“To repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which as no equal or equivalent”.
I am thinking about how repetition of an event indexes the original event and vice versa. That in effect the first iteration is itself a determiner of subsequent iterations. I like the occurrence of the word’ vibrate’ in Deleuze’s sentence “[…] And perhaps this repetition at the level of external conduct echoes, for its own part, a more secret vibration which animates it, a more profound, internal repetition within the singular”.
Is he suggesting that even in the singular there is a vibration – a shudder of possibility that the event repeatable? In the singular an event or object is re-encountered in the process of experiencing.
I perform the simple action of carrying a table and chair into the space and sitting. I do this ten times. As performer there is something in the ‘knowing’ that from the first manifestation of the action I am going to repeat. The first action determines the repetition. There can be no repetition without the first action.
Is the first action actually repeated? Or rather, is it re-represented; in extreme resemblance or perfect equivalence? Of course, my research action is not a ‘perfect’ set of equivalences. Each repeat (or should I say re-representation) reveals the flaws and inconsistencies. I handle the furniture slightly differently each time. I place my feet differently. I pause at the table for an inconsistent length of time. More over, the shift of light at the window, the rain-fall outside and ambient sounds of the building betray the falseness of the repetition, revealing instead a series of singular events and encounters.
I am aware that the incidental choice of this table and chair also awakens another equivalence. This is the furniture of an exam room, calling to mind the rows and rows of ‘identical’ chairs and tables, and in turn the identical sitting, studying bodies at the tables; time passing.
The representation of one table and chair, and the one performance action represent repetition even if they are different kinds of design.
(As digital design reproduction advances I wonder if the idea that repetition as a ‘transgression’ from natural laws as Deleuze suggests is being brought into further question, undermining the ‘natural’ beyond that which the ‘similarly’ mass produced table and chair represent).
Is the performance, as Jane Blocker suggests in using Peggy Phelan’s terms – always in the process of disappearing, in the process of becoming itself? By that I mean, as I try to remove significance of the gesture through repetition am I also making that performance become ‘something’, become ‘the performance that repeats; that the repetition defines the performance in some way? Blocker uses Rebecca Schneider’s thinking here in considering performance as “of” disappearance: “[…] if we think of ephemerality as “vanishing”, and if we think of performance as the antithesis of “saving”, do we limit ourselves to an understanding of performance predetermined by a cultural habituation to the patrilineal, West-identified (arguably white-cultural) logic of the Archive?
Rebecca Schneider, Archives: Performance Remains, Performance Research 2001, vol 6. No 2. P100.
I think this is relevant to my experience through the practice-based research because what I experience in the process of performance is a sense of both ‘loosing’ the ‘original’ through the repetition of action, whilst at the same time developing an awareness of the archival history of that action through its re-iteration. My body has a muscle-memory of each action of lifting and carrying and starts to mimic the previous version, placing the table in the ‘same’ position on the floor, holding my arms on the table in a similar fashion to the previous time. In addition, a shift in the sense of time occurs – not dissimilar to any experience of mundane, physical work, where the counting of the repeated action, the duration of it and sense of time passing alters in some way. As such I feel that the performance itself ‘disappears’ to be overtaken by the whole process. It becomes about the repeated lifted and carrying.
This leads me to reconsider the physical content of my work, and to think about the importance of carrying and lifting. How does this connect to ‘handling’, to caressing? What is the endurance of this (for example carrying a mattress, or holding utensils above my head) doing and saying?
(There is a problem in that I am thinking about the action as a live experience but you the secondary spectator are consuming as or through the video – a medium that in Jane Blocker’s words has capacity for endless repetition simultaneously preserves, re-enacts, and hollows out.)
Blocker, Jane. Repetition: A Skin which Unravels
In Jones, Amelia & Heathfield, Adrian (2012) Perform Repeat Record: Live Art in History. Bristol, Chicago. Intellect.
Introduction: Repetition and Difference
Deleuze Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition
Translated by Paul Patton. Columbia University Press. New York. 1-4.
Available August 2016: