‘To Mobilise…’ considers whether performing’s task now turns around the challenge of making something that the representing cultural machinery cannot recognise or place. Is this what the leap towards Art’s Body requires of performing and its gests?
The text proceeds via a brief consideration of Wagner’s gesamtkunstwerk – ‘total work of art’ – and the subsequent emergence of a global system of thoroughly aestheticised info-entertainment. The latter’s machinery surrounds and invades performing by bearing directly on its relations to its materials. Routine dissemination and potentially infinite repetition, enabled by the complex social organisation and control of digital machinery, constitute the all absorbing destination for gests seeking to make-for-art. Irrespective of performing’s medium or media combination (image/sound/language/body), all performing’s sites are now enacted in the wake of and under the ordering systems of machine-disseminated and -controlled repetition (with film and its digital inheritors as the paradigm case).
Performing’s interminable struggle is thus with undoing the representing technologies and re-making them according to the threshold-dissolving demands of Art’s elsewhere Body. But under the generalised electronically dependent aestheticisations of ‘late-capitalism’ such edges are both constantly shifting and under the design and control of specific technologies. All such boundaries (of ‘life’, ‘nature’, ‘self’, ‘other(s)’…) are constituted as technically engineered representations. In this context all senses of performing’s ‘materials’ and ‘medium/media’ having some clear and fixable boundaries dissolve and give way to idiosyncratic possibilities of fracturing, merging and collageing.
Mallarmé’s and Beckett’s relations to ‘syntax’ are explored to open out what becomes the key issue for performing: the conjoining of materials/elements/processes. Performing’s relation to ‘failure’ and art’s weakness are reiterated with Ricks’ offer of Beckett’s ‘syntax of weakness’ as exemplary. Fragmentation and stuttering mark performing’s gests.
This opens onto a consideration of where a gest’s ‘art-content’ might lie and the ways performing’s mobility – where and how it mobilises itself – is rendered in the gap where conjunction and disjunction are held together-apart.
The moderns’ continued vitality and selective relevance is affirmed through a brief exploration of Sollers’ common project for ‘fiction’ as a form of writing that can be extended to characterise performing across all the arts. Mallarmé’s ‘Fiction’ becomes a cata-knowledge (a know-how) that cannot be countenanced under techno-capitalism’s calculative reason.
Across the text pertinent support has been drawn from Sollers, Derrida, Stiegler, Mallarmé, Ricks, Beckett, Gaddis, Celan, and Kristeva.