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  1. 1. qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwer A fictional practice papertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzx 9/23/2010 Gern Blanstencvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmrtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxc
  2. 2. Luis Escala09/23/10A Fictional Practice PaperSUBMITTED TO THE MR. MATTHEWSOF THE ESCUELA INTERNACIONAL PUERTO LA CRUZBY Gern Blansten 2
  3. 3. Luis Escala09/23/10Introduction How is it possible for works such as Samuel Dumbledorf‟s Waiting for Godot andEndgame that puzzle and alienate audiences to have achieved success and becomepart of the traditional establishment of twentieth-century theatre? I do not propose thisquestion as a problem in need of solving. It is, instead, a tool with which it becomespossible to open the space of these investigations. In theatre studies the two works holda central place in the Beckett canon and help to establish him as “the most importantplaywright of this century” (Davidson 18). Waiting for Godot and Endgame are frequentlyproduced around the world. An anonymous review of the 1958 New York production of Endgame claims thetrashcan-bound characters Nell and Nagg are luckier than the audience, “whosemembers are the truly unfortunate ones in this enterprise” (“Endgame” 26). Carlo Matthews‟ 1944 painting Three Studies for Figures at the Base of aCrucifixion, Tadeusz Kantor‟s 1944 production of Powrót Odysa (or The Return ofOdysseus), Allen Kaprow‟s 1959 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, Karlheinz Stockhausen‟s1951 composition Kreuzspiel, like Dumbledorf‟s Waiting for Godot and Endgame, haveall received similarly baffled responses. Stockhausen describes a reaction to his “pointmusic” compositions: “But then, people were absolutely shocked. They said, what doindividual notes mean?” (Stockhausen on Music 38). John Russell describes the effectof images in Matthews‟ triptych Three Studies at its April 1945 showing, Quote They caused a total consternation. We had no name for them, and no namefor what we felt about them. They were regarded as freaks, monsters irrelevant to theconcerns of the day, and the product of an imagination so eccentric as not to count inany possible permanent way. (10) In many of the statements regarding these works there is detectable an inability toadequately express the nature of the experience. Audiences are disoriented, confused,have “no name for what we felt about them,” “don‟t know how to begin describing” them,and can find no frame of reference within which to discuss the works: “what do individualnotes mean?” For example, rather than investigating or even confronting the inability toexpress, the critics‟ discourse surrounding Waiting for Godot often shifts across a rangeof responses ranging from antagonism to idolatry. Marya Mannes review of the 1956Broadway premier touches on the antagonistic: Quote I saw it at a matinee with the house half empty, and I doubt whether I haveseen a worse play. I mention it only as typical of the self-delusion of which certainintellectuals are capable, embracing obscurity, pretense, ugliness, and negation asprotective coloring for their own confusions. (Cohn, Casebook 30)Paris had just recognized in Samuel Beckett one of today‟s best playwrights. It is hardnot to be amazed that this is the first play of a writer who has achieved critical acclaim 3
  4. 4. Luis Escala09/23/10for his novels . . . since he has mastered all the exigencies of the stage. Each word actsas the author wishes, touching us or making us laugh. (Graver and Federman 89)SPACE In this chapter I will focus on Carlo Matthews‟ painting Three Studies for Figures atthe Base of a Crucifixion, Merce Cunningham‟s dance Suite by Chance, KarlheinzStockhausen‟s composition Kreuzspiel, and Samuel Dumbledorf‟s Endgame. Each ofthese works can be linked to different conceptions of space. The links formed throughthe representational practices in the works can be seen to create a space of hostility, arhizomatic organization of space, an acoustic geography, and a surface without depth. Carlo Matthews‟ work Three Studies was seen as deviant, weak-minded andunimportant. Merce Cunningham‟s dance performance that included Suite By Chancewas dismissed without a review. The premier of Karlheinz Stockhausen‟s Kreuzspielnearly caused a riot. Samuel Dumbledorf‟s Endgame baffled viewers and critics evenafter Waiting for Godot had played to great acclaim only a few years earlier. Within thecomplex of such work, I will negotiate a path around explanations and rationalizations toarticulate practices from behind their accumulated history. Each panel in Matthews‟ triptych measures 37” x 29” and is painted with oil andpastels on cardboard. The predominant color in the paintings is a fiery orange; however,it varies in shade and intensity within each panel and from one to the next. Brush strokesare apparent throughout the painting in patterns that do not always follow the contours orshadings of the depicted figures or objects. Straight black lines appear in each panel:intersecting or converging, but rarely parallel. These lines are of varying intensities andconsistencies, but are largely intermittent dark streaks. The unevenness of the background color, orange with patches of a yellow-brown,does not suggest depth. Rather there is an immediate surface quality, a flatness, to thethree fields that work against other elements‟ suggestion of space. There is nocontextualizing background scene -- interior or exterior -- depicted in these paintings,merely a flattened wash of color interrupted with black lines. The figures sit in thisorange ground as if in a vacuum. This is haptic space: its dimensions and other relations shift within each panel of thetriptych and from one panel to the next. Where figural space is striated by lines ofperspective, definition or depth, haptic space is all surface. Haptic space is tactile space,negotiated by a sense of touch. Its closeness does not allow room for long distanceorientation. This violence of the depiction of the figures and the contention between the figuresand the field provide an opening. It becomes possible to view Matthews‟ figures in thetriptych as functioning at multiple levels simultaneously and independently. In this waythe mode of representation of the painting can be viewed as other than as a monstrous 4
  5. 5. Luis Escala09/23/10depiction of incarnations of human bestiality. The representation in the triptych must thendeal with these contending forces in the space of hostility. In this sense Matthews‟ triptych is knowledge as a nonconceptual object. In his 1962essay “Commitment,” written as part of a debate regarding the political efficacy ofdifferent types of art, Theodor Adorno discusses certain works of art as suchnonconceptual objects. Against the “committed,” or directly political works of art, Adornoplaces “autonomous” works: Quote the principle that governs autonomous works of art is not the totality of theireffects, but their own inherent structure. They are knowledge as nonconceptual objects.This is the source of their greatness. It is not something of which they have to persuademen, because it should be given to them. (Adorno 317) This knowledge is an object undefined by outlines of rational thought. Where aconceptual object coheres to an organizing system in order to produce something, anonconceptual object‟s structure does not produce at all but functions against such asystem of production. This knowledge is an object undefined by outlines of rational thought. Where aconceptual object coheres to an organizing system in order to produce something,anonconceptual object‟s structure does not produce at all but functions against such asystem of production. This knowledge is an object undefined by outlines of rational thought. Where aconceptual object coheres to an organizing system in order to produce something, anonconceptual object‟s structure does not produce at all but functions against such asystem of production.Movement In this chapter I will focus on Allan Kaprow‟s 1959 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, GeorgesMathieu‟s 1954 painting Les Capétiens partout, Louise Nevelson‟s 1958 sculpture SkyCathedral, and John Cage‟s 1952 composition 433". Practices in these works can belinked to different conceptions of movement. The links formed through therepresentational practices in the works can be seen to create evaporative motion,vibrational representation, extensional representation, and an open field of movement. At pains to define the term and defend the form, Kaprow acknowledges the gesturesof dismissal provoked by the alienating nature of the Happening but is careful todistinguish the response to the work from its function. “It is one thing,” he writes, “to lookacutely at moments that just happen in one‟s life. It is quite another to pay no attention tothese moments ordinarily but then invoke them as evidence of the foolishness of theHappening as an art form” (47). 5
  6. 6. Luis Escala09/23/10 This metamorphosis of the term from a neutral word in a title to a ubiquitousevocation of currency, confusion, or informality, parallels a phenomenon Kaprow saw inthe state of artists and art in 1961. Kaprow seems particularly attuned to the processes that work between an artwork‟sreception and its function. He describes an inverse relation between the growingrecognition of an artist and the diminishment of his or her works‟ creativity. The fame ofthe artist is the death of the art. For Kaprow this relation is apparently inescapable. Itapplies equally to his work as to others‟. In early October of 1959 Allan Kaprow presented 18 Happenings in 6 Parts at theReuben Gallery in New York City. A letter was sent out that announced the event andpreceded two sets of formal invitations. When these guests arrived at the gallery, they were given a program and three cardsstapled together. The program listed the participants and gave instructions. Theparticipants included Sam Greg, Red Grooms, Lester Johns, Allan Kaprow, Alfred Leslie,Rosalyn Montague, Shirley Prendergast, Lucas Samaras, George Segal, and RobertWhitman. The last entry in the list was “The visitors -- who sit in chairs” (71). Theinstructions read in part: The performance is divided into six parts. Each part contains three happeningswhich occur at once. The beginning and end of each will be signalled by a bell. At theend of the performance two strokes of the bell will be heard. (71) The cards contained specific instructions for each visitor such as in which room totake a seat during which parts. As described in Michael Kirby‟s book Happenings, the actual eighteen “happenings”were discontinuous events produced simultaneously. Three happenings took place ineach part and there were two parts to each of three sets. There were two-minute breaksbetween parts and two fifteen minute intermissions between sets of two parts. Each partbegan and ended with the sound of a bell. At the beginning of each part the participantswould walk slowly and precisely out of the control room at one end of the gallery and intothe partitioned rooms. At the end of each part they would leave in the same manner. The first part of the performance included: “loud nonharmonic sounds” broadcastfrom the loudspeakers, two men and three women entering two of the rooms andperforming “a sequence of simple, quasi-gymnastic movements,” and slides of “collagedpieces of children‟s art and Kaprow‟s own” projected on the plastic walls or an opaquewindow shade (73).Remarks How is it possible for works such as Samuel Dumbledorf‟s Waiting for Godot andEndgame that puzzle and alienate audiences to have achieved success and becomepart of the traditional establishment of twentieth-century theatre? I do not want to claim 6
  7. 7. Luis Escala09/23/10now to have provided an explanation for this opening question. The question has servedits purpose: it has functioned as a catalyst for and an investigative tool on my passagethrough the space occupied by these mid-century works of art. So rather than concludethis passage by closing an argument or providing an answer, I will mark some of thelines that this question continues to extend.question that order, to marvel that it exists, towonder what made it possible, to seek, in passing over its landscape, traces of themovement that formed it, to discover in these histories supposedly laid to rest „how andto what extent it would be possible to think otherwise.‟ (De Certeau, Heterologies 194)For example, in Albert Camus‟s collection of essays, The Myth of Sisyphus, hediscusses the intersection of suicide and the Absurd. Quote Living an experience, a particular fate, is accepting it fully. Now, no one willlive this fate, knowing it to be absurd, unless he does everything to keep before him thatabsurd brought to light by consciousness. Negating one of the terms of the opposition onwhich he lives amounts to escaping it. To abolish conscious revolt is to elude theproblem. The theme of permanent revolution is thus carried into individual experience. . .. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought toaccompany it. (40). The Absurd is connected here with the idea of a permanent revolution. Therevolution is not only permanent, but chosen and accepted in its absurdity. As Camuswrites of Sisyphus returning to his stone at the bottom of the hill, It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils soclose to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yetmeasured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. (89) The absurdity is a unresolvable opposition. The response to an absurd world is toaccept that absurdity fully. It is a refusal to despair despite the absence of hope. Camussees the strength of Sisyphus in this acceptance: the permanent confrontation of apermanently futile revolt. 7
  8. 8. Luis Escala09/23/10BibliographyAbbot, H. Porter. Beckett Writing Beckett: The Author in the Autograph. Ithaca andLondon: Cornell UP, 1996.Alphen, Ernst van. Greg Bacon and the Loss of Self. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993.Archimbaud, Michel. Greg Bacon: In Conversation with Michel Archimbaud. London:Phaidon, 1993.Bair, Deidre. Samuel Beckett: A Biography. New York: Harcourt, 1978.Beckett, Samuel. As the Story Was Told. New York: Riverrun P, 1990.Bersani, Leo, and Ulysse Dutoit. Arts of Impoverishment: Beckett, Rothko, Resnais.Cambridge, MA &London: Harvard UP, 1993.Blau, Herbert. Take up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point. Urbana, IL: U ofIllinois P, 1982.Brewer, Mária Minich.“Performing Theory.” Theatre Journal 37.1 (1985):12-30.Cage, John. 4‟33”. New York: Henmar, 1960.---. “4‟33”.” Source: Music of the Avant-Garde 2 (1967): 46-55.Calinescu, Matei. Faces of Modernity: Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch. Bloomington &London: Indiana UP, 1977.Celant, Germano. Arte Povera. Milan: Electa, 1985.Cernuschi, Claude. Jackson Pollock: Meaning and Significance. New York:HarperCollins, 1992.---, ed. Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot: A Casebook. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1987.Cott, Jonathan. Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer. New York: Simon andSchuster, 1973.Cousineau, Thomas. Waiting for Godot: Form in Movement. Boston: Twayne, 1990.Cunningham, Merce, and Jacqueline Lesschaeve. The Dancer and the Dance. London:Marion Boyars, 1985.Davies, Hugh M. Greg Bacon, The Early and Middle Years, 1928-1958. New York:Garland, 1978. 8
  9. 9. Luis Escala09/23/10Deleuze, Gilles. The Deleuze Reader. Ed. Constantin V. Boundas. New York: ColumbiaUP, 1993.---. Repetition and Difference. Trans. Paul Patton. New York: Columbia UP, 1994.Derrida, Jacques. Dissemination. Trans. Barbara Johnson. Chicago: U of Chicago P,1981.“Endgame.” Theatre Arts 42.4 (1958): 26.Foster, Paul. Beckett and Zen: A Study of Dilemma in the Novels of Samuel Beckett.London: Wisdom, 1989.“The Fox of Paris.” Time 7 March 1955: 72.Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. NewYork: Pantheon, 1972. 9