Psychoanalysis and Performance

By Patrick Campbell; Adrian Kear | Go to book overview

7

WRITING HOME

Post-modern melancholia and the uncanny space of living-room theatre

Ernst Fischer

As a teenager and budding homosexual I was acutely aware of the disloyalty of my body which, so it seemed to me at the time, with every step, look and utterance betrayed the fearfully kept secret of my difference. Having convinced myself that I left behind me a wake of nudges, winks, whispered accusations and scandalised titters, I began to fear not simply all public spaces but, more particularly, the space behind my back, where rumour found the room to flourish and which thus became by implication private. In order to keep an eye on this Hinterland from which I had been expelled, I decided to perform my otherness with thunder and lightning, dressing in loud colours and producing a staccato drumroll by dragging the soles of my wooden sandals across the paved and cobbled streets of the city of my birth. I became quite literally blinding and deafening, dazzling and confusing the all-too-knowing gaze of the onlookers and, so I hoped, reflecting my own uncertainty as a sense of wonder and a need to question appearances. Ever since, the space of performance has seemed to me to be located at the behind, the meeting between spectacle and spectator, an aspect of the ‘After life’ 1 and the abject.

At about the time of my ‘coming out’, my identical twin and I began to shun each other’s company in public, embarrassed by what we saw in each other’s mirror. However, once we had established our separate social circles, I was frequently addressed as my brother by strangers who greeted my explanation of mistaken identities with suspicion and, more than once, with open resentment. In the face of such disbelief, locating myself became an increasingly tenuous task. Sitting in a room or standing in a street, I found myself displaced to a realm of invisibility while my face and body signified an entirely different presence in the eyes of my vis-à-vis.

A related sense of dislocation was poignantly illustrated many years ago in a newspaper article concerning the unfamiliarity of many Mediterranean Gastarbeiter with the German language. The example I most clearly remember described a Turkish man’s frustrated attempts to enter into correspondence with his family in Ankara. Mistaking a temporary traffic sign for the name of his street, the sender gave

-115-

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Psychoanalysis and Performance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Preface xii
  • Introduction 1
  • Section A - Thinking Through Theatre 19
  • 1 - Rehearsing the Impossible 21
  • 2 - As If 34
  • 3 - Scanning Sublimation 47
  • 4 - Now and Then 60
  • Section B - Parallel Performances 73
  • 5 - Violence, Ventriloquism and the Vocalic Body 75
  • 6 - Hello Dolly Well Hello Dolly 94
  • 7 - Writing Home 115
  • 8 - The Writer’s Block 132
  • 9 - The Placebo of Performance 147
  • Notes 163
  • Section C - History, Memory, Trauma 167
  • 10 - Freud, Futurism, and Polly Dick 169
  • 11 - Laughter 177
  • 12 - Speak Whiteness 192
  • 13 - The Upsilon Project 203
  • 14 - Staging Social Memory 218
  • Index 237
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