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

subject matter

We’ve said that movement gives us immunity from the mobility of the surface, that movement immunises the community from a situation that seems a certain slide. But how are we to move? How, when the political will is absent, do we change course from this direction that is every direction at once? How, in a state of powerlessness, can we decide anything? We might recall here that impotence of having no consequence, a fact of the surface, stage, and also a subjective power, or, power of the subject.

Then, everything moving at once, as the Angel of History says, progress, how do we know true movement from this? How find, found, make, an authentic politics from the fakery of a politics without power? One that, by its own admission, can see heat death coming. And does nothing. Of which we say, it can not.

We don’t know how to move but we can see it done. This has been part of our strategy: theatre can show us. The at-war-with-herself of the comic actor, what is she to do? The at-war-with-himself of the actor behind the tragedian’s mask, what is he to do, ask himself, What have I done?! As Pound does, in the final Canto, in its most moving lines, where he writes, Forgive what I have made.

Examine thyself, and change, we are told. Not worth living otherwise. Yet shouldn’t the one who tortures torture better? The one who fails, as Beckett says, fail? And the one who loves.

Change thyself, or choose the earth. This one. There is no other. Yet shouldn’t the revolutionary conduct the revolution? And what will happen the day after? And the day after that? We are on this stage a short time. Seems a shame to slip on out without a struggle.

Yes, we have seen it done: the risking actor chooses for the tic and follows it to revolution. This is how movement happens. It doesn’t happen, as you might think it might, by massing together the details that are our lives: it’s not a snowball effect of achieving critical mass, pulling together the ingredients, the intellectual with the labourer, the charmer with the tactician.

The movement itself is a detail. And this is the question of scale. Because, in a dynamic system, or chaos, the possibility exists for any factor, for even the most minor, the smallest, for the minima we have said, to produce throughout the system change. The movement is a detail. It’s not an accrete, the statistical aggregate of all the personal details which are our lives, which, we might say, is some of the reason we’re stuck on the plane of this mobility: we’re mobilised to ends, well, to the end, in this stasis. Civil war.

The detail is the movement of the principle, ‘first mover,’ that is, subject. Yet we imagine their aggregation, the accrete, of all of us, through a kind of social mediation, will produce the revolutionary subject. When the accrete is the swarm, Big Data, of all the details we provide, symbolic subjects, giving the metaphysical impression of a constantly mobile surface: that comedy! A swarm of … no longer of pixels … but forming a liquid crystal surface. Not the digital display screen: the playing-field of personal data. All true. Every single authenticity.

The risking actor is a false pretender who, with theatre with its depressed resources, finds it difficult to find employment … I forgot to say why theatre’s resources are depressed. There is a circle here formed by what a risking actor does, because it’s not comedy. She’s no comedian. He’s just not funny, but quirky, dangerous, possibly mad.

Like the Zen master, he holds up his finger. Like the Zen master, his finger is no longer there. He has lopped it off, had it lopped off, found enlightenment.

She raises her finger. Repeats. It is as if the finger takes up the whole space. There she is, just staring at her finger. Her finger no longer there. Finger no longer there. Supported by the void. A movement. In this detail, this tic, whatever it is, everything is mobilised. From the war does not come peace, or more war, but a single movement. Subject. Singularity.

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

If you would like to help it come to pass, and show your support for what I’m up to, please sponsor it: become a patron, here.

If you would like to receive these posts, as they are written, as letters addressed to you, please send me your email address.