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)