September 2021

twenty-second part, called “a way in XXII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

the subject

A conventional theatre has its ambulatories, foyer and public areas, where the audience might mingle, entrance through which the public comes into and exits the building, and entrance doors into the auditorium, often soundproofed, where ushers and front of house staff stand, doors which are shut during the performance and only opened should an audience member have a dire need or to extract a noisy child, or in the case of an emergency. Front of house, when they are able, attend on all three occasions, and, sometimes, will lurk outside the door, or prowl the ambulatory, that with the show under way is darkened, having only sufficient light should one of the three things occur, for the audience member to find the loo, let the child out, for whom some theatres provide a separate room, like a soundbooth, at the back of the auditorium, the sound piped in, and the stage seen through the glass, where those disturbing others may be calmed. Babies are put on the tit or bottle. Old or young ones who are scared or overcome can turn their faces while their companions can keep up with the action.

Ambulatories are darkened so that the light does not spill in to the darkened auditorium when its doors are opened by the one who has to leave or the ones who want to; and yet not entirely dark so that front of house can respond should events demand, throwing wide the doors for gas attacks or fire. Their torches at their belts they are often trained for medical emergency, like a friend of mine who had a petit mal seizure, went rigid and slid onto the floor. The FOH manager, Greg Ball, was indispensable in his aid and unflappable, except when the then prime minister threatened to visit and we wanted to push him down the stairs.

To leave by the stage-door, in a conventional theatre, you go through a door that leads onto the public areas, or through places we have suggested are defined by the sort of work we have called invisible. These are the wings adjacent to the stage—to reiterate, they are according to tradition; although even in open plan style performance spaces it is unusual for there not to be some some delineation between being on the stage and waiting to come on or being or coming off it. Although cases are common in which the audience is not privy to the exchange of public space for … and we want to say private, but this is the last thing that the stage is, and it as well as anything marks the peculiarity of theatre. Actors are already on, for example, and the audience wanders in or wanders through, say in the case of a gallery, that recent invention of the white box, against the black box theatre, and regards the pictures as if they were actors, or the bare strips of canvas or the empty walls as if they were pictures. They weren’t before being transmogrified by the space: they had to cross that line we have been talking about to undergo this metamorphosis from a pile of rubbish to a religious ritual, icon or experience. Which, in addition, we can say are neither matters of symbolisation nor of representation. An actor, across the line between offstage and on, does not represent Christ neither is she a symbol even for herself any more. An actor, like any artwork, is cut off from this recourse. … Whereas we, we go through the wings, in our conventional theatre, past the stagemanager’s station, where the props table is, down by the flies, where the wires and counterweights are for flying scenery, out an aperture often covered by a heavy black drape, to stop sound and light spill, turning left along a corridor.

Depending on the size of the theatre, there may be multiple levels of such corridors arranged in an hierarchy: the most important players, actors, singers, dancers have their dressing rooms nearest to the aperture that gives onto the wings, their doors opening onto the corridor closest to the stage. Those of lesser rank are stationed further away. Until we reach the chorus, who is lowest, and shares. Then there is the greenroom, or rooms, which is a social style of waiting room and used to be equipped with ashtrays, tat and memorabilia on the walls, old theatre posters, photos, but note, no or very rarely any drinks. Private intoxication barely tolerated. Social intoxication reserved for after the show.

We reach and descend the stairs, coming finally to a double-door, that is, a door that doubles as the fire-exit for the backstage area through which we have passed. One side is slightly ajar, an old sandbag serving as doorstop, keeping it from clanging shut. Or a pedal-operated ashtray. Or a tin of sand. And out the stage door there is an alley that you cannot reach from the side of the theatre that faces the street, meaning, its public face, its classical, baroque or modern facade. Still, it is a facade, even if glass, allowing, through the glass, the inner workings of the public areas to be seen from the street, the promenaders, the interval audience, ostentatiously enjoying its own company.

Outside the stage-door is brick. Or bare concrete. And some rubbish skips, both for bottles and for rubbish from the workshop, its loading-dock behind a metal rollerdoor a little further down the alley. How any of an admiring audience can be expected to meet us here I don’t know. So we have passed from invisibility to its other form.

And we have to ask about this distinction, that Donnellan makes, because haven’t we throughout our transit been more concerned with the auditory than the visible? I know the audience come to see a show, and, having surveyed the ravages of the opening’s debauchery in mirrors ringed with incandescent lightbulbs, and having put in eyedrops and done our makeups, and having removed them at the end of the night, and having left early after notes, yet we leave hoping to be seen or that there’s someone there to see us. But isn’t the stage less a line than a place to be heard? And isn’t it only part of a theatre when the stage is in an auditorium? Isn’t the sense of sound what unites the theatre? Isn’t it the reason we extract the howling kid?

So that the stage is not an image and the line we crossed when crossing the stage out into the wings is that between one kind of surface and another and there is no line. From the stage we hear of what happens offstage and all of the world is offstage (but still nowhere near entire). All of the world and its consequence is off: news of Oedipus’s death comes to us and is reported onstage. It is heard. Comes to us by report. The stage is the centre for this kind of reception, a kind which is in the hearing of the audience.

The stage, before being perceived, is heard. Or rather, it hears. And by the audience is overheard. The audience receives what is reported onstage. But the stage is at the centre of those reports. It is a receptive centre, a subject.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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twenty-first part, called “a way in XXI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

And leaving what do we find? That the actual theatre that goes on is unremarked. And it is remarkable to live at a time of the reciprocity of a kind of theatre with life itself, when the data form of the virus and its life form are in reciprocation. But before we go to the question what is this theatre—and, again, not in order to pull aside any curtains. There there is only disappointment in the get-up of disenchantment. An actor or a human agency, somebody or someone dressed up: a self-interested selfhood. Who sits at the levers. Who is just like us—before we go to this question, let’s go back to the stage. Where there is only the choice of choosing pre-existing entities.

This is not the same as saying what is there. We know the stage to be teeming with, well, what they are, Bacon says, are clichés. You recall his gesture: in his dressing gown, wheezing, surrounded by the detritus of his studio, his face like a beacon, a surface you might turn in your fingers, rotate slightly, to take a sideways look at the canvas, as he desired them, always the raw canvas outwards, and the primed to the back, to give better absorption to the paint, a flat and depthless field; seen as he says he saw it what looked back at the painter, what from every canvas looks back at the painter, was not emptiness. Whether the white emptiness of the unprimed surface, or the black. It’s still dark out. A winter morning. Early. Or we are in the black theatre. Or, in the glare of a single high-wattage bulb, whether there already was a colour applied, flat and pink, violet or magenta, going to shades of crimson, vermilion, papal purple, or absinthe yellow-green, gamboge.

No. The canvas teeming with life. An orgy of life, like a pornography where every position is accounted for: and, if this was the result of his painting, he would burn it, rather destroy it. But, with brush in hand, he flicks his wrist. The paint splatters and it’s not so much like cum as blood. And the party-goers are dispelled. And the one left chosen drags guts behind, leaving a trail of slime. This Bacon assays to paint. This meaty absence.

No, it’s not like that at all with pre-existing entities. The symbolic function of language is the symbolisation of it having been staged. These are the pre-existing entities: parts of speech, words, letters.

The parts of speech, the words and letters are not yet clichés, the clichés of what is there, even if it is, in Bacon’s view, there already. Having to be de- … and this might be exactly the word… structured, through a gesture, the gesture not itself random but called for and essential. The structure of language does not pre-exist. It may be there, even there already, but it is nowhere complete.

Nowhere is language intact, any more than the world is. So that we may speak, with Jacob von Uexküll, of life-worlds, and of these being partial to the viewpoint in which they are expressed. Where a de-structuring goes on at the same time as a structuring, a re-structuring, we can call it, for this reason. Equally are there life-languages.

When we speak we are re-structuring language. When we write we are re-structuring language. We choose between this word or that, parts of speech and grammatical constructions. We choose between wave or particle, flow or segment, where the segment has as a characteristic its being like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle in a coupling with other segments.

In thinking there is an un-thinking, not through the choice to divide it from the actions of bodies. And not in the kind of context it has when thought. The thought, for example, the unthought of which is a continuation of the historical circumstance of where and when it arises, such as is the case with Heidegger.

In thinking there is an un-thinking that undoes thinking by separating it from itself, as thought. As, in Deleuze’s terms, stupidity. Or—the dogmatic image of thought, which, like (a) language, is a question of a certain structure and systematicity.

Do we forget the structure, like the aging actress with her lines? I think this happens. And then we remember them in a way that has an enormous freedom for taking the smallest fraction of time. The hesitancy that is so slight it can seem like indecision, before we choose for the line as it was written. It is at this indeterminate moment we make our way out onto the stage. And it is as this moment that Bacon’s gesture occurs. A flick of paint.

And in that gesture, as Esa Kirkkopelto has pointed out, is a whole world. A whole world, partial to the viewpoint in which it is expressed. A life-world. And a life-language for that world that includes the gestural. It includes, I want to say, the guttural also. Yelping. And falling apart with the mad and sudden and spontaneous hopping of a character in Chekhov. Or her chesty laughter, which quite undoes the impression we had formed of her.

Included in this language are not only the animal parts of human being but the animals themselves, in their performance. So, do they symbolise? Like Jungian archetypes, perhaps? Or, to put it another way, in the performance of animals is there also an un-structuring, such that we may associate it with the un-structuring of instinct and instinctual behaviour?

The dog trained may not be trained to speak but can show a similar, similarly fractional, hesitancy before completing his action as the actor did before her line. This we may call the function of memory, which is the fact of a life-world itself, and of a life-language. …but can we really honestly say that the cow chooses to moo? Well, it’s a cliché of course but yes, she does.

And so can we say there are levels or degrees of freedom to act? No. I would say there are just the same across life-worlds, and life-languages. And that we must consider all acting as having a component of un-acting and this being performing. And the impossibility that we cannot and do not, but that we do.

How? The answer is: never quite spontaneously. Any improvisor knows this.

Then, it is possible to call attention to the free part, the part that escapes structure and system. The artifice that is ever-present in any system can be exaggerated, but this does not undo it. The artifice happens in the moment on the stage, for having been staged.

This is not to call up the time-dependency of live performance, which, as Kelleher says, is anyway nonpunctual. Neither is it to invoke the unlocalisable-ness of what happens on the stage because, in Weber’s formulation of theatricality as medium, it takes place. It is not, because we are able to attend to it across all artforms. Or—it is art that shows us, when we attend to its world- and language-making, how both can strategically be undone.

In the de-framing of the framing device, whether the framing device is the literal frame, around the painting, whether the canvas is painted or not, or even materially there, or whether it is the gallery the art is taken out of, or the performance is on the street, or nobody is present, what is exacerbated or exaggerated is only its unexpectedness. And with de-framing there is always a re-framing, but what is re-framed is not the art, or artifice. Rather, it is the act of selection from which everything may have been de-selected.

That is, it is the stage, the line of the stage that cuts the word off. An exercise of the void. So that in that gesture, in that moment of stepping out onto it, there is a world, in that word a life-language.

Over the void, why? why else but through the possibility of a thought or selection that can have de-selected everything. More important is the work of a surface, become, for the fact of a void, pure surface. Here the stuttering of being has no further consequence but to show itself.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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twentieth part, called “a way in XX,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

What if language had no structure? either for consciousness or for the unconscious. What if the structure we observe in cognition were purely symbolic? We would be constantly borrowing and imposing something from language that is not natural to it—its structure. And this would occur in the break between signifier and signified as well as at the level of universal grammar.

What drives Saussure to insist on the break between element of sense and sensed element except that symbolisation which language presupposes? Symbolisation takes the first step towards organised language by organising symbols. What then happens to meaning? after all, signification has been the guarantor of meaning, its process.

Without that process arbitrating for meaning by differentiating the sonic and other symbolic materials meaning is lost. That is, working inside those materials. Externally, we have the language tree: a structure of derivations and declensions parsed from rather than parsing to an overall syntactic structure. In other words, language is asked to perform its structure. From Indo-European roots to the approximately 7000 known human languages.

The problem is: a level of consistency perceived for all known human languages, such that a structure must be inferred. But that problem depends on the structuring element, naturally a sensed element—it can be sensed—and it can be separated from the element of sense—in order to structure. Something performed on both sides of the equation, in social and linguistic organisation.

Or we might speak of them as intrinsically the same: as a human orientation, giving us the formula: symbol + structure (structure x language) = human. And leading to all sorts of exclusions, because of the 7000 languages how many are exclusively human? and exclusively express human meanings? that is, meanings exclusively meaningful to humans. Are we not before we start excluding from these and all language everything not human?

In how many languages is the wind meaningful? I am suggesting everything not represented symbolically to be withdrawn from an understanding of what makes human language. This is in order that language become exclusive to humans. All others are withdrawn, as it were, from the symbolic stage. It is only language structured internally and externally for humans, by humans, for the social and linguistic organisation of humans, that is considered to be language. We will see that the naturalisation of language’s symbolic structure does produce another level, but only by denaturalising the human from it, exiting not through the social foyer, but by the stage door.

We see in language entirely natural forces, as if linguistic forces applied only to symbolic structure. Which is symbol from the point of view of social and linguistic organisation containing no other symbols than humans produce. We have said the internal condition of language is this insufficiency, causing symbols and their use to be pushed out of language if these are not produced by humans.

This secures its structure, which is then identified with its function, its function identified with processes of making meaning. Meaning limited to meaningful in the terms of the human being’s social and linguistic—and, we would add, psychic—organisation. From here we get the idea of use, meaning useful in those terms, and that of humans as themselves symbols, and therefore of a use limited by the symbol. This naturalised orientation to symbolic use has the internal limit imposed by the symbol so as to produce economy.

We might be able to speak of natural language pre-existing symbolisation and structure, such as in preliterate societies, but does the organisation of language pre-exist the subject developmentally? That is, in psychic development. Since both social and linguistic organisation are enabled by symbols is it not the case for the individual that developmental stages, stages of psychic development and individuation, are mapped onto and are forced to correspond to the symbolic? and not the other way around. Each physical zone is broken off by a symbol and the stage is set to be a temporal zone, given a structure and a drama.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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nineteenth part, called “a way in XIX,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

Making theatre, what are we looking for in what Declan Donnellan has called the invisible work? This is the work preparatory to the piece coming before an audience, where it is visible. The training of the animals. The coaching of the children. And, before each performance, the actors coming together, with crosswords, or to run lines; to do their makeup, dress in costume, check props; have the stagemanager do the rounds and, after checking actors are in the house, costumed, made up, props in order, give the call, the half, quarter and five minutes. Beginners please. Because at this point the stagemanager runs the show, reports back to the director, and dramaturg. Who may come back after the curtain to give notes, the notes, also, part of the invisible work.

In fact, the actor who is visibly acting, before an audience, is at the same time invisibly working. Isn’t this what we wait for, making theatre? So that we can’t see the actor, even if it is a horse, working? but acting.

There was an abyssal moment in the theatre of equitation of Bartabas at Versailles. The theatre in the stables before the gates of Versailles a masterpiece of design, done in raw wood, the seats benches, the stage an indoor arena, lit with theatre lights, luminaires, its floor sawdust. And the stables, which doubled as dressingrooms for the horses, which aren’t all stables, really? ornate as Paris Metro entrances of the old style, with, on each stable door, the name of the horse it was for, on an engraved brass plate. No stars anywhere, but you get the picture.

The horses were released from their human riders, who were ideal types: identically dressed, breeches or Japanese-influenced riding skirts, hair pulled back into ponytails. The horses began to play in the middle of the lit arena. The riders had withdrawn to the four corners. One horse rolled in the sawdust. Others nickered at each other and to-ed and fro-ed. Then they began to circle the arena. No signal was given. The improvisation spontaneously took on structure. And I recall The Rite of Spring had been playing. Its introduction over the playful jostling and rolling, the section given over to free play. As the rhythms intensified, the structure already latent took form: horses circling, gaining in speed, galloping. The riders expressionless and unmoving.

It was like the bottom came off the show, as performance gave way, and the artifice was swept away, with the thought that all this equine choreography, of which the show was full, at times incredibly complex as it unfolded in time, was a matter of the voluntary expression of the company of horses. The training at the equestrian Academy of Versailles had all been to untrain. The untraining to train. That is, the invisible work was now at this moment visibly invisible.

The acting had undone itself, as any kind of performance. But does this give any inkling of what we are waiting for, watching for, making theatre, in the invisible work? For when the work … vanishes. Then what does this say about this work? That the visible, the structure and form of a performance, somehow preexists? And we have to get back to it.

For this reason, it may be, that we identify what we are looking for, making theatre, with the depths: the actor must look deep inside. Dig deep. To come up with what is required, where, on the surface, it becomes visible. And we say, Yes, that’s it.

Then, equally, it is confused with the heights, what we perceive, making theatre, as the it of it. As we do in poetry, we say it is a voice. The quality of Voice, that is its essence. The line suddenly sings. … It, the line, loses any sense it had. It becomes a thing of absolutely no consequence. Which is the state of theatre itself, isn’t it?

Isn’t the question of theatre, making theatre, in the invisible work, to arrive at the perfection of its lack of consequence, at its perfect inconsequence? Then, when it does not touch us in the slightest, it most touches us. The beautifully meaningless line is a gesture of the kind of emptiness we are after. Isn’t this, in turn, what we have already invoked as the inexpressible? Aren’t we trying to touch, to broach, the ineffable? (the in-effing-able, as Beckett says). So that we have an idea of what this is and so that the inexpressible precedes what is able to be expressed.

We earlier invoked the inexpressible in view of the system of language. Where the system might rather have the inexpressible as its outside, at its limit, pushed beyond its limit, the inexpressible arises inside, as an internal limit. Because in actuality everything can be said, but we say it is implicit and therefore hard to say and difficult to make explicit. A function of the system not of language: to assert the insufficiency of words to express.

If this insufficiency arises in the system it appears as that which the system suppresses, suppressing what is implicit in it. For the sake of its own explicitness. On the one side, the system is to make everything explicit.

On the other side, it projects what is in it implicit onto what it does not contain. It says, the system, I cannot say it. I cannot say it, without leaving language. Without screaming. Crying. Growling. Laughing. Making chewing sounds. Teeth grinding. Or spitting.

Twitching. Stammering. Stammering becomes, in view of system, expressive of resistance. Of repeated resistance, and so symptomatic of reluctance to commit … to what? To language. To its organised system. Rather than giving away the implicit difficulty faced by the system, it gives one away, in one’s personal failure of voice.

Rather than the hesitation bespoken by the stutterer being the moment through which a certain freedom might be gained. To say. To choose for what one says. To act. We bear witness to the unfitness for language in the individual. And we see what we can do about it, in the way of training and coaching.

Rather than being inside the system of language, the expressive deficit is linked to the gesture. The gesture being what is outside the system, along with all those inchoate gurglings, murmurings, unhinged utterances, unprompted and unsolicited expletives. Then, isn’t this what, making theatre, we are waiting to ring through the delivery of the line? this natural language? This other language in continuity with the world?

Read this way, delivered that way, the line, say, in continuity with the gesture, does it presume the pre-existing entities, or the coming event, that it is? And among pre-existing entities we may include the presumption of organisation and system to complete occupation of linguistic forces that it pretends to possess. Even as it cannot contain them, spits them out, and they are turned into an internal horizon of the possibility of language. The inexpressible.

Why would I speak of a subject before the subject of organised language, before insertion into a pre-existing state of (social, political, personal) affairs, otherwise? A subject before visible, before institution. And on the same grounds, speak for a language before language that cannot presume to possession, either through custom, convention, or organisation into system? On these grounds, where there is continuity of linguistic forces with what we may, stammeringly, call natural ones, what we wait for, what we look for, what we search for, making theatre, and what we work for, does not then belong to either sense or consequence. It is the event of the subject, whose ineffability becomes effing-able.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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eighteenth part, called “a way in XVIII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

The systematicity of language, on which its humanity depends, lies in the organisation of symbols. But other species produce symbols: again, they have a sexual function. Yes, I would even say some other species are symbols. And other species have languages that do not require the presence of another of their species to communicate, because of symbols.

Systematicity borne of symbolic representation relies on persevering in the illusion of human separation, through the separation of symbols, that we share with other species, from nature, material, from the elements, chief among which is the air; separating human symbols from breath, sound and means of physically producing them. Each symbol is complete. It doesn’t, as David Abram writes, require the breath or the voice or the air in which to mean something. Each symbol gives the impression of its autonomy, of its independence from the physics of its transmission. So it makes what we may call a metaphysical impression. It can only be organised as a language in a system because of this.

We can add that the system of language is also only analyzed because of the illusion. The line, we have been saying, of artifice. Where symbolic status is, as we know, exaggerated, through the thickening of the line that frees it from the action of its making. The stage.

It can therefore, the system of language, as system of systematicity, be analyzed to be an external object. Because it is. And an invention. And it can manifest from its depths its propensity to deconstruction. Or historical genealogy, such as Abram enacts, showing, through a somewhat exaggerated claim, it is with the Greeks of the 5th century BCE that language achieves autonomy, is freed from the voice. And from the need to be animated by being spoken in order to make sense, and, equally, at the same time, showing the insufficiency, a kind of systemic insufficiency, giving rise to the inexpressible. The Greek invention is vowels, added to Ancient Hebrew they make all the difference.

They carry the voice. And are by some to be seen as the flesh of the word, its impersonal affect, the very sound of breath passing through the consonants. Said on stage, revocalised from the page, consonants, according to this tradition, carry the thought or reason, while vowels convey emotion. With certain stresses, certain modes of exaggeration, an actor speaking from a script, or, I suppose on her own behalf, I have never tested it, perhaps because it is presumed, that is, her emotional investment is presumed, as soon as she speaks on her own behalf, and because of it, an actor can foreground affective or noematic qualities, phenomenalise them, as it were. Choosing either reason or feeling to foreground.

In order to make the system of language, breaking bits off it was necessary. And claiming for them an internal structuration on which they were sustained. As much letters as the division of signifier from signified, or sign from the event it names. Names then proliferate because each word names one. And within each one is another which it names. So that we may ask, where else have we seen such broken bits, each stating itself individually autonomous and simultaneously being replicated in every part?

Simultaneously, and not in succession, note, because the system to be one, like the network to be one, requires simultaneity. The simultaneity of its auto-differentiation, where, in space, each difference is a part of the same. Where, in space, each part is enumerable. Each part is able to be enumerated up to the very big numbers that lead us to invoke the inexpressible.

And, haven’t we, on the stage, which is a space, said that the subject drew on the mise en abîme, drawing from it subjective resources? These are, we recall, as much those of the I think I think as the it thinks it thinks. And we have said these are limitless as well.

Yes, I can see there is a kind of nonsense here, but how do we escape it? In other words, this writing takes part in the systematicity of language we have equated with being the basis for the human’s claim to uniqueness, and not the fact of language itself. And I’m not envisaging, for this writing, any sort of escape, from its lack of systematicity. Or its bad grammar. (As if not playing by the rules or not acknowledging them were enough. Or, as if ceasing to function was enough!)

What allows us not to fall into the depths? The stage door. Exiting via the foyer would be the social function.

If Blanchot is able to claim for literature an outside it’s because it has a stage door. The autist remains in the doorway. And the depressive continues to stare into the black and empty stage.

Theatre teaches us—just enough. Take just enough of those internal resources. Take just enough subject with you.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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seventeenth part, called “a way in XVII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

A creature of language. Homo logos. Whose sapiens is only through language, because it is through language she comes to know the world. As it is in language he becomes a subject. A social creature. With all the problems attendant on social organisation. Such as her own status, that of being human, which does not automatically confer on her any status. Is not a recognised institution in society, such as being a subject is. Just as it does not automatically mean he speaks, let alone entail she is heard. So we ask, is an institution all a subject is?

We have claimed that human being becomes exception before being in general through language, a natural and exclusive right. And further proposed it is the system of language that founds this right. Exclusive to human being and natural.

Exclusive because systematised: having ascertainable rules and functions that are common to all languages if they are human. A grammar is the primary example. Then there are repertoires of sounds and the specificity of their production to the human anatomy, the laryngeal, lingual, palatal, dental and labial make-up. Which is unlike that of a cicada. And the further dependence of this exclusive proclivity natural to the human on upright bipedalism: having to feed against a vertical face, the frontal breast, and neither suffocate, though the conformation of the nostrils, now downwards, nor be held at a distance by a rigid snout or nose, and the out-turning of mucous surfaces, the lips as independently prehensile and able to latch on the nipple. A shortening of the jaw, and so on, all ideal as if retrofitted to allow for the production of sensible sounds, meaning sounds making sense through their separation from those that don’t, like gurgling-feeding.

Or chirruping? Doesn’t that make a sense separate from those of mastication, in an unnecessary expenditure of energy? Expenditure of no evolutionary use, not motivated by instinctive purpose, but pure display, as we see in birds, tropical fish, flowers. Yes, I know, finding a mate. Reproducing. Still, excessive in this regard. As it is in humans.

The chirruping of cicadas doesn’t follow the rules or functions of human language, which functions for what? Communication. Then these rules and functions of linguistic systematicity are retrofitted since they are not communicated in communication, back-engineered to account for the system itself. They are presuppositions of systematicity, otherwise what else does it organise?

The distinctions between signifiers? Repetitive patterns of sound? Do we say of music it is rule-based because of twelve-tone equal temperament? that seriality proves a latent serialism? We know these to be of human invention and to become matters of social convention, that is, musical institutions.

Codification is the necessary step in music as in language and it is provided for by symbolisation. Notation, separation, transposition of articulations of air into those manipulations of elements, minerals and chemicals, that give us paper and ink as they give us electronic means of registration. Encoding, a surface of registration and its recollection, as well as accepting the loss of the gestural and other physical signs and significations is compensated by the gains in, what? transmissability? These are necessary.

What is the transmission of? more language? differences that make a difference? Or more system and more of the same? The transmission of institutional understanding, like philosophy, and the reproduction of those institutions. In other words, pure display. And to restate or reinstate a purpose extends that which we may call libidinal economy. We are in fact left with transmissability for its own sake. So, data-communication. The autoproductivity of the code that at its most exalted is Artificial Intelligence.

We should note that it’s not AI decentring human being, neither the promise of it nor its actuality, of which we already see the effects. And we have for this reason no need to fear it. There are those that even encourage this decentring from his centrality of Man (sic) as being long overdue and want to hurry it up because they reckon on the intelligence of machines in surpassing human intelligence as heralding the coming of a Greater Wisdom. No doubt in an apocalypse. A messianic cybernetics: and Machine to pass Final Judgement on Man. Ending His destruction of ourselves and of our home on planet earth.

Anthropocentrism decentres itself in such wishes: the real danger, of which we are living both the actuality and the promise, is not the transfer and construction of the means of transference of instrumental reason to technical mechanism, like the singularity—systematicity in excelsis—but human abrogation of reason itself. The technical mechanism has and is undergoing development to be applied to human house-keeping. That is the problem it is meant to solve: economic. The decision is being and already has been passed over to transmissability itself, for itself.

This is why I want to return to the question of language, because its systematisation provides the rules of code-functions for the technical system. And I want to ask about the extra-being of language that exists without the system. Because that language is a system makes it a human system.

So, what is language before its invention as a system? And what is language both outside the human, to which its systematisation is subsequent, and during the anthropocene? Not to return, and not to make human language, after what happened, evil, so that the only answer to What can we do? is, obviously, physical theatre.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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sixteenth part, called “a way in XVI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

What is meant by subject? When we speak of the staging of the subject, are we saying nothing more than the subject takes the stage? That is, the actor? And then when we align that with consciousness, aren’t we confusing it with the subject, with the human subject, specifically, as the subject of speech, the linguistic subject? Or is consciousness the cogito? the I think who fractalises, fracturing, as it descends the en abîme, into an I think I think, I think I think I think, I think I think I think I think I think: or is this the it thinks? The it thinks of the empty stage, not waiting, but already a subject of expression, and … nonlinguistic expression. And ought this to anchor us in our anti-human-exceptionalism viewpoint? Because, as soon as language enters the picture, so does human exceptionalism.

And animals are notorious enemies of the stage. But then, so are children. Our nonlinguistic subjects par excellence. Or are they? the unpredictability of animals onstage, or that of children, such that we say, Never act with them! isn’t this rather to do with a lack of training and the training not having taken? The kids not being educated in the way of, Please don’t stand in front of me when I am delivering my line?

After all, we have animal trainers. And acting coaches for children. What really is the difference? Why coaches for one. Trainers for the other? Well, of course, the animals can’t act, exactly can’t act, because animals act out of instinct. So with animals we deploy various strategies to lead them to do what we want, on film, or stage. Whereas children, with children, above a certain age, we can explain it to them. They are capable of understanding what is expected.

Isn’t it however nonsense that animals don’t act, can’t, that is, perform, except by instinct? The dog show, or show-jumping horses, would seem to go against this: the horses are certainly conscious of a rider’s expectation, exert themselves to win races, often beyond the point that would serve instinct, or instinctive behaviour serve to explain.

Do dogs feel shame, having shat on the floor? Having ripped the head off a doll? And what about chimpanzees at the tea party? Cruel, so cruel. They were doing it for the peanuts.

Birds on stage, they seem not to take direction. Lay down some seed. And we’ll scoop up the chickens directly after their scene with the nuns. Before they embarrass themselves. The chickens.

The children: if you keep out of my way next time I deliver that line, I’ll buy you a drink after the show. You’re too young to drink? How about icecream?

Isn’t the word of praise to the kid the same as the icecream? its symbolic surrogate. You did great. Do it again, just like that. Well, this is the whole reason for rehearsals, isn’t it? same for children as it is for adults: Yes, that was better. Says the director. Or, no matter how many times we do it, I just can’t get it. Well, speak your lines and stay out of my way!

Consciousness of performing: it’s not enough to dispense entirely with a stage given over to trained monkeys who are trained humans. Sorry, highly trained. And the charming children who are coached. And the charming coaches who are well paid. That is, to rid us of the idea that we can only speak of linguistic subjects as being subjects, and open the stage up to animal consciousness.

How to proceed, then, if we want to move beyond what we may see as a political position on subjectivity, such that making the stage the line supporting the subject limits the subjectivity in question to the subject as it is formed by social and political systems and by the system of language? Because language is never innocent. Always a matter of subject formation according to the discursive conditions of an embedded, as we might say it of journalists in the military, subject. No leverage exists in language, making possible a viewpoint outside of it, to shift the world from being as it is formed in and by language.

Sure, languages: each a different viewpoint on the language problem. Different differences providing points of articulation, so that different distinctions are made. Still, the problem remains, of the specificity of language to human being.

And when we consider political subjection, we are even worse off: it looks like we can undo subjection to systematicity, the systems of government, or governmentality, tout coup, by changing the system, doing away with the principles on which it is founded. But the fact of subjection persists, the fact of being a political subject. Even when an anarchist, and rejecting the principles of any system of government, on which it is founded, and outright refusing to be its obedient subject.

We might ask, of linguistic as of political representation, does the system of representation come before its systematisation? What works to separate off governmentality or English so that it can be systematised, become a system, generating subjects? And insistently human subjects?

We can examine a grammar of governmentality, as did Foucault, as others have done of language all the way to Chomsky’s universal grammar with a biological basis in a grammar organ, that humans have, but is missing in chimpanzees, for example. Preventing their acquisition of language. We can look to the great systems makers, like Hegel, or the encyclopaedists, and go back to the practices giving rise to systems, such as monastic rule.

As Saussure shows, the separation writ large reflects that at the smallest scale, between signifier and signified. In other words, the causalities and the genealogies are, as Deleuze says, quasi. Not that they are not real, because events of linguistic expression differ in nature from those of the bodies in which they are expressed, having then causes produced in language. Their reality is not quasi when it comes to language; their causes are. Still, when it comes to the speaking subject it seems we cannot make the leap from human to animal, or plant, or mycology (itself a quasi-logical entity). And we say of these they are subjects because in communication. Whereas we are always within language.

The problem of language has two parts: an overall systematisation, that is as it were external; and an internal slippage, of difference, the symbolic shifting of an individual difference. This individual difference is however the foundation. It grounds the system, and Derrida makes great anarchic play of this, as a system of differences. Destabilising sociopolitical and lingophilosophical certainties.

And we have to ask if we recognise ourselves in language as system of differences, in a particular grammar comprising, Chomsky says, universal elements. Do we recognise ourselves in this universal system of systems? of systematicity? Our obedience to its rules and principles has to be pointed out to us. We have to be trained, coached in subjection. To become subjects, willing or unwilling.

As for the idea that language and consciousness are coextensive, even before we give to either its biological basis in the brain, doesn’t this extend subjection indefinitely? Enslaving humanity to… what? Man is of most use to man, writes Spinoza, man having a gender specificity difficult to eradicate; because, is woman of most use to man before man is? And of most use to woman is … man? woman? child? sub- or super-man? …or some representative of a nonequal minority, a minority that is by the same, shall we say, token, nonnumerical, not reflected in the actual numbers? Or those nonhuman species… who are superior in numbers… like the dinosaurs in The Flintstones?

When I look at you and speak to you, or is it when I command you that we see the primary function of language? beyond that of communication. When we are in communication we are like fungus, as we say now, networking.

Commanding you, I am extracting from you some use-value, that Spinoza never intended. I am extracting human capital. Like the data which so readily is flowing in the way financial capital did once. Value a function of magnitude as much as speed of flow. Yes, of course this has yet to be done, to free us, in the anarchic spirit, to become useless to the data miners. What such uselessness is is not to drop out of society but out of language, in a very technical sense: to eschew the symbolisation that makes the systematisation of language possible in technical networks through monetising communication. And makes the monetising of communication possible through its systematic embodiment in technical networks.

Give to the great apes data flows! To the trees of the Amazon, make them data rich! To the viruses of our new pandemics, data! …Oh, in effect this has already happened.

What makes the technicity of data-capital possible, isn’t it what makes the systematisation of language possible? And isn’t it at the heart of human separateness? Isn’t it symbolic representation? Doesn’t symbolisation—and the subsequent displacement, condensation, projection onto the symbolic field that is entailed precisely in investment—make possible the systematisation of language? Isn’t this and not language itself its humanity? as separate, as exceptional, leading to the anthropocentrism Spinoza could not have imagined, of man being most useful to man through the monetisation of the data of communication, or communication-production, and the reification of the data network? Wherefrom everything that is not communication-production is excluded for having no value.

So we might ask of language, as we ask of data, does the system of representation come before its systematisation? And is not this systematisation made possible by symbolisation? We might ask, what language is before its systematisation. And this would be to ask what it is before or outside writing.

Or, otherwise, what if writing, as Blanchot seems to say, is the outside of language? Far from Derrida’s il n’y a pas d’hors texte, there is no outside the text, we would find ourselves saying, there is no text outside. Before we can go back to the notion of the stage constituting an outside and take it further by saying, for nonhuman performance, we must stay with the symbol.

The symbol is of human construction, yes. And it is a tool, enabling new forms of exploitation, through the discourse of technology as through technical implementations of symbolisation, sure. But what we might call its first function, on which all further use, usage and usefulness is founded, is to separate the word, the utterance, from the air.

And, by so doing, make distinct a general quality of what we may call meaning, and a particular quality which we can call difference. The second is a positive phonetic difference, that between two phonemes, as much as a symbolic one, that represented by symbols, of which the phoneme already is representative, allowing the general quality of meaning to … circulate, surely, and invaluably, but on the condition of its separability, on the condition giving the difference its distinction. Making it this general quality for an economy of signs, an economy of differences, able to be read.

I am not intending to draw attention to the difference between the spoken word and the written word, but the difference that the latter makes possible, in turn making possible its circulation in a system. That is, its systematisation. A rule-based function that extends over the whole system with which language as a system is coextensive.

Making it, language attest to its own separateness from things, bodies, subjects. And bringing it, language, in to bear witness for the separation of humans from those who are not subject to this system, which includes animals, because they can’t read, and children, before they can. This separation of the word from the air I breathe and share with others gives onto human exceptionalism, leading to anthropocentrism.

The so-called anthropocentric worldview can be grounded in humanity in general because of the claims made for language. The claims made for language can only be made on the back of language as a system. Human consciousness is upheld to be a realm separate from others on the basis of these claims and the subjection of humanity to symbolic means, which means are newly embodied, or embrained, in the technical apparati of data networks.

And from this is drawn our image of the brain. The human brain. A neural network. Or neuronal apparatus of information processing. We can say that the anthropocentric worldview reaches apotheosis in the ejection of humanity from its centrism, of the anthropos from the magic circle of its enchanted symbolic garden.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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Lecture on Academic Writing–delivered online for AUT 14.9.2021

Part I
Part II
Lecture-2-in-5-parts-with-intro-1

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fifteenth part, called “a way in XV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

Is there a consciousness that is unperformed? That is invisible to itself? Isn’t this what we normally call unconscious?

Don’t we look at ourselves and wonder, where’s the rest of it? Try to arrest it in its tracks—and traces—in vain? Where is the rest of consciousness we can’t see at this time?

We sometimes feel cheated of it. That it is too little, its bandwidth too narrow. I feel cheated in this writing, by the time it takes to catch up to where I was. Not that the insights were particularly profound or that they were merely superficial, but that they were enchained, entrained in a temporality, called a line or train of thought. And then I don’t have enough time to get them all down… before the next performance, as it were.

Not only this, the traces have a life of their own. Run away, take over. As if writing, language, had its own intentions. Or sense did, but I hope not to limit this to what makes narrative, logical or discursive sense. So I cut the language off, and think what I require of it.

Bergson might say the limitations of consciousness, of inner life, or inner experience, are neither in space nor of time, except the latter considered to be time as it is inwardly experienced. Time inwardly experienced is the subject of conscious experience. I also don’t have enough space to get what I think down. A time and space combo that Bergson might decry but that exists as a self-imposed limit on this writing.

Where is the rest of it? Consciousness, or writing? Outside the glimpses we get. You, in the traces, yes, the traces, left on the page, the page on the screen or the paper page; me, in this matter of experience that is no less material for being inward and no less inward for being material. That is, each is supported.

Look under the page, behind the screen, behind, as said earlier, the Hard Problem of consciousness. Is it there? Or, is the work there? For example, the work preparatory, to the representation we have of it. The, as we also said, performance.

Should we look in all of language for it? Or, as we might say, or ask, is consciousness not language? And what can we make of this language? That it is the symbolic marks, on the page, the paper, the screen? That it is the spoken of the actor and this is how the marks are made as well as where they go?

I mean, in speaking her lines, is an actress remembering, or forgetting? We incline perhaps more to saying an actor remembers her lines. Or does not. The actress who in later years would not go on stage because she was no longer able to remember her lines.

I write like I think, although I don’t succeed in writing what I think, because the writing does not suffice. But I do write in this line. On this line. Enchain, entrain the words in phrases, sentences. The sense they have. Grammatical units.

If I go looking in language for what I think, will I find it? I won’t even find it when I read a writer I agree with; and I will not find it spoken, in speech—as communication. I find it to be incommunicative. Expression split, into, Deleuze will say, manifestation, denotation and signification, but then he will go further, and talk about a cut that, as it were, bleeds words. As Hemingway said, Writing is easy. You simply sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

I don’t bring in the actor by way of analogy, or to assert, insert, the difference between saying and doing, or thinking and doing. But the difference in living. Which is that between language in its symbolic aspect, as being, for humans, the most appealing, and, in fact, enchanting, and in its auditory or performed sense, where it is shared by all the creatures of time.

The capacity to remember lines is creative, it is acting. Not all of it, but the part we have said happens on stage, when an actor or anyone risks making an action. And the action is impersonal through the working of the stage, so an event. And the event is that subject of performance who or that is cut off from the performer, a figure belonging to the outside. A figure of minima.

These minima comprise those minimal relations for life that the theatre when it’s working well imposes. We compared it, you recall, to the Zen garden, which is really only a garden following the Japanese art of gardening. A sort of minimal elaboration, the letters on the page possess, on the paper page, on the screen not so much, when they bleed.

This is possibly why printed material is much easier to remember, to visualise on recollection, because of a dynamism lacking in letters on the screen, which, too manufactured, are too perfect. It is why we prefer the subjects of onstage action, and those of music, to be those before one has cleaned off the edges. A human voice, or the natural imperfect resonance of wood, against the stark and synthetic tonalities of electronically generated soundwaves. These imperfections are minima, around singularities, centres of key, as a kind of … self-imposed limit, like the stage is too, its edge defined by convention. And this is an internal limit. It only gives the impression of being external. It exists as a surface against the depth of its minimal elaboration into subjects. We prefer the texture of paper and the timbre of voice. Qualities that are fibrous because in depth.

Isn’t the rest of consciousness in depth? in the depths of bodies, for example. Or everything outside the human nervous system. So that we are led to a view of human exceptionalism when it comes to consciousness. And this below is that of which we say, At some subconscious level I knew… to retain the sense of identity, of an identity with others of our species, and maintain the possibility, of knowing, of being able to, or of recalling, as if we simply forgot, as a possibility, for ourselves and others, at some future date: that we can know what we now in this manner of speaking concede we don’t except subconsciously. Should the solution to the problem of consciousness come do we say, Yes, that’s it. Finally! At some subconscious level I knew it was knowable. Then if we do, we say it as the actor does, as he speaks his lines. Forgetting what he was conscious of. Attending to the words as if they embody his consciousness and, expressing that embodiment, are remembering.

No. For consciousness the unconscious is no less impossible than it is real and no less impossible than it is possible. That is, real, possible and impossible.

When we say not only the stage, the limits of the stage, its limited line, and the performance, on the surface of the stage, are visible, can be visualised, on the condition we are conscious of them, but consciousness itself, and its limits, is only visible, and can be visualised, when it is staged, performed on that surface, we have to ask when that when means. Because it does not mean in the time we make for it, but in the time time makes for it. And this time we share with all of its creatures and everything that can be staged and everything can be staged. Communication is not subconscious, so at some level we know, but as it is for consciousness, real, possible and impossible.

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fourteenth part, called “a way in XIV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

It’s a funny idea that the resources we draw on are within. Psychic or subjective resources. We might want to draw on the theory of humours. Invoke all the shades of bile, call for a bloodletting when we find ourselves too sanguine. Seat the different sources in the organs, the spleen, our hysteria in the womb.

It’s as funny to say it’s from the womb as it is to say that nurture, with its atmosphere of trust, or that early self-disgust that was inculcated when banned from dealing, or handling, the bodily humours, brings about such narrowness or breadth of range—in what we are able to metabolise of social life, of social psychic life, psychically: as if on one side as a subject you were once tabula rasa and on the other the fix was in, the genes had it in for you or had it at all, and all that was necessary was the trigger, the trigger points. Or switch points, for latent or recessive capacities. And as funny is the idea of a social interpellation, a social dynamic, that we are filled with contents, subjectively, by the social institutions of our time and place. And so filled to a limit, but told the filling is infinitely divisible: we can be anything.

We can be, but on the understanding that it is not a thing. It is a one. And the division is a choice. We can make it. It is made for us. Which is it?

We are no doubt split between the two. And sometimes we have no choice about this. The one rears up and severs our social, psychic relations, and those of the will itself: taking away the ability of the will to will. Which it can, when it did, not because I let it, asked it or even was aware of it. And what can I add through the will that now I cannot? Because it seems to me we feel its free exercise not in the choice we make, not in the use we make of it, but in its uselessness. It comes to us and we let it take us like a wave.

Then I have contradicted myself. The will is able to will not because I let it. Then it comes and we let it.

It’s almost as if in the first instance it comes as an opportunity, then it takes us with it, or bears us. As if it is a matter of compunction, or moral lesson of the will, that I would be a fool to miss. That I, as we’ve said, will be disappointed, but only after the earlier disappointment, for having left it too long, for being afraid. But what has happened has been the division itself, that we, in our finitude, infinitely experience. We are either looking into the black hole, in the process of being swallowed, or are looking out to sea.

It’s a funny idea, that the will bears us, that the other I am is borne of the self. The self one isn’t. But where does this actually occur? What produces the subjective resources that might be infinite within our finitude? Within your finitude that is only the finitude of the one. To say, one was.

Isn’t this talk the interval talk that the silly talk abjures? That dealing with the profundities in the comfort of the foyer, in respite from the play, film or show, putting to rights our understanding, hashing out whatever intention was to be communicated, whether there was one, and leaving, in company or on one’s own. With the connotation that here society confronts its depths. A certain society does. Having come and paid, in the best possible scenario, for the experience.

What am I saying? In the best possible scenario society confronts its depths as a right, and not the privilege of a certain bourgeois or colonial type. And, in the best possible scenario, it’s not even for its own good that it does. It demands edification as much as entertainment, finds one in the other, and these not to the preclusion of any one class, type or group but part of its belonging as a whole. Another one who come collectively to exercise free will to will themselves other than the one society they were.

The failure of the notion of inclusivity, in cultural participation as in political engagement, for these, is the same as that of diversity, for and in political and cultural representation: its exclusion of difference, its exclusion of actual division, internal and in depth, as separating the itself of society from what it may become. The oneself of the individual from what it may become. It is a staging not of a surface—surface differences, because aren’t they all?—we are only superficially divided as a society—this inclusivity and diversity attest to, because we’ve got to try!—without depth, but of a depth without surface. A profound superficiality, as Warhol once said.

The profundity of silly talk. The superficiality of interval talk. Where performance is useful to us is in its profound superficiality: it is, on the surface of the stage, in constituting an outside.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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