thirty-fourth part, called “subjective powers XXXIV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subjective powers

What begins at the surface, leaving no physical trace it was there, begins the surface, and ends there. We have to rely on reports that it was. And, in a way, we have to rely on reports it is, reports that do not differ in kind from those the surface receives.

If the surface does not change, is not changed, by scene changes, by quantitative measures, by subjects, how do we know it is working? Do we rely on reports for this as well? the accepted reports of convention and those that report on the conventions being broken.

Is there, we are asking, a principle for the constitution of the surface? Is it, for example, the Fourth Wall? the reality of which is phantasmatic, so that its chastity is reinstated as often as it is broken, or broken down. The sexual imagery of its penetration seems to exaggerate as much as diminish what is happening.

This diminution is in the advertised ease with which the convention is broken, it does not explain how it is reinstated. Because, there it is: the stage cleaving to itself and the action going on without consequence reaching any further than its limits. And the audience pulled in, asked to consider itself a part of the action, does the surface survive this? Does it break into surfaces, because of this threat to, Andrea Dworkin once wrote, its corporeal integrity? an integrity she considered to go as far as the ontological.

We know the time to have been prepared for when the audience is invited in, up onto, out across the surface of the stage. And it’s not as if its members do not recognise what’s going on, whether they feel it with sorrow, or reciprocate the excitement of the performers, or feel shame, as in Read’s example. We know whatever the intention behind breaking down the Fourth Wall that it comes before what actually happens and what actually happens will regardless, that it will happen with complete disregard for any preexisting intention.

The case is the same for the intention of the performer: what comes to the surface comes out and the surface receives it. Mimesis must be the odd mirror-play of recognition at seeing that it has. Yet, the performer can’t see herself. Even when playing into a mirror. And her sight is hindered by the selection that has been made beforehand, of the mask, or character, in Donnellan’s terms. Or else, if what is put out there is so in improvisation extemporised, the performer’s recognition remains mimetic, and comes with a feeling of resonance, which we might call in this instance, surface resonance.

Or the action, gesture, sound, presence, does not cause a surface to resonate. However deeply he has looked, like in the song, he feels nothing. Is there nothing there?

There is always something there. The position of the stage, its positivity, is always (of) something, a subject. And it does not need any as: the subject on the stage has no representational status. It is simply a point of view, a positive affect.

That it is a positive affect may confirm the constitution of the surface more than anything else, since it is the affect that will or will not resonate across the surface. Not, is the gesture made, the action done, the sound articulated correctly; but does it confer on itself the status of a decision? And then, does it stand up?

Stand up, neither in the sense of the human adult’s bipedal uprightness, nor in the sense of standing up to scrutiny, but rather in the sense of having been chosen for, in the further sense Spinoza gives to happy or sad: either one increasing affect and therefore affirmative or decreasing it and therefore negative. We might also note here the decision is a selection, and, for the increase of affect, one of subtraction, pruning down to the bare life, or liveliness of an internal relation. The internal relation is of mimesis, therefore it resonates with the subject and is, affirms, confirms by report, a point of view, beginning at the surface, beginning the surface.

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

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