Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I want is to change 'you': a "theatre of manipulation"

Terranova understands the "Internet to be not simply a specific medium but a kind of active implementation of a design technique able to deal with the openness of systems" (3). An analogous understanding is what I have of my (and 'the') role as an actor: a "technique" with the capacity to expand.

I understand the conceit that information is not meaning; in performance, what is communicated never (theoretically) purports to contain (or be contained by) meaning. Actors, like "information theory," work very hard to "[attribute] a secondary importance to the question of the meaning of messages" and instead to "increase the effectiveness of the channel" (14) by which we desire to affect/effect.

I understand the world as an actor; at least that is what I am (hopefully) being trained to do. Every day I am told to bring all of my 'true' self to a set of given circumstances, intend to change another or the environment in which I am placed, and to do it whilst remaining cognizant of the way in which my actions in a designated space may affect (or effect change or thoughts or reactions) from a 'mass': an audience of spectators/participants engaged in the invention and instantiation of 'my' trajectory.

I am told that what I feel must be apparent in said space, but that, ultimately, my job is to evoke/incite emotion/responses from my fellow actors and my audience. Thus, the theatrical and "[the] political mode cannot but start with affects - that is with intensities, variations of bodily powers that are expressed as fear and empathy, revulsion and attraction, sadness and joy" (Terranova, 156-157).

I am told that I must make the most micro, the most specific of choices in order for my work to resonate with "masses;" then, pray tell how I (intellectually) ought to grapple with the notion that "the masses are the place where meanings and ideas lose their power of penetration, the place of fascination and dismediation where all statements, opinions and ideas flow through without leaving a mark" (138)? My individual decisions and nuances will be read in myriad, infinite ways by the "mass" of spectators: does this cause the raw emotionality of my experiences in a space to indeed "lose their power of penetration"?

I can comfort myself by conceding that yes, perhaps "the masses 'disperse' and 'diffuse' meaning, [but herein lies] their political power" (138) -- my specificity must diffuse, must be extended out into a 'mass' in order for those micro decisions and choices to find themselves politically salient and/or mobile. Words and feelings and intentions to effect change must leave my own mind by way of my body, they must resonate in some space, and, ideally, all of this micro information will have some macro, meaningful, transformational power.

"Socialization thus implies an overproduction of meaning, a state of always being told and asked too much. It is a matter of having been told too many truths and too many opinions and perspectives so that communication ceases to be representational and becomes tactical and strategic" (Terranova, 138). In this sense, as an actor (one who 'acts,' 'enacts,' 'performs,' 'represents,' 'reproduces' constantly), everything is tactical. Some say that 'good' acting is knowing who you are but forgetting it (intellectually, not necessarily bodily) in favor of moving and mutating as necessary in order to effect change, to achieve a goal, to operate an effective strategy. Here, I struggle to move away from much of the education I receive daily: I struggle to move away from representation and reproduction, away from identifications like race, class, gender, ethnicity, etc. I struggle to understand that microcosmically my 'simple' choices and movements will effect a more intense response, a greater change. I have to learn that situating the 'political' in a realm of mutation and movement (8-9) will be more useful than attempting some 'accurate' representation or portrayal of a classifiable, recognizable identity.

It is these individuations on the most micro of scales (the weight of my feet against the floor of the theatre, the unblinking of eyes in lights), these "fluctuations that produce the unpredictable, of the inventions that break the space of possibility" (26), these minute corporeal and psychical movements which have the most power to be taken up by and inform and mutate the masses who imbibe them. It is the movements with the power to alter the space in which they happen (69).

As an actor, I want to change 'you,' that is, my scene partner; but also 'you' my audience (everyone, the "mass"), but also 'you': a potential no one, because how do I guarantee than anyone is listening?

This is my "theatre of manipulation" (14), and my manipulation of the understanding that information travels in my movements: first, the mental acrobatics and decisions which translate into a bodily presentation of self within a set of given circumstances (theatrical milieu) and; desirably, later, a reading of meaning into and out of the individuation of said mutations by a mass who may find a political use for said meaning.

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