I don’t really care whether people behave in a way that reveals what they think or who they are or not, not as anything that’s interesting to report as a general rule. But of course we often don’t (or try not to) whether we realise it or not. We lie.
Thought and behaviour are not the same but they both can be the subject of the body in performance. That is, they might be known by movement. That is, performance is also a situation in which they might be split, and become intermittently the subjects of movement (which is also, say, speech), either being revealed or not, read, seen. There is something at stake here.
Performance – maybe I don’t mean all performance, but what I am trying to make, here and there – isn’t the only possibility of sharing a suspension and re-ordering, in time, temporarily, but it is one: not whole, but the redividing of a division.
Behaviour is everywhere, ordinary, but with mess and risk; still, it is what usually happens. It is sort of plural, but not split. It always implies an act of reading – it’s never just what it is, just a move, say – almost by definition it is a move, read and this reading is the risk. It risks itself as an act against the other’s will (“will” or act) and is of course dependent on the other actually existing in one way or another. It’s an old trick; putting upon, piling up, piling in, but there is something to be said for risk.
Behaviour becomes awful thought when it knows it is being looked at and when it does it is a one-way thank-you-very-much; like a squirrel running in stupid endless circles, all twitchy-looky to collect a nut from a tourist to become a digital picture compared to a seagull gobbing what it can for a squawk and fucking off, or squawking anyway about something else, unaddressed, not bound by the empty game. They’ve got their own thing going on, birds.
I regard birds as something like thought. I’m going to call it thought for now even if actually I might not always know what it looks like. In really peculiar circumstances like on a stage, in movement, anywhere if you’re a bird, anywhere separate, unaddressed… it can be there. It is perhaps simply something done, a simple action done simply, stripped, or singular even if many of these can be there at the same time and sometimes it is better if there are. It is taken out, entirely exterior. Close to no thought at all, you could say, as in these kinds of “movements” “reveal” nothing of an interior (this thought has no motivation) such as me, or a character other than perhaps the cellular body.
These movements, which I don’t know what they are, do not prove there is a thinking person INSIDE this body but precisely the opposite – that there is NOTHING INside, hidden, privileged. Nothing that I am not telling you. Something different is risked. It is a relief, even if this is no more of a truth than another kind of lie. Truth can be someone else’s problem. It is not mine.
How these things are – thrown freedoms depend upon them – is the precarious extent to which who in these situations, whatever these situations are, I do not know them (in advance) – which body – is becoming more or less of a picture and to whom, to which other body.
A precarious equilibrium of pushings, purposefully imbalanced by (re)organising this kind of space and/or time
(space and time are material, sometimes inversely dependent; as malleable as situations, space without ordinary time, time when space is abstract). It crucially is not an object (if an object is the ultimate vacuum, like here, regularly, materially dependent on the extraction of space and time). But a spilt
one: and in the process, the matter of changing the direction of those pre-organised projections, of performing and watching, thinking and behaving, as we do, seeing ourselves or not. Limit and mattering.
I’m not in a fight with cancer: chemotherapy is. So never ever say I won or lost it. Chemotherapy is managed or it isn’t. Managed or, more accurately, withstood. I/you is what medicine passes through, a figurative body – one given up – as well as a physical risk of disintegration, of nose, nails, gums. Like giving one’s all by lying dead still for an hour so that radioactive sugar and a CT machine afterwards can communicate. Like the paced chitchat as a plastic tube is pushed in at my elbow and through a vein to an opening just above the heart while the flopped hand on my stomach actually sticks there with sweat through my T-shirt and is seen in the end like a shock, unowned, the light grey seeped and soaked to dark grey glue. None of this is a show as a palliative for something that is actually happening. It is not in fact like anything. It is actually happening. It is a show only to the extent that it might be applied. And it’s not the only one.
At Pasolini’s The Gospel According to
just as the lights were going down for the film to start an older couple were shepherded into my row, in conversation with the usher as if there was something to discuss, as if their very presence was being announced. The kind of discussion that you can’t hear but that implies a kind of ownership of the institution or all institutions, precisely because you can’t. And I had this great, open awning brain for a very direct thing to happen with this film. I could feel it. It felt direct, like a drill.
It’s nothing new for me to write that Pasolini’s is Jesus as revolutionary, absolutely against all authority, absolutely for the dispossessed. His threat –and it is entirely believable, profoundly affecting, a political truth – is the overturning of all authority. It makes sense why he had to be stopped. Not that you’d have noticed though, because as regular as if it was on the print itself, every time the scene cut and there was no-one speaking one of the couple would say something to the other. Still nothing so loud as to be heard, but loud enough to know it’s a commentary, a kind of “I was there,” “this is so and so” etc. and self-approving.
I shushed and tutted. I really made it clear, but they went on and on so I had a double point of focus, the screen and this couple like a snapped synapse. And I’m thinking, do you have any idea who this Jesus is that you are watching, who are these disciples, these dispossessed? They are not pictures, they are rent boys, prostitutes, thieves and random fucks from actual streets that Pasolini knew (it doesn’t matter if they were not actually, they were enough). They are not acting, it’s more like they are disembodied. They, not you, are the spoken-for here. People for whom Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child is not a soundtrack, but who are nonetheless in a film that is still shrugged-off like institutional religion, like happenstance; as lies strung on a scaffold made from the searing poles of radical affiliation. Theirs/mine to mine/theirs.
Well, you know the story. Things are getting pretty intense for Jesus. In fact he’s being nailed to the cross now and still this couple do their punctuation – I mean, the outrage. I flew from my own seat until my face was really in between theirs, really totally there. And I screamed a whisper, one for theirs, for them to just. Stop. Talking.
Of course there wasn’t so much of the film left to go by that point. You know the story. We got to the end. They lingered, I had to walk past them to leave. I was still angry. They wouldn’t let me pass without forcing the issue of something needing to be said and so I told them that it was not acceptable to talk throughout the film and that they were behaving like juveniles. And I notice that the man is wearing a maroon tie with something like a gold Masonic crest machine-embroidered into it.
Then he told me, as if he was rolling a ball of phlegm around in his throat “You must have very sensitive ears.” I said “I do have quite sensitive ears” (which is true, and I’ve got a sensitive nose now too, since chemotherapy, but I didn’t tell him that). Then he said, still lolling the phlegm “Well, maybe you should be a musician.” Which frankly just didn’t sound like the kind of insult his balling seemed to suggest he thought it was.
And then he goes to me, he tells me that he has studied the scriptures and that if I had studied the scriptures… but by this point I’m boiling – there’s obviously little hope for language here – and I’m walking away and so I do not know what, if I had studied the scriptures… and I regret not having asked him to finish the sentence.
Grace and I have started going to
concerts. What’s gripping are the ways in which the player moves. I mean what the player does to play the instrument that is everything other than the very pressing of keys and pedals. Which are often tiny moves. Or between-moves. Non-moves, if we can. And thinking about why they are. Or why not.
They are almost twitches or at least often as quick or as insubstantial or absolutely revealing as, as if to be the incidental, effect, intent, showbusiness, inadequacy, subconsciousness, necessity, measure, measuring, inadvertency, acting/not-acting, un-thought, unseen, self-assisting, emotional, automatic, concentration, abandon, projection, self/body. Which is as much to say that any reading of them can also be confounded, refused, or not meant to be going on at all.
It’s highly complex, seeing this, like a palpitation. The drama is not in the sound produced but the movement made, which can be tiny – the angle a foot repeatedly pivots on its heel as it is raised. Or how one foot swings regularly while the other pushes for the duration. Or the degree and height to which hands are raised from the keys, how fast or sharp. Or how she didn’t want us to hear the opening bars. Or what he wanted us to know about himself in this disguise.
It’s a very specific and extraordinarily oblique kind of drama: an indication of things happening simultaneously: notes are being played and then there is how or why and this is movement. Behaviour contra behaviour, perhaps it is not unlike thinking about one thing in order to unlock something else, a to-make-something, embodied. Causing mental noise to the extent that it blots out all the other noise (or mess or prey to risk) that was stopping the other thing from coming out.
Nurses do not do this. Of course they don’t. They are not playing anything, they are totally doing. But watching them is not a lament for the body reduced to being as efficient as a machine. It is that obliteration of an undiluted act of love. My limbs are sticks.