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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