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Hauntology and Aleatory Aesthetics in “A Magical Mystery Tour of the American Theatre”

Hauntology and Aleatory Aesthetics in “A Magical Mystery Tour of the American Theatre”

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33

Hauntology and Aleatory Aesthetics in “A Magical Mystery Tour of the American Theatre”
by Davd P. Terry
“He sad that you can’t be present n the place you’re n untl you’ve left and you want to go back.” –Roger Rosenblat on Spaldng Gray1 The followng essay s about a partcular nstance of what mght be called, among other thngs, a one-person show, a solo performance, an auto performance or a performance of personal narratve.
33

Hauntology and Aleatory Aesthetics in “A Magical Mystery Tour of the American Theatre”
by Davd P. Terry
“He sad that you can’t be present n the place you’re n untl you’ve left and you want to go back.” –Roger Rosenblat on Spaldng Gray1 The followng essay s about a partcular nstance of what mght be called, among other thngs, a one-person show, a solo performance, an auto performance or a performance of personal narratve.

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Published by: optigrip on Feb 07, 2010
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33
Hauntology and Aleatory Aestheticsin “A Magical Mystery Tour of theAmerican Theatre”
 byDavdP.Terry
“Hesadthatyoucan’tbepresentntheplaceyou’renuntlyou’veleftandyouwanttogoback.”–RogerRosenblatonSpaldngGray
1
Thefollowngessays
about 
 
apartcularnstanceofwhatmghtbecalled,amongotherthngs,a
one
-personshow,a
 solo
performance,an
auto
performanceoraperformanceof
 personal 
narratve.
2
Theessay,however,surrogatesthe preposton“about”wth“roundabout.”Workngatthenexusofchanceandhauntng(deascrculatngbeyondJacquesDerrda’s
Specters of Marx
andAveryGordon’s
Ghostly Matters
)anddrawngonthetheoresofplaydevelopedby
Roger Caillois and Mindy Fenske’s “Aesthetics of the Unnished,” in this essay I
 poseacontextual,fracturedandmultpleunderstandngofthe“subject”of“solo” performance.
3
Theessay,lkethepartlyscrpted,partlymprovsedperformancetdscusses,movesroundaboutaccountsofmyownlfeandbographcalaccountsoftheconcmonologst,SpaldngGray,aspresentedbothnhsown“solo”
monologues and other accounts of his life, work, and suicide. It is a reection
onperformngthearchve,personalaswellashstorcal.Itsnot,however,anattempttogettothebottomofethersubject,but,rather,anattempttoexploresomeofthepossbltesthatemergenandaroundther“curdlng.”
4
Itsnot“about”ether,but“roundabout”both.Unlkethetypcaluseofabout”naquestonsuchas,whatsyour performanceabout?”whchwouldattempttopnasubjectdownandposetasafoundatonfornterpretaton,theuseof“roundabout,”wthtsconnotatonsofmeanderngandapproxmatng,sntendedtoevokeaphlosophcalsystemwthaweakontology—whatDerrdacheeklyposedasa“hauntology.”
5
Assuch,IamnotverynterestednthequestonofwhetherornotIamnoworhaveeverbeen“actually”—nscarequotesorotherwse—hauntedbySpaldngGray.Iamevenlessnterested,forthepurposesofthsessay,nthe(psychoanalytc?)questonofwhatIam“really”soscaredofthattheghost-as-domhelpsmetostaveoff.Theseontologcalquestons,asIhopewllsoonbecomeclear,areprecselythe
 
Theatre Annual 
60(2007)©2007byTheCollegeofWllamandMary
TA60.ndd33 10/1/20073:08:02PM
 
34
kndofthnkngthathauntologybracketsnfavoroftheethcal.Iamlookng,nstead,towardswhattheghost-as-domhelpsto“scare”up.Perhaps,nthelast
instance, we will nd that all of this talk about hauntology in and as performance
ssomuchmumbo-jumbo,amagcalrenamng,sexywordsforolddeas(ndeed,naDerrdanunverse,whatconceptwouldnotbevulnerabletothsattack?).I
do, however, nd that the idiom offers a useful orientation towards at least this
 partcularperformanceasananswerable“ethcalaesthetcactonthatattempt[ed]toopenupadaloguethroughform.”
6
AlthoughIwasaloneonstagethroughouttheperformance,thepresent-absenceofSpaldngGray’sghostn
 A Magical Mystery Tour of the American Theatre
saturatedtheperformancenwaysthat,Iwllargue,enabledananswerablealeatoryaesthetcs.Iusethepotentallyoxymoroncterm“aleatoryaethetcs”asawaytoevoke
and expand Mindy Fenske’s Bakhtinian “aesthetics of the unnished” by
questonngnotonlytheendpontoftheworkofart,butalsotsorgn.
7
Analeatoryaesthetcssanaesthetcsoftheun-begun,or,atleast,anaesthetcsof
un-namable, un-denable beginning(s). An aleatory, or chance based, aesthetic
actsoneaboutwhchthequestonofauthorshpcanonlybeansweredonlynthemostroundaboutway.Becausetframesaccdentsascentralandgeneratve,ts
uniquely suited for a reguring of the absolute contingency that haunts all claims
toorgn.Theparadoxoftheon-purpose-accdental/accdental-on-purpose(theaccdentgvenform)createsadsjontedpresent,a“spectralmoment,”thatsathomentheun-homelyandpropelledbyanun-cannyagencyofaccdentsfromanuncertanandunendngbutanswerablerelatonshptothepastntoanuncertanandunendngbutanswerablefuture.
8
Hauntologybrngsto(atleastths)performanceaframeworkthatallowsforthecentraltyoffragmentaton,ndetermnacyand,ndeed,
absence
asawayof beng-towardsothers;performance(atleastpotentally)offerstohauntologyn
return a concrete-yet-unnished, always-already-about-to-disappear aesthetics
thatrenderssomeofhauntology’sethcaldemands,well,
 present 
nthesubjunc-tveandeffablemateraltyoftheperformed“now.”Itsnot,afterall,anacc-
dent that Derrida rst described the hauntological in terms of the theatrical: “the
experenceofthespecter...wllhavealsothought,descrbed,ordagnosedacertandramaturgy.”
9
WhletheformulatonabovewouldundoubtedlybetooneatforDerrdaorGordon’staste(andmayndeedbetoomessyforthetasteofmanyperformancescholars)tdoesponttothecentraltyofethcsnboththe projectofhauntologyasbothDerrdaandGordonpresenttandntheprojectofperformancestudesnwaysthatcannotbegnorednthewakeofDwghtConquergood’swork.Theprojectofcommunngwthghostssfundamentallytheproblemofjustce,theproblemofhowtoorentone’sselftowardothers,asJoshuaGunnwrtes:“Beyondmeremetaphor,thedom[ofhauntng]denotesaconceptualrepertoreforlstenngtoandspeakngaboutthedead,lterallyand
guratively, as well as a considered attempt to orient the critic in a position of 
hosptalty,opentotheother.”
10
TA60.ndd34 10/1/20073:08:02PM
 
35
Thsethcsofhosptaltysnotanethcsofrulesbywhchonelves,butanethcsofthekndsofencountersthatoneseeks.Thus,tsnkeepngwththeconnectonbetweenethcsandaesthetcsthatElaneScarryunderscoresntheetymologcallnk betweenjustceand beauty:Asngleword,“farness,”susedbothnreferrngtolovelnessofcountenanceandnreferrngtotheethcalrequrementforbengfar,playngfar’and‘fardstrbuton.’”
11
Consequently,sheargues,bengfarsnotsomuchamatterofweghngandcomparngonendvdualwthanotherastsoftheverynotonofndvdualty bengundone:Whenwecomeuponbeautfulthngs...theyactlkesmalltearsnthesurfaceoftheworldthatpullusthroughtosomevasterspace...ortheylftus(asthoughbyarcurrentsofsomeoneelse’ssweepng),lettngthegroundrotatebeneathusseveralnches,sothatwhenwe
land, we nd we are standing in different relation to the world than we
wereamomentbefore.
12
Beautyleavesus,qutelterally,
beside
ourselves.Shecontnues:“Itsnotthatweceasetostandatthecenteroftheworld,forweneverstoodthere.Itsthatweceasetostandevenatthecenterofourownworld.Wewllnglycedeourgroundtothethngthatstandsbeforeus.”
13
Whlethereaders,ofcourse,welcometodoassheorhewsheswthwhat
TA60.ndd35 10/1/20073:08:03PM

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