November 2009

The problem of real estate, or: What Auckland needs & the fact we know that for what Auckland needs it will refuse to pay

A 320 m² theatre restaurant in Surrey Hills, Sydney, is up for lease. It has a theatre and a liquor license, a large commercial kitchen, fully set up,and a bar service area. The theatre looks to be a raised stage at one end of the dining area. There are some luminaires hung on lighting bars and a sound system, the speakers also hanging. Rental per anum is listed at $90,000.00.

The interior décor leaves a little to be desired but it’s just décor. And it is expensive… but then it’s in Sydney. Expressions of interest are sought to refurbish and reopen the theatre, contact me here.

Then there’s this:

…the long-deserted Mid City cinema complex at 239 Queen St… the vision is that for under $35 million, the existing concrete shell could be converted into a 550-seat home for major drama productions, a 350 or so seat substitute for the long-planned Q Theatre at the back of the Town Hall, and two or three rehearsal spaces, one of which could be a 250-seater “black box”, suitable for, among other things, dance.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about this proposal is that this once trendy venue has sat abandoned and forgotten for over five years, gutted of everything but a few light fittings …

for around $35 million Auckland could have a multi-theatre complex to match, for example, the acclaimed Seymour Theatre Centre at Sydney University. Given that the proposed 350 to 450-seat flexiform Q Theatre has been priced at $21 million on the way up, it’s not surprising funders and just about everyone in the theatre world see the merits of pursuing the Mid City alternative further.

Which ended like this:

Not happening. It was decided the venue was not suitable so it was squashed before it even began. They are building the Q theatre next to the town hall.
– from here, last entry October 18th, 2009

And the Q itself, a decade in gestation, a startlingly overcooked infant with who can guess what genetic flaws, given the fiddling with it, by Council and every interested party. It could, it would have been born years ago were it not for the Council placing a big hand on its opening, insisting it grow to the proportions of a Behemoth before being removed from the matrix of the committee, a mother who has apparently taken such delight in the pregnancy she is reluctant to let go:

– this image is called brand values and came from here; I am afraid to ask about the word “hearbeat” or what sort of theatre it is to cite these as its “brand values:” promoting mispeling, posibly, for having gotten the T from heatre.

When considering the Q we should not forget the P theatre: Auckland Theatre Company is said to be interested in this old church:

Tenders close at 4pm on December 9, 2009. Let’s hope they (whoever, but here’s a link) 1) take the interior down to the dirt before pretending it’s a theatre; 2) relieve Norman Ng of the 1927 entrance from K’Rd., thus relieving the owner of that unfortunate burgerie at the same time.

P theatre is not to be confused with B theatre, to which it is closely related, in a relation of what I think is called inversion (properly speaking, the Oliver-Hurst inversion): Shane Bosher’s newly declared “boutique” theatre now resident at a squash court, hitherto known as the Herald. To the great relief – on the subject of relieving oneself -, I would have thought, of the Edge:

THE EDGE manages three of Auckland’s landmark buildings – Aotea Centre, The Civic and Auckland Town Hall – as well as the city’s largest outdoor CBD space – Aotea Square. THE EDGE is New Zealand’s leading performing arts, commercial entertainment and convention facility, and a central feature of Auckland’s Aotea Quarter.

And it would be wrong to read anything opportunistic about the statement that follows:

Our non-commercial activities, or Public Programmes offering, is the result of a funding agreement with the Auckland City Council.

Because this aspect of the Edge’s operation is required of it by the agreement it has with Council, a civic duty, as it were:

an agreement with Auckland City to operate and manage the venues under the trading name THE EDGE. As a result the Aotea Centre Board of Management is required to report to the Auckland City Council’s Finance and Corporate Business Committee.


What a boutique theatre is Oliver Driver explains here to Lynn Freeman, who has already introduced a spoiler by moving on to the next letter of the alphabet: C, for Corporate (Theatre Corporate, that is, fl. ’80s). A boutique theatre offers longer contracts to actors and directors, six month contracts is the duration mentioned; it does boulevard theatre – perhaps this is the word to which “boutique” is a reaction? as in a sort of Freudian slip; but, and this, as they say, is the point of difference, it also aspires to producing edgier [sic], riskier work, like The Ensemble Project…!


And B theatre harks back to Inside Out’s “ground-breaking warehouse” shows, like The Holy Sinner and The Three-Penny Opera, which is a far hark, almost two decades of back-harking. But, why? Because, I would propose, these ‘epic’ shows took place in warehouses. [link] Not in a squashed court.

That dirty old man along Queen Street, St. James, remains in a state of dereliction, dropping his plaster on any who care to visit. And it makes you think: there’s the Civic; over the road is a theatre that once hosted Larry Olivier on a tour of the colonies; then there’s a church in Mercury Lane.

I don’t know what it makes you think but that when the super-city arrives there ought to be a special court established in which to try crimes against the city.

This expedient would take every council out for a good long while. A much needed rest from visionary activities, like suggesting Auckland could do with a transport infrastructure. Progressing, as they say, the idea that it might, moving forward.

No survey, not even this extemporization, of the Auckland theatre scene would be complete without, or ought to be bothered with, mentioning the Jeffrey James aka Silo aka Basement Theatre. So. There it is.

It has housed some good work but it is a crap space. Which is not to say this is how we like our theatre to be; it is in fact how we prefer it. At least on the architectural evidence.

The Maidment escapes this conclusion, so does the Sky – which, note, give us an S and an M. But the angle implicit here is a realism about what Auckland needs in terms of what it has, what its “brand values” are. (Reflected in our S & M theatres.) The Maid is Auckland University’s theatre, which the city annexes through commercial means as it suits its theatrical needs; likewise, the Sky belongs to a corporation, so the city’s theatre companies pay through the teeth to use it.

The question of ownership is paramount: if I say “the city’s theatre companies,” the obligation ought to extend both ways, to the city and from the city. Just who the city is is the question the theatre is supposed to be clarifying: that is, leave the problem of identity to our arts by insisting that the city take on the problem of ownership… of real estate.

The Victoria Theatre, Devonport, has been returned to the community; well, it is being held in trust and the board of directors say:

We are endeavouring to follow up on all enquiries we receive and look forward to presenting a varied and viable programme of events to the community.

– from here

Which doesn’t instill great hope that function will follow form in the future for this beautiful building.

There are then, and by way of following the logic of multifunctionality, the low-rent hubs, studios, artist-run spaces and multi-purpose centres. (E.g., link)

Riverhead Primary School has one, a Multi-Purpose Centre. It’s where assemblies are held and other important events in the school calendar. These are spaces that in setting out to suit every need – and as such are often run by committee, if not committees – suit none well. For example, Riverhead School’s M.P.C. has neither lighting bars, nor stage door; the acoustic is poor (since the era of the community hall, the art of building for unaided voice has left us); but the height and breadth are there for sports’ events; and there are always radio mics; and no rake, so audiences see a lot of bad hair.

The conundrum I am confronting here comes from the prospect of another multidisciplinary space, Shed 10, 90 Wellesley St, 77 Cook St. [link] Because it’s not just a question of need. It’s also a matter of telling the city what it needs in order to become… itself, a city. A mixed purpose space can answer some needs but not, I think, if it is primarily there to answer to the needs of the artists and venue-users, those cross-disciplinary collaborators, those idealists.

I called the angle of approach for this brief survey, this extemporization, realist. Let me qualify that. Not only identity, ownership and cost are at issue, but also form and function. The humility of the Surrey Hills theatre restaurant constitutes its attraction. It is viable because of the population base of Sydney, but also because of the nature of the operation. It is realistic.

In an ideal city, the form of the theatres would suit their function. But there is also the very minimum we ask, which, to my mind, is that the building remember what it is for, both in the sense of preserving resources, to reuse them, both immaterial, human, and, even more importantly, material, materials, and remember its use into the future, proleptically, from a past that has not happened. There is an institutional memory which is served by architecture and a virtual memory, also served by architecture and human organisation, or (infra)structure. Without the latter, no ground for the new in the future. Without the former, no foundation in the present.

National Scandal

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streetlamp, CBD


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body corporate, CBD


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apartment building, CBD


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tapping the world wide web… [!?] The Drain. & Dada…

– Alfred Stiegletz’s photo of Fountain, 1917

Some very encouraging words have come to the site administrator from Bathroom taps, which have been deleted. Is it perhaps because I have been running like a faucet? or a spigot? [link] Might there be somebody reading – there is a bot-check on the contact page – who is targeting the site for advertising? As Zizek didn’t say, With readers like that, better to be ignored. Or, there might be something like this going on:

Aesthetics and plumbing are intimately connect, as classical historian J.C. Stobart makes clear in his pronouncement regarding good sanitation [“Let no cultivated reader despise these details (lavatories, sinks, sewers, and manholes). There is no truer sign of civilization and culture than good sanitation. It goes with refined senses and orderly habits. A good drain implies as much as a beautiful statue.” 1911], as the Baroness [Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven: “Why should I – proud engineer – be ashamed of my machinery…?” 1920 (W.C. Williams recalls her “blue” effluvium)] suggests through her lived Dada. They are connected, in fact, through their joint rationalizing functions. Both channel the flux of impurity to cleanse and sublimate that which must not see the light of day in a civilized society.

– Amelia Jones is here addressing herself to a context – of plumbing and sublimation and disputable authorship – for Fountain, 1917, attributed to Duchamp, and God, 1917, the Baroness’s own, in Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York Dada, The MIT Press, London, 2004, p. 156

– Baroness, with Morton Schamberg, God, 1917

This is hardly to say I am awash with comments, commentary, feedback. No, the flow appears to be through increasingly efficient pipes and all one way; not a node, connection, valve, or tap, in a network at all, but via one luminous screen-shaped drain. Who knows where these words go, this tap-tap tapping, and this look which wears on the eyes? this look, see, now I turn away, and return blinking to the screen to type once more.

– Theresa Bernstein, Baroness, ca.1917

If it were all cloaca, what better, what more civilized and rational fate for it than to be directed out, down, and away? To sea, perhaps. To pollute the shipping lanes and the swimming beaches. To wash up around the summer nudes, and kiss the bodies. To bob around the floating heads in bright red bathing caps. To turn urinous and dun the ocean, churned up by rotors, twenty-foot and twenty-foot paddles, narrow as needles, and streaming jets.

– always fashionable, Baroness, 1915


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addendum to post … 2a

Why did I ever write “eloquent silence”? [here] How could I have? I meant silent and speaking, still, perhaps, but articulating, nonetheless.

Who is the subject of a building? Is it the architect? Or, is it the architect as divine?

For a building to have a subject is already a reach. But why? Isn’t the simplest shelter full of breath?

Consider also the insistence throughout My Architect of Kahn the younger’s interviewees, those who knew Louis Kahn, that he was above all an artist. What normally followed in their discourse was: and therefore he was bad with money and socially inept and couldn’t say no and gave himself up utterly to his art leaving nothing for his family, families, emotionally. Well, in terms of loyalty at least. Since for the son, Nathaniel there is in the film a sense of betrayal, a resentment at not having been central in and to his father’s life. However loved, peripheral. Art central.

The man is not an artist on the evidence of his works but on the evidence of his personal deficiencies, it seems, the deficits in his social and emotional life. Art as an intimate deficiency. An absent volume, or void. Which is to give a positive swing to it. Makes one want to go out courting brain damage, brain grass. My works will not even have to justify my maltreatment of my family, families! This in itself may serve as proof: I AM an… Captain Haddock, as Balthus says. [here] Blistering blue barnacles! Which swings the pendulum back again, into the negative. Such a Romantic idea, a Romantic construction, the genius whose genius is attested to by his wound, self-inflicted, sometimes, genetic, anyway, at least in the passage to genius. Deleuze has quite a lot to say about this. He even supports the idea of the cracked artist, Fitzgerald, for example, like the philosopher, dipsomaniacal. But Deleuze makes this faultline impersonal, a matter of “a bubbling sensibility and a thought which rumbles in its crater” and a matter of what to do with “a bubbling sensibility and a thought which rumbles in its crater.” It is not individual, but subjective: an originary violence. Who’s to blame? Oedipus?

Who’s to blame for the fact that the artist’s erstwhile closest friends cannot really bring themselves to an admission of Louis Kahn’s unalloyed greatness, or even of his mastery of art, such that a work may still be called a masterpiece but no one says, Of course masterpieces follow from a great artist; they say instead, He was an artist, which explains why he was a useless human being. Possibly Luther’s to blame for this lack of generosity. I mean, look at how this building looks down on you! Were it a product of man, a man would have to be possessed of a demon for possessing such demiurgical powers of imagination, since divinity may never be imputed to mortal man.

– Mies van der Rohe, 1919

I mean, architecture in other ways than music, but similarly, as it is given to all to undergo, or encounter, a gift to men, women, equally, is an art seeming divine. In our era of individualism the individual is held up so as he may be pulled down again; at the same time as Mies van der Rohe’s God is in the details of a God-like act of giving space form, so we domesticate that God by pulling Him to pieces and each owning a little bit: My Architect!

You can see the good work of the popularisation of psychoanlysis in this individualism as it individualises, separates the individual, and then socialises the individual from the point of view of a shared humanity, a commonsensical psychology, a human nature. But what else are we in a beautiful building but alone with our maker? … No. You have seen god. You must pull down the maker. My Architect!

– Antonio Gaudí

The divinity of Mozart is a cliché. As is the divinity of the inspiration for Chartres. Or for La Sagrada Família. What about the divinity Antonio Gaudí would have to accede to were we to attribute that inspiration to him? And we need not do so exclusively… Instead, we will read how he was beset by family tragedy, and how his obsession with his work led him to become a virtual recluse, living in the crypt of his building. He was run over by a tram. Staggering away from the accident, taxis refused to take him because he was dressed like a tramp. When he was dead, then he was elevated. Dead he is no longer a threat to our own sense of individuality. Our architect.

– Antonio Gaudí, La Sagrada Família, detail

So, what does the silence say? does it beat you over the head with your own insignificance? with its eloquence? And, then, why are you scared?

– Antonio Gaudí, La Sagrada Família, detail


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instances of the number 23 from the Lives of the Saints series


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Louis Kahn, monuments to sensation. Or: is the director … ? pt. 2a

With time, things lose their harshness and asperity. They are seen differently, and sometimes vanish from view. Time’s shrinking of the little that remains is to be fully accepted; one knows that time is limited, yet it is vast and infinite. This is the whole paradox of life. Perhaps the infinity that one glimpses more clearly is already a premonition of God’s infinity, another idea of time that is necessarily ushered in. … To paint means to approach. Close to a light. The light.

– Balthus, Vanished Splendours: A Memoir, op. cit., pp. 229-230

What interests me is the awakening of things and life, the birth of things. I’ve constantly worked to paint these childish secrets. That’s why I love Giacometti. He gave me the proportion of things, giving me the right tone, the one that conveys music, making faces and landscapes sing. That was my only quest, or task. This artisan’s labour is not particularly brilliant. It’s an obscure, slow and silent pathway. That’s why I abhor being called an artist. I’m like my beloved Captain Haddock who saw the word as an insult that made him curse all the more!

Nothing exists but these brushes, this easel and canvas. That’s what justified my whole life.

– Ibid., p. 235

Death is a tourist of the world.

– Dave Eggers, What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, Penguin, London, 2007, p. ?

No, no, my father said. He waved the back of his hand at the young man, but it seemed more theatrical than convincing.

– Ibid., p. 61

– Louis Kahn, 1901/2-1974

What was has been.
What is has been.
What will be has been.

– attributed to Louis Kahn in My Architect, dir. Nathaniel Kahn, 2003

essential time

– in ibid.

– Louis Kahn, National Assembly, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1962-1974

I find myself wanting to comment on Nathaniel Kahn’s film about his father, the architect, and very much his own architect, Louis Kahn, rather than continuing to speak directly of the place of the director – and the actor – in theatre in the here-and-now. I suspect there is a similarity in Dave Eggers’s relation to Achak, the ostensible narrator of What Is the What, a similarity in the relation between author and narrator there to that between Louis and Nathaniel Kahn here, in the film.

– Louis Kahn, National Assembly, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1962-1974

In so far as it is a documentary it documents the son making a film about his father. There are two films, one inside the other. We often see, particularly through the latter half of the film parenthesizing the documentary, Nathaniel and his camera, in front of the Wailing Wall, for instance, indiscreetly taking a bead on an Hasidic Jew praying and then having to pan away. But Nathaniel remains, for me at least, an unresolved presence and from the point of view of the relationship with the father, his architect, somewhat superfluous. Which makes all the stranger the impression the viewer gains of his ownership of the film, attested to in the film itself but to an exaggerated extent in a question and answer session that makes up the Extras on the DVD.

– Louis Kahn, National Assembly, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1962-1974

Here Nathaniel, with whom we’ve been on first name terms so far, becomes a director who makes films, not just this special one about his father, not just this labour of love. He seems to take on a new role, one of which we’ve been afforded in the body of the film only stolen glimpses, Nathaniel Kahn, his own man, Kahn the film-maker. Although there remains some doubt as to whether he is primarily a documentarian or cinematographer. From the perspective of the Extras, My Architect resembles the rite of passage, of Kahn the younger finding himself as a director, finding his own director, rather than finding Kahn the elder, his father, and his architect.

– Louis Kahn, National Assembly, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1962-1974

The tension between the two films, one, the film Nathaniel is making to claim the architect Louis Kahn as his, two, a biopic centred unreservedly on Louis Kahn’s irascible ineligibility for ownership by anyone but himself, himself including the buildings and the legacy as such, this tension might work to the detriment of the parenthetical documentary – Nathaniel’s neither Herzog, nor even Vincent Ward in Rain of Children – but gives the biopic a dimension not so much of mystery as of incompleteness. Simply, questions remain. If Louis Kahn found his true milieu at the advanced age of 50 as we are told, when did, does or will Nathaniel?

– Louis Kahn, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, 1959–1965

The paradoxes, which although dual are not double, are firstly that Nathaniel seems in the end quite unconscious of what he is told to his face, that his father’s relationship with the whole of the Bangladeshi people was more important than his relationship with his son, and secondly that of Louis Kahn’s epiphanic realisation of the timeless nature of ancient architecture and of its vast, eloquent and impersonal silence. The latter connects, however, with the former: the son is in search of time lost – as the reels run out, as the waiting continues for a father who never comes; whereas the father was, is and will be in search of lost time: weight, timeless monumentality. Resistance to the depredations of time that the son feels, has felt, all too keenly.

Louis Kahn’s embrace of silent space, volumes and weight is not an evasion of time but a quotation of time, a repetition, such that time is exactly recalled, the time of a past that never was. It has been.

– Louis Kahn, National Assembly, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1962-1974

As a footnote to this short review, I can now see why the categorisation of the Hannah Playhouse in Courtney Place, Wellington, as ‘brutalist’ always struck me as being slightly wrong. (Regardless of the fact that it is where I would start the search for my director.) The Hannah, in the weight of its poured concrete superstructure, its gridlike characteristic and in its silhouette, owes more to Kahn than the Smithsons.

– Hannah Playhouse, 1972


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Time, ladies and gentlemen! Time for the taking of a toast and tea, with illustrations from Nippon Or: Is the director … ? pt. 2

– Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), The Great Wave at Kanagawa, from series 36 Views of Mount Fuji, 1823–1829

What do we know about the virtual? It comes to Deleuze via Bergson. It belongs to the third time of the synthesis. It belongs to the future and yet it is the past. It is the being of the past. It may be called the way the past bears on the present producing the future, or bears the present forward on a wave into the future.

– Katsushika Hokusai, Choshi in the Simosa province

In Deleuze, however, understanding the virtual as the ontological past involves thinking about time differently. He presents this different idea of time in four paradoxes: 1) the contemporaneity of the past and the present, without which no present could pass; i.e. it could not pass without sharing its past-ness with its present-ness; 2) the coexistence of all of the past with a present, since every present passes, not just this one; so the past coexists in its entirety with any present; 3) the preexistence of the past: for the present to come along at all, it has to have a ground in time; while it may be represented as a past present, the general, pure, ontological, transcendental past, or the past which has never happened, is the ground on which the past singular to a given present exists and can be represented, and without which it cannot be; 4) the past coexists with itself, to an infinite degree, as an infinity of degrees of past-ness and present-ness, which are in the Bergsonian context degrees of contraction and relaxation, the present being the infinite coexisting past at its most contracted degree.

– Katsushika Hokusai, Whaling off Goto

This conception of time is beautiful but also counter-intuitive. It seems to go against both the linear and cyclical notions of time which have the virtue of at least being encountered in experience. But, and I think this is the point, the experience by which time is linear or cyclical, or even that by which we know it to be curved, is part of a structure for which it does not itself provide the ground. Three structures which come to mind are: the structure of consciousness, ungrounded by the unconscious, the structure of Nature, ungrounded by evolution, the structure of knowledge, ungrounded by critique. These ‘ungroundings’ also present the conditions of possibility for that which they unground: the unconscious somehow gives rise to consciousness, evolution generates Nature, with its perceived cycles, and critique reveals a limit against which knowledge can be defined.

– coasters by Yuko Shimizu

It is as if they always required this other in order to function properly. Knowledge alway needed a limit so that it could be called knowledge and now we can say, But of course knowledge is defined against its limit and by its limit. It is the job of scientists to push the limit!

– Katsushika Hokusai, Carp Leaping Up A Cascade

Where to, if there is always a limit? Or, better, in what form? Because the unknowable still remains, we can only know what is so far unknown. So far: thereby invoking a conception of history, one that is linear, materialist, and only really reaches back to the Enlightenment, 300 or so materialist, linear, years – of progress … with a major faultline running through it: its own limit. Time.

– Yuko Shimizu, Revenge of the Geisha

Time is relative. To what? To POV, but not to POV absolutely. For time to be relative it needs to have specified at least two points, which, then are only relative to each other, two POVs at points in space. The proposition of relativity is an attempt at critique which is given in full view of the absolute. Nothing is hidden but that which was anyway in plain view: that time is not the absolute. Time is relative in so far as it has physical qualities, which disqualify it from absolute-ness, but in no way condemn it to contingency or relativity in some kind of absolute form. The truth of relativity is then that it is relative, i.e. structural.

– Yuko Shimizu, Drowned in The Sea of Polka Dots

Levi Bryant describes very well how ontological time works to ground structure: …”it is only by positing that the past is preserved in the present as a feature of being itself that we are able to explain how synchrony can function in the unfolding diachrony of the actual.” [Levi Bryant, “Politics of the Virtual,” in Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 9, Palgrave, 2004, pp. 333-348, p. 339] You can hear a concession to linearity, the ‘diachrony of the actual,’ but of the linear in which the nonlinear functions, the ‘synchronic’ and the structural. What allows the diachrony that we experience as linear time, socalled, is that other feature of the being of time, of what time is, a transcendental past, synchronic, preserved in the present, which therefore provides an ontological ground for structuralism.

– Katsushika Hokusai, Tea-house at Koishikawa, the morning after a snowfall

The point is worth labouring because it is difficult, ought to raise questions and has far-reaching implications: there is a different conception of time; the past is preserved in the present; the structure whereby an object has virtual and actual parts comes from this idea of time.

– Yuko Shimizu, The Big Wave

theatrum philosophicum

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What is an actor? Or: Is the director … ? pt. 1

Following the traces of a previous thought: What do actors do? What do directors do?

Actors are necessary, even if they are reduced to automata or to machines. But are directors necessary to the theatrical work? What about actor-managers, don’t they in the absence of directors do just as well? Won’t they do just as well?

– Franz von Stück, Sphinx, 1895

The question, Is the director necessary? seems to arise in a context where its obverse is granted as beyond question, that actors are above all necessary, or something taking their place, a reduction. Is the role of the actor then structural where that of the director is not? If the actor’s place may be taken by something else – whether we grant that this is a reduction or not – that place has a relational significance which goes beyond what may be predicated of the actor.

The predicate would be the definition occurring according to common sense in answer to the question, What is an actor? in what has been called an Aristotelian logic. So: An actor is he who sees the gun on the nightstand in the first act, firing it in the third. An actress is she who is implied to have placed it there, to imply that she knows full well it will be seen, so that her character may be avenged on another, who, we are given to understand, has betrayed her… character… at another, earlier and fictional time… Not to overcomplicate matters…

And therefore, it may be predicated of both actor and actress that they serve the script, in so far as they perform the actions of fictional characters from it and play the emotions of those characters, so that we, the audience, know what is happening in the story; the plot comprises the series of actions and emotions played moment by moment by the actors; the story is how we the audience contrive to join together the events we witness, feelingly, on stage in order to make sense of what is happening. We follow the story by following the plot which follows the script. Actors act the plot, thickening it and thinning it as the literary precursor, the script, directs them so to do. They follow the script. As does the director.

He sees the gun on the nightstand; he later uses it. What is the minimum we need to know of the plot to get the story? Or, by what variations, introduced at the level of how it is played, is the plot now another demanding that we make up a different story? She put it the gun there for him to see? Or for us to see? Did we know that the playwright had read Chekhov? The gun disappears. There is a shot offstage. Or is it an overstretched violin string?

– Man Ray, Le violin de Ingres, 1924

A violin is on the nightstand. Are we going to assume that she intends him to use a string as a garotte in order to avenge herself on someone who has – before the action begins – betrayed her? When does the action begin, anyway?

We are being directed by both actor and actress in how we make up the story of the characters they are playing for us. For us. How dare they intercede between the writer’s intentions and the play?! He’s simply being duped by her into doing something that will remove him from acts four and five! So she can run off with someone else, he having done her dirty work. Stupid man! Wicked woman!

– Fuseli, Bottom

(Stupid man, wicked woman, about sums up the reach of contemporary New Zealand TV drama. Although what wickedness there is is implied to have been produced in women (in their characters) by living in a man’s world. But that’s another story. A supramorality, or metafeminism, the moral position of which, considered alongside the phenomenon of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, sits – and sucks – quite nicely.)

– Dino Valls, Calami, 2004

The actors are caught between pleasing the audience and pleasing the writer, flattering the audience that they are clever and wise – can follow the plot – while flattering the playwright for having written such compelling and life-like characters. They are a gift to an actor, or a joy to play. But, darling, I didn’t write [add character name] for you! And I despise the way you try and ingratiate yourself with the audience using a character who is basically unlikeable and is meant to be so.

The actors are neither projections of the writer’s intention, nor that of the audience’s good will. It is not so much that actors like to be liked, and are betrayed by their very human desire to please. Even when we substitute machines for actors, removing the humanity – alienating it – that was inferred to have been the source of the problem, we find that it is not. A machine still acts the part, and where the humanity of the actor was called into question, often by the actor, or else by the audience, or writer, before, now the very materiality, or substance, of the machine becomes an issue: its ontological status. Because the problem is that the actress is not what she is, or, put another way, that the actor is what he is but what he is is an illusion. Which is also why a machine can take the place of an actor: it will become a machine in a special sense, a virtual machine, like the actor or actress, when it performs.

– God

What is being an actor? Would we be better to ask what an actor does, as if Morgan Freeman were reflecting on this issue, when he said, You do what you are, so encouraging some ingénue to keep up her investigatory work. In being what she did, what was she being but an actress and what was she doing but acting, taking the part of an investigator? However, Morgan Freeman was addressing himself to some core, to a point of fundamental identity, when he said, You do what you are, as if in the doing the being was affirmed and as if such affirmation as the acting gave the being was somehow retroactive.

– Colin McCahon, I AM, 1954

There can be no greater praise for an actor than that which takes the form, “Robert Pattinson IS Edward Cullen” [link]. Does this mean that Edward Cullen is affirmed in his being by Robert Pattinson’s doing, playing him? On the other hand, “Chaste vampires are not us” [link]. But “chaste vampires” are very much us, or R us. (See the generation of “chaste vampires” with Brazilian waxes, here.)

– Stephenie Meyer

Resisting the temptation of that Mormon devil is still an admission that the temptation and the desire is real. The proposition negated in the statement “chaste vampires are not us” has already been revoked by popular consensus. Indeed, the height of flattery and the odium of having predicates applied to ‘us’ which are not ours amount to the same difference, but not to the difference of the same. What Stephenie Meyer is reported to have said of Robert Pattinson was that he “IS Edward Cullen (sometimes).” So we may as well admit it: we are chaste vampires, sometimes. However, if we do affirm our chastity in this wise, we are also involving the contrary and performing an act of vampirism by sucking the blood from the renunciation of, particularly, sex.

– Sex

Proceeding from the negative disavowal, can we make a predicate affirming what the actor is not? Say, the actor is green, or, the actress is Dorothy Parker. A curious thing happens here which is neither due to the actor not being green without cosmetic enhancement nor to the actress not actually being Dorothy Parker without metempsychosis. The difference differs: the difference between the actor and acting-green-ness (or ‘greening’) is different from the difference between the actress and playing-Dorothy-Parker (or ‘drinking and being witty,’ i.e. qualities which are predicated of Dorothy Parker). The second case is what we might call a differential representation, because the object of playing Dorothy Parker has both virtual and actual parts, representational and differential, whereas being a tree, or trying to green, while interesting and arty, does not partake of the symbolic excess of representation by which acting becomes more than mere art and the whole of imitation is found in repetition. [cf. link]


Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp;
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

– Dorothy Parker


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