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Monday, April 18, 2022

Naught I

Episode Two Hundred Eighty Nine: Naught I.
In which we mouth.

1 comment:

  1. Following a group of Flann O'Brien enthusiasts has peripherally reignited my interest in Samuel Beckett. I may have already mentioned in a comment on an another week that when I was a teenager in the 80's, my father took me to NYC and on at least two occasions we saw some off-Broadway presentations of some of Beckett's short plays. These were in spare spaces, abandoned factories perhaps, with riser seating. The setting suited the plays, which were disarming, weird, and engaging.

    I'm sure, as well, that we saw Waiting For Godot in a more conventional setting, possibly at the Arena Stage in DC. I also have a memory of going to the Kennedy Center one evening to roam the halls as part of a group, watching short plays put on in a hallway intersection here, someone standing on a pedestal in robes reciting a poem there. This collection of informal pieces went on for about ninety minutes, as I recall, and I'm pretty sure I remember someone reciting several Wallace Stevens poems. 'The necessary angel of the Earth' resonates back in my brain from that evening, so it's likely one of the poems was 'Angel Surrounded by Paysans'.

    Stevens' poem, 'Angel', is said to have been about a still-life by Pierre Tal-Coat, a painting of a series of objects on a table. As seen by Stevens, who coined the name of the painting after which his poem was named, one glass bowl appeared so elevated in its craftmanship that it seemed to be as an angel appearing to simple peasants.

    According to Stevens, the poem illustrates those things in the world that elevate us, 'provide solace', in as a profound manner as a divine visit. He states there must be this presence in the world. As it is for me with my memories of Beckett plays in grubby NYC in the early 80's.

    While Stevens elevates the divine and the beautiful, as constructed by the imagination, so Beckett elevates through the decrepit and the ugly. 'Not I' (1972), as performed by Billy Whitelaw at the Royal Court Theatre, London (which the performance available on youtube was presumably filmed) is a typically arresting experience. Whitelaw explains that they violated code by removing exit lights and turning out the lights in the toilet, all to better effect the image of the disembodied mouth, to further confront the audience, and to dissuade the audience from following their anticipated response of flight.

    I don't recall specifically seeing this play live, I expect that it's possible I did, but there were several others that were equally exotic and disarming and I will never forget that feeling, and am forever grateful to my father for having made it possible.

    In this strip, here, I'm poking fun at the discrepancy between the profound horror that is a daily presence and the banal perfunctory existence that we all mindlessly pursue. Though 'Guy' is not talking to the Eno head, he is having a typically confusing discussion with Art. The trouble navigating this discrepancy is endlessly funny to me, even as our insistence on ignoring the horror creates a growing global catastrophe. All we can do is try to calm the mouth down with some decaf.

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