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

subjective powers

Selection is a subjective power. As we have framed it, selection prunes and decides from the possible, choosing on the basis of eminence, of what is eminently or even preeminently given, for that which is to happen. The degree of eminence, in preeminence, is not the issue. We might say what is chosen for is that which evokes the most life, the eminently or preeminently lively, yet this should not mean that it is alive in the usual sense.

That which we bring to the surface is chosen on the basis of movement. We can say so from the ordinary sense of what is moving, however we know that being selected for entails that it is no longer moving for us but that it moves us, that it is impersonal, and that the selection too is impersonal. This is the meaning of preeminence, not only that the selected moves in the direction of an involution, by way of relations pruned down to because they possess a fraction more dimension, like fractals, but also that we can do something with the selected. And that we have elected it for this purpose. Both the seemingly inward direction of the fractal characteristic acquired by pruning and the reaching outward for that which may be grafted on, like the hairdresser to the hair puller, amount to the same thing: which is … I want to say, gardening, and sound like Peter Sellers in Being There. Then, it is the kind of garden we have invoked before, the Zen kind.

Both the movement of internal relations and those leading to external ones originate in cutting, the originary cut of the surface line, or line of the stage, where everything is inside. Why inside? because we are talking of subjective powers; then what is this power? It is that of freedom.

The next freedom is that granted by what we have ironically called obedience and, by connecting it with the figure of Oedipus, unironically given it an active role. While the previous selection was and was of the passive, and despite moving, for static genesis (thought of as abyssal, the internal outwardly cracked). On this condition is it active: that the action has no further consequence but that of movement in any possible direction on the surface or stage, even to filling it with possibility.

Of course, we can see that the surface is capable of infinite extension, this was the power gained by Oedipus at Colonus. But unlike Weber we would not put this over onto displacement, the stage’s being any place whatsoever, and so giving that which happens the power of taking place. The surface is that which is mobilised, and is not any place whatsoever, but here continues out to the bird cleaning itself on the lawn who is giving its report on the day. Or there permits the movement from a prisoncell with its inmates to a library with its books.

Oedipus as a figure of the surface can be anywhere but for any harm he intends us he cannot get to us from the surface which is his condition of action, or acting. And he is impotent by the same token that his power is unlimited; he is heroic on the same condition he is a puppet: the report of his death fills the stage with the presence of his power, which acts like a presentiment, to the defense of Athens. And a presentiment of life, since from this surface comes the possibility of mobilising all the other surfaces and other subjects on them.

This, then, is acting without consequence. Or what is commonly called acting. Or, he’s just acting.

The third power of the surface or stage is more difficult to get a handle on but may the condition of the surface and that on which the other two powers are conditional. It is the power of completion. And the other two powers presume it.

The time in front of an audience can be endless—of indeterminate duration—but it is always complete. It forms what Bergson calls a block of duration. Note, it is not a blocked duration.

It is complete—a block—or bloc—just as a report is complete, since it is called on to be completed in a single hearing. Otherwise it’s a story …? Or is this the original meaning of story? Story, like language itself, might originate in the report, in reported or indirect speech, in reporting on what is not present, so closing the circle, for its eternal return.

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

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

subjective powers

We don’t know a surface is working until there is movement, but we don’t know there is a surface until something surfaces. We only know, as such, on the surface. Perceiving movement, as it entrains us, as we follow it, is not movement, but neither does surfacing nor surface resonance constitute movement.

We know when, to enter into hyperbole, there is a successful sacrifice. So does the actor. He feels something rise to the surface, or, she feels something descend to the surface.

There must be a type between a beginning actor, in whom the sense of risk is strongest, and a selfish actor, in whom it is weakest. We should remind ourselves that what is being risked is what had been perceived as personal, even as most personal, taking on a life of its own, becoming impersonal. We should also say from the start that this danger, and concomitant sense of risk, does not belong to organised humanity.

Trust, initially, is important, but the danger here is that a beginning actor can think of this as an opportunity to spill her guts. A selfish actor takes it for granted, places trust in technique. Still, a need for it remains, in rehearsal, in the workshop or studio, in the invisible work.

For a beginning actor, she is feeling her way out onto the stage. It seems like a void she is scared of filling too much at the same time as she is scared of entirely disappearing into it. The first step out onto the void is the decision we have focused on so far. Do we withdraw trust if it is betrayed, there? when everything he does becomes so heavy, so necessary, so meaningful and deep? Significant of the depths? No, then we make recourse to nonjudgement.

She is not to be judged for the mess she has made… yet, somehow, we have to maintain the risk and not let it slide into, … slide up, we might say, attaining the heights of established technique. We know what happens: a selfish actor, or a selfish director who was once a selfish actor, mansplains. Or, of course, womansplains: she is supportive; his tendency is to condescend. Both have the same effect, and when she demonstrates as when he does we see it, we know it, we know that without anything surfacing there is no surface. The risk is either from the heights or depths. …of course, when the skilled actor demonstrates we may not even see her technique.

Neither surface nor stage rest on convention. Neither are institutions. They are not, until we get stuck.

This is what happens with a beginning actor, he sees the institution, he sees the acting surface, the space itself, studio, workshop, rehearsal room, or the stage, as an institution. His participation is already weighted. At that first step, stuck in the mud.

A selfish actor treats it as a convention, is sucked down with the conventional, that, despite it being quicksand, she sinks into, like a warm bath. She is at home on the stage, as some people are said to be at home with the conventions of social media. And does not feel she is stifled. She is a star, a little one perhaps, but guarding her little light the more fiercely for that, for that investment, from the trolls.

From the heights, like the Word, or from the depths, we see ‘it’ when it moves. The surface enabling it to move, putting it on the move, at the surface. Movement that is not resonance or involution but of gestures, of symbols…

Such symbols are not yet human. They are not yet organised into structures, systems, when they are thought to be so. Again, all is subrepresentational; all meaning, no structure, no system.

A process is invented. It is by a series of cuts we move from one thing to another and, at the same time, from one meaning to another. We can see this process in reading from the printed page or screen.

Across the surface of the page, we watch the characters take something from the depths, our interest, as they are contrived to do, and something from the heights, as they contrive to do, often with the noisome feeling we are being talked down to. The surface of reading tends to be successful, until it sinks into conventional meanings, or gets stuck in institutional ones. And the process, invented, improvised at the time, working often against structure and system, destructuring into a style of comprehension, perhaps, mobilising the characters into meanings is as little projected as the saccading movement of our eyes.

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

subjective powers

What begins at the surface, leaving no physical trace it was there, begins the surface, and ends there. We have to rely on reports that it was. And, in a way, we have to rely on reports it is, reports that do not differ in kind from those the surface receives.

If the surface does not change, is not changed, by scene changes, by quantitative measures, by subjects, how do we know it is working? Do we rely on reports for this as well? the accepted reports of convention and those that report on the conventions being broken.

Is there, we are asking, a principle for the constitution of the surface? Is it, for example, the Fourth Wall? the reality of which is phantasmatic, so that its chastity is reinstated as often as it is broken, or broken down. The sexual imagery of its penetration seems to exaggerate as much as diminish what is happening.

This diminution is in the advertised ease with which the convention is broken, it does not explain how it is reinstated. Because, there it is: the stage cleaving to itself and the action going on without consequence reaching any further than its limits. And the audience pulled in, asked to consider itself a part of the action, does the surface survive this? Does it break into surfaces, because of this threat to, Andrea Dworkin once wrote, its corporeal integrity? an integrity she considered to go as far as the ontological.

We know the time to have been prepared for when the audience is invited in, up onto, out across the surface of the stage. And it’s not as if its members do not recognise what’s going on, whether they feel it with sorrow, or reciprocate the excitement of the performers, or feel shame, as in Read’s example. We know whatever the intention behind breaking down the Fourth Wall that it comes before what actually happens and what actually happens will regardless, that it will happen with complete disregard for any preexisting intention.

The case is the same for the intention of the performer: what comes to the surface comes out and the surface receives it. Mimesis must be the odd mirror-play of recognition at seeing that it has. Yet, the performer can’t see herself. Even when playing into a mirror. And her sight is hindered by the selection that has been made beforehand, of the mask, or character, in Donnellan’s terms. Or else, if what is put out there is so in improvisation extemporised, the performer’s recognition remains mimetic, and comes with a feeling of resonance, which we might call in this instance, surface resonance.

Or the action, gesture, sound, presence, does not cause a surface to resonate. However deeply he has looked, like in the song, he feels nothing. Is there nothing there?

There is always something there. The position of the stage, its positivity, is always (of) something, a subject. And it does not need any as: the subject on the stage has no representational status. It is simply a point of view, a positive affect.

That it is a positive affect may confirm the constitution of the surface more than anything else, since it is the affect that will or will not resonate across the surface. Not, is the gesture made, the action done, the sound articulated correctly; but does it confer on itself the status of a decision? And then, does it stand up?

Stand up, neither in the sense of the human adult’s bipedal uprightness, nor in the sense of standing up to scrutiny, but rather in the sense of having been chosen for, in the further sense Spinoza gives to happy or sad: either one increasing affect and therefore affirmative or decreasing it and therefore negative. We might also note here the decision is a selection, and, for the increase of affect, one of subtraction, pruning down to the bare life, or liveliness of an internal relation. The internal relation is of mimesis, therefore it resonates with the subject and is, affirms, confirms by report, a point of view, beginning at the surface, beginning the surface.

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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.

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

subjective powers

We have identified three subjective powers, of poverty, chastity and obedience. They correspond to the three figures given for the dramas of analysis: to poverty corresponds castration; to chastity corresponds the phallus; to obedience corresponds Oedipus. Recall these dramas were narratives of violence and metamorphosis. They left no physical evidence. They tell the tale of the violent metamorphosis resulting in the subject.

It was to a monastic rule that subjects were submitted. That rule is no less productive of subjects. Subjects who don’t, who did not, pre-exist it. The rule was beside the point. Just as we might say the figures of psychoanalysis are. What mattered were the actual practices of which the rule gives only the negative image. Working, as it were, by omission.

The powers are equally practices of which either the psychoanalytical figures or the items in the monastic oath provide an image that is negative. They are positive. In this they are like the depths of inner turmoil with which we commonly associate the subject, who is wrong about most things; whose depths and repressions and involutions, inversions, perversions, condensations and displacements, projections and introjections, give rise to what are no more than phantasms. Phantasmatic representations it is the job of the structures and systems of social organisation further to suppress. But they keep bursting out!

And not only that they reproduce, as if injunctions on their existence were the most conducive environment, producing the conditions making them possible; as if the sociopolitical obstacle to their existence were the horizon of that existence. And the politically constituted socius gets the phantasms it deserves. In its institutions. In depth.

Everywhere politically instituted social arrangements are productive of forces that undo these institutions. This is the meaning of deconstruction. Institutions like texts are about the forces always already working to pick them apart from the inside.

Institutions are complexes of freedoms and repressions, which is not the same as saying you can’t keep a good symptom down. Institutions, having the depths we also associate with subjects, like them, are wrong about most things. They are fraught enterprises, facing irreconcilable difficulties, to which they bring ever more defensive strategies: they incorporate failure. Not by inoculation but by synthesis, where recognition, of their internal contradictions, is never sufficient that they change. Self-recognition is another fail, because there remains in them what is irreconcilable and contradictory.

Where does change come from? The change that is repressed, that sublimates violence, suppressing metamorphosis. It comes from the surface.

It comes at and on the surface where change had poor excuse for being, since it did not come from the deep, from the inside of analysis and what came down the genealogical tree was only its negative image. And how did it get there? It stepped out onto the void.

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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.

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thirtieth part, called “the subject XXX,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

the subject

Inclusion, like diversity, has acquired a self-righteous and humanistic inflection. It is not for the inclusion of the hitherto excluded that we advocate for the inhumanities. Neither is our advocacy, in saying the inhumanities, in the sense of disciplines, practices of art, theatre, writing, reading, language, history, political science, sociology and economics, ought to replace the humanities even for the sake of the animals and plant species humans are intent on killing off, that is, in offering their summary execution by corporations (of humans). Nor is it in acknowledgement, either to commend or celebrate, of the cruelty, the, for some, sacred cruelty, we visit on our own species. Neither is it to extend the tolerance of intolerance, in human societies for all other forms of life; nor to extol a primitivism of acceptance and respect to these. We don’t believe in that anyhow, not as they are currently read, where the terms of respect and acceptance for nonhuman forms of life and nonlife are forced into alignment with a spirituality, of the earth-mother, say, from which we all come, to which we owe… Nothing like what we owe each other! (That debt, since Nietzsche, is infinite.)

We advocate that the inhumanities replace humanities because they are badly called. They have always been concerned with non- and in-human becomings. Whether of, since we have mentioned Nietzsche, the sub-men(sch) or the super.

For these becomings—the mineral becoming that finds in paint transmissions and connections between pigments which are at base mineral; or the algorithm becoming, where we are subsumed, or sublimed, into digitial society; and the becoming algorithm of the statistical data harvested for that purpose by economics and sociology, and, to an extent, history; the marmoreal, metallic and material becomings of sculpture; the temporal becomings that are the achievement of cinema; the ex-temporal becomings of theatre which retains in the subject of the human its sacrificial element; animal becomings, or becoming vegetative, which are, as well as those of different art forms, the concerns of human sciences in a cover-all evolutionary becoming … for these becomings—and these are not matters of inclusion, for the inclusion of diversity, because they exit generation, race, or, in German, Geschlecht. For these becomings some-where is needed.

Is matter (it makes me ask this very strange question) another word for outside? What matters being both outside the metaphysical impression of the symbolic and (because) outside the purview of the (human) spirit, spirituality. The materialism of Marx, for instance, which offered a distinctive outside.

We asked after words in the air and their vibratory meanings. Meanings they ought to lack, ought to in the moral structure common to humans. Meanings possessed by all and every instance of what vibrates in the air. That would be a becoming-material that gets at, materialises, reifies, the evolutionary spirit. Spirit in its evolutionary origin being exactly those meanings. And still, thereas, inspiring poets. It would also entail the word becoming inhuman.

We found life in the stone unfolding on the stage in fractals. So underscored. Even in a black theatre the darkness of an empty stage we said had this vertigo-inducing en abîme. The en abîme of the mimima of mise. An auto-individualising …

I want to say automaton. For that it would be a spiritual automaton of the material belonging to the stage that is fractally expressed. So from the smallest gesture—a world. The smallest inhuman gesture. Haven’t all the human beings exited? Aren’t we there—in a black theatre, in the darkness of an empty stage—contemplating ourselves? But for this abyssal substance some-where is needed that does not precede it, that it makes, so that as a substance it is badly called, because it is not, except in the sense of under-standing. The self-supporting origins of life-non-life, its material sustenance: with nothing going on ‘outside’ it.

The necessary fifth element is void for it to grow. And with void we have identified the stage, as both line underscoring and surface. Note that it is a surface that does not support.

For this source of life that does not surface but begins at the surface and with the surface another kind of where is needed. This where is where fractals grow. It is what they make not what they need (like void). And we can see immediately it is the surface, but what is happening at the surface? An opening out and a putting in: for each new petal put in, new branch, fold or frond, space opens, … and there is always space. It’s not a matter of the new bit halving or dividing and making room for itself on the inside.

In this it is like memory. And memory shows us there is matter in us. Matter being (another word for) outside.

The appearance of what’s new already is as larger than what was before. It doesn’t go outside and doesn’t press out from inside to make space for itself—as is held in evolutionary terms—because the space it takes up was not there before it was. It exits rather than emanates, or expresses itself, from what was included. And it does not produce diversity. And it does not repeat or differ.

Deleuze calls this static genesis. It’s our feeling that this happens outside. Not in a some-where that is a place. Yes, in a direction of time but not for being itself a form or type of time. So it’s better to say static genesis—or the fractal growth—or the opening up of the putting in—happens from outside. It also goes to outside.

Outside is a direction rather than a place or a form or type of time. Strictly speaking, it is the space time makes. The creation of space from time makes it sound as if it is already full when it is in the gaps, and goes to the creation of what does not exist. Yet. What exists because it exits. So this perhaps gives a better understanding of what is meant by inhumanity.

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

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

the subject

The surface receives the gesture. On which side sits the subject? With gesture, or with reception? And…

Is it definite, this action? Is it possible to slow down the selfish actor, to find this moment that breaks every habit? I want to say it is more violent than definite, but this is contradicted by the physical evidence, of which there is none. And this is what’s wrong with asking for it to be marked, with asking the selfish actor to go back to the beginning. She will forget entirely the stage, and make the most natural movement: and there will be no difference between gestures. Mark it? How?

It seems already to be marked. Not physically. That’s obvious. Not symbolically: the addition of any symbol, sign, would signal the gesture, would be it. So it would not take place. All we have is the index.

The selfish actor says as much. He says, What? This? … you want me to believe in the smallest… one of these… is a world? Huh?

…but it is what happens when an actor reaches the line, takes a step, makes a sound… And it is not taken away when the stage is empty. Can we compare it to the brain? to internal experience?

What index do we have to thought? To think there is one gives a vertiginous feeling. We are like the selfish actor, unable, for some reason, to find the beginning; but for what reason?

Now, we have the endocrinal revolution. Can talk to the facts of emissions of signal chemicals, but to talk this way places these outside, outside the subjective nonfacts of internal experience? The physical causation cannot account for the metaphysical impression.

Then there’s the barely scientific analysis of psychology that wants to find footing using behaviour as index, or using the social activity of neurons as index, their communication, their inner gestures and almost spontaneous formations, worlds. The dramas of psychoanalysis passing from favour. In these dramas however we do find violence and narratives of metamorphosis, but they too are contradicted by the physical evidence, of which there is none. None for castration. None for Oedipus. None for the phallus, as a signifier occluding its presence, by a process of signification. Removing from the beginning the evidence. Some of the lies told about me are untrue, as Geoffrey Palmer said, some time in the 90s.

The opposite of the selfish actor is the beginning actor. A beginning actor is frightened by the seemingly symbolic function of the stage. It would be great if the beginning writer were too, afraid that in the first word lay coiled up all of his, all of her, future failure. While we are inured to thought.

The selfish thinker being the precise double of the selfish actor. So that what if thought does not actually occur? And can we throw that back at the surface that receives the gesture?

Can we say, sometimes neither the stage nor acting occur? The surface does not appear. The line does not divide. And… it’s not that the gesture is impotent, or sterile, or say in some other way non-virile. These are the conditions precisely for the surface to receive the gesture.

In the gesture is already marked the lack of consequence. The stage’s triple oath is like the monastic: poverty, chastity and obedience. Might we unpack that last, and say obedience to the beginning?

No physical trace is left, neither by thought, nor by the stage or acting. Poverty has its correlate in the smallest gesture, the pruning of the subject to its bare fractal life. Chastity is the cleaving of the stage to itself, its complete powerlessness, and its failure even to be a surface of registration for the gesture it receives, which summons it. Obedience has its correlate in the necessity we can observe, since it is this observance, for the actor every time and at each instant to be beginning. So the gesture with the subject its centre of reception is always new.

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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