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

subject matter

Here the matter is the subject. The subject forms an inside. This is why we place it on a surface, why the surface is not fixed. Even into a theatre, it is not fixed. It’s not that theatre is the best way to produce subjects, or the best subject, the better subject being the one in whom movement can be induced. It’s the best way, we think currently, to address the inside.

If the best subject is the one in whom movement can be induced this is because the subject is matter, a material fact, an atom. Although having said that we seem to be encouraging an atomic subjectivity that is potentially explosive. Our subject is the expression of that explosive potentiality, not its cause. That is, the explosion is on the outside and belongs to the outside. Then, expression does too: it goes to the outside, as if the subject exploded out of itself at the moment of creation.

The fact is, there is no itself from before which a subject could presuppose in order to be its expression. A subject therefore wears its explosion. And we can also say it is at this unbearable point the subject keeps itself. As if desiring to keep itself going, it follows the gesture it is, which we saw in the risking actor: she notices an involuntary movement in her body. It makes a difference to how she feels inside. It makes a difference to how she wants to walk, talk or resist.

For the beginning actor what came to bear on his gesture, the step out onto the void of the stage, or the silly expression he wore on his face, was the full weight of the institution. It was crushing, something crushing he knew he had to get past but that in doing so he would leave himself behind in some way. Knowing it vaguely, he pushed himself to try and perhaps perceived that ice cold moment of alienation from himself, where he became impersonal, an object or thing.

Now, he could at the point of self-alienation have clung on, or he could have let himself go. The danger of letting himself go was that at the very next moment, in the next movement, he might once more, at once, experience the sensation of complete impersonality, even to the point of experiencing it as evisceration. And at the next moment, and at the one after that.

It’s not so simple as the risking actor being the one who takes the risk of feeling sliced open, over and over. The ice cold fear we might say. It’s that a risking actor is ahead of the blade. While a selfish actor opens her arms, and looking out, not down at the guts lying on the floor (because it is no more than a floor at this stage), she acknowledges that, like you, this is all she is. She basks in the acknowledgement, lets herself go in the recognition, a tear might even come to her eye. Yes, I am poor and human, and a human is a thing, and it is a material thing who stands before you, will you now strike me?

It is a challenge a selfish actor makes in her sacrifice. A risking actor makes do with an economy of means. These are not media, they do not mediate. They carry the war forward, an inch or two before the blade. So we can say it is a political move, this one: it does not require violence.

A risking actor does not economise on his movements. This is not how it works. He can go crazy, roll on the floor, climb another actor like a monkey, but the explosive actions in which he may engage are completely still inside. They are only crystallisations: an exploded view in exploded view. At the empty centre is a small piece of foreign matter, a hole in time, an outside, a window, through which he has quietly slipped.

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.