Before I begin I must address an apology to you all. Perhaps you all have already lived this particular situation: you have pages and pages regarding your investigation, they seem to have a logic within them, how concepts play with others or are connected to others, but when faced with a strict economy of time and you need only to address one problem it is terribly difficult to find a Ariadne who will give you a thread, one that you must hold on in order not to loose yourself along the labyrinth of a problem. Of course we must be our own Ariadne. Certainly I failed to be one in this paper and could have failed better. I had to be extremely concise, many of the concepts brought to light here are themselves problems and themes for dissertations in their own right. Nevertheless I take this opportunity to clarify a problem and engage a dialog hoping you won't turn into a Minotaur. Hence I shall attend the actor as he appears in Logic of Sense (LS) associated to the Event and its double reading of time and the phantasm and Deleuze approach to the paradox of the actor, present a concept drawn from that impressive text, and last but not least we will present a critical reading of Diderot's Paradox of the Actor, regarding Lacoue-Labarthe's arguments and our phantasm of the scene, as opposed to incarnation of characters.
As you may know, Deleuze has eradicated the psychoanalytic concept of the phantasm from his thought in face of the more problematic, creative and productive concept of BwO. The phantasm is greatly hold up by the argument of a theatrical unconscious – a theater of terror in Melanie Klein's terms – and not machinic or industrial as the unconscious is presented in AE. Nevertheless, the phantasm serves us as a productive concept to criticize the idea of character incarnation. By Phantasm of the scene we mean the production of an Event which is the result of the encounter between an actor/performer and a character of a theater text: what we see is neither the actor nor the character but rather something else, the fortunate or misfortune encounter between two bodies. My interest in the phantasm relies not in its psychoanalytic arguments but how its concept is resumed by the french philosopher: a pure event that puts in communication the corporeal and the incorporeal, the fact that it is not a representation but rather what frees singularities from a self and expresses a becoming. But what is the Event Deleuzean terms?
Drawn from Stoic philosophy the Event is what happens as the in-between, the frontier between world and language. For example, a knife cuts through the flesh: the event here is the distinction between the fact of the knife cutting through flesh – what Deleuze names the effectuation or the actualization of the Event, the mixture of two bodies in the corporeal dimension – and the expression “a knife cuts through the flesh” which expresses a transformation of a different nature than that of the corporeal, named incorporeal. With the effectuation we are thrown to a sequence of chained presents, a relation of causes with no effects, while in the dimension of language we are inserted in the instant, the space between a before and an after, and instead of being understood as effects of the corporeal the incorporeal is in fact considered quasi-cause. For the Stoics the unity of the Being could only make sense – and the Event is the production of sense – if these two dimensions, the corporeal as the profound plane of Being and the incorporeal as the surface plane of thought and sense, were undifferentiated. This was the great moral stand for the Stoics, one you can only achieve through a kind of a spiritual leap, a proairesis. This means wanting not the Event but wanting something that happens in the Event, and this is what Deleuze names the operation of the quasi-cause or counter-effectuation. This operation, for Deleuze, is a moment of identification, the moment of representation, the present of the actor. For our purpose I propose to consider every and any experience as an Event, something that is marked on the body – the corporeal – as well as projected in an incorporeal surface, the virtual space of the body, as opposed to actualization. What is marked are singularities, the qualia of an affect and a percept, which are a-significant and impersonal. Through different uses of these singularities and through all kind of relations we construct a subjectivity, a self.
In LS the actor assumes a particular role close to the stoic sage waiting the event. The sage desires to incarnate the quasi-cause, let the incorporeal mark its flesh in order to make his body the in-between, a desire carried out by an ascetic work of the self on the corporeal. Though we see this ascetic work for the actor as experimentation, in LS Deleuze only speaks of representation and its use. But what does this means? “The quasi-cause doesn't create, it «operates» and only wants what happens”1; this is how we face representation for Deleuze. This operation is the moment when exterior and interior mix. The actor is in the instant while his character fears the future and remembers a life and “is in this sense that the actor represents”2. Thus the instant of representation could be defined as a counter-effectuation, the moment when the corporeal plane of the actor as impression – both as the corporeal mark of the event and on a mimetic plane the way to replicate the conditions of the corporeal event and touching what happened – encounters the sense expressed by the incorporeal operating a fold; where-hence, for Deleuze, the exigence of talking of the mime as he who not only represents but also makes use of the representation in spite of the stoic divine interpretation of the surfaces, he who intensifies the instant has he expresses a limitless future and a past. This work of the mime is what we think should be the work of all actors, a work of the scene, for the scene but even more intensively an off scene, an ob-scene work, as a practice of a ethic-aesthetical existence, being the operator of the Event and becoming more and more impersonal and pre-individual and become a citizen of the world.
Deleuze mentions the paradox of the actor, not referring to Diderot demands of the actor specialization and his/her cold and insensitive character, but in relation to time and his role as the character. Between actor and role there's all the instant problematic; while the actor moves and is tied to the instant, in itself a different time as to the spectator which is in the now, his role defined as the complex theme or sense never ceases to flee from him along the limitless line of past-future. The complex theme is “constituted by event's components, communicative singularities effectively freed from the limits of individuals and persons.”3 The actor creates or bears at hand two series, one is his self, his body, experiences, capacities, techniques, the other is the complex theme to perform; moving and being moved by the instant the actor becomes himself a paradoxical element connecting and putting in communication two heterogeneous series with divergent singularities, and does so because, while looking for the complex theme sense, he suspends his self, he operates a deconstruction of his/her subjectivity in order to put in contact the singularities that will better resonate with those of the complex theme. Only by this suspension, transformation, even annulment of the self can the actor open up to the impersonal and the pre-individual, the dimension of singularities and small perceptions, and this we name the phantasm of the scene, the result between actor and complex theme, the Event effectuation and counter-effectuation.
According to Lacoue-Labarthe critical reading, in “Diderot, le paradoxe et la mimesis”4, many aspects of our proposal are clarified. For Diderot the actor will be better if insensitive, but what does this insensibility means? On the one hand, we must recognize the gift of nature as the subject, his physical and vocal capacities, his qualities and, on the other hand, a gradual deconstruction of the subject and the self in order to become able to live out any kind of character through a work that perfects the gift of nature. In other words, as Lacoue-Labarthe puts it, to deepen the mimetic relation between art and nature as was presented by Aristotle with his «onto-mimetology», which means that mimesis is imitation but also completes or perfects what nature can't. For Lacoue-Labarthe two kind of mimesis follow: a restricted and a general. The first one is its most common aspect, a reproduction or duplication of what has already been given by nature, while the second has almost the disposition of nature's supplement, its capacity to fulfill a lack, which contradicts the idea of an absolute of nature. General mimesis is after all poiesis, “physis imitation as productive force (…). And as such effectuates and ends, finalizes the natural production”5. It seems as though Lacoue-Labarthe can only divide mimesis into restricted and general if he too, as perhaps Diderot did, perceives nature as an absolute incapable of becoming, as in a process of a failed poiesis or failure of the absolute itself in its, so to speak, absoluteness. This renders nature a failure that can only be fulfilled precisely by a supply (suppléance) or Derridean supplement, that would be the general mimesis in the field of art. In this case Lacoue-Labarthe states that theatrical mimesis constitutes itself as the model for general mimesis, in other words, more poietic than mimetic. Art is the rest escaping nature, its product is always the presentation of something else that wasn't yet given. Hence, the question now becomes how does the actor seizes upon that rest, how does he comply, what must happen so that he can emulate effectively? What underlies the insensibility demanded by Diderot of the actor?
For Lacoue-Labarthe, Diderot's paradox enunciates a law of impropriety. If the gift of nature constitutes or produces what is proper (propre) of a subject – its qualities, corporal capacities, its own sensibility – the actor/actress must alienate that gift, cease to be what he/she is, destroy what is proper of him/herself through his/her aptitude of becoming anything. As Lacoue-Labarthe put it: “[the] law of impropriety, (…) is the law of mimesis in itself: only the «man without qualities», the being without propriety or specificity, the subject with no subject (absent of him/herself, distracted of him/herself, deprived of him/herself) is in conditions to present or produce in general”6. In other words, the gift of nature goes beyond the constitution of a subject's qualities, the gift of nature is in itself the gift of impropriety, that capacity of being something or ceasing to be it, being nothing to be everything, the presence of mimesis and poiesis, reproduction and production. Yet where Lacoue-Labarthe makes as one poiesis and mimesis, we separate those two concepts. Mimesis is the scheme of the form, the mold or frame within which an improvisation is given, the dance of chance that characterizes poiesis, so we can not at all agree with the philosopher. This gift of nothing, as he defines it, this aptitude to substitute nature isn't also just a supplement of nature's inability, but rather a different way of doing. If we agree that it resembles the supplement it is not only because the gift of nature effectuates “what nature can't put to work – that for what its energy, without substitute, is not enough”7, rather because it adds something that lacked to nature opening the empty space that will fulfill, placing itself as an excess. Only by this, we believe, not by eking out a lack of nature but to add to it, putting at work the poietic force we can affirm, as does Lacoue-Labarthe, the pure gift.
This pure gift evincive of the sharing of those two nature major forces, poiesis and mimesis, that is also named gift or law of impropriety, tells us precisely the singular characteristic of the actor – better saying of all subjects – as to supports our phantasm of the scene. Being the subject of this gift, proprietor of this impropriety, is to be a non-subject, subject non-subject, without identity, is to become impersonal, a multiplicity. For one to be everything he/she must turn into nothing, or being only the exercise of this impropriety, the exercise of a catastrophe of which singularities are freed to engage a resonance and a communication with those of the character role, the complex theme. And even more this reading clarifies as it gets closer to what Lacoue-Labarthe emphasizes in regard to an inspiration similar to a possession, which in fact it is not. He goes to state that a furious possession would in fact prevent creation or inspiration itself, because instead of driving to the necessary alienation of the subject into non-subject, it produces a counter-effect, an “alienation as the more alienating as it wouldn't stop to create for him/herself a subject or a substance”8. For this he quotes the example of the actress Clairon given by the First, one of the dialogue intervener and adds:
“With no doubt, when it comes to execution or the actor's performance, his acting, «it is not the violent man, that is out of himself, we have». But in the preparatory and creative work, in the elaboration of a character, everything happens very differently. As we saw, when Clairon built her phantasm, «it is not her»; and later, «following her dream by memory», she can «hear, judge herself and judge the impressions she will raise. In that moment she's double: the little Clairon and the great Agrippina».”9
It is true that this phantasm, Clairon's phantasm, is closer to that of a phantasy where memory runs through as in a dream. Nevertheless, we can see in the last quoted sentence that separation of the actor in the instant, the double moment in which one remains suspended in the instant and the other divides time. Clairon alienated of herself, of her subject or self and Agrippina, with her plans of future vengeance and her widow pains recalling the past. Thus we can affirm that the phantasm of the scene production is the activation of the gift of impropriety, as the process or the catastrophe exercise of de-subjectivation necessary for the counter-effectuation of the Event.
To finish a brief note still regarding the sensitive man of this paradox. We believe to exist a kind of stoic ethics on behalf of Diderot. Who is this sensitive man and why is he problematic for creation? The sensitive man is the one affected by a passion, a pathos, indicating both a passivity and a femininity. In a discourse given by Diderot's First, one can notice a difference between the great actor, a portent of insensibility, a non-subject capable of being all subjects and the woman, with all psychopathological signs that will be drag until today, such as mania and hysteria. It is this last, a sign of excess of presence, that seems to describe the differential and differentiating degree between man (great actor) and woman (actress) – but also any individual that allows to be driven by possession. The question is not that women aren't capable of imitation and alienation, “but they only imitate, only alienate, only unfold or change in passion and passivity, in being-possessed or being-inhabited. In so far as they are therefor subject”10. It is in this sense that it seems to appear under a psychological layer or in a trait too general of sexual difference, the echo of a stoic ethics. «Bad mimesis», so to speak, is the one that is confused for possession, an excess of presence of a being – may it be the subject itself, or a character taken as a substance that the actor incorporates – that won't allow the dissolution, alienation, putting a mask over another and another (persona), “it is the monstrous, dangerous form of a passive mimesis, uncontrolled and untamed”11. Possession, if there's one, doubles the excess of subjectivity or is a subjectivation that more than alienate the possessed one alienates those who see. Insensibility for the great Diderot actor, sustained by a higher critical judgment, rationality, intelligence, work, control over the passions of the body, gives him the character of a active being, of enormous sense of kairos, never failing in to intemperance or excess, traits for a «good mimesis»; while the possessed actor, affected by passion, passive and therefor womanly and excessive, overlies all the evidence no longer of an immorality but of all the specter of a incorrect or not to follow mode of existence. Hence, in a way, so the exercise of the gift of impropriety transforms into a kind of ascetic that will make man/woman as much greater – open to to his/her potencies – as his/her relation to him/herself moves towards the production of a non-subject. This is what Lacoue-Labarthe names a decision – and isn't this decision also a proairesis? – a moral challenge that fulfills a political and social function, the confrontation of two mimesis (or two modes of existence, so we say), an active and a passive one. However, to say this, we must affirm poiesis as the correct name for active mimesis, since it is its creative, productive side, a force that dissolves subjectivity. To paraphrase Lautréamont: you have a friend in the phantasm of the scene.
1DELEUZE, 1969: 172. “La quasi-cause ne crée pas, elle «opère», et ne veut que ce qui arrive”. Our translation.
2Ibid. “c'est en ce sens que l'acteur représente”. Our translation.
3Ibid.: 176. “constitué par les composantes de l'événement, singularités communicantes effectivement libérées des limites des individus et des personnes”. Our translation.
42011. Unfortunately we used a Portuguese translation, so every Lacoue-Labarthe quotation is a second translation by us.
9Ibid.: 32. We underline.
10Ibid.: 33-34. Underline by the author.
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