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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Millnong project, crossroad of existents and the difference between theatre and performance

Been lecturing about themes in my novel Southern Pacific. Yesterday we went into the discussion between Cook and Meinong (two characters of the novel) concerning the unicorn they find in the island where everything written takes place (as well as everything said and everything thought - but all in different regions of the island). The unicorn is a kind of character, in that sense, they cannot really interact with it because it by, for example, touching it because it responds only to what is written about it. The upshot of the discussion is that one can refer to the unicorn by pointing at it by one is only pointing at the descriptions that the object in the island satisfies. There is nothing apart from the satisfaction of the description. This is where I find a Meinongian approach to meaning deeply unsatisfactory (as much as Markus Gabriel's fields of sense): reference is necessarily tied to descriptions and no referential use can be even conceived. Of course I tried to think of a different type of Meinongianism, in what I called the Millnong project (see previous posts in this blog such as
Millnong-project-and-objects, Abhava-millnong-project-abstraction,
Markus-gabriel-and-modally-open-horizon, Fiction-and-existence-threshold). The idea is this far no much more than wishful thinking for a combination between Meinongism and direct reference. Maybe there is hope for Millnong, but I guess its difficulties are very instructive.

Direct reference provides an interesting (Souriau-like) intuition about existence. Common existence (or surexistence) is related to a place, or to a place - or to a carrefour. To be is something like to be able to meet whatever else exists. The crossroad of existences is really a crossroad of existents. Fiction never provides real meetings but rather partial meetings where we cannot go beyond descriptions. There is no open horizon of life for the characters is we take the point of view of those who bump into them by reading them - and not by being in the place where they hang out (where the other characters of the fiction hang out) - or in an island in southern Pacific. In the post last cited above I wrote: "Consider, for instance, Russell's theory of descriptions. We can say that by writing fiction (and providing descriptions for, say, Sherlock Holmes or Gregor Samsa) we do everything humans can do with bare language to make something (like a person) exist. We don't go further, the characters don't cross a threshold, a further test of force that makes them exist. Fictions, then, are just a matter of descriptions - they hold but not enough. They are false, as Russell would have. This threshold of existence can be also understood in terms of borders between modes of existence, in the plurirealist way. In any case, the threshold seems to provide some measure of independence with respect to the descriptions. Fiction is description-dependent. This is the challenge for our (6 months) old Millnong project. Fiction is a negotiation among humans only (or, rather, humans mostly, as surely there is a fauna in the text and in the brain that has to cooperate). The threshold - a threshold of a test of force - ushers in what holds by a stronger alliance." In other words, fiction is incomplete sponsoring (incomplete instauration).

Incidentally, this is where I see the difference between something like theatre and something like performance (and surely many things lie in between). Performance allows for character to be there in the open, in the open horizon of life where they can bump into all the things that also exist. Something is put in the crossroad of existents. That is, exposed to the elements in a way that theatre doesn't allow. Theatre dwells in fiction: objects, properties and events are typically what satisfy descriptions, there could be a bit of something else, especially because no description is complete and could prevent massive reduplication and nothing satisfies just one description. But the orbit is maximised, the stage is slave to the script. The play presents itself as something that is at least partially indifferent to the crossroad of existents. A character in a play (as in a fiction) is like the unicorn in the island, it is not open. A character in a performance is situated, she is open to the elements - typically in the streets. Performance is a strategy to insert the fictional in the crossroad of existents instead of populating another plan. Make up fiction and leave it out in the open.

I think of Pirandello's Six Characters. They are pure descriptions - or pure ideas. They want to be inserted in the crossroad of existents by finding a stage, an author. They perform, but they perform in theatre. Theatre is like a lab - things are preserved, this is why their characters can seem actual, they are immune, not open to the virtuality of the rest of the world - not common, not contingent, not ready to be affected. They are not designed to survive in the wilderness.

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