Minus Theatre: Scenes, Elements
Minus Theatre: scenes, elements experiments with theatre as the art, method and technique, to explore processes of individuation. It entitles a PhD thesis, undertaken at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), consisting of artistic research in theatre, conducted from March 2014 with the group called Minus, under the direction of the candidate, over the duration of the candidacy, to achieve completion early 2017 in a written exegesis and theatre production.
In Minus Theatre the primary agency of the actor is no longer the given of theatrical display or dramatic performance because the unity of form of the individual, of the acting physical agency and of the speaking linguistic subject, is subtracted. The human actor is neither the object of the scenographic composition, nor the subject of dramaturgical exposition. In individuation, the individual ceases to be either the locus of judgement or source of coherence marshalling, governing and bringing into harmony and order forces and powers which exceed it. It is these forces and powers, in the tensions of their disharmony and disorder, that become intensive materials and energetic compounds in the process of individ-uation. These are the focus of the practice, its scenes.
From the negation of the unity presumed of the individual, from the minusing of the individual, comes not less but rather more. Where the addition of a mask marks the theatre presupposing human agency of individual actors with the multiplication of characters, performing their dramatic, nondramatic or postdramatic actions in a setting social for be-ing based on the individual, Minus Theatre turns this insight of theatre onto individuation by way of the multiplicity of characters and masks, psychic, social, cultural and linguistic, of which the individual mask is just one more—and can be gone without. This multiplicity includes the figure, mask or character, which are its representative means and would conventionally integrate it. Comprising asignifying and impersonal be-longings, not beings, these are characteristic singularities constitutive of unique points of view—so many as Simondon gives to them the terms metastability and transindividual, since from their propensity to de-phase, to fall out of phase with one other, flow states, which go beyond them, of becoming and transformation.
The study encounters elements as that which supports life. Since they are not granted to all to enjoy or endure but are limited in duration and restricted in the sustenance they deliver, the elements are not primordial or universal conditions but provisional understandings. Such understand-ings the Anthropocene carries forth in terms of imposing an internal geotemporal limit to human life on the basis of which the prospect of its extinction emerges. The importance to the study of this notion is that it also individuate, as elemental of a causation more profound, and in surpassing the given. Prompting the negation of the individual in the practice is that such an understanding as is offered by extinction lead to new possibilities of life that affirm its provisionality and transitory nature, understood elementally in theatre as the ephemeral art par excellence.
With a voluntary membership of performers from divers disciplines, including drama, dance and music, each with different levels of skill and experience, rather than teach, moderate and resolve differences, I have in Minus, as director, devised to encourage their expression, in a form of theatre we have, as a group, called a theatre of individual life—theatre as what expresses and life as what exceeds the individual in individuation. From this form of theatre has developed thief as a directorial method. The method (thief—acronym for theatre of imitation, expression and f___ery) opens the way for the imitation of what each member of Minus perceives and can understand to be part of the multiplicity of asignifying and impersonal forces and energies involved in the process of another performer's individuation. The f___ery comes about with the exacerbation of, the introduction of disorder into, the metastable field of material forces and energetic compounds, distributed over the space and temp-orally, over the duration of the scene, so as to intensify differences and promote the dephasing of individuation.
The use in performance of English and of spoken languages other than English as expressive elements rather than as means of communicative exchange, informing the social construction of the linguistic subject, aids in this intensification. Languages and cultures contributing to the individ-uation of the group have included Korean, Russian, Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese), Congolese (Swahili, Ugandan, Xhosa), Brazilian, Guadalupian (Creole), Mexican, Macedonian, Indian (Hindi), Solomon Islands (Pidgin), UK, US and NZ (Maori, Pakeha).
The study closely follows the development of Minus's theatrical and my own directorial practices, through to our continuing work with and research into a theatre of elements, which understands elements to be what supports life in its impermanence, transience and ongoing transformation. This impermanence, transience and ongoing transform-ation is of individuals, scenes and elements. Theatre of elements extends, and contrasts with, the approach of thief in a method of assembling cultures and languages, the human, with the inhuman, the inside with what is without it—in the giving of exteriority as such.