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.

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

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