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

subject matter

What constitutes the surface, stage, the theatre as a political field—its strategic importance for us—is not its representative nature, is the same as what constituted first its suppression and now its redundancy, its gathering of differences without loss of identity or difference. This conduces to conflict, but not the conflict of opposites, the conflict of disparates, the conflict of decisions; and, as we have said, decisions without consequence apart from on the surface, where they surface, concerning how they move. The same movements can be seen in both humour and in sexuality, the same political stage in its various phases.

Now this conflict, these conflicts, only resolve in the story, which, as we know, is a poor excuse for staging them. The narrative, along with the desires to either stick to it or to change it, gives the weakest excuse for the violence of the conflicts, which never reach the violence of their potentiality. The violence is not necessary; this is what qualifies the surface, the stage, theatre as a political field, as opposed to what we might call blood sports: it does not require violence.

We might consider here what rape as an example of sexual violence does, or plucking out, popping one’s eyes, or having a redhot poker shoved up one’s arse, they promote the plot. In other words, they mediate. So in relation to theatre, we are also talking of unmediated conflicts.

At one end, conflicts have, take from the story, their excuse. We can immediately see what this means in terms of changing the narrative. It means to focus on contingency and may feed into the desire but does not issue in change. At the other end, they have their terminus in a violence that never actually arrives.

In the story, the violence may not be put off until the end. It may arrive in the middle. The one who desires change more than anything, the young revolutionary, runs out and presses her point: she wants to puncture, to rupture and burst like a melon, the asinine complacencies of those who want to stick to the story. Yes, it’s usually a young man.

And he is histrionic in his masculinity. It is the necessary thing! This toxin. But it could just as easily be played by an actress, say the one who lost her lines, and turn to comedy.

Yes, so the plot jumps forward. It has been given a kickstart. But, whether the violence was ill or well conceived, it is one without the freedom in the act.

The freedom is to perform the action, but the action is now bound to a subject. The rape decides on who is the rapist and who is raped. And the issue is resolved in the name of the rape, or the punch, the stab, or the rupture some insist on, to shake things up, so the action, as they say, solves nothing. It simply mediates, is the mediate point, for a whole new series of conflicts.

Judgement may come, may not: it too is a violence. And what it does is suture the ragged edges of the wound. It is, as they also say, the continuation of war with other means. The paradox would seem to be that in the effort to render a discontinuity a continuity is produced.

The paradox of politics, of the state, is that the peaceful state of society is enforced by its hegemony over the means of violence, of violent force. So that it was not so peaceful after all. Or it was peaceful only for as long as there was no violence.

The logic here has the pretension of being ironic; or of participating in the gutter humour of, I told you so: fascist pigs! When in fact the logic is exactly that of humour. Or of sexuality. Or, we are saying, of theatre: it holds the contradictory ideas at once. We see both the violence and its potentiality in peace together.

And note von Clausewitz’s use of the word means, Mitteln. Violence is nothing but the continuation of the state because of a mediation that is always in potentiality. The theatre, as the surface of the state, is this political phase space for having, gathering discontinuities, without requiring either their resolution into identities or violence in the mediation of their differences. That is, it is so, when it is so. And so we will have to return to the suppression of theatre and the depression of its resources.

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