The mask which an actor wears is apt to become his face.– Plato
Once it's over, it's over. And yet some activities demand their furtherance – they require us to bring them to other realms. This might be the task of representing oneself in professional terms; it might require a second, third, or series of activities; it might end, never to live again. For once it's over, it's over. And still again there are acts of return to the initial scene in homage, in language, in memory, in quest of re-(e)valuation.
Holding the event in mind, swirling it over the tongue, reviewing its minute subtleties, or violently smashing at it and oneself in the name of perfection, or hungrily sucking nourishment from its still warm bones. The vampiric act is merely a recognizable instance of the acts we engage in as witnesses and creators. Everyone comes to an “event” in the life that brought them – no one is an idealized spectator waiting to take it in. And most important, the creator of the event does not have any correct experience of it; an intention, maybe. Of course, we share a culture; there are certain things we respond to, common languages, but I am referring to those things in a work/life that are subtler than the mechanisms of cultural meaning, namely what the body knows. In the immense details wherein the world lives – so small that any scheme attempting to account for it falls short – a performance takes place uniquely with everyone. What then does it mean to represent it? Who has the authority to speak? – who best knows the work? No one. But, in reality, the presses do; that is, they speak.
The primary style in the representation of activity is journalism. Implicit in reportage is the lie of objectivity which denies the multiple interpretive acts that take place. Events tend to be characterized with a kind of Cartesian scientific precision, a telling of mere fact, but really the representation of the event in factual terms. It is the “world of facts” that Martin Heidegger blames for our turning the earth into a “gigantic gasoline station.” “The botanist's plants are not the flowers of the hedgerow; the 'source' which the geographer establishes for a river is not the 'springhead in the dale'” (Heidegger). So, let us turn into the gulf between fact and “that about which we cannot speak and must pass over in silence” (Wittgenstein).
Two representations: the dance and the dance score. For simplicity let us look to the latter. Dance notations, Laban, Zorn, et al., view the body as an armature, describing which part is moved, how far, at what angle, when. This is fine to the extent that one experiences a dance as surface, as the working of a figure in space. But remember the thickness of movement, of sweat and heat – all the “interior life” – and one knows what the notations lack. Because notations lack the full richness of the dance itself, we end up with the cult of the performer – the interpreter of scores. This situation is far more advanced in the musical world, where a much longer history of scoring exists. The performer has a major presence, growing in the crack between the score and its doing. Perhaps this is key… Perhaps to conceive of a representation as a conveyance of everything leaves us to be docile receptors, absorbing without effort everything that comes our way. Our role might better be the interpretive struggle from the representation into something the representation claims: to assist or perhaps simply to coexist with the representation. To serve it at times and refuse it at others. (The colloquial phrase in French of saying “I go to the theater,” is literally, “I assist the spectacle.”)
Other than this co-relation with representation, as assistance and refusal, let us take up a fabrication in which the artist has lied for the sake of promoting an imaginative spectacle. Such work could be nothing more than thin and weightless. Yet pretending is the preeminent means of radically disconnecting the representation of the work from the representation of the work as fact. To really lie as a work and have the work live is so difficult as to be a limit; it is merely the impossibility of loosing culture's grip on us (Heidegger's historical people in the history of being).
By everyday gestures, a magician accomplishes the extraordinary. The natural hiddenness of the body facilitates the mystery. The hand palms, a turn of the body shields, a flick of the eye misdirects. Let this charming deception model hidden motives and desires in the sea of representations. Within hiddenness, the unobservable forces work: our perceptions become less perceptive. Behind dark curtains we cannot say, “What appears, is.” Everything softens with doubt. (This softening is not bourgeois ease, in which everything is available for our use, but simply the pleasurable feel of our feet in the earth's soft dampness. “The soul desires to be moist” — Edmond Jabes.)
The magician diverts us and returns us full circle. What does it mean to represent ourselves: (1) not to present ourselves as objects of use, as earth is a gasoline station, but to engage in the representations of living in order to live, and (2) to be open to the hiddenness that is. Beyond this: “Morality in the arts is a sign of weakness.” — Nietzsche