on memory, Minus Workshop to come

a friend sent me this link while I was preparing this image for the next Minus workshop

with which it connects through a third and a forth element. The first is the notion of memory, the subject of this week’s workshop, in particular, the anamnesis or Doctrine of Recollection, that Plato writes on in the Meno.

This dialogue, Meno, has the import of initiating the ‘Platonising’ of Plato; in it, the ‘aporetic dialogue’ of Socrates is surpassed in the direction of the Platonic dialectic. Socrates’ role, as he performs it in Plato’s works, has been up until this writing, to ask questions in order to achieve his interlocutor’s agreement in his own destabilisation and, in assenting to participation in the Socratic method, to arrive at the final recognition of his own ignorance. In the Meno, Socrates’ method goes beyond the assertion of non-knowledge in the place of knowledge, or the opening up of a hole where his addressee had assumed there to be solid ground (an aporia), to enabling the latter’s discovery of the truth, a truth relative to Socrates’ leading questions, but a truth which, in this case, the boy, Meno, recognises as being the case. Meno asks, How can I recognise that which I do not already know? Socrates returns that the answer has merely been forgotten, and, in being recognised as true it is coincidentally being remembered.

Then there is μετεμψύχωσις, metempsychosis, as a further explanatory armature and the question as to its necessity, that is, to explain how one might have forgotten a significant truth, so as to be enabled, by a good teacher, like Plato-Socrates, to recognise it upon its recollection, the truth must have been already within. The truth was in you, and all the teacher had to do was lead you to see it: and in seeing it, know it. (Again, this connects to the epistemological function of dramatisation in Gilles Deleuze.) The truth was in that part of you which opens up onto an eternity beyond mortality, your soul or subjective essence. In a past life, this truth was known to you so that now, once again, you are able to know it again. (Truth has therefore precisely the repetitive quality of a performance.)

St. Augustine will take issue with the use of the Doctrine of Transmigration (of souls) to explain the Doctrine of Recollection, because by saying that in order for a truth to be remembered in a subsequent life you must have known it in a previous life Plato simply pushes the problem further back into the past, and further: how in the previous life did you recollect a forgotten truth unless you knew it in another life before that? And how else in that life now further back in time than that there was always and will always be a life in which the truth was known before that? And so on, in infinite regression.

St. Augustine, it will be remembered, is the first to write his own life, inspiring a tradition of what James Olney calls ‘life-writing’ that extends to Karl Ove Knausgaard today. (Olney names Samuel Beckett, counter-intuitively, as coming at the end of this tradition, in, he writes, its ‘ruins’.) Here is an article on Knausgaard’s monumental life-writing, My Struggle, entitled, so as to clarify the connections Augustine embodies between memory and this kind of narrative, Total Recall. It is a title, like that of Knausgaard’s work, with strangely fascistic undertones, which completes the circuit back up to the video to which my friend sent the link, embedded above.

These considerations are brought to mind because of a conversation at the last Minus Theatre workshop about, of all things, climate change. M. said that they haven’t proven climate change yet, adding that perhaps it has happened before, and we have forgotten; perhaps we overcame it the first time, and we have, this time, not only forgotten its occurrence but also forgotten how we overcame it. C. said she thought this applied to just about everything we encounter: we have forgotten it, and in coming across it once more, we remember it again.

The next day, I was reading Proust and Signs, Deleuze’s book on what he refers to as The Search, where he argues against the orthodox reading of Marcel Proust’s work that holds it to be centrally concerned with memory. No, he writes, The Search is not so much through or impelled by memory, or compelled by its involuntary return, as it is a search for truth, an apprenticeship in writing, such as is also overtly the case with Knausgaard, articulated through signs, signs of sensation, worldly signs, signs of love, and artistic signs, signs which require or demand the interpretation of the writer, the life-writer.

So I was reading in Proust and Signs, and it struck me, as if for the first time, that in our method in Minus, called a ‘theatre of the individual life’, where we steal or grab asignifying symptoms (they are not signs because we do not take them in order to interpret them, even as the word ‘symptom’ would seem to imply the contrary in its medical, biological, application (in fact, it does not, a symptom only has meaning, only signifies once a medical expert, a doctor or specialist in biological life, has interpreted it, when it becomes, exactly, a sign, the sign of a disease, for example)) from one individual who leads the action, who is the lead, that is, it struck me that what it might be helpful to say at this point, where a performer does not know, cannot decide, what gesture, detail of expression, intonation, or bodily disposition, to take, that, like Proust, and like Plato, she might remember it from the actions of the lead, that these movements, might cause her to recall something. And, of course, she would re-member that movement, gesture, nod or involuntary tic, by stealing and using it herself.

Finally, in pursuing these connected thoughts, I have in mind another kind of metempsychosis than that involving the soul in leaping from one life to the next. It would happen inside what Catherine Malabou calls the ‘plasticity’ of the single life, its plastic interior. Which doesn’t yet invoke the violence Malabou, and the video above, and I intend. Malabou is assisted here by the French, la plastique, having the sense of explosive. Because the mind, the neurobiological substrate, that chooses a new consciousness in command, is subject to a traumatic change. So that, and in Gilbert Simondon we find this also, the subject exceeds the self and even a succession of selves, selves possessing their several mortalities, over the single mortality, the absolute excess of which, no self will suffer. From ‘life’ to ‘life’, then, a spirit, like an animal spirit, for being rather zoepolitical than biopolitical, continues in the human, humans which comprise each of us. Its violence overcomes the limited life of any self we care to name, and of any juridico-politically constituted person. This im-personal ‘individual’ (highly inadequate term) is that which in Minus we dis-organise and re-member.

(But I didn’t get to Alberto Giacometti; James Olney writes of Giacometti with Franz Kafka and Beckett: “In advance, they were altogether clear eyed about the impossibility of the task they entered upon, yet they chose the impossible and not once but over and over again.” [here])