‘The interpretation of the game then became obvious.’
Sigmund Freud 1
In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud classifies dreams of flying among the ‘typical dreams’ that recall the games of childhood - being rushed across the room in the ‘outstretched arms’ of an ‘uncle’ - games which ‘though innocent in themselves, give rise to sexual feelings’. Except that ‘in the dreams they leave out the hands which held them up, so they float or fall unsupported’, and it may be that ‘the pleasurable feelings attached to these experiences are transformed into anxiety’. 2 ‘The information provided by psycho-analyses’ 3 appears to restore the supporting arms of a responsible adult, to underwrite childish pleasure with at least a rhetorical guarantee, but does so at the level of a speculative writing that may find itself infected by the same anxiety that it seeks to negotiate and even conquer. After all an utterance is less substantial than an embrace, if I am falling. Is it not? And as for what guarantees the analytic utterance, whether we think of that as the analysis of a performance or the performance of an analytic reading: who or what authors the horizons of our analytic speculations? The word of Freud the Father? And what hands hold us up to see?
My concern in the present essay is with responsibilities we might incur when we speculate analytically upon performance: more precisely, when our analysis reifies the movement of signifiers (in the way we might observe, through a lens and at a distance, the movement of small particles and remark a pattern) and purports to recognise its object - a piece of play, or movement, or behaviour, or writing - ‘as’ performance. A key instance in the psychoanalytic canon of texts and occasions would be the fort/da, where Freud accounts for his infant grandson’s game of discarding and retrieving a toy over the horizon of a cot, as a compensatory performance (a ‘staging [of] the disappearance and return of the objects within his