November 2008

? no Names

there are no names. This is the language that does not belong. + it is the language of my not-belonging.

The current problem would be and I am putting here to start thinking it through: without a clinical practice (the idea of small theatre group called T-Cell might remain but there is no support for it), what would the theoretical, critical practice be? (There might not be any support for this either: I may still have to follow the example of other exiles who want to salvage a modicum of respectability through teaching in their adoptive lands.)

I like this: “there is a raw materialism in Virilio’s reflection, nowhere better expressed than in his grisly vision of information as suffocation. In his theatre of thought data banks have migrated inside human flesh, bodies are reduced to granulated flows of dead information, tattooed by data, embedded by codes, with complex histories of electronic transactions as our most private autobiographies.” [Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, City of Transformation: Paul Virilio in Obama’s America]

I like it because of the vitality of the sci-fi drama introduced as taking place in a ‘theatre of thought.’ It makes me think the thought that’s involved me these past few months – itself springing from the encounter with theatre – can sustain itself, like an oasis.

Does it shimmer like a mirage? Yes.

At present it does. And N-set feels like a place I cannot recover except in the rehearsal room, except by becoming a group. (By ‘N-set’ I mean here the country whose existence I cannot prove but of whose reality I am convinced, as I am that I live n-exile from it: ‘non-specified enemy territory’ – a zone of risk and immediate context.)

The Krokers use the theatre of thought like a ticket to gain direct access to what is showing: migrations into flesh, granulations of bodies, tattoos, embeddings – into the very meatspace, as if this were a sign of legitimation not only for their presence as lived but also for their histories and private autobiographies. I undertake that this is in the nature of a characterisation of Virilio, in whose thought – and theatre – a naturalism still obtains, in which the natural body is yet valorised. However, that there might be a theatre of thought, really, is exciting.

And I wonder if it will hold still long enough – migrating, granulating, getting tattoos, becoming embedded – for me to approach, flip it onto its back and take a good long look at it as a thought of theatre. In other words, do the Krokers here provide the clinical instance of theatre, the practice to criticise?


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a photo of Arthur Boyd because I’m thinking of Bendalong

– Arthur Boyd in the early 1970s


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corps de crise, curs de cris, cours de coeurs de cris: notes fragments of Simon Taylor

I was reading Norman Manea’s A Hooligan’s Return, about the exiled writer’s return to Romania.

His book On Clowns remains my favourite. In fact, I quoted from it extensively in a letter advocating state patronage of the arts to Helen Clark in her first term as Prime Minister, in 1999.

I thought, what is it in my circumstances that leads to this strong connection I feel, this sense of affiliation to the work of writers like Norman Manea? Paul Celan, Gregor von Rezzori … and from my earlier reading life, Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Josef Skvorecky, Jan Kott, Czeslaw Milosz … ?

They constitute, I thought, a sort of diaspora of the disenchanted. And exiled. And in some cases, the enforced exiles – the banished.

And I was listening to Caetano Veloso’s 1971 album, A Little More Blue, recorded when he was in exile in London.

It was Thursday night, the 31st of October. I was listening for the first time. It moved me to tears. This is shorthand for saying that it did not play on my emotions in a sentimental or nostalgic way; it moved me before I recognised why.

I’ve asked in posts here recently about whether or not theatre belongs in or to New Zealand. Has its time past, as a properly colonial cultural institution?

I had thought this past was one I had in common with my compatriots. I find increasingly that it’s what excludes me.

Theatre does have a problematic relation with colonialism, from the travelling companies to the demise of the Mercury. I would argue that its break away from colonialism was constitutive of and decisive for the development of both a New Zealand tradition and a professional theatre in New Zealand.

This is not a tautology: the arena in which an idea is contested is often that in which it is most clearly articulated. The idea or problem of New Zealand theatre was colonialism. Theatres struggled with that legacy. A break away from colonial theatre could only ever have been the condition for the development of a New Zealand theatrical tradition.

Part of this struggle was to get theatre recognised as a profession. As an aside, it’s worth noting that one of the ways theatre-workers became professional was by forming unions; the same unions were behind strikes in the early 1980s that were devastating for theatres, as institutions, not just employers.

Contrary to what John Smythe writes in Downstage Upfront: The first 40 years of New Zealand’s longest-running professional theatre, it was the decision to take from but break with the colonial tradition which not only confirmed it as its own thing but was generative of, was the germ from which, New Zealand theatre sprang.

I would also argue that what has been engendered in the vacuum left by the loss of state-sponsored community theatres (as fact or idea – and principle), when it was with the complicity of the profession that they were brought down, is a reactionary amateurism. In its wilful rejection of its parochial and colonial past, this brand of amateurism is more parochial, provincial, colonial than ever. (And less theatrical and more literal.)

A certain irony has not escaped you. You are reading this @ Square White World.

Is squareness, whiteness and that these qualities have given rise to something called a ‘world’ here being celebrated? or criticised and contested? satirised and lambasted? or affirmed and held up for emulation?

Do the advertised ‘work pieces by Simon Taylor’ belong to a square white world?

And ultimately is the world from I might claim presently to be in exile square and white or dark and round?

… my sense of a lack of belonging is different.

Mammals don’t belong here. True.

Those travellers who came here first can make a stronger claim to belonging than those who came after. True.

English, my mother tongue tastes like coal and brick-dust in my mouth and does not belong in this green ghetto. Even the language does not belong.

But my sense of not belonging is not because I come from somewhere else. I come from this place. It should therefore be this place, my country, which creates in me this feeling. It isn’t.

I’ve been confusing New Zealand, confusing it in my mind with another country. This ‘other’ New Zealand is the one from which I am truly exiled, in exile, N-exile or n-exile.

Now, I don’t even think they share the same name. One is an ‘N-set’ – acronym for “non-specified enemy territory” – which one, I don’t know. But I can make a guess.

I am sure that you, the reader, whoever you are, will doubt the existence of this ‘other’ NZ. You want to say, It’s the past from which you are in exile. You probably want to tell me I’m dressing up a common sentiment in fancy terms.

After all, how has it happened? How have I come to see myself as n-exile? Is it merely that I am nostalgic for my childhood?

I spent some years living in and around theatre companies, companies which were built on the ensemble principle and which therefore were like large supportive families.

Is it these, my formative years, compelling me to try and recapture them in their sense of belonging? And since this is impossible is it this past, a distinct past, which makes me feel unwelcome in the present?

What is the present apart from what has happened? It is what has happened … in its most contracted form: adamantine!

In pursuing my dream of establishing a small theatre group called T-Cell, writing for it and writing from it – scripts in one end – theory out the other – I’ve been fooling myself, not because to realise such a dream is possible or impossible, but because the conditions which would determine whether the dream were realisable, whether possible or impossible, do not obtain.

Lynn put it to me, and I’ve called attention to it several times here since, that theatre is a colonial thing. As we move away from our colonial past, so there’s less popular support to do theatre.

Is it then a colonial past to which I belong and which I perceive myself to be exiled from in a post-colonial present time? Am I hankering after a bit of drawing-room farce? wanting to brush up my Shakespeare – and for everyone to do the same – so we can all be, in Robert David McDonald’s immortal phrase, those poofs what strut around the stage in tights pretending they’re kings and queens?

Or, in consideration for where it sat, formatively, in the history of NZ theatre, am I wanting to rejoin the angry young men who brought decent plumbing to the stage with indecent aplomb?

These phases or periods in theatre can at least be said to belong, to a shared colonial past, doubtless, but one to which we are the legatees, whether we want to be or not.

The fact that I cannot command the support necessary in order to make theatre, which would be the minimal condition I’d set, has to do with where I come from. The dream comes from the same place.

It must be an N-Set, a “non-specified enemy territory,” for the resistances that pertain to its conditions of realisability:

Creative New Zealand will deem ineligible for funding at the outset any project that has an academic outcome as its object;

the academy, in general, will at present not support a theatre-lab type approach – its does not authorise groupuscules;

corporate funding is not readily available for theatre from N-Set, that is, ‘enemy’ theatre (T-Cell was intended to affirm ‘Terror’-cell as much as ‘Theatre’-cell as much as the creative biological cell);

CNZ turned me down for funding (the application sits here on the left-hand margin) – I hid from them that theatre and theory share the same root – although it’s hardly a secret;

as a group activity – or company, or ensemble – what I would be doing would not be about me – or us, or in the service of any fixed identity, whether national or corporate … the ‘who’ has to come after the ‘how’ … which does not inspire confidence in those who we might like to have dipped into their pockets;

as for a popular resistance, a condition of the art form in question is that it is unpopular, even anti-popular: it is like asking the dominant society to play host to its other. This other may be minor … it is also radically critical of its host. It lives to bite the hand … it is a blight.

Before the 1984 revolution of what has come to be called Rogernomics, whether by popular consent or dint of colonialism, there were seven funded professional theatres in NZ. They were called community theatres. I often mention their existence as if they might explain or account for my exile.

I am nostalgic for a time when statecraft understood its indebtedness to stagecraft and when the state, as is now the case, did not ignore an obligation to support the most vulnerable because least rationalisable or enumerable (or accountable) arts institutions, the theatres. Today the state has become the artist, pitiless, self-absorbed and … suicidal.

The time of community theatres has passed … as a way of speaking. But what separates my country, and my exile, is not so simple, not that beautiful. And if is the past, my country, my N-Set, it is a past that has never happened.


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the major death of minor literatures: Cioran & Eliade, the setters & killers of trends / & leap-frogging world wars – genealogies of vitalism / irrationalism / Nietzscheanism

In the 1920s, youth were a rising force throughout Europe. Besides, according to Klaus Mann, “the European generation that had grown up during the First World War” was highly sensitive to the existing “moral and social crisis,” the general crisis of European values. The war and the national revolutions it produced had caused people to question all established values. “Yes, we became familiar with this apocalyptic atmosphere quite early in our lives,” wrote Mann, arguing that the conventions of bourgeois life and morals, valid for the generation of their parents, were perceived by the young generation as “utterly obsolete.” “Amid widespread emptiness and dissolution,” in this “Twilight of the Gods,” “the moral and rational values” that had previously ensured the cohesion of the world collapsed, to be replaced by the young generation’s penchant for irrationalism and vitalism, for biological and erotic values.

– Marta Petreu, An Infamous Past: E.M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania, trans. Bogdan Aldea, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 2005, p. 202 [the Klaus Mann citations are from Le tournant, Histoire d’une vie, trans. from German by Nicole Roche and Henri Roche, Solin, Arles, Paris, 1984, pp. 160-2]

– Emil Cioran

– Mircea Eliade

Trans-European Express

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National’s Arts policy: we are the jelly; you are emerging … with some paintings by Attila Richard Lukacs by way of illustration

NATIONAL: 2008: Arts, Culture & Heritage Policy
by Christopher Finlayson, Arts, Culture and Heritage
15 July 2008



Was Weist der Aisel von Mord, Attila Richard Lukacs, 1988

National values arts, culture, and heritage. We value them equally. We value the one – or do we mean the ones?

We value the one(s) we’re supposed to value and not the other one(s), or what is called in progressive parlance: the other‘s ones.

To clarify: we value those arts, that culture and this heritage which are native to … us. Which is also not to say that we somehow devalue or disrespect those, that and this, not native, indigenous. and otherwise not conventionally deemed New-Zealand-made. It is to say that we don’t extend our support to it.

We, your incoming National government, have no place in supporting these arts, those cultures and heritages not native to New Zealand… native in the inclusive sense.

We believe there is an important role for government in supporting the arts at all levels. However, we are not going to tell you in this document how we define ‘level.’ As Michael said the other day about the English curriculum, ‘It’s like Dungeons and Dragons. If you get this number you advance to a higher level.’

Our approach is intelligent intervention rather than constant interference. Please do not infer anything élitist from the élitist sounding phrase, ‘intelligent intervention.’ In fact, it would be very Labourite and Politically Correct for you so to do. We mean ‘intelligent’ to mean, based on our intelligence.

Let Me Show You My Wonderful World, Attila Richard Lukacs, 1990

The National Party Research Unit has for some time been out in the field gathering arts, cultural and heritage intelligence at all levels.

Using this information our approach is to intervene and not interfere. We will come between the arts and artists, culture and culturati, heritage and inheritors (or, if you prefer, legatees) but not come in with some ideologically questionable agenda … some may have done so … some time.

Our policies focus on:

• Stimulating demand for the arts.
(we would like to titillate the nation’s taste buds)
• Supporting artists and arts organisations, not the bureaucracy.
(we believe that ‘organisation’ rhymes with ‘organic’)
• Ensuring funding agencies have cultures of service.
(the sector of highest employment in the developed world is the service sector; however, we hope to develop the service without employing a higher number of staff to serve.
(See our definition of culture, above: our culture is ours because we support our culture, and so on)
• Helping arts organisations operate on a sustainable, long-term basis.
(read ‘sustainable’ as ‘self-sustaining’ if you must)
• Promoting a culture of giving and community support.
(we support a culture of giving and ‘community support’ because the giving is what the culture does, not the government, just as ‘community support’ is a natural effect following on from strong and morally constituted communities in which our intelligence tells us we need not intervene)

Range of Motion, Attila Richard Lukacs, 1990


• Building opportunity for all.
(‘building’ is a participle and not a nominal piece of developed real-estate with bricks-and-mortar investment)
• Encouraging ambition.
(within the parameters of the portfolio, i.e. arts, culture and heritage. We imagine that ambitious heritage is all about wanting to make a come-back, possibly for those aspects of our national heritage which have been ignored and/or destroyed under three terms of the outgoing government. Ambition in culture should not be thought of as ideologically inflected. And the National Party is all about ambitious artists)
• Strengthening our communities.
(see above, ‘community support’ comes from strong communities; strong communities make extra support from government look like interfering, which rhymes with ‘social engineering’)

Krishna Stealing Milk, Attila Richard Lukacs, 1988


1. Supporting Arts Funding
(as a good idea)

• Maintain the current level of taxpayer funding for arts, culture, and heritage, and promote additional sources of funding through turbocharging community groups. This is a serious undertaking and not to be confused with an initiative to improve conditions for boy racers.
• Focus the Ministry of Culture and Heritage on its core responsibilities, like a magnifying glass, and reform the Arts Council to improve service delivery. See above for our belief that service need not go hand on arm with employing more staff.
• Improve the Creative Communities scheme and strengthen links between the Arts Council, local authorities, and iwi. Details of how this improvement and strengthening will be achieved is not contained in our intelligence, however take it as read that what we’ve got so far confirms that there is a need for it.

2. Encouraging Artists
(‘You go, boy!’ & ‘You go, girl!’)

• Maintain the PACE scheme and help establish a creative sector law centre. The PACE scheme is the most successful employment scheme we have in terms of numbers led into employment.

– Painters Lie with Fools Mask, Attila Richard Lukacs, 1988

However, our long-term thinking does not extend to considering the arts sector as the engine for the national economy. Simply put, too much is at stake to risk it on artists.
• Update the Copyright Act. Oppose resale royalty rights for art. We are and remain recidivists when it comes to remediation.

3. Maintaining Our Heritage
(see our definition of ‘our’ above: it is meant in an inclusive sense. Just like: President Elect Obama is an American, in the inclusive sense)

• Review the Historic Places Act, because it’s time we did.
• Support the National Portrait Gallery through the National Library. We as a Party are in favour of portraits and portraiture as a level in arts, culture and heritage. (See the discussion of ‘levels’ above.) We would like to see more portraits kept once they have been painted.
• Require Te Papa to improve the quality of service provided by the National Services Directorate. The latter has lately been dragging the chain.

4. Supporting the Sectors
(there are disciplines and then there are disciplines that need to be punished)

• Update the Film Commission Act and reform the commission. Maintain the Large Budget Screen Production Grant and the Screen Production Investment Fund. Peter Jackson has offered his own intelligence in intervening in the Film Commission. As has almost every successful New Zealand film maker.
• Retain the Music Commission and maintain NZ On Air funding for Kiwi music. Ensure Rockquest continues. We are about continuance. Music is not our thing.
• Support the reform of the Authors’ Fund. Too many authors spoil the fund.
• Require all state funding agencies to place a greater emphasis on emerging artists. Once they realise they are in the matrix they wake up and find themselves covered in something which looks and feels like jelly. Plus they have holes where they’ve so recently been plugged in. As a source of power, nothing beats emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. As it long as it is followed by emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. As it long as it is followed by emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. As it long as it is followed by emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. As long as it is followed by emerging. And another emerging. We are the jelly. We have always been there.

Allegory of Water, Attila Richard Lukacs, 1987

National Scandal

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>> new folk >> Jess Chambers & The Firefly Orchestra

– cover art for eponymously titled album, flipside


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clear-cut for Key, says Sandra Lee: victory in Parnell for JK

There’s something to be said for a country of approximately 4 million people who want to hold a national election as if it were a US presidential race – to which at times it actually referred.

Prime Minister Helen Clark in her concession speech played the ‘gracious in defeat’ role which was so recently attributed to John McCain. In addition she announced that she would stand down from leadership of the Labour Party. Possibly because the blame for the defeat in the party vote does not rest with her leadership; possibly to avoid that blame … and accentuate the positive of 9 years of responsible government both in terms of foreign affairs and economically: lower unemployment rates and a higher, and an existing, minimum wage.

… As far as John Key is concerned, he has been schooled, whether by watching TV over the past couple of days, or by an advisor, on how to deliver a speech. Go slow, John, they’ve said to him. It’s a question of phrasing. We won’t be getting over your speech defect in one lesson but it’s less noticeable if you measure your words.

And the question of for whom JK is the acceptable face, in view of the lack of brains or potential for duplicity, and the requisite smarts therefor, among the old boys we know, becomes no clearer: Steven Joyce ?… Tim Groser ? .. or the Honourable Undead Sir Roger Douglas, who has been returned to parliament under the Act list, after all … ?

The alliance even if it be on a confidence and supply basis which most scares me remains that potentially existing between National and the Maori Party. Why? … Because it is a case of sheer opportunism on the latter’s part. And, as Sandra Lee also said, the notion of the Maori Party as National’s “Treaty partner” in parliament would be a constitutional abuse. However, mutual respect, says JK, is sufficient to secure such an expedient dialogue.

Asked to comment on the US election, Noam Chomsky said, ‘We should have no illusions.’ He was remembering Kennedy. His BBC interlocutor wondered whether he would be hanging out the flags. ‘We should not be hanging out flags no matter where we are,’ said Chomsky.

Chomsky’s point was that it would be in such a measure as President Elect Obama would be seen not to deliver on his promises that his legacy could properly be judged, in that measure to which there’d be disillusion. The BBC, determined to reach a positive statement, pursued the line of questioning to ask whether it might not be taken as an advance that there would soon be a black man in office. Chomsky answered that the civilizing forces leading to this resulted from the disillusion and subsequent activism after JFK.

He didn’t remove Kennedy as sign but pointed to a process taking place alongside the election of a president upon whom the population had pinned their hopes. Disillusion, loss of hope, the argument runs, as long, I suppose, as they are explosive in their publication, catalyze popular movements, activism, more effectively than elected leaders with socially progressive agendas.

JK promises to help those who need help; he says that the country has not met its potential; he argues in favour of ambition and the opportunity to improve oneself without excessive government intervention. This agenda, he has said, will not be fulfilled without going into debt … to Australian banks; we will be in fact paying for your election decision by going deeper and deeper into debt.

… Unless, as every poll, apart from saying National would win, has also indicated, we cannot trust him and them.

And so we are nicely delivered back into the precinct of the cynical and the negative.

It seems clear-cut for Key: he will be judged by his failure in the measure to which it inspires us to do better.

Which is no more than judging him by his own stated principles.

In the meantime, Allah be thanked we have Obama for him to cuddle up to in foreign policy and not Bush I or II.


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RO = received opinion + the sympathetic magic of associativism >> meaning image referring to image in an endless gyre with the implication that thought follows the image; thus ‘It’s time for a change’ = Obama = NZ National Party campaign

  • Labour + Greens = a short step to communism
  • Helen Clark has been in too long = it’s time for a change
  • a coalition headed by Helen Clark = a five-headed monster => a Clark government = a monster
  • Kyoto = NZ loses in the race for global trade
  • Labour’s foreign policy = no FTA with USA
  • FTA with USA = the apex of NZ diplomatic achievement
  • FTA with USA = no implications for NZ self-determination/sovereignty
  • Helen Clark = Stalin after a face wax
  • you can tell when it’s election time = Helen Clark starts to look a bit better / dresses with care / has been to the beautician / makeover artiste
  • Helen = ambiguous sexuality
  • Helen Clark’s government = nanny state
  • nanny state / monster / negative / muck-raking campaign = gender neutral
  • National’s campaign = positive + Labour’s campaign = cynicism + muck-raking
  • clever campaign = clever government
  • National = we’ve got fresh ideas
  • John Key = the leader / new face of the National Party / of the new National
  • John Key = new media savvy => 1.5 b. spent on universal broadband = an investment in the future of NZ
  • “We will not sell state assets” = “We will not sell state assets”

to be continued at leisure … = after all there’s no hurry => speed in communication and bandwidth for communication does not equal communication (or when it’s time for a change in public opinion we are arrogant enough to assume we can change public opinion)(or a man with no qualities can lead a country without qualities)

  • Helen Clark will go down in history as a great manager = not a great leader


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the ‘acceptable face’ of the incoming National Party as David Lange was the acceptable face of the fourth Labour Government, Rogernomics & economic reductionism: less government intervention in the market … while the market cannot even look after its own …


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In The Hot Sun Of A Christmas Day

– Recorded during his exile in London by Caetano Veloso. Veloso was jailed in Brazil for his participation in the cultural movement of protest, which was called Tropicalia, against the military regime. Let this music, from the album A Little More Blue, serve as soundtrack for the posts to follow.


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