Sunday, January 08, 2012

Leave the Work Alone

Let's set the background.

Andre Lepecki:
What dramaturgy as practice proposes is the discovery that it is the work itself that has its own sovereign, performative desires, wishes, and commands. It is the work that owns its own authorial force.

This seemingly fairy-tale description of creation was once made clear for me by Alexander Kelly. Whenever working on a piece, there is always a point where the question that takes over the process is: What does the work want?

But here's another question: Why? Why is it the work's work?
After all, beyond a question of "ethics" (Lepecki uses the term), it is hard to justify why something being made by an artist should not obey the artist's ideas, needs and desires.

The most superficial answer is, because it works. A work needs coherence, as in, it needs to be a work to be a work, and the focus on the work's identity allows to be more effective and less prone to the artist's varying ideas, humor and temper. If the work wants it, there is little you can do but obey it. Consequently, you will think twice before introducing a foreign element. The piece needs to fit in the piece, not you.

Which brings us to another level. The work, here, becomes master. This means the artist is working for "someone else", and his burden is smaller. "Don't blame me - blame the work".

But also, this means the artist does not really "create". He "executes". Which is a comfortable movement towards the neo-platonian idealism we know best from Michelangelo. There is something, an idea, hidden in that matter (be it solid matter, movement or words), and the task is only to dig into it.

The above creates an important advantage for the worker: he can suspend his disbelief. For the duration of the work, he can be a believer, no matter how much doubt he has in regards to his own work. He is now free to move in whatever direction is necessary to deliver this being. And once delivered, he can complain. He can even complain while delivering it. But this, here, is the job, and one has to do whatever it takes to complete it.

All this is very nice, but most of the time, the work sucks. Most of the time, even those who claim to do the work's work make an impressive quantity of uninteresting, though certainly in a way uncompromising projects.
How do we deal with it?
Or, to put it more bluntly, who's to blame?
If in the beginning, "no one (except for the piece itself in its atemporal consistency) knows what it will be", than how are we to analyze its failure? Where are we to look for its sources?

Then there is the other scary option: the work doesn't suck. It works. Only it says something else than I do. The dream dreams another dream - which is not mine. How dare it! How dare it speak in my stead! How dare it take my moral will into the immoral pit hole, or the other way around, turning my cynical irony into a moralist's sword? How dare it ignore all the work I've put into being who I am? I do not want this thing which is not mine. I want it somewhere else, let it grow somewhere else, let the cancer move to another soul, I am cured, I tell you, I am at peace and no pro-ject can take that away from me. Consider me to be the PR manager for the daimonion, I might do what it pleases, but I am somewhere else, you will not find me here, the artist cries. I have worked hard to sell my soul, now please, do not let it keep on being mine.


Related Posts with Thumbnails