forty-seventh part, called “subject matter XLVII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subject matter

It’s not just a matter of the whole, the whole body or subject and psyche, being taken from its privileged spot; not just a matter of the height being brought down, or the depth excavated, uncovered, and brought to the surface, the most deeply buried and hidden; of the most precious being revealed to be … a phase, a date, an era when they thought and did differently, another country: it’s also a matter of scale. Recall that the whole became a part. Our precious death, our perverse secret, our sore or delicate point, that we hid as well from ourselves, was either given away or volunteered, sacrificed, in fact. And it happened for the sake of movement that it was reserved to an indeterminate duration by the surface. It was reserved to the play of the surface, where it participated in a surface consistency.

The consistency of the surface gathers into a subject. And we lately asked if it mattered when what matters seems to belong to the sacrifice which is earlier. Then is the sacrifice for the sake of movement? This is like asking if sexuality is for the sake of humour. Or humour for the sake of sexuality.

What we were trying to point out is what is in the nature of powerlessness: what does being inconsequential mean? We can see the connection with humour. Those who seem to be most consequential, to hold offices of consequence, constantly invoke theatrical means, in artifice, symbols of office, and in exaggerated forms of address, which we know to be so, to uphold a sense of consequence. This is the case with or without the common touch. The common touch, popular appeal, depends on these means, the self-debasement of a popular public figure consents to them.

No, this is not where the humour is found, in the game-playing, fakery and hypocrisy, that leave themselves open to and even court being punctured. Neither is the humour in our consent, to letting them get away with it or encouraging it. The humour is in showing the big cock to be a micropenis. Not the sexual imagery because it is base but because it is the go-to for assigning to what is powerful its powerlessness. Its impotence and inconsequentiality.

In Māori culture, the biggest insult is to be flashed by a woman. This was said to mean, You think you’re a man, big, strong, proud and important, but look where you came from. Just like everybody else. But it could be the case that the meaning is more direct than this. Being shown a vagina could mean you’re actually a pussy.

Both sexuality and humour bring together disparates. Without annulling them and without subjecting them to violence. Yet it is the violence of the cut, the break, crack that we have most invoked, to characterise the surface as intercessor, as rupture. We have also said, in the sexualised terms of psychoanalysis, terms which are strangely desexualised, or, maybe, simply humourless, the impotence of the stage to have consequence corresponds to a castration.

We have asked too whether we can retain any sense of sacrifice in view of the sublimation of the modern stage, whereon sacrifice is performed and represented without being enacted. We have, however, given another significance to sacrifice. We’ve said it’s the depths as my own, source of my identity, and the heights as the abiding place of its valency, that are sacrifice. The actor loses both the person she holds above and the organs he holds within, so it comes as some relief to be greeted with obscenities when one is off the scene and treated as if one were more or less intact, that is, with humour. The humour that is the undercut.

Humour that is the undercut because, like sexuality, it doesn’t just bring opposites together on its surface while maintaining their opposition, but gathers all the senses of the obscenities as of the insults and upholds, understands them. And does so without that comprehension either diminishing their import or producing any slippage in their signification. Still, you might say, the ruptures are upheld, but there is no action of rupture.

The violence is not withheld. And it is not merely figurative. We might say it is sublime.

We would also say it belongs to our subject matter here, adding that the infliction of violence and its often sexual imagery fixes the subject against his movement. Depriving him of movement, he is the perpetrator, she the victim, and similarly fixed, placed or fixated. Isn’t she the subject? since she is subjected to violence? Isn’t he the subject, since he is to sacrifice? Neither then are the subject of movement, the subject that moves, the subject that is the movement itself, but have reached a terminus, at which duration halts.

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