for his depiction of clouds, blurred landscapes and the fuzzying of bodily borders, Sfumato’s production of incomplete and uncertain surfaces and borders would create a pulse ‘hovering between the seen and the unseen’ (Vasari in Gombrich 1993: 185), and thereby disturbing the legibility of spatial and corporeal identities. 19 Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503 20 Michelangelo, Awakening Captive, c1516 In Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503–6), as in Seurat’s Pointillism, sfumato ‘cut[s] down the information on the canvas and thereby stimulates[…] the mechanism of projection’ (Gombrich 1993: 185).
Contemporaneous with Da Vinci, Michelangelo produced a series of unfinished sculptures that have been referred to as non-finito.
Michelangelo’s non-finito, like Da Vinci’s sfumato, dissolves the borders between body and environment and proposes a sculptural presence that is quasi-immersed in the spectator’s own spatiality.
Space and body gnaw on one another, inviting the viewer into their dialogic imprecision: ‘sfumato [contained] the seeds of an immersive countertradition in opposition to the geometricised optics of point perspective’ (Nechvatal 1999: 222).
This relation is propelled by how sfumato, like non-finito, evokes kinesis, movement and the ‘rapid actions of figures’ (Da Vinci in Warner 2006: 110).
However, this evocation is not hermeneutically closed, for the movement elaborated by the image may be understood in different ways.
Thus the viewer, as E.
Gombrich (1993) argues, is required to undertake a mechanism of projection: a process 60 of ‘making and matching [, of] errors and trials’ (Gombrich 1993: 24), ‘making guesses and modifying them’ (Gombrich 1993: 231), that constitutes a relational cognition Gombrich calls the ‘beholder’s share’ (Gombrich 1993: 154).
Sfumato’s emulation of hazy phenomena recovers sensory stimuli’s ‘infinite ambiguity’ (Gombrich in Noë 2004: 163) and, as such, requires that we develop an ‘understand[ing of] what one does not see’ (Barbaro in Gombrich 1993: 186): ‘look at walls splashed with a number of stains or stones of various mixed colours.
If you have to invent some scene, you can see there resemblances to a number of landscapes […] and an infinite number of things’ (Da Vinci in Warner 2006: 110).
Thus the viewer’s experience of sfumato’s cognitive imprecision and polysemiosis is in itself prefaced by the artist’s speculative process of creation: ‘Leonardo recommended staring at stains and clouds to stimulate the mind’ (Warner 2006: 125) in a similar way to how Michelangelo peered through the raw chunk of stone and perceived a figure out of the mineral’s own material structure.
And although Carnivalesque practices were seemingly to disappear for two centuries, their heritage of cognitive imprecision would last in processual strategies just as the phenomena of clouds and rocks would continue to be regarded as structures of visual imprecision within what Marjorie Hope Nicolson calls ‘the development of the aesthetics of the infinite’ (1997).
Focusing on how English poetry denoted various understandings of cognition and subjectivity by means of depicting the human approach to, relation with and conception of the natural landscape, Nicolson’s study traces between the seventeenth and nineteenth century the emergence of a dissonant subjectivity in the face of, and projected onto, the particular image of the mountain.
Whereas the seventeenth century attributed to the mountain the non-divine and non-human allegories – what Nicolson names ‘Mountain Gloom’ – of threatening monstrosity, ‘shapelessness and confusion’ (Nicolson 1997: 279), the eighteenth century developed an observational engagement with mountains in which human bodies confidently approached mountains through a direct, scientific and optical possessiveness: ‘Mountain Glory’.
This confidence in visually capturing natural ‘polymorphousness’ (Warner 2006: 111) became more conspicuously advanced as a speculative process of creation by Alexander Cozens’ ‘New Method’ of picturing landscapes ‘by blotting and crumpling the paper beforehand’ (Warner 2006: 104).
Cozens ‘encouraged his students to follow chance’ within the ‘adventitious camouflage mottling of light and shade’ (Warner 2006: 113).
This too, then, is an anticipation of the return of anti-perspectival 61 structures of spatiality in the nineteenth century when, alongside the revival of carnivalesque cultures, Nicolson suggests that gloom and glory merge and the landscape is apprehended as the shapeless and confused corners of the human mind.
As ‘the caves that were Ruins of Nature to the eighteenth-century poets have […] become symbols of secret places in the soul of man’ (Nicolson 1997: 379), ‘ruins [and] asymmetry’ became understood as part of a human subjectivity that follows the ‘irregularities of mountains and clouds’ (Nicolson 1997: 336). 21 Alexander Cozens, 1759 Though such cognitive dissonance in the human subject was embraced and celebrated by some, it was predominantly depreciated and even pathologized.
Thus, for instance, Justinus Koerner’s drawings of smudges and blots in the 1850s offered a ‘practice [of] stains and marks […] fold[ed] to produce a symmetrical image [and] took a psychological turn in Romantic literary circles in Germany’ (Warner 2006: 309) as Romantics sought to comprehend ‘clouds [as] extensions of the mind’s vagaries’ (Warner 2006: 110) in parallel with ‘numerous techniques of unravelling nature’s riddles and reconstituting its secret patterns to become intelligible’ (Warner 2006: 310).
Though ‘Koerner suffered from very poor eyesight, so this was his way of transforming incapacitating blurs into aesthetic “creatures of chance”’ (Warner 2006: 309), his drawings were subsequently recycled by psychologist Hermann Rorschach in 1921 by 62 way of producing a psychological test out of random inkblots, the readings of which were deemed to provide ‘a form of psychological illumination’ (Warner 2006: 310): ‘the Rorschach test entails precisely finding meanings where there is nothing represented, only abstract and random symmetries [to] result [in] the diagnosis of character’ (Warner 2006: 310).
While the streamlining of visual imprecision’s plurality of suggestive readings towards one singular defining interpretation has proven inconsistent in psychological terms, and its ‘adherents are losing ground and have recently come under scrutiny and serious criticism’ (Warner 2006: 311), such dismissal had already been articulated by practitioners who valued the suggestiveness of imprecise imagery such as Fuller, Seurat, Gaudí, Craig and the Avant-Gardes. 22 Hermann Rorschach, Psychodiagnostik 1921 Returning to Edward Gordon Craig’s scenographic practice we may now observe the Screens as Carnivalesque structures with fragmentary yet cohesive combinations and arrangements of infinite landscape-like structures.
Their invention results from various speculative processes of creation of which the most significant may be a series of speculative designs for Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
Begun in 1900 and developed throughout his life, Craig’s Passion shifted from ruins, asymmetry and ‘a structure of dark scaffold poles’ (Craig 1972: 148) to a cathedral environment taken from the twelfth-century Italian church of St Nicolao.
Though the monolithic frontal — 198 encounter conditioned by the impossibility, perceptually, physically, psychologically or subjectively, of one being able to grasp an other.
Encounter thus relies on the overlapping of that which does not constitute the singularity of the self from all agents involved in the encounter.
Endlessly looped, Paradiso’s event can be understood as a pulse that seeks, through repetition, to produce new habits in oneself as in others.
It is an attempt at consolidating a new relational domain of encounter which differs from, and opposes, the pressing everyday forces of identification and comprehension.
The reiteration of a reciprocal domain of becoming imperceptible as a matter of coming together may be said to implicate audiences in an ‘intima[cy] that is radically Other [and that] Lacan expresses with a single word “extimacy” [:] within the circle of the subject one discovers that what is the most intimate of its intimacy is the extimacy of the Other [, this] Other who, more intimate than my intimacy, stirs me’ (Rapaport 1994: 257).
While we needed in an earlier chapter to reconsider intimacy, here we now need to draw on Lacan to take further our thinking, by encountering ‘extimacy’.
Extimacy is an ‘experience of rupture, between perception and consciousness, in that nontemporal locus [– that opens] another locality, another space, another scene’ (Lacan 1981: 56) which, to Lacan, was part of the unviability of the split subject, always sutured.
Like the ‘optical vertigo’ of an ‘ego [who] has lost control of the organ of sight’, which Lacanian theory refers to as ‘scotoma’ (Foster 2004: 293), the possibility of a decentered and incomplete subjectivity comprising of the unknowable presence of an outside otherness or ‘méconnaissance’ (Lacan in Fielding 1999: 197) was both the basis of subjective development and not an achievable state of subjectivity.
Others have moved on from here, however, to re-model Lacanian theory so as to define and establish the conception of a viable ontology that repudiates ‘a psychism supposedly located in a bipartition between interior and exterior’ (Miller in Belau 2002: 153): [t]he remainder produced by subjectivation […] is neither exterior nor interior, but not somewhere else either.
It is the point of exteriority in the very kernel of interiority, the point where the innermost touches the outermost, where materiality is the most intimate.
It is around this intimate external kernel that subjectivity is constituted (Dolar in Belau 2002: 152).
While ‘suturing […] paradoxically elicits experiences of a decentered and detotalized consciousness’ (Rapaport 1994: 290), a ‘pleasure or jouissance that is alien to the subject’ and ‘utterly fails to define or circumscribe [any] subjecthood’ (Rapaport 1994: 258) can be experienced and lived; and ‘extimacy [can formulate the livable] limits constituting beings as others, the limits of alterity within’ (Egginton 2006: 79). 199 By hybridizing Lacanian theory with a phenomenological ‘understanding of corporeal intersubjectivity’ (Fielding 1999: 196), the concept of extimacy becomes the springboard for deploying another model of subjectivity.
In this model, ‘to “live” a thing is not to coincide with it, nor fully to embrace it in thought’ (Merleau-Ponty in Vasseleu 1998: 42): for if these experiences never exactly overlap, if there is always a ‘shift’, a ‘spread’, between them, [this] is not an ontological void, a non-being [but the site of the] joints where the multiple entries of the world cross [, where] I hear myself both from within and from without (Merleau Ponty 1968: 148).
The shift from one model to another may be summarized thus: [W]hereas Lacan sees the original schism or alienation in our relations with others first generated by the mirror stage as impossible to overcome, Merleau-Ponty, while agreeing that the body is never fully united […] does not intuit this alienation to be insurmountable [, it] can be overcome through establishing relations with the other […] once the other’s gaze has fixed the subject as an object, robbed her of being, and she in turn has posited the other as object (Fielding 1999: 195).
As a ‘mutation in our most intimate relational system’ (Bersani & Phillips 2008: 76), extimacy is ‘an intimacy with a process of becoming, not with a person’ (Bersani & Phillips 2008: 114): the singularity of [a] nomadic, floating subjectivity [that] rests on the spatiotemporal coordinates that make it possible […] to coincide with nothing more than the degrees, levels, expansion and extension of the head-on rush of the ‘outside’ inwards (Braidotti 1994: 145).
The embodied dimension of such subjectivity lies in an open-ended intentionality to intend nothing but the undoing of one’s individual self.
It is a type of ‘self-divestiture […] rethought in terms of a certain form of self-expansiveness’ (Bersani & Phillips 2008: 56) through a mode of surface contact with things and substances, with a world, that engenders and induces transformations and intensifications [in terms of] labyrinthine maps of voluptuous pleasures and intensities [that] shake up the body’s forms and sensations (Grosz 1995: 204).
The philosophical, and indeed specifically ethical, understanding of the extimate being, its relation to others and the human collective (or society) it signals can be taken one step further, and then concluded, by returning to an account of my own practice and its collaborative elaboration.
In order to do so, however, I shall initially 200 conduct the conceptual argumentation by means of the observation and analysis of another’s work.
Echoing my own practical and convoluted process of inquiry into the gloom, João Fiadeiro’s performances articulate exemplary enactments of a self-divested individual or ‘impersonal narcissism’ (Bersani & Phillips 2008: 56) that is a mode of ‘contact that apprehends and holds onto nothing’ (Lingis 1994: 222). 109 João Fiadeiro, I Am Here, 2003 After his seminal Self(ish)-Portrait (1995) and I am sitting in a room different from where you are in now (1997), Fiadeiro’s third solo performance, I Am Here (2003) pursues his engagement with a domain of encounter that is founded on his physical presence being spliced within the phenomenon of the black-out.
This is the mechanism for operating his and our deindividuation, conceived as a ‘sustainable model of an affective, depersonalized, highly receptive subject which quite simply is not one, not 201 there, not that (Braidotti 1994: 145).
This example from Fiadeiro’s work will in its turn be used to model and support the development of a collaborative stage in my practice, a stage that constitutes its end point as a proto-processual inquiry.
Located in a black box, I Am Here unfolds through a syntactic and generative use of a cyclorama, projections, lighting and black-outs.
The first half of the piece opens with four fluorescent tubes revealing a large cyclorama positioned diagonally across the stage, its two ends suspended vertically and its middle section laid against the floor, to suggest a soft enclosure, a room, another container.
At the centre of the cyclorama, Fiadeiro stands up still, dressed in black, with his shadow cast upon the cycloramic floor.
All are suddenly plunged in darkness and then the silence is broken: blinded, the audience hears energetic breathing and the textural sounds of something rubbing against a surface.
Light goes up and reveals the same space, with Fiadeiro standing in the same location and position.
Yet his shadow is now partly destroyed (dark matter has dispersed beyond the shadow’s outline), and the vertically suspended far end of the cyclorama is imprinted with a still and dark image of Fiadeiro’s body in movement.
Fiadeiro breaks his stillness and walks to the image: takes a pen, draws the outline of his two-dimensional and oblique replica and walks back to his initial position.
During this time, although Fiadeiro’s shadow followed him as one would expect, his dark shadow on the floor remains the same and we thus understand that it is made of a black powder which was deposited exactly according to Fiadeiro’s real shadow. (It must be noted that the visual illustrations presented here do not show actual moments of the work, but alterations made by Fiadeiro for the purpose of documentation.
In other words, the artist has chosen deceptively to re-present the work by way of still images of new moments derived from the show.
I shall return to this mis-re-presentation after describing the piece.
For now it is important to mention this since the following textual description of the work will not entirely match the images alongside it.) Returned to the position from which the shadow is drawn, Fiadeiro stands still again.
Another black-out occurs, and again we hear staccato breathing and surfaces being rubbed against.
The light goes up and this time Fiadeiro is standing up, still, in a new location on the cycloramic floor.
His broken shadow is still there, now even more dispersed.
On the vertical section of the cyclorama where his double had appeared remains only the black outline of that double.
Now another still image of Fiadeiro performing a different movement is projected partly over the outline.
He walks again to 202 this image, takes a pen and draws the projection’s outline, thereby creating a second outline that overlaps and breaks the first one.
We understand then that it is his movements, performed in darkness, which have broken the powdered shadow and been captured by an infrared camera connected to a projector that immediately casts a still moment onto the cycloramic screen.
He walks back to his initial position.
Another black-out occurs and the same routine continues.
The artificial shadow on the floor progressively loses all form while the reiteration of projected still images of Fiadeiro moving accumulates more and more outlines on the vertical cyclorama, making it less and less possible to determine bodily shapes out of the chiasmus of lines.
Because the most dynamic physicality takes place during each black-out, this section of the performance can be understood as a process of kinetic habituation to darkness.
On the other hand, juxtaposed with these moments where the body’s mobility is affected by darkness, are moments where the body’s activity, under light, disperses the dark matter on the floor and thus affects darkness.
Darkness may thus be seen to function as a point of reciprocal interaction and affect between the body and space.
Indeed, even in the black-outs, space can be felt as the sounds that allow us to decipher the body’s dynamic movements also incorporate the sounds of the cyclorama’s texture on the floor.
However, these sounds alone make it impossible to know what body parts are coming into contact with the floor and how.
Thus, the embodiment of darkness constitutes an ‘opening […] out to possible encounters with the “outside”’ (Braidotti 1994: 145) which are predominantly tactile and uncertain – where ‘touching [then is] a way of actualizing or taking up a position without reference to any schema’ (Vasseleu 1998: 115) – thereby ‘necessarily [provoking] improvisational elements that are context-specific’ (Hayles 1999: 200).
These uncertain encounters are paradoxically redoubled, both in the projected stills, seen as attempts to freeze and decipher, and in the disordering of the black powder.
Whilst on one hand the absence of light and the dark powder evolve as a growing formlessness, Fiadeiro’s physical relation to the projected stills, on the other hand, is not dynamic but predicated instead upon writing and outlining forms.
In this way the body can be said to be at the starting point of the polyphonic process, split between its normative agency and new bodily potentials lying outside of such agency.
The body discovers its otherness not only in the material imprecision of darkness but also within its normative agency as the outlines are multiplied towards becoming formless.
Having established the tactility and formlessness of frictions both with the 203 cyclorama and with the edges of a body – which multiply, overlap and undo that body – Fiadeiro then moves on to cut the cyclorama loose at its bottom end.
He leaves behind its vertical section saturated with the outlines of the projections suspended in the air.
Then he turns to the horizontal, floor, section of the cyclorama and lifts up its newly cut side, raising it up vertically to bring all the black powder down to its middle.
He folds the vertical half over the horizontal half, reducing the cycloramic floor surface by half.
He stands up, still, in the middle of this folded section and the environmental lighting reduces to illuminate only the folded cycloramic floor (and Fiadiero within it).
He breaks out of stillness to fold the cycloramic floor delicately in two, halving its surface again, and stands upright and still in the middle of it.
The light again slowly reduces to cover the newly reduced surface of the cycloramic floor (and Fiadiero within it).
As he continues to fold the cyclorama in halves, he slowly drifts stage left while the lighting reduces further and further to contain the light only within the space determined by the cycloramic floor and inhabited by Fiadeiro. 110 Joao Fiadeiro, I am Here, 2003 Again based on repetition, this section focuses on the cyclorama as a floor and a space.
The surface it first demarcated becomes mobilized by way of its bodily inhabitation.
It then reduces in size to the point where it solely demarcates the body.
First constituting a mise en abyme, a space within a space, an interior within an interior, the cyclorama’s spatial interiority shrinks down to a bodily exteriority.
Importantly, therefore, as Fiadeiro’s body moves in and out of the cycloramic floor, altering it every time, it is posited as a fold, or crease, of the unsettling relation between the brightness 204 — [, towards] estrangement and deterritorialization’ (Braidotti 1994: 261–2).
In this highly exteriorizing and ‘caressive mode’ (Segal 2009: 228), subjective consciousness unfolds ‘in excess of [any singular] design and intention’ (Grosz 2001: 130).
It has to be seen instead to assume an intimate drive, or, more precisely, extimacy, that is a ‘voluptuous desire fragment[ing] and dissolv[ing] the unity and utility of the organic body and the stabilized body-image’ (Grosz 1995: 195).
In general theoretical terms, then, it can be suggested that in works of polyphonic self-divestiture, even the body-‘organism [itself can] no [… longer be seen as] integrated sets of functions [but as an] anorganic body [: an] orgasmic body’ (Lingis in Boundas and Olkowski 1994: 290).
The embodied dimension of being discloses its ‘erotogenic’ drive.
This is a desire that ‘no longer functions according to an “intentional arc”, according to the structures of signification, meaning, pattern or purpose’ (Grosz 1995: 195).
This ‘eroticism’ where ‘carnality’ is ‘radically unsignifiable’ (Vasseleu 1998: 114) is ‘an erotics […] that dissolves considerations of content into those of form’ (Sontag in Shusterman 1998: 118) and – since form is dissolving – ‘all those in relationship with [it] may, according to the strength of their investments in a phantasmatic unity, be brought face to face with their own originary body “in bits and pieces”’ (Shildrick & Price 2002: 72).
It is as if ‘appear[ing] to ourselves completely turned inside out under our own eyes’ (Merleau-Ponty 1968: 143) Thus, theoretically expressed, in the scenographic relational domain of ‘becoming-imperceptible’ (Braidotti 1994: 260), we find the state of ‘reciprocal selfrecognition in which the very opposition between sameness and difference becomes irrelevant as a structuring category of being’ (Bersani & Phillips 2008: 86).
Instead ‘intersubjective and intercorporeal relations’ are based on ‘the coming together in difference, and the overlapping without fusing’ (Fielding 1999: 196).
Here ‘identity is nothing other than a remarking of interior alterity, of the extimacy of being […] in this redoubling a movement occurs, an affecting; a distinction emerges in which that which was redoubled is affected, or becomes affect’ (Egginton 2006: 81).
And ‘in opposition to the sentimentality of emotions, linked to the preservation of one’s ego as a stable entity, the affect points to an impersonal, or rather, a transpersonal flow of intensities’ (Braidotti 1994: 181) which is ‘the principle of not-One’ (Braidotti 1994: 145).
This scenographic relationality, this operation of the gloom, inaugurates a new and desingularized mode of being: 207 To have dismantled one’s self in order finally to be alone and meet the true double at the other end of the line.
A clandestine passenger on a motionless voyage.
To become like everybody else; but this, precisely, is a becoming only for one who knows how to be nobody, to no longer be anybody (Deleuze & Guattari 1988: 218).
While this scenographic potency can be theoretically invoked and described, it remains perhaps at some distance from material realization.
It was to this that my practical research addressed itself.
The last phase of the practical research with the gloom focused on the work of affect.
It sought to test the practical validity and potential of affect in relation to the lighting system that had been developed through my physical and adaptive interaction with it.
To do so, the work was opened to other bodies, collaborators whom I hoped would find it possible to engage with and respond to this light.
In that engagement I hoped they might discover a physical and aesthetic language similar to the one I found but also possibly different.
In its difference it might potentially take the work forward with the result that I could return to it in a different capacity, as a different agent yet still congruent with the work’s phenomenon and development.
My own body was replaced by a dancer/performer (Laura Doehler), two new developers were invited (Daniel Felstead and Robin Beitra) and a sound designer (Donato Wharton), while I stepped out to observe by undertaking the video documentation and spatial provision (black boxes and white cubes) of these collaborations.
Various experiments were conducted, starting from the immersion of the performer and her adaptation to moving according to the projected light.
As the performer became fluent in this respect, the sound designer was invited to attend to her physical exploration of the light, to capture sounds from it (including her vocal reactions) and thereby to compose a soundscape.
Throughout, the digital programmers remained present because the discoveries the performer was making were in turn suggesting to us some additional developments to the lighting software.
From the onset, the performer instinctively used small gestures to discover the responsiveness of the light.
As she started comprehending it she explored larger and more complex movements.
Throughout, she would repeat the same gestures or movements incrementally to find an alignment with the lighting phenomena that was supportive enough to move on to other kinds of kinesis.
As with my own experience of it, the performer came generally to slow down her motion and fragment her bodily 208 construction by way of isolating body parts in movement or stillness.
Unsurprisingly, her ability to do so was much greater than mine and so more minute kinetic details were developed.
These required, in turn, further diversification of the lighting phenomena and thus the software.
For instance, the performer’s range of slow-motion pace was more extensive than mine, with the effect that we enabled the software to highlight very slow movements with white noise (parasite-like white particles of light) that would thicken and become a field of light as kinetic speed increased.
Being able to observe this highly iterative process by which a progression was nonetheless achieved, the sound designer went on to compose a soundscape that is accumulative yet looped. Plate 6 Wearable Shadows, 2010 (also see DVD excerpt Wearable Shadows) All of this work has been incorporated in the short film Wearable Shadows (provided here for reference).
Using one sequence of the looped soundscape, various moments of the experiments were selected from the video documentation and edited chronologically to present the performer’s journey from discovery to adaptation and, in response, the lighting’s mutations.
Towards the end of the film, I have included a moment where my hand is seen rapidly waving in the air and temporarily bringing light upon the otherwise shaded (because still) body of the performer.
In real space and on film, this moment was most confounding spatially.
The distance between the body and my hand was thoroughly incomprehensible.
As when casting one’s shadow on another could make this other seemingly shift in distance, the casting of the light here did not 209 help locate the body but somehow continued to dislocate it.
Just as importantly, this moment revealed the potential of interaction between bodies under this light, a potential which may be said to be based on an exorbitance of proximity […] distinguished from a conjunction in cognition and intentionality in which subject and object enter [:] beyond the disclosure and exhibition of the known alternate, surprised and surprising, an enormous presence and the withdrawal of this presence.
The withdrawal is not a negation of presence, nor its pure latency, recuperable in memory or actualization.
It is alterity, without common measure with a present or a past assembling into a synthesis in the synchrony of the correlative.
The relation of proximity is disparate (Levinas 1998: 90). Conceptually driven by such a confusing yet enticing domain of co-presence, Wearable Shadows encapsulates the findings made during the last and most collaborative phase of practice.
It is also a springboard for further conceptual developments as well as actual applications.
Indeed by the end of this stage, the software had grown to a point where multiple applications were conceivable, not only as a lighting system for performance, architecture and urbanism but also as an immersive installation for audiences (with or without performers).
Each of these would require some minor adaptation of the software to the physical requirements of the context but, simultaneously, each could be predicated upon the software, thereby evolving a performance or a building out of this body-light interaction.
In particular, the conception of a theatre house that would be profoundly reliant upon this lighting software suggested new forms for the black box (see Greenhouse as Black Box sketches).
But these practical implications for theatre spaces are simply one outcome of the engagement with the gloom.
Alongside them emerged the need to summon up a range of theoretical discourses in order to understand more fully the human potency of the scenographic gloom. Fig. 12 Greenhouse as Black Box Series, 2007 210 Fig. 13 Greenhouse as Black Box detail, 2007 The final stages of the practice, both actual and speculative, which bring the research journey to its end are likewise principally concerned with the affective alterity of ‘the outside [becoming] the inside [and] the spacing of the dis-position of the world […] our disposition and our co-appearance’ (Nancy in Egginton 2006: 79).
The last chapter will therefore describe more fully, and in more depth, the conceptual ramifications, and possible impact, of the gloom.
To do that we shall follow the shape of the experimental practice and allow a range of other voices to enter the text, staging, at the theoretical level, a collaborative invocation that, again, moves on from authorial singularity.
To philosophers such as Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-Luc Nancy, corporeal and subjective porosities between inside and outside hint at an ethical domain of alterity.
They conceive of human relations as ‘the-one-for-the-other [that is] outside of any correlation and any finality’ (Levinas 1998: 96–7) and which initiates the affect of a ‘self-touching-you’ (Nancy in Derrida 2005: 291), ‘where the self is as indispensable as you’ (Derrida 2005: 291).
Seen thus ‘[t]o be in contact is neither to invest the other and annul his alterity, nor to suppress myself in the other’ (Levinas 1998: 86), but ‘being [is] primordially exterior to itself and hence always other than itself […] other for one another’ (Nancy in Egginton 2006: 78).
As Levinas puts it, 211 [T]he self is on the hither side of rest […] on the hither side of the limits of identity [,] hold[ing] on to oneself while gnawing away at oneself [to] exist through the other and for the other […] emptied even of the quasiformal identity of being someone […] disturbed in oneself to the point of no longer having any intention, exposed over and beyond the act of exposing oneself, answering for this very exposedness […] without this being alienation (Levinas 1998: 92–114).
Like ‘the tenderness of skin [that is] the very gap between approach and approached, a disparity, a non-intentionality’ (Levinas 1998: 90), alterity is a ‘caress [that] consists in seizing upon nothing, in soliciting what ceaselessly escapes its form (Levinas 1969: 257), a ‘relation without relation’ (Levinas 1969: 79) ‘discover[ed as] a continuum formed by the contiguity of other extended bodies’ (Condillac in Bruno 2002: 252).
The alterity of ‘becoming-rhizomatic’ (Braidotti 1994: 68) fractures borders between individuals and refocuses our attention on ever-changing ‘points of contact [:] how [they] indicate, demarcate, and circumvent our sense of the shifting extremities between and within things’ (Smith 2001).
This constitutes the ethical injunction, noted above, which is at play in alterity.
It is a call to take ‘responsibility for another’ (Levinas 1998: 43) according to an ‘understanding of the self’s others’ (Shusterman 1998: 107) drawn from ‘the body’s vulnerability to the impingement of the world’ (Vasseleu 1998: 114–15).
This is the ‘good violence’ of a vertiginous ‘exposure of being’ (Levinas 1998: 80) that is the ground zero of subject-formation [where] the recognition of alterity in the sense of incommensurable loss and an unpayable outstanding debt to others entails the awareness that one is the effect of irrepressible flows of encounters, interactions, affectivity and desire, which one is not in charge of (Braidotti 1994: 269).
Based on a ‘defecting or defeat of the ego’s identity’ (Levinas 1998: 15), alterity suggests a ‘body [that is] an image [reliant upon] other bodies, a whole corpus of images stretched from body to body’ (Nancy in Derrida 2005: 288–9) whereby ‘proximity [,] as though it were an abyss [, is] the skin caressed […] not the protection of an organism [but] the divergency between the visible and the invisible […] the alternating of sense, the ambiguity of a phenomenon and its defect, poverty exposed in the formless, and withdrawn from this absolute exposure’ (Levinas 1998: 90).
In other words, neither ‘presence’ nor ‘truth’ […] rather a way of binding the world and attaching oneself to it […] nature communicating itself to man […] does not need to be interpreted […] it is beyond the dialectic element […] and 212 — When applied to being, this reversed space promotes ‘dismembering’ and ‘juggling with’ corporeality and subjectivity (Kantor in Giesekam 2007: 118): the slowing of pace, loss of rhythm, repetition, elimination through noise, stupidity, clichés, automatic action, terror; by disinformation, withholding of information, […] acting poorly, acting ‘on the sly’, acting ‘non-acting’ (Kantor in Giesekam 2007: 118).
The scenographic gloom is the ‘site of a loss, the seam, the cut, the deflation, the dissolve which seizes the subject’ (Barthes in Brooks 2007: 45).
It forces us to remain suspended in the live thing, in the gap of the non-representable, rather than falling back into the production of dead, representable, and materialized action […] because the minute that anything is concretized, and is given a form, it becomes part of the fallen world (Foreman 1992: 316).
The man is flung backwards from right wing.
He falls […] Whistle from right wing.
He reflects, goes out right.
Immediately flung back on stage he falls […] A little tree descends from flies, lands 219 […] Whistle from above.
He does not move.
The tree is pulled up and disappears in flies (Beckett 1971: 25, 29). 115 Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, The man who flew into space from his apartment, 1988 Though the gloom has been coded with discursive qualities of a negative kind, ones often threatening the very existence of human life, in this research it has been linked to the ‘generative powers of doubt and uncertainty’ (Phelan 1993: 171): a productive and ‘lively […] vertigo’ (Robertson 2003: 163).
Not the absence of visual content but its attenuation, the gloom requires us to reconsider ‘disappearance’, and especially the disappearance of a subject, not as ‘a disaster or death’ but as a ‘sudden topological change’ (Bey 2003: 130), a ‘movement […] stak[ing] out the path of escape in all its positivity’ (Deleuze and Guattari in Nechvatal 1999: 153–4) towards an irreducibly ‘complex positionality’ (Garner 1994: 4).
It is ‘a non-dialectical double refusal [of] “no-longer-being” and “not-yet-being” at once’ (Ricco 2002: 41).
A praxis of the gloom, then, is a ‘think[ing of] space or life in general […] beyond its human territory […] in its infinite divergence’ (Colebrook in Buchanan & Lambert 2005: 204) which becomes a procedure of ‘reconstitut[ion of] our very way of 220 being human’ (Foreman 1992: 31).
By postulating that which is not yet human – ‘strik[ing] a new relationship to the non-human’ (Braidotti 1994: 37) – the gloom encourages a process that, while bringing forth a new humanity, does not yet know what humanity it is going to produce and, likewise, cannot possibly know exactly what humanity ‘does’ that producing (Carlson 2008: 137).
We thus find our being less in the category of the human […] and more in the on going process that [Michel] Serres calls ‘hominescence’ [where the subject is] always under construction […] fundamentally relational, interactive, and evolving […] irreducibly inceptive [while enacting] its continual departure from any fixed place [and thus] the resistance of the human to placement or belonging [, to] any belonging that defines property and place, and any property or place that depends on belonging (Carlson 2008: 137).
The man is flung backwards from right wing.
He falls […] Whistle from right wing.
He reflects, goes out right.
Immediately flung back on stage he falls […] A little tree descends from flies, lands […] Whistle from above.
He turns, sees tree, reflects, goes to it, sit down in its shadow, looks at his hands […] the shadow returns.
Whistle from above.
He does not move.
The tree is pulled up and disappears in flies.
He looks at his hands (Beckett 1971: 25, 29).
This thesis has argued that the relational domain disclosed in the gloom can be understood according to an innovative reciprocity between the body and the environment.
This has ethical implications in that the relational domain of the gloom has been underpinned by intersubjective and intercorporeal propositions.
Within these the agency of an author-figure becomes intersubjective and fades from view.
For the propositions shift human relations away from fixed hierarchical structures and towards unfixed and affective interpenetrations.
These formulate what the thesis has called alterity, a notion that requires us to see the emergence of a world, and of a humanity in and through that world, that can no longer be (if it ever was) understood adequately according to the old divisions of subject and object, activity and passivity, or, correlatively, according to the character and conditions of solely human intelligence and agency – all of whose localities and delimitations may once have served a project of mastery and possession that now grows untenable (Carlson 2008: 136).
Since ‘we shall never return to the mythic humanity of the primal scene, no more than we shall ever recover what was signified by the word “humanity” before the fire of the Aryan myth’ (Nancy 1991: 46), the hominescent dissolve of the ontological 221 foundations of the human – of ‘origination’ (Nancy in Carlson 2008: 135) itself – requires an engagement with the ‘interruption of myth [, of] the stage upon which we represent everything to ourselves [:] the passing of time […] a consciousness, a people, a narrative’ (Nancy 1991: 44–5). ‘[T]o think our world in terms of [a mythological] “lack”’ (Nancy 1991: 47) would lead to a ‘touch[ing]’ of the ‘ghosts’ of the ‘myths’ of ‘Man’ (Serres in Carlson 2008: 136) as a resistance to any ‘new metanarrative based on the story of the universe [, any new] mythic […] world view’ (Jencks in Nechvatal 1999: 123).
The aim is to dislodge any certainty from selves, even dissolving them, turning them into partial beings made of, and hungry for, ‘the unmarked, unspoken and unseen’ (Phelan 1993: 7).
The scenographic gloom’s rendition and exploration of how to give non-human form to that which has human form present the productive possibility of ‘human incompletion and indetermination as both ground and consequence of the human capacity for technological creation that is also inevitably self-creation’ (Carlson 2008: 136).
It is to turn the determinant notion of being on its head by refusing to know what will be: [E]ntering the body [by] turn[ing] into matter […] to act [by] renouncing the fruits of action […] effort without finality […] finality without an end (Weil 2008: 180–81). [T]urning to life in the gesture of giving way (Vasseleu 1998: 128).
We leave, and give leave to our productions; we produce, and we produce ourselves, through this incessant movement of leaving (Serres in Carlson 2008: 137). [A]n insistent reminder of a mystery as familiar as it is unexplained, of a light which, illuminating the rest, remains at its source in obscurity (Merleau-Ponty 1968: 130) 222 Bibliography Academy Editions (1977) Bakst.
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