sum 13 – 4/2/14

[I worry that in the future college students will take 1,000 courses, each one lasting ten minutes; all degrees are in Wikipedia. Big “ifs” but – if Wisdom is prior to all things, one of the first causes, then wisdom exists before possessions – wisdom doesn’t “have” (a state as indifferent as perfect love). And if we live in a time where technical facility, at the level of knowing and remembering (rungs on the human ladder to wisdom) allow us to have more – to have it without even engaging with it (in the cloud), then are we in an age that’s diametrically averse to wisdom – its infinity, stillness and paradox? First, we consent to live by having, then we sign over our having to the cloud… the cloud of not-thinking versus the Cloud of Unknowing…]


Sum Thirteen

Thirteenth weekly sum of daily notes, in the run-up to Silence: 2014, a cross-border artistic witness. See the Soulographie site (soulographie dot org) for the day-to-day.


Silence: December 2014.


Artists worldwide to practice silence through the month as they will, in different ways, to deepen global contemplative capacity cross-culturally, and demonstrate mass solidarity.




[20th anniversary of the Rw Genocide coming up. Light oa candle on the 7th?]


Putting a face to genocide. Making a person. In the sense of making a persona or mask – making a seeming. Not an individual, but a point of address, a site to wonder into, with eye holes and a mouth hole, so it can see us too, and speak. Not an individual because individuals can hold guilt and can walk away with it. A mask or puppet can hold no guilt although it can enact it, or go through the heat of it. Masks can be saved, materially or in design, forever.


Putting a face to genocide also the opposite, the opposite of persistent visibility and a focus for projection, passive and active. A person makes a cluster and a quality of  behaviors site-specific but invisible, leading not to conversation or thinking-through, but pure being-with; leading to experience. The reality of a person is an untranslatable sound. A face is a resonator; the human is a sound inside with which we can resonate, but never cross-to-origin; the cause of sound, so not yet sounded. (Guzmán again; see Feb.)


The more personal the encounter, the deeper the listening; into a deeper ultimate acoustic Thule.




Silence as Creative Space. Silence is embedded in mask work and deep listening. We can never be silent enough for sound outside ourselves. John Cage, Slim Silence, says this in Indeterminacy (see e.g. minute 5 version 1).


We are pianos full of hammers; these hammers are built to wait; to strike, but meanwhile to bear incapacity with poise. Wait. We are scores (to score, to mark, to carve into; scars, manifests); scores are scored to convert playing to waiting. Bound for noise, we are meanwhile apt in strange refraining (songs contain refrains – a regular reining back). Be apt as difference; queer; tangential in the way that light bending towards a black hole indicates the singularity by leaning – the light’s gone when it’s on point.




John Paul Lederach draws up a map of the ways art contributes to peace-building in the following ways: [Summarizing]

(1) Art teaches that relationships are central to presence, and asks us to acknowledge interdependence; (2) art promotes paradoxical curiosity: diverse truths can hold at the same time; (3) art makes space for further, living creative acts… the sharing of art makes artists (a work of art is working art); and (4) art rehearses and realizes risk taking. Art, along its processes, exercises and strengthens – He says: “habits of heart and mind used to construct meaning, build relationships, and act.” Interdependence, paradoxical curiosity, creative space, risk taking.


Silence 2014 looks at the ways the art of silence in particular fulfills these functions. It’s not the only way or an ultimate way. Like poverty (something else one can make a life’s work through a vow), it can be exactly wrong, for a person or movement; it can play into acute oppression; some of us are in a place where we need to take up a vow of the Big Audio Dynamite. But there are ways that silence works too; can even work to understand and support Big Sound.


Nice visit to Kansas U; a chance to talk through some of this. For folks who have a hard time getting their heads around what silence is on practical terms: silence = readiness – that state of expectation, just before it fastens on outcome – energy in surge but the wave not broken. This silence – this vibratory quality, can be maintained in daily life, even in and through writing and speaking.


We’re also looking at not-talking and not-writing with this project (for 31 days, for a day, for five minutes – a small gesture of solidarity), but not only.




About puppets; revisted some stuff from a puppet conference a while back…


By way of introduction a poem by Adonis:



(a dream)

As if a storm interrogating stone

a storm interrogating sky

interrogating things

as if history is being washed inside my eye

as if the days fall from my hands

as if like fruit…


He talks about using things to open up things, moving between solidities by means of simile and metaphor. The way we, makers and audiences, move from thing to thing, is through use of pseudonym; when we use simile and metaphor we move as spies. Some of this thinking on pseudonyms comes from Rosalind C. Morris’ great article: Returning the Body without Haunting Mourning: “Nai Phi” and the End of Revolution  in Thailand – where Morris talks about the way a regime controls dissent by taking pseudonym away – Nai Phi was the self-adopted pseudonym of the revolutionary figure Atsani Phonlacan. The government brought his body back from exile and buried him under his own name. This is how fame is a tool of dominion. We celebrate the person behind the roles, diminishing the pedagogy of imitation, and replacing metaphor with the literal, pretending that the literal is more real than artiface, when actually the literal idea of a person, of you or me, is as artificial as a poem [Benjamin – when we lose the ability to relate to the aura of an object, we begin to abstract the self, in compensation]. We look at the movie star rather than the role, as if the star were the truth, and we look so intently, with collective, meaning-making focus, that that truth feels better than our private truths… a specialized truth, a truth sanctioned and accessed by the market. The appetite for fame that the market instills in us, flatters and supports the market, which doesn’t want the imaginative space of creative imagery; the market wants fake facts – which are stable, cheap, under control and can be sold at vast mark-up.


As artists we don’t need ourselves as much as we need command of our own pseudonyms – we need to become imaginative spaces. Anaïs Nin has pretty bad book – A Spy in the House of Love; the title applies... Puppets are spies, are lies, are things useful for interrogating things. Anne Carson in her swell book Eros the Bittersweet talks about the triangle of desire – self, other, and witness, in constant motion from one to the other. It’s in the space between all this that creative desire wakes up. Puppets protect this triangle – Audience, puppet, puppeteer; audience, puppet and what the puppet represents – in conceptual exchange.


Puppets allow us to explore our borrowed quality, our assumed identity. This takes us to Lent. The word Lent is the same root as “where’s that $25 I lent you?” We take the ashes to remember we’re on loan.


Nine ideas:

  1. Puppets save us from empathy and allow us a rehearsal of self-absenting; allow us to practice giving to the other versus getting the other.
  2. Puppets are immoral; they are present. They allow a safe space into which we may climb out of morality into defenseless adoration, and to be adored without withholding.
  3. A puppet is the pawnshop of the ego; complex curtain call (booth)
  4. A puppet’s suffering and humiliation are instructive and peaceful.
  5. Puppets teach that life is both long and ultimately meaningless.
  6. Puppets are both anonymous and in the room at the same time. Art-spies.
  7. A puppet is a memory, a pattern of affirmation, a plan of action.
  8. A puppet is ritual pseudonymity, a kiln for the transformation of the externalized heart.
  9. We recognize a form of salvation in the breaking of the puppet; nursing




Quotes from the Intro to Alan Read’s Theatre and Everyday Life:


The only thing that can distinguish theater now is an ethical stance. An ethics of performance is an essential feature of any philosophy and practice of theater.


Good theater stands face to face with its audience. Where theater has been able to do this it has changed lives and histories.


Ethos after all derives from the sense of “being at home” and to deny this propensity for the theatre maker would not appear to me to be an encouraging start for a theatre philosophy.


Quoting Peter Brook: “In the theater of illusion, the curtain goes up and supposedly there is the world of the imagination, and then the curtain goes down and we are back in the everyday world, as though the everyday world has no imagination and the imaginary world has no everyday. This is both untrue and unhealthy, and must be rejected. The healthy relationship is the co-existing one.”




Benjamin, in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction:


The growing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of the masses are two aspects of the same process. Fascism attempt to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life…


We mass in many ways, with strong political and aesthetic impact (Facebook as theater; Tahrir as reform)… Is our massiveness being manipulated digressively, so that we expend ourselves in simulation of impact, without real change (either political or aesthetic)? Is property (political, aesthetic) changing its dynamic? Are both Facebook and Tahrir means by which private forces further concentrate property?

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