appears in art, what art demonstrates, is the Idea’s failure to
signify itself directly.’
-Slavoj Zizek, The Plague of Fantasies
I first read this play in the Alaskan Quarterly Review I thought it
was a piece of literature to be read and not acted. The dialogue even
seemed a bit forced and formulaic at times. I never actually thought
that it would be possible to direct the text until last summer when
working on a pipeline and reading McLuhan , I realised how much fun
this production could be for myself and all the actors. It was at that
time I saw the pressing theme of how technology mediates, shapes and
is our relationship with people. I thought the metaphor of an “Answering
Machine” [AM] portrayed this idea “crystal clearly”.
Once I decide to do the play, I wanted to have as much fun as possible
in the process [in other words, make it really difficult to do]. One
of the weirdest aspects of this play has been the casting, rehearsing
and separation of the performers.
Each performer was requested to partake in the play only knowing their
own lines and no one’s else, as well as keeping a vow of silence
regarding the play to all others. This estrangement between performers
hopefully has extended the theme of [mis/non]communication from the
text into real relation ships. This movement from text to reality is
also the reason for moving the play from a professional stage to the
real setting of an apartment. To use academic jargon: in this production,
I am trying to dissolve the constructed binaries of reality and art.
One of today’s popular forms of contemporary art is “performance
art.” Some of these artists include: Oleg Krulik who, invited
by the art gallery, paid homage to the Greek philosopher Diogenes by
living in a dog house naked day and night, finally biting people and
getting arrested; or how about a Viennese Group who crucified participants
upside, resulting in someone dying from self-mutilation; nowadays even
rock musicians are being considered as “performance artists”
who have not been paid their due. This play is subversive in that drama’s
usual key defining essence is presence, but in AM there is no pure present
performer—at least not in the traditional sense. The play has
no live performers on “stage,” allowing all of them to be
in the audience.
They can read themselves in the same way film actors do at a premiere
screening of their own film. In this sense, AM is not avant-garde art.
This play could be seen as a radio drama…but its not! I believe
the play must be performed as “live” drama, which hopefully
tonight will show. The people in the room at the time of the performance
will be facing each other in a circle. Are the spectators performing?
Are the performers spectating? Hopefully this play accents the complication
of these two roles, a complication that I believe exists in all plays
[including Shakespeare’s cliché: All the world’s
For those interested in the theory behind producing AM, I would start
by stating that deconstructing binaries is an important part to this
production. In one way I would say that this is what “Art”
is for me. Fundamentally this is expressed in the binary of Form and
Content. Throughout my life, in all things, I am continually trying
to break this dichotomy by integrating the two. As romantic and enchanting
as it seems that there really is not a dichotomy between Form/Content
shown by deconstruction, the facticity of the analytical mind forces
the “presence” of these two different aspects of art. As
an alternative to deconstruction, which at times seems too abstract
and Socratic for me, I attempt to return to the original state by dissolving
the binaries through correlation. Another key word for me, for years,
is threshold. Due to a loss of innocence caused by the western thinking
that I embody, Form and Content are antipodal -- but they don’t
have to be binaries. I see Form at one end of the threshold and Content
at the other end. By thematically correlating the two ends, I hope to
manipulate this threshold into a Moebius strip formation that, in a
sense, melds the threshold into a redeemed whole. I know this process
is completely artificial, but it’s my fantasy that sustains my
idea of art.
Finally, as Brecht emphasised, The Measure Taken is ideally to be performed
without the observing public, so too AM is ideally just for the performers.
If you are not a “performer” this evening and are eavesdropping,
a fly on the wall sort of speaks, beware, for you may be one of the
“centres” outside of the circle.
Thanks for all the ghosts in the machine for having blind faith in me
and the product[ion]. Special thanks to kmm [my “production assistant”],
E [the only letter “utopia” is missing], and the most of
the ghosts -- Flint [the propagandist and fellow conspirator in all
mediums of light]. No, there will not be souvenirs to purchase [unless
you want to buy the answering machine; I’ve already transgressed
my fantasy and moved on to the more immaterial voicemail].
02:49. 04.10.00 @ the crack_shack