Simondon, Theatre and Mobility

I’d be lying if I said I had Simondon down.

However, with ideas like this:

“The naturalization of technical objects is the result of technical progress, since ‘the progressive evolution of technics, thanks to the increase in value of each invention constituting an object, brings about natural effects in the world of technics, all of which results in the fact that technics becomes progressively naturalized’ (IMIN 175).”

it is hard not to love him anyway.

When applied to theatre and mobility it is clear that mobile devices are more native today than theatre and performance. I’m writing this on my iPad if that is any indication.

Add to this the idea of ontogenesis which is (almost) synonymous with individuation, or that becoming-is-being. The two are indistinguishable, except for specific, crystalline moments where for an instant an individual might recognise their own individuality (or individualisation), before being reabsorbed into their surrounds, which at once alters the surrounds and the individual proper, maintaining a state of individuation or ontogenesis.

It’s like a phone going off in the theatre. For a moment, you are totally alone and aware of yourself as alone (individualisation), until immediately following this the audience (including the performers) react to you/the phone, which then prompts you to be subsumed until you are no longer distinct – but your moment of individualisation has changed the audience dynamic/relationship for good, returning all to an ontogenetic state.

That is just on the living individual level (unless we take the relationship of person-to-phone into account, which must be addressed at some point that is not right now), but this example also highlights Simondon’s idea of phases, or phase-shifts, where non-immediately temporal relations come into play, like the differences between alternate phases of existence (not evolution), like religion, technics or primitive magical unity.

For Simondon, art offers a “neutral point” between technics and religion. If mobiles are the pinnacle of mundane technical machines, Performance – itself born of ritual – might be seen as the secular equivalent of religion, meaning that the overlapping places of the two constitute “art” and thereby stimulate philosophical thought. Simondon believes art or “aesthetic thought” to precede philosophy, intuitively combining technics and religion without yet perceiving itself reflexively.

However, in my own investigation, this is almost reversed, as my primary “art” (intermedial practice between performance and mobility) is driven mostly by concepts arising from thinking through the potential of what might be, itself borne from my my studies. For me, the philosophy appears first – and the art initially individuates from the associated milieu of my consciousness. Admittedly, Simondon does go on to argue that philosophy emerges once all the concepts have been exhausted, but for me this hasn’t quite clicked, becoming further obfuscated as my performative iterations diverge.

While both “halves” use the technical object as the generator of performance practice, one is more concerned with what the mobile can do (which I’ll call object) functionally within a performative environment that could not otherwise be accomplished within the performance, while the other is more focussed on what the mobile contains (content) and how this information can be presented performatively in order to make audiences aware of the non-object aspects of mobility. Essentially, these are the two poles – the metastable environment – that my investigation fluctuates between.

What better arena to investigate mobility than the immobile realm of theatre performance? As Simondon states:

“progress cannot be guaranteed as long as culture, on the one hand, and the production of objects, on the other, remain independent from one another. The created object is precisely an element of the organized real that is detachable because it has been produced following a code that is contained in a culture enabling one to use it at a distance from the place and time of its creation. (IMIN 164)”

This is not the end by a long way, so more to come..


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