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what is theatre?

I liked Hofesh Shechter’s Grand Finale. I liked, but not so much, Ulster American, by playwright David Ireland, presented by the Traverse Theatre Company, est. 1963. A part of the few thoughts I have now the energy to jot down concerns the institutional setting, including the timer setting of these works in their performance disciplines–I want to say respective, but what I have to say is really irrespective of discipline but in respect to its institution. It is to do with what name lasts.

Shechter’s tribe moved a recollection of dance in 1972, when the tribal musical Hair came to Wellington. The bodies are lithe long and abandon themselves to dancing. I like dancing like this. But then brackets of the most disciplined and synchronised group work take place. It is random, arm throwing, exuberant–a kind of excess anyway–and suddenly everybody falls on the beat. Pops on the beat. Jigs break out. Parodies of dance. I realised we are dancing for our lives. But our lives are threatened by lightweight simulations of the monolithic stones at the Jewish memorial, Berlin. These are bureaucratic and managerial walls to break our heads against as well as Wailing Walls. Or otherwise bullet shot-up walls. In other words they are scenic devices, moving scenery, on trucks.

Our lives are not threatened by these simulations, but the dancers are onstage. They are hemmed in, and there is the brilliant choreography of Tom Visser’s lighting, a designer for whom the deployment and pattern of sources of light is as important in this production as the way it strikes the body, bodies, floor, monoliths, impression made on the audience or not made–a lighting philosophy in which I see my own and the faults in my own.

I feel most deeply the moments when the energy is highest and deepest and most useless and in recognition and in despite of the kind of machine the social has become. The whole first half of the Grand Finale is build, Shechter liking his music as much as if not more than his dance world. The acoustic world refers to Jewish experience. But then there are elements from Maori Haka, it seems, from war dance, or sport dancing, rugby. No distance comes in to separate it out in its culturally specific reference, either on the Jewish line of descent or the Maori. Perhaps it’s not Maori. It looks like it. And it is clearly martial in theme. The music builds–the staccato rhythm of k-chick gunstock being set, loaded, in the set-up.

So there is a loading of symbolism. But the dancers seem to dance for themselves even when playing corpses, so many dead bodies, but the most striking those initial four women, their limbs kicked out and propelled by the movement of their partners, into unbelievable unison of movement–unbelievable for one half of the bodies having no agency in the movement.

The second half I wanted to edit: because of a scene set upstage, with a live band of acoustic musicians playing klezmer-like music, and the ten dancers the band’s audience. Yet the music pumping out full volume from the speaker arrays. It should have all been far upstage, distant, the sound faint, emitted only by the instruments, without amplification, or even smaller, less, on the verge of disappearing.

What a loss there is in the loss of Douglas Wright. Subtleties and dynamics washed out in the techno reading of Gavin Bryars’s Sinking of the Titanic, to which the dress suits and lifejacket, was it, of the live band seemed to refer.

People stood and clapped. A standing ovation. I liked the display of energy. But the dance didn’t so much run out of material or so repeat material or allow it to return and vary as erect a world of art in its own image. Even the heteronormativity and harkening back to limb-throwing-out dance could be put down to this, and the symbols showing as well: that it was young, ok, but that it did not open onto anything but what it contained in the way of relations inside itself already. Sealed off, in dance as it is. Nothing invented. The discovery of the movement of these long lithe corpses so generalised within the scope of the work as to lose all the elements with which they might be referred outside it.

The work Ulster American is even more curiously contained in this regard. (I recall some notes I made about the Christchurch shooting, that the Muslim congregations are as ungeneralisable–to the city, the nation–as its perpetrator is unindividualisable–to the lone crazy, seeing as how he represents, as a terrorist, a political cause or interest, that of the extreme Right Wing, from the support of which our own political representatives are wary of cutting themselves off entirely.) It concerns a script of honesty and integrity and one that says and does what theatre must say and do now and for all time: this script and the nature of its (theatrical) truth is fought over and contested by the American ego, the directorial ego, the ego of another, that is the ego of the writer, a woman. A nice way to get around the master text’s authorship. Like Grand Finale its appeal is reflecting on–like the critics it holds up to all the old lines of fire–theatre-dance and rather than presenting it being seen to represent it. (The link to the previous thought in parenthesis reposes in the playing out of a de- or anti-particularisation of artistic statement as the same time as an individualisation of artistic intent is too: more obvious in Ulster American since the script’s very particular reference to Northern Ireland, Britishness, Fenianism, Sectarianism, and the Protestant-Catholic, British-Irish divide, is that contested by the egos as the one to generalise to universal human experience.)

It has to offer many words. I liked seeing it at a matinee with a group in the audience who were sight-impaired. I took the cue and shut my eyes, partly because I was sick of the sight of the set by Becky Minto and the costumes, and the mugging to the audience of Robert Jack and the general state of affairs where the performer waits for his performance or hers to take affect, for the audience to laugh or make a sharp inbreath or do the things, the dance of theatre. A dance with the audience, perhaps. But here the stimulus-response. While dealing, need it be said, with important and timely contemporary issues. But while dealing with them, by way of the script inside the play, in general. That is: the discussion of the script around which the action revolves includes head-nodding eye-winking to the notion that theatre ought to be about the particular to reach a general, no, not consensus, as here, but application. (But application is as soiled a concept as signification today. And the nod and wink is also to this fact.)

The world explored by Ulster American is theatre. Just as the world assumed by Grand Finale is dance. And the delight of the audience at the former is more saddening than that at the latter. The words make a difference.

I noticed recently several words that have dropped from common use: propaganda and didactic. They have become so common as not to need to be named. But there is something else here too. Not just ecce dance ecce theatre. Ecce festival.

Both productions are energised by a kind of cynicism. It is what I find most moving in Grand Finale–the irrecuperable excess, in a kind of exchange beyond symbolic exchange, money, death, sex, and so on, with the sacred. Giving without any chance of return. In Ulster American, it is sheer exchange: language tokens for others. Performances attuned to the expectations and recognising in them their reasons as well as their conditions of the audience. A managerial complement. No.

More than this. Neither work wanted to give thought to what is outside it.

What is outside the timely contemporary issues of fake news and honesty and identity and rape culture and accelerated and exaggerated violence of social experience of Ulster American is not another point of view. And it is not from another point of view that it can be asserted. What is outside of these bodies hurtling through the scenography of Grand Finale, if not against its soft-prop moveable monoliths, however timely and contemporary its allusions to the musical traditions Islam and Israel share, and the guns and the bodies, and the status of these bodies as bodies in their muted migrant costumes, is not the actual events of these past two weeks, an actual and indubitable outside.

It is the thought which specifies itself in its inside–as a point of view–by passing by way of the outside. It leaves theatre behind. It leaves dance behind.

Yet one ought to hesitate over the word ‘thought’ since it has been so denied and paraded before others to be the desirable term of exchange, that is, in the old days. Nobody should give it a single moment’s consideration in the era of outsourcing informational intelligence, these days. What good will that get you? No.

Let’s not talk about thought, and constrain ourselves to what this does and and what that does. Television does not seek consensus; it is driven by consensus. And advertising. Online content provision puts consensus, even a step before its proven drivenness, and so circles back to what is almost poetry. Just as loss-making companies can launch with untenable values on the financial market.

Theatre, what is that? And if it were to do something, what would it be?

In its marketplace, in the marketplace that stands in its stead, yes, festivalisation, as a way to make it, personal survival and the bottomline, always. Hidingplaces, like academic ones, sure. Covering its loss of institutional status–where it talks to power at the level of power–a way of talking, that’s all. A way of talking that bears no relation to the way it talks and represents itself to the conditions and powers which make it possible. Ok, but this growing identification with the managerial strata that want to kill it, not out of any ill will, but because it is irrelevant, only encloses it further in terms which it cannot articulate. For having all of language, it lacks a language.


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“The problem is not to create a better story, but to make it sufficiently performative to make it build its own reality.” – Wim Nusselder

the title, citing Wim Nusselder, is from comments on the video at Kate Raworth’s website.

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Tamsin Shaw on “The New Military-Industrial Complex of Big Data Psy-Ops”

Reading Shaw’s article in the New York Review of Books I reach a point where the question seems to be begged. This is not the same as raising questions.

Shaw raises questions around the ethics of dual-use research: research that has a potential military application as well as an application in civil society. She cites Martin Seligman’s research into “learned helplessness”, electrocuting dogs into a state of obliviousness to repeated shocks, and the psychological theories of depression and resilience that came from it. She cites the positive psychology movement Seligman founded and its research into love–and resilience, and other positive personality traits. She cites the turn funding took, under Seligman’s initiative, after 11 September 2001, to diversity research as a counter to the tendency to contract and magnify diverse viewpoints into the single worldview of extremism. She cites the boost given this strain of research, ostensibly concerned with human well-being, by the datasets available from social media–the Big Data enabled by machine surveillance.

Shaw also cites the net benefit of research with a potential for and with real high human cost–hence net in cost-benefit terms, that undertaken into tumours and the effects on the human body of radioactivity in military weapons, with its payoff in cancer treatments. The same sort of net benefit can be seen from research into diseases caused by military-grade bio-agents, in the manufacture of weaponised viruses, which she cites.

Citing these reversals and their reversals, from resilience under psychological torture, to resilience as a personal survival technique, from biological weapons to techniques of resisting infectious disease, from love technique, to love technique, and back, Shaw shows there is an assumption at work about the capacity of humans for rational thought: “a great deal of contemporary behavioral science aims to exploit our irrationalities rather than overcome them.” The dual-use research concerned with technologies of behavioural modification, persuasion, influence or nudging, assumes a constituency available to be so directed, controlled, even to their benefit, and manipulated. It assumes, for our erstwhile democracies, a nonrational constituency–the community of those who do not know better; the community of those who do not know at all.

The question-begging comes down to this notion of the individual rational agent, the responsible voter, as a presumption of the democratic setup and as being presupposed by the positive ethical field of political democracy. (It need not be pointed out that economics, as the science, pseudoscience, developed under the auspices of such as the Chicago School, support the assumption of nonrational choice, but is that economics then anti-democratic?)

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Shoshana Zuboff defines:

Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n.

  1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales; 2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification; 3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history; 4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy; 5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth; 6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy; 7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty; 8. An expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty.

see also: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

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highly unlikely

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field recordings 2018:02:15 09:59:32 – 2018:06:02 18:59:02 including Julian Rosenfeldt’s brilliant Manifesto & Inti restaurant’s equally brilliant food (Inti, now closed, ought to have been an icon and institution of the temporary city)

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brand “curatorial journalism”: this year more than ever before we are fighting the power (of speech)

Seth Abramson writes in the Guardian:

“In 2018, there are actually more reliable news reports than ever before, as there are now more responsible media outlets online and in print than there ever have been – a fact that often gets lost in debates over “fake news”. The digital age has also internationalized hard news reportage, meaning that readers have access to high-quality reports from around the world with an ease that was impossible before the advent of the internet.

“But this sudden expansion in focused, reliable news coverage has coincided with some of the largest and most prestigious media outlets cutting resources for investigative reporting. The upshot of all this is that reporters have less time or ability than ever before to review the growing archive of prior reporting before they publish what they’ve uncovered.”

He goes on to advocate (advertise) curatorial journalism. It’s like journalism but smarter. It’s all about context–that other dream of the net: hyperlinks as hypereferences and the interweb interweaving texts and documents and statements, online discourse in short, in multidimensional networks so that any one thread, quote, citation, reference might be followed back to its earliest online expression; or connected horizontally, and so on. But this is not the system we have.

We are therefore once again living in that exceptional present which would have been the future if it hadn’t already arrived, that exception that is always made for this year having more reliable news reports than ever before as well as more unreliable news sources than ever before as well as more words expended on, well, just about anything–taking into consideration the rise of text over speech in daily communication–than ever before.

The answer might have been, had Seth Abramson been so inclined, journalism with a scalpel. And we might well have been saying about our exceptional present moment, as well we might, that the time for journalistic balance has passed. The idea of a report being neutral, and of it presenting both sides of an issue, or curating the multiple facets of a complex ‘story’, belongs to the past. We might so have been saying. But what is of our devising, as the present is supposed to be, in the Anthropocene, is smarter than us–is supposed to be: so we are in the predicament of making sense, sense for an audience in the case of journalism, of a situation, a situatedness, of a realtime-base for issues, we have carelessly, hopelessly and unconscionably complexificated.

Journalism with a scalpel would offer a different diagnosis: maybe cut first ask questions later–maybe, but with the surgeon-reporter being held accountable. And perhaps more than events and issues becoming more complex, more deeply intricated and extensively imbricated, than ever before, issues and events have become more integrated, more deeply intimated and extensively implicated–in the social, for sure, but, as surely, in the personal.

Having an opinion is a public liability. Have a stupid opinion! Say “to be honest” a lot, honestly. Or imho, modestly. Have a stupid, make a stupid tweet, and the world is cheeping with you.

Imagine the informed writing to the level of the educated. Imagine no more–because in fact more informed journalists are writing to a better educated public than ever before this year. Of course this year stupidity has been normalised as populism too.

I find myself–more honestly, I lose myself–walking in a library modestly wondering what it is for, since it doesn’t itself seem to know. And the ones who work here give the others who don’t, who used to be members and who now are customers, or patrons, the resentful eye, while adverting to the latest electronic offering, whether it is wifi, or the latest pulp fiction or pulp nonfiction (pulp fact? fat nonfict?) available via the app. Like Seth Abramson, in the Guardian, I have been an advocate (advertiser? advertisement?) for curation: librarianship, isn’t it a matter of leading the social animal to the cultural water? Making better animals to make a better social? (Dot says, But you can’t make it think.)

These GOSPIS (Grand Old Signs one Participates In Society), like the Grand Old Deity itself, in whom, and in which, more people put their faith and believe, with honesty and modesty, than ever before–even to being pridefully jealous of the competition (this year more nationalistic than ever before)–have lost their tongues. Journalism must–you can’t fight it!–progress by borrowing ways of talking about itself and its essential tasks from, where? the operating theatre? or the art gallery?

Then the idea of information has lost its teeth. Open mouth, ah. Closed mouth, mm. We know there is more information than ever before, this year, and that’s why it’s called Big D. Journalists are among the data miners. But there isn’t the time and there isn’t the return, and this is the latter. Who wants to live forever? No, that’s not the question: Who wants to pay for information?

And libraries, going forward–resistance is futile!–, borrow ways of talking about themselves and their essential tasks from? They don’t borrow. They’re told how to speak for themselves by those who, usually those which, since they tend to be annexed to institutions, of which they once were the jewels in the crown, fund them. They are told how to speak for themselves so as not to try the patience of the daleks. Who or which will cease to fund them if they were suddenly to speak for themselves, since they would be asking for it, for extermination.

Yes, good journalism once it too was something to show off, now it’s tackling the big issues, scoring the big anchors, more than ever before this year. Just like a university was the institutional encrustation of a library. It was the paste and setting for the cultural riches collected over time, protected over the bad times, saved to adorn the good, through careful, assiduous, committed and (need it be said?) professional librarianship. But middle management detests decoration, for which there will be more martyrs than ever before, this year, mouthing silently the words written on the wallpaper, God Save Us & Oscar Wilde… and for the journalists we will add, George Orwell…

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neosurvivalist / naivalist / postoccupy / inhabit?

The End
of The World

It’s over.
Bow your head
and
phone scroll
through
the apocalypse.

from here

and or

Learn to hunt, to code, to heal. .

from there

despite the brilliant and funny analysis given inhabit.global’s website by Ted Byfield [assuming he’s this one] on nettime listserv, I wonder about both Ted’s intention to be funny and inhabit’s intention to be serious, one to be taken one way, the other to be taken one way as well.

a left-leaning bunch of techfriendlies reacts to a naive bunch of reactionary post-politicos–the common ground, to hunt, to code, to heal, would appear to repose in the middle term.

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rolling out neoliberalism in New Zealand

While the opposition party engages in spectacular self-immolation, the governing Labour Party, under Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, despite a stated commitment to rolling back the worst of neoliberal measures towards privatisation, decentralisation, marketisation and financialisation, continues to roll out policy consistent with the neoliberal agenda of the Mont Pelerin Thought Collective. The latest is a “new independent infrastructure body” steered by corporate interests, independent, as far as possible, from government and public oversight.

Submissions have been called for in a gesture towards public consultation. But the move has been given little publicity. The media are part of the problem. Having become a part of the market they are supposed to critique, they eat their own young.

Please go here: https://treasury.govt.nz/information-and-services/nz-economy/infrastructure/new-independent-infrastructure-body/consultation

Please go here: https://treasury.govt.nz/information-and-services/nz-economy/infrastructure/new-independent-infrastructure-body/consultation

And this what it says here: https://treasury.govt.nz/publications/media-statement/have-your-say-new-independent-infrastructure-body:

“Until 26 October the Treasury is seeking public and sector feedback on what a new independent infrastructure body might look like, Secretary to the Treasury Gabriel Makhlouf announced today.

“In August, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones announced the creation of a new independent infrastructure body, to ensure New Zealand gets the quality of infrastructure investment it needs to improve long-term economic performance and social wellbeing.

“A consultation document released today outlines proposed functions and features for the new body.

“Treasury Deputy Secretary Jon Grayson said that over the next three weeks the Treasury, working in partnership with the National Infrastructure Advisory Board, will meet representatives from the sector to discuss the proposals.  There will also be an online survey and the opportunity to make written statements, to ensure a wide range of views are canvassed, said Mr Grayson.

““I know the sector will welcome the chance to be directly involved in the detail of how this new body will work. The market, wider construction industry and local government all agree with the Government’s view that we need far greater visibility over our long-term infrastructure needs.

““The sector needs certainty about where and when investment will occur, so it can organise to meet demand. The new body will help provide that certainty while also ensuring Ministers get better advice to improve our long-term planning and investment.

““This is really important for New Zealand’s future and I strongly encourage the sector and the wider public to share their views with us by 26 October.”

“Mr Grayson said a panel of private and public sector experts would guide the Treasury in shaping advice on key issues, and support the Treasury in the delivery of the project.

“The new body will be up and running by mid-late 2019.  In advance of that date, an interim Infrastructure Transactions Unit will be established within Treasury from 1 November 2018, to provide support to agencies in planning and delivering major infrastructure projects

“Media contact: all media enquiries should be directed to media@treasury.govt.nz

“Notes to editors:

“The consultation document can be found at Consultation on a new independent infrastructure body, along with details on how to make submissions, and background papers. Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones’ August media release announcing the creation of a new independent infrastructure body can be found here.

“The panel members are:  Simon Allen (Chair, Crown Infrastructure Partners), Jim Betts (Chief Executive, Infrastructure New South Wales), Jenny Chetwynd (Strategy, Policy and Planning General Manager, NZ Transport Agency), Fiona Mules (Member, National Infrastructure Advisory Board), John Rae (Chair, National Infrastructure Advisory Board) and Sarah Sinclair (Partner, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts Lawyers and Board Member, Infrastructure New Zealand) Biographical information on the panel can be found at Experts supporting and guiding establishment of the new body).”

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what began as neoliberalism ends in fascism {or: FAKE NEWS=TWO TRUTHS}

once there are two truths, established by Friedrich Hayek in 1954, then the way is clear: all the ingroup has to do is maintain control over economic policy–and the outgroup, even to the whole of Brazil, can be told this is freedom, Bolsonaro’s fascism is fake news.

see here

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