BIARI starts at Brown –
Some thoughts at the end of the diving board:
Patty, Victor (Patricia Ybarra, Victor Cazares) and I are here to facilitate a hospitality for your actions – for a consideration of the heart of your actions as creative souls, and for the present action – the formation of a cohort charged with teaching, learning and perhaps conspiring together. The conversation around art and social change is authentically global, and this room is one rehearsal of what will hopefully be a deepening and extensive process of rehearsing the creative society we give our lives to composing. You will find yourselves in rooms like this, filled with this diversity, this capacity for action, this realized moment-as-action – more and more in your lives. Such communities were formerly unlikely and in some places remain impossible. But this current iteration is not esoteric. To witness authentically is to promise, is to become complicit. To the extent we see each other, we see the shape of a field of attentiveness that may extend and move, as we move forward.
I’m a playwright. I teach “writing for performance” here at Brown, calling it that because what a play is (what theatrical writing is), and what it’s for is undergoing such lively reconsideration that we have to strip the notion back to “text somewhere in the environment of what is happening: socially, rapidly and widely.” So: playwriting is now writing for performance. I’ll have time later to talk about the particulars of what I do as a writer and a teacher – projects, and the ideas they’re built on. But for now I’ll confess to my questions and biases as they relate to our time together over the next couple of weeks.
What are we doing, what must we do, what must we put aside and what prefer; must something be taken apart, and what must be brought together, however uncomfortably?
What are we doing? We are making meaning, outside of coercion, in an environment of unimposed order – or, anarchically, in Mohammed Bamyeh’s formulation.
What must we do? We must incarnate memory through continual memorial actions, pulling memory down from the clouds into the body. The formation of memorial sites – where what has happened is laid open kept boiling in its energies to make new knowledge, performance as the heat through memory that makes it the meal of the present – this working for and through and from memory (I would argue) is something at the core of current performance ethics. Occupy, for example, is option for recollection in both the theological and temporal senses – temporal in that it’s a moment for self-recognition – for a retrieval of identity in the event of mutuality, an audit of the word of ourselves. Theological in that it promotes unification through self-donation into successively higher orders, pulling language back and back and back to the permanent instant of singularity, or solidarity – the intention of the word. Meaning I move from Erik to human to a creature to consent to be created to creation. This irreducible vitality is perceived as a cloud, the cloud of unknowing, but is in fact, clarity. Not a mass of information but that which gives formation. Dynamic being, versus serial becoming (as Thomas Merton insists). An occupation, a story circle, a revolution or site for change requires emptiness, release, a loss of coercive ownership… and this prime position results in a vulnerability to nature. We rise to our nature in union through the removal of obstacles, including excessively reified intellectual content. If we mean anything, we need to mean differently, transparently, so self can pass to other. The disgust or boredom that some of us feel with some theater in some contexts comes from the failure of theater to occupy, meaning: to expand personal uselessness in favor of momentary mutuality – to stand against patterns of control – to pry open property in favor of mutual possession, again in the senses of recollection, of union. In the theater of the bad cake – the too-sweet cake I grab and eat alone; theater I go to, to have an opinion about, or to have my opinion confirmed – in this case I possess nothing, am possessed by nothing, I only own – I just have it, I just eat it, in a binary the market imposes; solitary, I sink beneath words to an end of conversation rather than the beginning. Theater of the bad cake is cake we have had no hand in making, and which we have not used to its effective purpose: namely, to celebrate common property. To cut apart, open up, give away – a space mapped by credence in creation.
But this is happening and there’s also a great deal of performance that’s hugely vital – and precisely because its space is constructed collectively; the dramaturgy itself is anarchic, fluid. We are learning to move through technologies to increasingly deft social gestures. So much is happening, in squares, say – where the squares are circled or put to boil, where history is alive and a nice problem; this is happening with a frequency that’s yielding technique.
We put aside, prefer, or, realistically break down, break open: vehicles for accounting time, for limiting space and for defining the self as the lonely integer – whenever these systems are designed to inhibit the formation of self-articulatiing communities, freely forming symbols preserved through local ritual; where these inhibitions have the aim of concentrating resources on behalf of the few, by means of radically simplifying and controlling the symbol making capacity. This, if I’m reading right, is per Nestor Garcia Canclini, who suggests that the nation, the state, the oligarch conspire to enhance popular neediness by dropping the lonely bombs, devastating communities, striking precisely at articulation. Alone, we need so much more – we need everything; at the same time the market and conspiring forces denaturing our ability to frame our own narratives, build our own strength, convey ourselves, remember ourselves, recollect ourselves. We are collected in the master narrative and have to pay it to hear ourselves described. Inane becoming, versus being.
That’s the space I have for not. We’ll talk about particulars of our administration – ways to come together that will hopefully not be too onerous. Before these details, we’ve set out some thematic guideposts… There’s the “what then must we do” question – this comes from Tolstoy. Then there are the notions we’ve put out in our description. The work we are pursuing may address issues of translation (between languages and disciplines), transgression (protest, avowal, new faith), transformation (perpetual tilting to mutuality, sustained availability), and transcendence (ideological and creative freedom, free even from our own ideologies and our own creations).