it all; and where is the advantage to a man?

and the Koheleth, said to be a sage whose sayings were recorded in the second century BC and collected in Ecclesiastes, also wrote the song which goes … a time to be born and a time to die, and so on.

There is an empty thing found on earth: when the just man gets what is due to the unjust, and the unjust what is due to the just. I maintain that this too is emptiness. So I commend enjoyment, since there is nothing good for a man to do here under the sun but to eat and drink and enjoy himself; this is all that will remain with him to reward his toil throughout the span of life.

… and I bethought myself of all the fury and hatred I had to bring against the world and its illusions and because the door opened a crack I heard the engine pounding, its hammers beating. I wondered if this was the engine, the war-machine with which I was to assail the transcendental empiricism of Gilles Deleuze; albeit that its hammers were butterfly wings shamanically grafted onto it and that its beating was only theatrical: the apocalypse is achieved with a backlit gauze on a proscenium arch stage. It is sheer melodrama.

Nothing is more terrifying writes Borges than a labyrinth without a centre.

And if for every step the thread was cut?

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but the [American] spirit is out of in reach

The Alistair Cooke Memorial Lecture delivered by David Mamet.

– Alistair Cooke (in 1991)

Alistair Cooke’s remains were “surgically plundered” in late December, 2005. [New York Times article]

– David Mamet, detail of photo by Amanda Edwards

Paul Taylor writes a bad review of David Mamet.

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Where the Meteor Landed

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Draft Proposal for a Dissertation on Deleuze and Theatre

Walking into the rehearsal room, possibly with a script in hand, possibly not, flanked by a small group of actors, we are struck – if the room is a familiar one and not itself a complete surprise – by how much is already there, although invisible. The room is not empty. It is not a desert. We do not make work in a vacuum.

Choices stretch out beyond the three or four visible walls. The working area is jam-packed with clichés. So the first task becomes how to clear the room, because the problem confronting us is: where to start.

At the beginning of chapter III of Difference and Repetition, entitled “The Image of Thought,” where the show really gets under way, Gilles Deleuze presents the problem of where to start in philosophy as of the utmost delicacy. Before he gets to it, so as not to make, before the curtain rises on this the opening night, a false start, a false theatre, a false drama, a false movement, he opposes the theatre of representation to the theatre of repetition.

On the latter’s platform, he writes, “we experience pure forces, dynamic lines in space which act without intermediary upon the spirit, and link it directly with nature and history, with a history, with a language which speaks before words, with gestures which develop before organised bodies, with masks before faces, with spectres and phantoms before characters – the whole apparatus of repetition as a ‘terrible power’.”[Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, Continuum, London, 2004, p. 12]

In the rehearsal room, which is our theatre of repetition, and which we often hope to take beyond and to the stage, to the theatre of resemblance – to the run – we are confronted with just the kinds of clichés Deleuze names. Theatre and philosophy depend on where we choose to start: “for beginning means eliminating all presuppositions.”[ibid., p. 164] These presuppositions constitute the Image of Philosophy as much as the choices we face in the rehearsal room constitute the Image of Theatre.

We will never entirely escape the Image. In fact, both theatre and philosophy prepare, albeit in different senses, its advent. Rehearsal, commonsensically, precedes and is only justified by performance. What Deleuze at first calls the theatre of repetition, though it pass to it by a phase of misosophy, ends up philosophy. What is more, as Deleuze remarks in comments about surfing, posthumously published in the Abécédaire, it ends up on the inside of philosophy, having to be reattached to the outside, and to life, again and again, by the living.

Theatre and philosophy, however, differ all the way through: what is artifice for one is an article of faith for the other, because theatre is pretend. Deleuze’s ‘dynamic lines in space’ are a gestural histrionics; his ‘language before words’ is sheer clowning; ‘gestures before bodies’ becomes shorthand for status onstage; ‘masks’ are worn to dissimulate; ‘spectres and phantoms’ appear in the list of dramatis personae as distinct characters; the ‘apparatus’ sounds like the philosophical equivalent of the deux ex machina, the ‘terrible power’ which is achieved with fx and sfx, or smoke and mirrors.

This is where I suggest we start, at the inversion effected on philosophy by theatre, from which two critical prospects immediately arise: metaphoricity and theatricality. By the former is meant the voracity of theatre as metaphor, not only a matter of its discursive frequency, the frequency of its appearance in discourses, and therefore quantifiable, but also a matter of its power, its ‘terrible power’, and therefore qualifiable. By theatricality is meant exactly this quality of theatre-as-metaphor, a distinct metaphoricity.

There are theological, psychoanalytical, philosophical, political, economic, martial and passional theatres. It seems there is a theatre of everything else apart from theatre. Psychoanalysis has used the metaphor of theatre with a compulsiveness bordering on the obsessive to the extent that it has practically metastasized. When it does we see the outcome not as the death of the body but its spectacular recovery, if not as philosophy, then as the thought we tend to call theory, with which theatre shares its etymological roots.

Theatres of war and thought, theatres of engagement and operations, are deadly serious. From within their three walls we hear the sweet bird of truth singing, loud enough that the gods will take notice, having unleashed its payload of explosive. To talk about Paul Virilio’s ‘theatre of thought‘ is to get at the essential Virilio-ness of Virilio, into his very bunker. The play is high stakes; we risk losing everything on a single throw of the dice.

If we are all already squashed into these theatres, as Virilio seems to say, that is, if we are already within the purview of this metaphoricity, then we are here not just to put bums on seats and see the actors get paid; we are not here for the sake of the spectacle but of panic, and terror. The metaphor heightens our experience, makes it immediate, creates the impression we are in danger.

In reality and not hyper-reality, if we run the risk of ultraviolence being used upon our persons, we understand that it remains theatre. Keeping it real, it is at the level of the actor that the danger passes; and that it exists. Even should the theatricality of the moment insist that he avert it with a wave of his chiffon scarf, yet the risk informs the theatrical encounter. The lie here tells the truth.

Theatricality joins, insofar as the theatrical is also artificial, mannered, forced and unnatural, showy, fake, kitsch, camp, ironic, and effeminate, with other logics of inversion. It is an historicising vector of theatre: it contains without ever exhausting the history of artifice; which suggests that it is a logic of sense, in Deleuze a condition of truth and as sensation a condition of creative thought, native to theatre. [Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W. Smith, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2003]

As for terror, it is general over the countries and on all sides, in full regard of the theatrical conditions which give rise to and sustain it. Terror could be seen as the disease which afflicts the prevailing humour of theatricality; which suggests a clinical prospect: theatre as an artform.

The problem of theatre’s metaphoricity is that it doesn’t save any room for theatre. The problem of theatricality lies in its power to create between what is and what is not a transformative tension, but one too easily coopted by recognition, representation and the recuperation of identity, rather than absolute inversion or transfiguration. Theatre is blocked. It is the art of representation par excellence.

Art is of signal importance in Deleuze’s philosophy because it is in sensation, in the encounter which disrupts the harmony of the faculties, that thought opens into thought. Art gives access onto the real, the virtual and creative ground of being. For these reasons, it is first in Deleuze that we should look for a ‘thought of theatre.’ It is on the ground of a virtual ontology that we may build theatre as an artform.

Although a collection of essays about him might bear the title Gilles Deleuze and the Theatre of Philosophy, Deleuze’s writing on theatre amounts to a single extended piece, “Un manifeste de moins.” In this text, Deleuze considers the work of Carmelo Bene, exhorting us to represent nothing, to accede to a minor theatre and a minor consciousness, and to make a decisive transformation.[Gilles Deleuze and the Theatre of Philosophy: Critical Essays, ed. Constantin V. Boundas, Routledge, USA, 1994. “Un manifeste de moins,” translated as “One Manifesto Less,” by Alan Orenstein, in The Deleuze Reader, ed. Constantin V. Boundas, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993, pp. 204-222]

From 1) the critical project of looking at the ‘theatre of thought,’ as metaphor and logic, comes 2) a clinical consideration of the ‘thought of theatre,’ as artform, from which proceeds 3) thinking theatre: the theatre of theatre.

In this third part of the proposed work, we will seek to build a theatre in thought and set forth the conditions for a thinking theatre. While at the same theatre the death of man is playing tonight, and will be back tomorrow, by popular demand, we will open in theatre another.

The crack of theatricality divides chiffon scarf from act of terrorism by bringing them together. It too divides brothel from church and state. The actor, like the whore or the priest and politician, betrays his promise. But he does so rather before he makes it than after. So it is in it and in him that the problem is shown to come into being and it is here where it is most clearly elaborated: in the theatre we might attend to it as a problem of being and not with being, of and not with ontology.

Herbert Blau gets very close to this sense of a theatrical logic being borne out by a virtual ontology when he writes that what gives theatre life is what theatre hides. As both practitioner and cultural theorist, he attends carefully to “the living insignia of theatre, seen unseen, its troubling materialization from whatever it is it is not.” Where Blau returns us to this side of the looking-glass, to follow Deleuze is to continue around the turn in thought, to come to a place we no longer recognise. [Herbert Blau, “Performing in the Chaosmos: Farts Follicles, Mathematics, and Delirium in Deleuze,” unpublished essay, provided courtesy of the author]

This is the challenge Deleuze presents to thinking, with the object that without too many false starts, but very many rehearsals, we arrive at a theatre of theatre. In the context of New Zealand theatre practice, a theatre without context and a colonial history post- and neo-colonially of diminishing interest, let alone return, the task is to develop a ground on which theatre might justify itself, find its context within itself – the meaning of ‘theatre of theatre’ – and find also within itself the ‘terrible power’ of creation.

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Terror, Capital, Representation, Theatre, and the image of thought … and the theatre of thought: towards a thought of theatre & a thinking theatre

A final note: a modernist poetics has haunted these thoughts on “Digital Maoism” and limited its responsibility to complete clarity. Plaguology is of the same coinage as the poetics of a “terrible beauty.” The latter need not only describe the beauty of terror. It is indeed in excess. It might also figure the displacement of beauty onto terror and prefigure the way in which capital may in turn displace or may already have displaced onto terror in the circulation of fear: the overturn of capitalism into worldwide terrorism and the concomitant culture and currency of fear. These remain questions of aesthetics. As Michel Foucault enjoins, know how what is made was made so that it can be unmade.

– my corpocracy and plaguology]

… the history of depths begins with what is most terrifying: it begins with the theatre of terror whose unforgettable picture Melanie Klein painted. In it, the nursing infant is, beginning with his or her first year, stage, actor, and drama, at once. Orality, mouth, and breast are initially bottomless depths. Not only are the breast and the entire body of the mother split apart into a good and a bad object, but they are aggressively emptied, slashed to pieces, broken into crumbs and alimentary morsels. The introjection of these partial objects into the body of the infant is accompanied by a projection of aggressiveness onto these external objects, and by a re-projection of these objects into the maternal body. … We call this world of introjected and projected, alimentary and excremental partial internal objects the world of simulacra. Melanie Klein describes it as the paranoid-schizoid position of the child. It is succeeded by a depressive position which characterises a dual progress, since the child strives to reconstitute a complete good object and to identify himself with this object.

– Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, p. 215

We will justify the clinical term with an outward-looking – yes, RJF looked inward – and critical engagement with the disease. The disease is terror and terror as the current rule of the spectacle, of representation. …

This would beat the Invisible Theatre we have now. Tom said, Stage an invisible play. Thing is the play’s in progress. And we are invisible. To become visible we need the sell. To sell we need the spectacle. To represent or reprazent we need terror. So a terror-cell to sell theatre. We will come out and with us out the truth, the error of representation, the deathwish in it, the disease. In it of it … in the middle of it! We have to represent as the violence in the middle of the representation. A theatre of morsels. A feedback from the guts of the audience to the matrix of the spectacular terror inside representation. The cathode-ray nipple as Franti had it in the good old days of Hiphoprisy is attached to a breast to which belongs the urethral and anal sadism of Klein’s maternal, matricial theatre, the matrix itself.

– my T-CELL: a terrorist performancell

Olkowski provides a possible way of thinking theatre with Deleuze: the ‘theatre of terror.’ She explicitly connects Melanie Klein’s ‘theatre of terror,’ in Deleuze’s reading of it, and Antonin Artaud’s ‘theatre of cruelty.’ [Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation, Dorothea Olkowski, Uni. of California Press, London, 1999, pp. 182-189]

– my T-Cell: draft project proposal

Rending the maternal body into fragments, the suckling infant consumes and introjects these morsels, investing them with an infantile but, for that, nonetheless sadistic rage. The pieces of the mother’s body become poisonous little breasts.

The infant squirts mother back at mother in a urinous flood: the child liquefies its mother, first directing the flow against the breast. In this interchange of flows, the suckling’s feedback contravenes the energetic law which constrains output never to exceed input. Mother and child concur in a feedback loop which is also a credit bubble. …

Olkowski desublimates representation, showing representation to be homologous with this [Aristotelian] view of substance: insofar that substance is presumed to be the guarantor, to ground and govern the continuity of the “sensible intuition,” of phenomena, organising, distributing, categorising. This work of stratifying and freezing in the privileged state of being, stating, or representing, is undertaken with the insistence of the same, the same substance, which, in what is smaller, partitioned and further partitioned, the being of substance equivocates. …

As Aristotelian substance is just like representation, according to Olkowski, so Platonic Ideas impose representative standards upon the pure form of time and ‘death.’ The latter is understood to crack the subject open to the form of time, which is pure flow: on one side of the crack, the ‘I’ who acts; on the other, the ‘me’ who is acted upon, asujetti, subject-ed. …

Olkowski brings in Deleuze’s take on Klein’s ‘theatre of terror’ to witness the ruin of theatre. She introduces Artaud to witness the ruin of theatre as a form of representation. Her use of Artaud differs radically from Deleuze’s recontextualization, since for the latter, Artaud is the epitome of a schizophrenic writer, not a ‘man of the theatre [or of cruelty]‘ at all. We would not sacrifice a single page of Artaud for Lewis Carroll’s entire literary output, says Deleuze.

Olkowski’s observations following these remarks about Artaudian theatre suggest little experience of contemporary theatre practice, which is as traditionally a ‘theatre of cruelty’ as one of ‘poverty’ or Aeschylus’s or Shakespeare’s: the whole tradition is transformed in Artaud’s theatre (in the past that’s never been present), but it is decisively there – where, as I’ve indicated, Olkowski situates it. …

… representation is already … complicated and resonates in series with the spectacle and, therefore, with terror: a complication with capital, a capital C. …

My affinity … for Olkowski’s work has to do with her problems of which, in The Ruin of Representation, and why I picked up the book in the first place, representation is clearly one. She is attracted to Deleuze, as I am, for the reason that in his philosophy there might be a before/between/meanwhile to representation that is at the same time able to be conceived and brought to consciousness, that language need not be the only theatre of operations for philosophy.

Her problem, again where I concur, is that of affirmation: how make it without making it stand in a relation of opposition, to critique, to the negative; how affirm representation or not disavow it, when the problem of representation, like death, consists in its indifference. Anne Carson, I believe, poses to this dilemma the question of the double negative, as does Slavoj Zizek, by imposition, in his thematization of negative disavowal: it’s not not to judge/critique/oppose/negate or judge/affirm but to suspend such judgement in time.

– my notes on Dorothea Olkowski’s Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation, the section entitled, “The Theatre of Terror”

The aesthetics of consumerism are not foisted upon us; they emerge out of a rich and imaginative collaboration between the forces of capitalism and our own fears and desires. If there is kitsch in our daily lives, it is because there is kitsch in our minds.

– Daniel Harris quoted in Jonathan Kalb, Play by Play: Theatre Essays & Reviews, 1993-2002, Limelight Editions, New York, 2003, p. 113 (full quote here)

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Two Superboys in a Burnt ANZ

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