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a short series up to christmas


I think of the demands of people

	they fill my dreams and I

cannot satisfy them. Perhaps
 
	they can’t be satisfied. Yet,

woken by birds and the light of day

	that is always sudden, I still

hear talking. Being polite’s been

	overtaken by the demands of

sociability. That’s a fact. So why do I

	find it so hard to get my head

around? I mean, now children are

	to be heard, and not seen, and,

I mean, it’s a fact of growing up that

	we communicate more and more,

but, by saying we, I don’t know what

	I mean. Who, after all, is
 
growing up? If there’s a threshold of

	respect, I can honestly say

I have not crossed it. So the demands

	turn to insults, with the full meaning

the word has of a physical insult, that is
 
	worse than an injury. And like the

victim of injury, even sleeping I have

	a sense of shame and harbour it

when I am woken. And carry it, like a

	small broken heart or a bird,

hidden in my palm, throughout the day.






23 . 12 . 2021

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a short series up to christmas

a small colourful bundle

	arrived yesterday

We must trade offline



first inclination

	to propose it, in this form

Must be kind



“the mystery you would be

	I would unfold, pausing at the mystery

Be careful



“of unfolding, trembling fingers

	following soft bifurcations...

We must move



moments laid bare, a trail

	"unwound wonder wounds"

To a new form of life



of fragmentary insights, like

	garments, or threads

We must change now



teasing or warning? to propose

	to time, unlike anything in

Now each of us recognises



the original bundle,

	here, its skin

In the other the same need



and every moment of its skin

	unwound, veins and neurons

In a nutshell, I want to say a skull,



minute, fractions of Horror

	and Love,

We are bound



a colourful bundle

	arrived yesterday

We must not break down.







21 . 12  . 2021

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sixty-fourth part, called “on movement LXIV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

on movement

It has become a commonplace, the initially critical claim for the divided subject, invoking Rimbaud, or, better, Pessoa: I am bursting with others. In our agreement we lose sight of the division, and—await the explosion, or sense the slow leak, as the meanings, feelings, dynamisms and intensities leak out of us. Or, otherwise, we are forced into a condition of having to agree. These freedoms are no more and no less than differentials of movement. They are minima. And we should conserve our energies.

What we are called on to accept is the production of a subjection as a complete entity, such that the completion occurs: being is what happened. This is the view of time we have from the state of the surface we have ascribed to its mobility. So, what is the entity? What entity has survey over this concept of time?

Here time is full. It is full forever. Never trickling in from the future. Never flooded by the past. Being full, we get the impression of immobility; or, it presses on us: time is the constantly taut surface of a time under pressure.

Virilio talks of the pressure exerted on time by speed. Everything speeds up, is in competition for time, and so exerts a global pressure. The squeeze is on, for the earth and its resources. He calls this the dromosphere. An atmospheric pressure.

How is the impression static? when the surface is in motion? because we are talking of two distinct systems. It appears one leads to the other, that global mobility leads to stasis. Or is there an error of levels here? since what applies to the individual cannot be said, except in hyperbole, to apply to the globe. That is, my impression of immobility owes nothing to dromospheric pressure. But it is this creation of a globe which is completed in time, in one of them, in the time of the anthropocene.

Knowledge is this accumulation. We may concede it to be incomplete but it is under pressure to be complete. Not the past pressing up against the present, drawing from it a form incommensurable with its antecedents, in Bergson’s phrase, knowledge, complacent or despairing, neither despairs of its form nor, think of science, is not pleased with its results, and think of where these press. They press on the future, giving us the sense of it being an accomplished fact, one that human knowledge is sufficient to, or, inducing in us a false humility, insufficient. Philosophy has come to seem chiefly concerned with our reassurance.

Being is this accumulation, in a terminal time. Catatonia, as we have said, in all the parts that matter: stasis. The static system is not the one arresting movement, or giving us the feeling of arrest in time. It is rather the system coupling in us speed and stasis, at least as they are formed in impression, where we see everything moving too fast and ourselves stuck.

The problem is not to introduce movement into a static system or to arrest time. We want to allow movement from being stuck. We want to be pulled out of time, or the current temporal arrangement, why many turn to the sacred. It is into association with the sacred that we might bring the notion of sacrifice: both cut into temporality: they go outside, go by way of the outside.

The problem is physical not spiritual. It is one of physics, or, physics’ problem that it can’t get outside. It can’t leave its theatre of operations. Laruelle, in proposing a nonphilosophy, has said the same of philosophy; but he then goes about refilling the glass that he has emptied. The mystic knows emptying to be endless, until we have removed the glass.

Having said the problem is physical, then it’s clearly one of bodies. Perhaps too many bodies. As in Aristotle’s injunction to avoid the unnecessary multiplication of characters. Or, is it in an atomisation of performing bodies that we have exploded onto the screen: the necessary articulation of technological advancement, of information technology?

I once thought it was this. I don’t think so anymore. I think it’s this: the inside can fill up. And we are still inside.

We have been concerned with movements of the inside, the movement that is the event of the subject. We’ve said it to consist of minima, a slight gesture, or even a hesitancy, either an active decision or not: an active decision is still a build-up of passive ones, just as the nonstatic system, the system of mobility, can lead to stasis—but in the other direction. That is, it is unidirectional: we might reconsider what kind of freedom lies in this direction: if it belongs to space, it is of external freedom of movement; if it belongs to time, it is of internal freedom, to choose that which happens. So, in a sense, the active leads back to the passive.

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

subject matter

At some level, somewhere, everything is moving too fast. Where this is so, what grants us immunity from it? Movement.

Roberto Esposito has developed the political theme of immunity. He finds a relation by contrasting the immunitas and the communitas that unites the two. It is physically there in the words to see.

Esposito does not follow the route of pitting one against the other, of making communitas in the community an exclusionary principle. The exclusion of what is external to that principle does not make it an internal principle forming the community, the political community. The pushing out of foreign matter, foreign subjects, does not form the community in its ontological integrity.

Instead, Esposito has it that the immunitas is in the community. And it is this which makes it one. It is always a little bit of the outside raised to play on the surface of political certainty.

Immunity is then a matter of what Althusser calls interpellation, whereby the individual is interpellated within the ideological state apparatus. This is perhaps a funny way to put it, but isn’t it the case that ideology is made to work by including what is foreign to it? And isn’t this especially true at the level of the state? It would, in fact, be to construct it as apparatus, or what we have also called mechanism, that it does.

As soon as we say everything is moving too fast, we are struck by its inadequacy. More than its inadequacy to actual experience, what strikes us is either that the opposite is true, instead, or that it can be. And this makes for uncertainty: we are uneasy at comparing the surface of the world to the weather. Beautiful day. Ever get the feeling everything’s moving too fast? Well, it’s not!

We are in a stasis comparable to the last stages of a depression, a state of catatonia, where movement has become impossible. Ideology no longer covers over the truth while initiating us into it, as if it were a conspiracy. We are no longer covered by false beliefs of a false, imposed consciousness against the climate. The two directions, extreme as they are, coexist. The reason for this is that as a result of its suppression by the mobility of the surface, political movement has become impossible.

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forty-fourth part, called “subjective powers XLIV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subjective powers

The digital surface is socially invested, given the power to produce subjects. The subjects we ought to want to be: that is, according to the narrative. It is a narrative of progress, yet it precedes the subjects of, shall we say, speculation, in a speculative data economy.

Those subjects who we ought to want to be and become are the trading pieces. And therefore, trade in pieces, pieces of a psycho-graphology or psycho-grammatology, like parts of speech, the swapmeet we earlier mentioned, where we don’t feel a thing, feel nothing like the insertion of the psyche, or the psychic body, the human one, into the social story, because these parts, and here the paranoia, are inserted into us. Or, better said, into the psyche. So there has been a previous paring down of it, the body-psyche, or body’s mind, if you like, a breaking down and a building up again, from borrowed parts. This is why changing the narrative is the same business: because it is in the same business.

The paranoia breaks out when we feel a part of us take over the role we had hitherto supposed to be ours. As in drunk-texting, the words escape; and with certain drugs, we notice, senses deranged, that they are serial, the senses, from their being put out of order, out of, that is, the social order. We might just as well say, the narrative order. The essence of tragedy: personally to feel so ordered, by, what we can further call, social destiny or narrative necessity. Of course, it’s a comedy to everybody.

In classic tragedy, madness ensues. And we see this fairly regularly, the patch-up jobs, the motley of the general social roles, see, it is comical! Called in by friends, we assist in changing the narrative, so that you or I can get back up again, face the void.

Why void? Well, isn’t that the feeling? The feeling of starting again, and the fear. Like having nothing inside.

We return to a beginning actor, but in taking back possession of ourselves, normally proceed like the selfish one. We fall back on, often disingenuously, sometimes with real terror, what we know. The strangest thing can occur when we are the donors of our own body-parts. They become the opposite of ghost limbs. We become the ghosts.

It is said to be perfectly normal for our psychic well-being to view the space below the stage, the surface, as already full of the lives we are in fact living. But that is the past. We have reversed the order. It is not as full bodies we step out on to the void; it is as voids we step out on to the fullness of who we were.

What help is it to be considering subjective powers in the nightmare or mania we are living of living as introjected subject matter, part-consumables, grammatical egos? For a start, of the latter we can say we see the attraction, since to be part of digital discourse is reassuring, gratifying even, to think we have symbolic entity; this is what analysis does: as symbols of ourselves we can carry on… but it is only by granting such symbols as being outside us that we can do this.

That is, enter the void: the stage direction given not by the void but to the void. Here it comes now, extending its surface under us, at a point we can choose. It is a point in the now.

What is happening is the choice of the minima we go on with: What does a risking actor do? Joaquin Phoenix for some reason comes to mind, perhaps as an example because we can see the results on the plane of their registration, as compositional elements of the screen. He twitches. Or his grimace is nonsensical, out of place, and that’s how we can tell it’s part of the character. From the smallest gesture, we have said, with Kirkkopelto, a world.

Or it is in an angle of his body we see it flash blade-like. A light comes out of his eyes and illuminates the planes of his face. And it is a compulsion, from an inner compulsion, that he acts so in small bits and pieces, the minima of subjectivities; yet we cannot go so far as to call it inner or inward because pure expression, outside, a part of speech that makes absolutely no sense, but here is the pain in the yelp of a dog, a cur, that signifies a world, a world where such a yelp, scream, can be made. Such a world is not produced, not the product of the scream, but suffuses the surface: is the event we have noted, then the impersonal affect, then… the whole subject in its subjective duration, in its subjective duration so whole: a subjective power we have reserved for the indeterminate duration of the reported on, on, not a surface of registration, but receptive centre, the centre of a hearing of indeterminate duration.

The pruning off of perception, selection, all the way to active election, choosing what happens as it does; undoing it, giving it a power that is internal to a receptive centre, is not the expression that reaches out, of a metaphysical impression, but the expression of a psychic minimum in which the subject subsists, comes about or revolves; the revolution itself, of a past pressing up against the present, producing affects without antecedents: all the surface’s roles. The stage’s. This revolution is the saying, the telling, we need to be hearing, is not the story, the warning, the moral lesson, the past, but pushes, has the means to, against the future. Opens it, a crack.

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thirty-sixth part, called “subjective powers XXXVI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subjective powers

We see more clearly what is at stake in a beginning actor. Everything for some. That’s why it can be a good exercise to raise the stakes. And we might leap immediately to the conclusion that this means the stakes for you, or me, personally; the guts we sometimes say it takes guts to show: when we know the visceral does not come from the viscera.

Out on the stage, on the surface, even when they are real, like in the case of Hermann Nitsch, there’s something pitiful about this loose jumble of organs. And something shameful in the sacrifice. Nudity, sexual acts, faked are pathetic, performed have a flattening effect, unless the point of these is this alone: to be what they are, and, being what they are, the effect of the surface. That is, the stakes are rather flattened than raised. Pornography tends to being a pure surface on which nothing moves, and it is often, if not always, the artifice or its exaggeration that we find moving: shame or titillation, it can go either way.

With artifice and exaggeration, we are back home in the theatre. The ‘being what they are’ which looked to be an action, wanted to be an event, ends up being a subject who makes no more claims on us than any other. On a raised board, underlined, so we can see it as it is, or as it ought to be.

In other words, at the extremes there are no breaks. Open your legs, open your fly, your mac, and what are you asking for, really? Sympathy? Same with the spill of our innermost organs, those structuring identity. Those upon which it is said we can make a politics.

The stakes it can be a good exercise to raise are indeed the ones we place in what is personal. And here they can have the value of our identities, of our selves. Of the jumble of things which go to make us up: they have the inflated value our investment has given to them, that inflated is real; and it is not for the sake of a disenchantment, for their deflation to ‘being what they are,’ or for the spectacle of humiliation or a moral lesson, however twisted, like the one parodied, when I am nothing. When he was, as Mervyn Thompson wrote about 1984, an empty husk. But it is to raise the stakes when these are sacrificed.

We raise the stakes in order to show we are mistaken if we think there is on the stage no sacrifice. Because it is the stage itself which comes along and renders what is most personal into subjective effects, impersonal. It renders them as having no consequence: for this is one of the subjective powers we are talking about. That is, the personal is the starting point, not the destination of the exercise. You don’t get your guts back after the show. These are thereafter stage properties.

The type between a beginning actor and a selfish actor might be named the actor who takes risks. A risking actor is one who can raise the stakes, by taking what is personal and turning it to impersonal effect. Thereby losing his possession of it; spontaneously letting go of her investment: because it happens suddenly, in a single movement.

We can start from a story that has personal intensity for you, for example, your life. Play it. Take your time.

Use all the resources you have around you, most of all time. Use the language of theatre, which involves placing yourself imaginatively in the situations that had maximum intensity for you, and, if it involves speech, involves speaking from there, to the people you imagine around you. In the words you would use, and they understand.

… but look: when you place the noose around your neck like that using that imaginary rope it is like you are giving yourself airs… You are on the Western Frontier, not at home at all, and playing at once the hangman who places the noose around your neck and the man who shot Liberty Valance. … and when you tease up your hair like that, as if you would pull it out by the roots, it’s like you’re at the hairdresser, very upset with what you’ve got or with the results.

I don’t need to make these suggestions to you verbally, anyone can see it! …another actor might like to shoot through the rope on which you were so recently hanging. And together ride away, Calamity Jane.

Or, hold the mirror to you. So you can see in fact your pain, your soul sickness, is not being poked fun at. It is being moved somewhere else entirely from where you’d stuck it. Where it had stayed so long mired in your person that you came to suspect it was not only yours but you.

Movement on the surface distinguishes itself from action by giving itself what may be the slimmest excuse to move to something else. To invent something new. Some new outcome. The movement is not then caused by the action. Neither is it causative, in having agency. The movement is from its point of fixity, away from it. An abruption. A subjective event.

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

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thirty-third part, called “subjective powers XXXIII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subjective powers

The three subjective powers rely on a surfacing constituting their positivity: only at the surface can they be constituted in their positivity. That is, mobilised. Whether they come from the depths or from the heights, as obedience seems to, on the surface, or at the surface, new passages can form. And this is necessary because working in an institution is sometimes like walking in sticky mud and sometimes like quicksand. You get stuck or you get sucked down, by negation.

The nature of negation is that we hope we can reconcile our differences. So we do something like bringing to the surface our mutual resentments, our contradictory views, even admitting childhood trauma or matters of deep identification, identity politics, into the mix. The problem is these too are institutions: they belong to the subject; then they belong to subjectivity; and then they belong to processes of subjectivation, those producing the subjects through the masks, their masks, of desire and belonging. They never free themselves from either preexisting subjects, a presupposed subjectivity, or a fetishised subject to come.

It is this freeing, that is also a cut, crack or cutting, that is a subjective power. Does it turn the subjective and usually negative contents positive? No. It frees from etiology. From the paths set by habit and recognition (for example, institutionally recognised) as well as from the ganglionic root system, because this trailing apparatus is useless at the surface. It does not make for movement but stasis. It does not permit of extrication without trailing mud everywhere.

Not that the surface is clean! But a beginning actor does not know this. It fears betrayal by signification, of the signifiers said everywhere to be emitted. Leading to the great chains of predetermination and negation.

A beginning actor fears the slightest move might give rise to a meaning. The meaning to a world. The world one to which she is condemned. (Yes, I said ‘it.’ The ‘she’ that followed was not a correction. The ‘slightest move’ which the subject is at this stage is an ‘it’ before being submitted, or condemned, to sexualisation.)

A beginning actor does not know yet that to be on the surface is to have a nonhuman becoming. The selfish actor gets used to it, linking it back to his humanity. And note that the nonhuman becoming is principally a loss of the rest of language, to be left with only this monkey paw that does not link up in any human way. It is the destructuring of a sound made in the air, a word, a gesture or movement.

Such a sound, a word, gesture or movement can just as easily belong to a plant, a scenic device, a sign, an animal or a stone. And still be meaningful. Still? For the stone there is no movement. There is the other kind of movement belonging to the image, its fractalling involution.

And meaning-ful is wrong. In that fractalling involution is a meaning-emptying. In other words, it’s not going to wait around for you or I to interpret it. Is there in all its positivity. Its position. Its attitude and style. …but first get the surface working. How?

It should be clear we are talking of the stage. Static genesis had it being a line underscoring any action, even the smallest, a throat-clearing (or the tube inserted into Marco Antonio’s throat after his laryngectomy in Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio’s Julius Caesar for his funeral oration), so that the action became an impersonal one. And then impersonal affect. And, we said, subject; a subject of this strange sort: its activity now is dynamic. It has dynamic subjective powers. It possesses the dynamism of subjective powers.

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

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thirty-first part, called “the subject XXXI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

the subject

That a beginning actor brings to the stage something of which she feels she is about to be dispossessed is why the notion of sacrifice, that runs through Blau’s reports, manifestos and theoretical writing on theatre, still holds true. Where a selfish actor remains intact, identifying the depths of her personal formation, the formative years, coaching, training, and so on, with the void beneath the stage, identifying it as being what supports her, instead of the real nothing, a beginning actor is able to experience the sensation of these being cut from him. As if all that training was for nothing.

It was all for nothing and means nothing: this is the truth of the matter. This is your first day on the job. And what they didn’t teach you at school is what you need to know around here. Otherwise, you won’t survive.

What’s the good of this castration–this obedience to beginning that means going through each time, risking each time, out of necessity, one’s identity? …but haven’t we said it goes further than risk? That there is sacrifice?

What else is about to happen? What else is the audience here for? If there was no sacrifice to the audience would be returned their capacity for judgement. If there were none, as the selfish actor seems to deny there being, or the necessity for there being sacrifice, to her would be returned the self-congratulation. For him would be the applause: and she stands without the smile that is anyway ungracious and holds out her palms, open, in acknowledgement that this is all I am. Like you. Human.

If the guts left on stage at the end of the performance aren’t mine, then why do I feel this emptiness? I want to be among people again. Among my own. In company, engaged in pointless chat, which to the outside looks like the most pointed bitchery.

At the bar, after the show, well it’s like a very personal slanging match. Like the Colony Room. What a relief to be called a cunt! One knows that the vicious, the really vicious attacks will be those couched in the most childish terms.

One understands that if one is really truly upset or truly upsets another there will be silence, then, Pooh. If the most awful thing has happened, the Arts Council has withdrawn its funding, for the last time, a pause, then: That’s a pooh.

Deflation at the most significant events; inflation of the most trivial. And we should note among the trivialities are counted the most personal of issues, her dose of clap, his impotence. Or the age of a new girlfriend: For Christ’s sake, she’s three! … Yes, I know. But she has the body of a four year-old.

Why is it that personal identity, those things we had hitherto considered our most precious memories and shameful secrets, our depths, when the show’s over are subjects for hilarity? Because it is restorative. Not to be laughed at for them, but to be thought to have them still. For it to be acknowledged one is still in possession of those organs of which one had been relieved by the knife of the stage.

We repeat, but what’s the good of it? Isn’t it exactly for there to have been a hearing, to have been given a hearing by an audience? For the accolades, well of course: but these are due the corpses too left for the stagehands to pick up and drag off after the show. And note the theatrical meaning of corpse is to be overtaken onstage by unsuppressable hysteria. The deflationary language for this, one of the worst things that can happen, is getting the giggles.

Isn’t it exactly for the good of the audience, that good which comes from its exercise of judgement? that good Badiou talks about as going on and as necessary in the interval, pointing to a contemporary trend in France to do away with the interval. Making the interval, for him, into a necessity. A necessity for there to be theatre, as if without the interval’s permission to pass judgement there would be little point to it.

Then there’s the good in itself: it is good to have public sacrifice. In however sublimated a form. But in a form so sublimated as the modern stage, is it really sacrifice? For the selfish actor it is not. To think not, and to agree, we are like selfish actors.

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

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

the subject

Is symbolisation necessary for metaphysics? What is the difference between words in the air and on the page? That words are available to us on screen, in contexts composed of other symbolic data, helps create a metaphysical impression; but this impression is given even greater cause by the availability of words to the mind. So great is the impression made, it is almost as if consciousness itself were of linguistic construction. It’s as if thinking required words.

We have, however, to ask what kind of words. The words we have available to our minds… Laurie Anderson says in Heart of a Dog (I am thinking of her right now because in 28 minutes I hope to be attending the Norton lecture she is delivering via Zoom) that she took her dog, Laurabelle, around whom the film revolves, out into the desert. She had been told fox terriers, like Laurabelle, were capable of learning 500 words, and she wanted to find out which ones.

Which ones, which words we have in our minds, is a question but, like that of asking given the dog brain being a container that can hold 500 which ones, it is not the question. At least, not the question we are asking here. The words we have available to our minds are not seen as any special category of words. They are regarded to be the same words, as words, floating around in the air, or on the page or screen. They are regarded to belong to a language, or, in the case of machine languages and other specialist languages, to a code. This language or code is, in addition, considered to be the condition of their coming to mind, the condition presupposed by their coming to mind, and a condition preexisting either the one who uses the words or the one into whose head they pop.

Which words we have available to us as speaking subjects is a question for scoring competencies and marking differences, dividing populations up into categories. It is a question of language management, or the management of life languages. I am thinking of the social cohesion assured by universal education, driven by literacy, as it was for the missionaries and people of the book. There is here a want to have the same or restrict the variables of language—accelerated, intensified and augmented by digital literacy—across populations.

The systematic imposition of structure goes all the way to the letters, and is reciprocated by minor languages, those dominated, in their demands that differences be marked. Speakers of te reo, the language of New Zealand Māori, demand macrons, like that over the ‘ā,’ not so much to show that vowels so marked are lengthened when spoken as signs of respect, in what remains a moral mission, in this case imposing the Latin alphabet. It is then a moral system of language that is said to generate meaning, explaining the case made for the preexistence of symbolic structure by the claim that without it, and such markers as the macron, there is no meaning.

Our question opposes this one. No, not which words, but words made of air or letters? What sort of words have meaning? And which in the context of their mental image? as they come to mind. Because, to repeat, as they come to mind the dominant view has it that they are pre-symbolised. Giving cause for the metaphysical impression words make, since they belong to a certain sort.

The question then is one of focus: focused within, it’s difficult to detach our thoughts from the words embodying them. And so it’s difficult to separate that embodiment from symbols, because we don’t seem to have any air in our brains for them to sound out and be heard, or overheard. Focusing without, their sonorous qualities are obvious, but not their silences. These are hidden. As Anderson said about technology, in the lecture, which I did attend, it is not very good at doing. This.

[silence]

In fact, it can’t. The digital world is structured by the constancy of communication, of information, and interconnectivity. Structured insofar as we can call this its moral code. Her silence, on the Zoom screen, playing live although the lecture was clearly pre-recorded, seemed to be that of thought. Although we couldn’t overhear it. So she had to read it—the meaning of lecture.

The air in our brains cannot be heard. It is not like the wind. Or the still air carrying birdsong… traffic-noise… but if we look to our brains, inward, we see a kind of receptive surface. Meanings come from it unprompted, sometimes preceding words. Sometimes preceding either words or sounds. They are not cloaked in the sonorous symbols of their sounds. Neither are they, as far as I can tell, symbols floating in space; if I imagine symbols, these seem without meaning.

They seem to be images. And words will come to me unprompted, in full symbolic dress: but these are often shapeshifters. They are the subjects of dreams.

I think in the dream they mean one thing. When I wake up they mean another. Or they are nonsensical. Or a name that a person has in my dream on waking I find is quite wrong: this person is not called that. Tobyguppy, and so on.

The meanings words have in dreams are different. Then, they differ from themselves. Behind the surface meaning is a latent one, as Freud says. But if we consider how they differ from themselves, we find a different structure of meaning.

In Saussure’s terms, aren’t these the signifieds? The signifiers, like the dresses they wear, being quite arbitrary, not expressed in their sonorous symbolic or the symbolic qualities they have to other senses, slip. Behind them we know there to be other masks. Under the dresses, pants. Under the pants, flesh that is not too solid. And below? Nothing.

Isn’t it the signifiers then who lie? Who claim to point to signifieds, betraying the existence of further signifiers? And like the selfish actor, they come to curtain call, without a smile, with palms open and empty, as if to say This is all I am. Meaning, more than you can possibly imagine.

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

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

the subject

A selfish actor surveys his gesture. In it she sees a world. One in which she is she. Or he is. She pats the pelt of it. And this reference to self, in it are recalled all of his lines, in her mouth, his in hers, and so on. All of the blocking. The mise en scène, which we learn from Anthony Bourdain we can shorten to mise, in a crucial distinction from the en abîme of what we might call ‘life.’ That is, Bourdain speaks of the kitchens where he spent most of his working life, and of the chefs he worked with, from whom he learnt both his craft and his style.

He is speaking of the setup particular to each chef, why she comes in first thing, sets up, puts on her apron, unrolls her bag of knives, puts each in place (the sous was entrusted with sharpening them the night before), and prepares the working space. And abuses anyone who shifts a thing a centimetre before service. An altogether different approach from self-reference.

The selfish actor comes on stage and remembers her lines. The unselfish type, for which we don’t yet have a name (the opposite of the selfish actor is not the selfless), comes on stage and forgets them. He, or it, no matter, loses track of the mise, is unaware of the blocking. And yet, and yet, hits the mark, speaks the part, or, better, acts the part, whereas a selfish actor just performs.

We might ask, in view of a strategic approach to theatre, if not to writing on theatre, since this is our purpose, what are the different conditions of subjectivity? And why should we attach a pejorative sense to performance? Are we dividing it in half as we have language, not into speech versus writing, but preexisting, structured system and having forgotten structure? Same with acting, thinking, doing: each has another inside it, which for the sake of that inside, it forgets.

So is a selfish actor forgetful of performing? Or is it the other type, that seems the better, forgetful of it all being no more than a performance? Isn’t the very type of the selfish actor, its epitome, the one who believes her own hype? something like a competitive performer, a high-performance athlete of the stage.

After all, he needs self-belief to survive in a sometimes harsh world. This is the commercial reality. But it is not a commercial reality we need embrace in the theatre, is it? become the bitches of, give it airtime. It’s said: that depends on how many theatres you want to see close.

I think the question here is exactly of a language, and of losing the power of speech, losing that power to speak for itself and on its own terms, of theatre, but of any kind—even the kitchen where Bourdain has his mise. Being the bitch of the commercial institution, of commercial institutionalisation (the institution being the level at which power speaks, to power), means theatre stopping performing. Performing means losing self-reference. It’s a language thing, so, Bourdain has his mise.

What then is the reference of the subject, if not itself? We can directly say it is its undoing. Because in the subject, theatre, itself, herself (himself, the accommodation is to the pronominal not to the commercial reality), is a stage. It underlines the action, or the performance. This the selfish actor knows, but she does not feel the cut, or is inured to it, scar-tissue, and so on. The cut dividing, we might say, poverty from riches, or just cause from poor excuse, that plays out across its surface, because as a surface it is an opening. Each time an opening, an outside. So things, the most profound things, riches, the justice of good causes, are undone at the most superficial level of the surface.

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

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