twenty-fifth part, called “the subject XXV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

the subject

We’ve all known selfish actors, who’ve felt the depth below the stage to be theirs, when it is nothing. In fact, this type is more common than those who feel they’ve brought to the stage something precious of which they are about to be dispossessed. It makes one think of Wright’s precious jewel, his death, as he perceived it in his life. Or, as he said he did, and performed it on the stage.

After all, death, our knowledge of our own, is like a secret we carry, perhaps our most primitive. At the same time, it’s like the contents of our bowel. Which is present when we spill our guts.

More primitive than sexuality? And aren’t these used to undermine the selfish actors, who believe there’s something special about their own shit, so that we have to remind them, in Gargantua and Pantagruel, or Kafka, whose use of sex, Kundera calls, his greatest innovation in the novel? Look at the comedy of the public institution brought to its knees and having its face rubbed in it! The Princes, and the Schadenfreude!

Private tragedy is wrested from us by the public stage. And we become a laughing stock. A stock that is held in security, reassuring everybody else they are safe. It is not them. But is this the essence of the stage? Is the essence to be that it undermines those it holds up, when, haven’t we said, there’s nothing underneath?

To forget for a moment that we are ugly, crass, guilty, foolish and dying. Chinchilla’s words, written by MacDonald. This world of artifice we attribute too cheaply to libido.

Too cheaply, because we are not asked to pay the price, like those with their precious depths, who see it all bubble to the surface, who see it all come out: and how ugly it all is! And how shameful. So it is strange we ask our actors to find their motivation, or a correlate for what they perform in the depths of their experience, when we know from the worst instances of psychodrama, whether that of public life or in another venue, how pointless that is.

The body on the stage is expressive how? So that its slightest gesture creates a world. This insight is Esa Kirkkopelto’s, but he uses it as a lead onto the argument that an actor by composing from such gestures, of which the slightest creates a world, engages in dramaturgical composition; and to ask the question whether we need directors: well, shouldn’t theatre be democratised?

Again, in each of these cases, we have the exercise of public morality. But it is public by proxy: however brilliant Kirkkopelto’s insight is, he is not being separated from all that he is by the merest gesture. All of that private stuff, as soon as it bubbles up, is shit for consumption: keep producing it!

Yet, an actor makes the merest gesture, and creates a world of which she is not a part. Ought an actor then disavow it? Or choose for it, knowing herself to be excluded from it as from a stone? as the world were the gesture of a stone, and the stone her gesture. For this is what we are saying: to look at the vertiginous individuality of a stone; and for the actor, word or gesture being stone not to undermine it, but for it to act, perform this double-act of doing and undoing. Thinking. Unthinking. Composing. Decomposing.

Decomposing: not for being broken down into elementary particles, to be recirculated, reticulated or recycled, and so serve the composition and creation of life (life world, life language)—not for the sake of the communicative network, but directly de-structured of its organising component or principle. As if the whole thing, as if what makes the interconnectivity of the whole, were another part beside it: and could be split off, by the slightest possible gesture, word or sign. As if by the merest word or sign, symbol or gesture-index, the system’s being whole might be set apart, so that it fell apart. Lost its organisation in structure and in depth. And in height, as we have seen, in the undercutting of our public figures, and, indeed, in the whole structure of symbolic representation.

Yet we insist on the word, sign, gestural index that does this having meaning without the system of meaning, or of signification. So also do we insist on the integrity of the world, or the actor, having suffered this disintegration. This is the subject, who is at once a nonhuman subject, the ‘smallest possible gesture’ being an artistic material. The material with which we think, doing theatre.

So that when we ask after the symbolic structure in view of how it concerns our perception, our perception as subjects (of subjects of perception, and so on) we feel it right to point to the smallest possible gesture. Since it is all that is necessary. And, since it has been separated by the stage from the rest, and disconnected, yet is not unexpressive but creative and entirely positive.

The world in its entirety might have been the last thing to be created. And to lie, just there, on the surface. This is what our perception seems to say. The last thing is the first it sets before itself, in choosing as its final representative of it its own interest, and in claiming this to represent the whole. By this reduction to the only human world, our perception is like the selfish actor. The meaning of the stage is that there is nothing to support this view.

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

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