Grenelle Journal, October 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Festival d’Automne: Postscript - Two weeks.

Memorial at Vel D'Hiv
This was my first post acute neuritis trip to Paris. The was no Cloud then. I was alone. The city was in an uproar over Sarkozy's neoliberal reforms and I felt neurologicaly unstable, frightened. Thus a journal:

 ...Innumerable Emmanuel Goldsteins
Haute bebe

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Festival d’Automne: Ionesco's Les Chaises, Théâtre de Nanterre-Amandiers

An escape from the life of ideas well past their sell-by date!

The battle in the streets was literally just a few blocks away. I wanted reassurance that something was going intelligently right.  There was plenty of proof in Luc Bondy's innovative production of Ionesco's 1952 “The Chairs.” … It felt so good!

[...] The trenches where our souls and perception battle have moved elsewhere. 

[...] other great men and events (who haven't quite stopped speaking)—Foucault, Lacan, Debord and '68—ominous.

On my planetthe Stateseven at elite schools like Choate, the study of French literature terminates at Camus; philosophy at Sartre. Heidegger is deviant but deliberately obfuscated. Elite youth is left bored in fatuous existentialism, before atrophying.

But today, here in —literally—a revolutionary Paris, in open confrontation with Sarkozy, with its brilliantly effective strike and the jackass media's frantic lies about it; these police, these confrontations in the street; these harried bands of enthusiastic and cheerful youths militant [...]  It is Paris resisting becoming Athens.

[...] "Les Chaises," this warhorse of the theatre-of-the-absurd.  And Luc Bondy's radical changes [...]

The set has been replaced by a large black box without doors or windows, resembling the sub-basement of a large apartment building, puddles and all;

There are two nooses hanging from the ceiling through the drama (I kept thinking Todestreib)

[...] theatrical effects [...]:   
  • There is never any sense that the guests are expected to really be there, after all, there is no other-of-the-Other;
  • La Vieille incongruously bursts forth with an amazingly adroit balletic eruption of jouissance, that is astonishing, lovely, enamoring: Lacanians call it“ravissement”;
  • There isn't any need for all that hackneyed Goodbye, God is dead stuff;
  • Now, the orateur resembles a tawdry Johnny Hallyday: vague, disconnected, disinterested. When he finally reemerges amidst the wreckage, you know he's a mute but you don't anticipate his wrenching violent desperate rage; 
  • And the sovereign majesty?  The rear wall finally becomes a transparent scrim revealing a proscenium stage and a large empty leather TV lounge chair. [So who's the Daddy now? to paraphrase Freud. Cf., Lacan.]

    There is no jaw-dropping double suicide: When the chaos dissipates, a spotlight finally locates the old couples' dead bodies, together in the middle of the floor, like in the Le Vieux's final verse: 
    “And yet I would/ Have found it good/ That you and I/ As one might lie/ Each bone to bone/ Beneath one stone/ Our old flesh breeding/ The same worms feeding/ Mouldering together …" 
    La Vieille responds: "... mouldering together.”

The théâtre de Nanterre-Amandiers is near Paris VIII, an enduring legacy of '68, where Antonio Negri found a home in exile, J.-A.Miller founded a department of psychoanalysis for Lacan, where Badiou continues to confuse youth for the benefit of the Nue World Ordure. This place now lies in the creepy shadows of La Defense. When I emerged disoriented from the efficient-even-during-a-strike, very fast RER suburban commuter trains, with their massive wide crowded platforms and enormous cavernous modern stations. I felt I was in Godard's Alphaville with all the necessary ultra modern improvements: in the dark it felt like Disney World. The enormous theatre complex, its bar, restaurant and bookstore were brilliant!

This audience was mostly young. These under thirty-somethings sat rapt for two hours in riveted silence as the two very old people shuffled around this bleak stage cooing almost inaudibly for each others' delusions. Now that's real romance!

Bienvenue à l'avenir !

Seen October 21, 2010.

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