theatrum philosophicum

Minus Theatre Research Group’s first public performance: 7 pm Friday June 13 2014 info@minustheatre.com

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profit and loss: Bruce Barber & Milo Moiré

Bruce Barber in his lecture yesterday, given as part of the Action and Delay conference hosted by AUT, raised for me the question – what is meant by performance in the ‘art world’, and in the institution in which I currently find myself? Why, indeed, would I want to align myself with it, if, as Bruce suggested, after Gregory Sholette, the vast pyramidal-base-sized majority of artists, those engaged in performance, he seemed to intimate, preeminently, are destined to become the ‘dark matter’, their efforts and their art invisible, that holds the Ponzi scheme together and keeps it from flying apart? While a few, as few as there are Russian oligarchs, profit from the existence of an art market, succeeding as artists, at the rarefied tip of the pyramid, they would hurtle off into non-existence without the infrastructural support of curators and managers, middle-men, critics, publications, research interest, courses and conferences that the vast and overwhelming mass of those who will never accede to such heights – or such success, failing inevitably – enables, the existence of which it feeds and feeds on, as an underwater milieu and vast sea-bottom.

What is at stake in ‘performance practice’ as used in this milieu? It seems on the face of it that performance practice is the last place to think about and reflect on performance or think through what it is. Even the documentation has a tendency to collapse into or onto the practice. Whatever thinking goes in to the practice occurs before the outcome which is generically the performance itself.

My understanding of a practice is however exactly the thinking through, about and reflection on the methods, beliefs and ideas that are brought to it, to itself think, and reflect on itself. The question, ‘how does performance think?’ seems to arise less in the milieu of performance than in theatre. The difference being that the performer thinks in theatre through the practice of performance – which is what is meant by technique, acting technique. While the performance artist expresses herself in acting, in an action, intervention, interaction, all the inter-s, she does not interrogate the practice except in research or theory – the technical practice being relegated to a position outside the performance.

The performance artist does not generally have the technical means to think in performance. The performance is an outcome of thought.

How the theatre actor thinks is in the technique of making transitions between states of being in performance, during performance. This insight is due to Esa Kirkkopelto.

Milo Moiré’s performance, PlopEgg #1, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKFZOIv5sS0 and at her website http://www.milomoire.com/ has the theatrical components of a technical mise-en-scène – the trestles and scaffold platforms, the canvas support for the finished Rorschach – and the strangley improvised modesty curtain behind which the performer inserts paint-filled eggs into her vagina. She has a stage-manager manoeuvre the latter at several intervals allowing her to refill. But the performance as performance according to the art-world milieu and the tenets of its self-understanding is not and could not be acted – there is only one state of being in the performance, between which the transitions are of low interest in technical terms: between Milo in performance and Milo preparing, backstage, behind the modesty curtain; between Milo pushing out eggs and Milo taking care of the business – albeit nude – of rolling and folding the paint squibs in a canvas. The canvas, it might be said, folds into the performance as its documentation. But the performance is the one repeatable action or operation of plopping eggs.

Where in this performance would there be room to think? As Bruce Barber pointed out, with the Paypal price for the uncensored version of the video at 4.99 Euros and the YouTube views at over 4 million, the thought is, how much money could Milo Moiré potentially make? The success or failure of this performance as performance rests on its reproducibility and functional iterability (this is PlopEgg #1) and statistical and quantitive considerations.

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theatre stages place ////\\\\ cinema projects time >>><<< cinematic time & theatrical place

Il était hostile

aux amphitéâtres

dont il disait

qu’ils coupaient

tout échange.

from here

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Herbert Blau 1926 – 2013

– back dustcover, The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto, Herbert Blau

I had avoided looking but my friend Herb is dead.

…not a bad write-up, here in the New York Times, but hardly covering his academic career and many polemical interventions – the contribution to critique and scholarship of:

The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto. New York: Macmillan, 1964; rpt. Collier, 1965.

Blooded Thought: Occasions of Theater. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982.

Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.

The Eye of Prey: Subversions of the Postmodern. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

The Audience. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

To All Appearances: Ideology and Performance. London/New York: Routledge,1992.

Nothing in Itself: Complexions of Fashion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Sails of the Herring Fleet: Essays on Beckett. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater, 1976-2000. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002

Reality Principles: From the Absurd to the Virtual. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011.

As If: An Autobiography, Volume 1. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011.

Programming Theater History: The Actor’s Workshop of San Francisco. New York: Routledge, 2013.

We began a correspondence in 2000. I’d read his Blooded Thought and The Eye of Prey and wrote him – subject line “Importunate Antipodean” – early one morning, before I rolled up the door at Brazil and began pulling coffee. An additional pretext was my response to Rt. Hon. Helen Clark’s call for submissions on cultural policy: a long letter to Helen … to which neither she nor her office, nor anyone I sent it to, replied. I attached it. Herbert Blau wrote back within 24 hours. The early years are lost on the hard-drive of the old Brazil PC but I remember he said that if our Prime Minister understood anything of what I’d written, we were doing a lot better than they in the US – in election year, the one ‘stolen’: Bush vs. Gore.

I was generally late writing to him to wish him a happy new year or happy birthday. In keeping, then, that I discover late he died on May 3, his 87th birthday. My last message from him arrived on April 17. I feel too sad to publish it here and it hardly represents the brilliance and bellicose intelligence of my friend. Only the generosity of his “run-on life” is there. Perhaps one day I will collect the correspondence such that I have still in my possession and present it together.

One story I recall: he was in Berlin, seeing Sasha Waltz’s Körper. After the show he was invited backstage to meet the dancers. One of them, he wrote to me, was also from New Zealand. Oh, he said to her, I only know one other person from there, Simon Taylor. Simon! replied Lisa, He’s a friend of mine.

Körper by Sasha Waltz – Trailer from Stephan Talneau on Vimeo.

 

Herb ended his final email: Really, all best, even if this ends with me,

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“Does this not promise a safer world, protected not only from bad actors attempting to do dangerous things, but from bad actors developing dangerous thoughts?”

I link to George Dyson

on NSA’s

“spectacular intelligence”

via Alan Turing

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seeing Barney’s wonderful one-man show …Him last night …

…made me want to write a play again. Is this wrong?

I get the feeling something is being left unsaid.

And listening to This Mortal Coil today (“Holocaust”) gave me an inkling of what it is,

and where there is space in the market.

Send me ideas, donations, commissions.

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empathetic machinism – to soft_skinned_space

Antonio Damasio (Looking for Spinoza) shows, to simplify, the material neuronal causes of such feelings as empathy in the brain. Catherine Malabou goes further. She invents in The New Wounded, self-consciously, the philosophical concept of “cerebrality” to provide an aetiology for psychic events. She cites the argument of Bruno Bettelheim implying a shared causality of psychological symptoms in autists and mussulmen – the 1000 yard stare and – the indifference.

From Malabou’s preamble: “this book is a belated reaction to the ordeal of depersonalisation to which my grandmother was subjected as Alzheimer’s disease operated upon her. I say “operated” because it seemed to me that my grandmother, or, at least, the new and ultimate version of her, was the work of the disease, its opus, its own sculpture. Indeed, this was not a diminished person in front of me, the same woman weaker than she used to be, lessened, spoiled. No, this was a stranger who didn’t recognise me, who didn’t recognise herself because she had undoubtedly never met her before.”

And: “I was perfectly aware – along with everyone who must endure the same spectacle in their own lives – that this absence, this disaffection, this strangeness to oneself were, without any possible doubt, the paradoxical signs of profound pain. Later, I learned that Alzheimer’s disease is a cerebral pathology. Could it be that the brain suffers? Could it be that this suffering manifests itself in the form of indifference to suffering? In the form of the inability to experience suffering as one’s own? Could it be that there is a type of suffering that creates a new identity, the unknown identity of an unknown person who suffers? Could it be that cerebral suffering is precisely such suffering?”

I’d like to ask the opposite: if it could be that an as yet for us unknown person, an identity in the process of creation, can be equal to cerebral suffering, in the sense in which Deleuze issues the Stoic challenge of being equal to the wound which afflicts us? or in other words, acting?

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“among those who care about such matters”

Matthew Stewart’s Leibniz epitomises the reactive attitude towards our modernity, a modernity represented by Spinoza, in his compelling narrative. Something has been subtracted from Leibniz’s philosophy launching it as an untotalizable multiplicity. In this regard, he resembles Badiou reacting always to the immanence of Deleuze, even when Deleuze is not there.

I came away with these questions: What does this book do to the relationship of Deleuze to Leibniz – in his book, The Fold? Is Deleuze trying therein to rehabilitate Leibniz? Hallucinating his consistency with a philosophy of immanence? And then what does this problematisation make of Badiou’s essay on Deleuze’s The Fold? It is a piece both recriminatory for a failure not present in Deleuze’s work on Leibniz and self-incriminating in that regard as well as reactive to Deleuze’s rejection of Badiou because of his insistence on numerical multiplicity.

Is Object-Oriented Ontology a new monadology?

Is the view of science we’ve inherited from the Natural Philosopher’s a form of mysticism?

Is the Enlightenment, therefore, missing its radicals? Have they been suppressed in historical accounts?

Matthew Stewart:

In the histories of philosophy that dominate the trade, it was Immanuel Kant who sealed the fate of the two greatest philosophers of the seventeenth century. In his effort to tame philosophy into a discipline suitable for the modern academy, Kant trained his attention on the methods whereby philosophers purported to justify their claims to knowledge. He divided his immediate predecessors into two groups: the empiricists, who allegedly relied on sense experience to base their claims to knowledge, and the rationalists, who were said to derive their truths from pure reason. According to Kant’s peculiar scheme, Leibniz and Spinoza wound up playing on the same side of history. Together with Descartes – the man Leibniz loathed and Spinoza regarded as seriously confused – they became the three rationalists. Leading the empiricist opposition was John Locke – the same whom Leibniz regarded as a wobbly crypto-Spinozist. He was joined by the Irish philosopher George Berkeley, whose view that physical objects are only ideas in the head strikes most readers as distinctly unempirical, and David Hume, whose ideas about the mind and causality look remarkably like those of Spinoza.

Hegel, who very much liked to see history move along in groups of three, strongly championed Kant’s version of events; and the British, who were pleased to see a trio of their greatest philosophers of the period lined up against three continential musketeers, were more than happy to go along with the story, too. As a result, in philosophy classses to the present, where irony tends to be a scarce commodity in any case, Spinoza and the man who dedicated his life to expunging Spinoza’s name from the world’s memory are presented as happy partners on the same side of a debate about the epistemological foundations of academic philosophy.

– Matthew Stewart,The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World, W.W. Norton & Co., London, 2006, pp. 309-310

If Spinoza was the first great thinker of the modern era, then perhaps Leibniz should count as its first human being.

– Ibid., p. 312

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a letter to empyre soft_skinned_space on the subject of screens added here for interest even if leaving much unsaid

My father went to the cinema every Saturday where he saw the newsreels showing the liberation of the camps. The two things were always linked in his reminiscence:  the joy of the screen and its stars and ‘having to see’ what ‘had to be seen.’ ‘Had to be’ because the postlogue usually went, You didn’t, did you? to my mother, as if she’d been both deprived enjoyment and spared knowledge.

No. She hadn’t seen – and therefore didn’t ‘know’ – since her parents wouldn’t let her go to the cinema. It wasn’t until she had boyfriends who would take her that she went to movies by which time the newsreels had given way to shorts, even cartoons, before the main feature.

My father was prepared you might say by this double exposure to the screen for a life in the theatre. But his unpublished novels have a cinematic quality.

The theatre seriously in the 1970s took up the problem or crisis of representation associated with Adorno’s name as with Celan’s. The fact theatre was not by then a popular medium but on its way to being museumised made it a place where it was sometimes possible to ask difficult questions. Sometimes, that is, when its practitioners were not already in complicity with the rising economic rationale.

Cinema seems to have come late to such a tragic recognition of the limits of representation at which complicity becomes general, for example in Michael Haneke’s Caché. A different complicity than that by which artists would join forces with capitalism. But equal, in so far as there is a lessening of the power to choose. However, in the case of seeing newsreels of the liberation of Auschwitz it is involuntary, and not thereafter innocent, and in the case of accepting the inevitability of the economic rationalisation of every facet of life and society, it is voluntary, and therefore not innocent.

Compulsory viewing was a moral category and the screen had the physical authority to insist that its viewers not turn their heads away. Its resources possibly exhausted, long since having reached peak Plato, still it is worthwhile in this regard recalling the cave. In its darkness men, women, children are captivated by the shadows projected on the cave wall of a procession of real objects and events. Held captive, they can neither turn away nor see over the barrier below which reality parades, firelight behind it casting its image as the only visible reality. Except for the philosopher who breaks out.

First he sees the whole theatrical or cinematographic set-up, the cave, the bound men, women, children, the barrier, the firelight and the actual things and events in motion before it. But this epiphany is insufficient for him to free the others. So he exits the cave. And finds out where everything has come from, which so far only firelight has set flickering in shadows up the cave wall, which so far has appeared only in insubstantial series. This is not yet enough to make him a hero rescuer, a freedom fighter and go back; he returns but is somehow trapped in his knowledge and lessened by it.

He chooses another medium, in other words, prepared by this double exposure to the screen. Nevertheless, his dialogues have this quality of theatrical or cinematic presentation.

Compulsory viewing is now an aesthetic contribution. Seeing Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life is compulsory. Nobody wants to (be seen to) force anybody to see anything real even if (unseen) they try it on: the double articulation of sharism and advertising leads to a voluntary screenism. Which, being voluntary, is not innocent.

A general break is advocated for sometimes militated for from being held captive to totalitarian modernity. The spectacle, that is, of politics.

The multiplication of screens has passed a critical threshold but not one of ubiquity, rather a ubiquitous or immanent atomic threshold. Since this multiplication has proceeded in two directions: miniaturisation and universal mobility.

Screens have sunk into the skin of our modernity. Our post-atomic modernity. And behind this skin, a light. Plath’s lampshade or a general state of illumination behind the realm of husks and shells, Qlipphoth. But also within the space of this skin – perforations.

A general screenism perforates reality which porosity acts as a filter stretched across the world, described by Leibniz. And where these mediatic pores combine screens with cameras the sum effect of universal visibility is in fact invisibility. A general and generalisable status quo.

It is no coincidence that schools do not bar pupils from watching they attempt to ban touching. [ref] Screens touch. They ‘bump.’ A euphemism for fucking.

Screens are in the process of becoming skins. Whether by transplant, substitution or extension into new powers of affecting and being affected is a good question. 

I look forward to the tactility of screens, the new haptic qualities, where research continues, beyond the general atomism of the screen and its presentation of modernity, post-screen… [link]

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take affirmative action against identity politics

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