Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nauman's Beckett Walk// Kathryn Chiong

in order for a knock to be a knock, which might be recognized as "someone at the door" the sound must normally recur, the second proving that the first was not just the banging of a branch but the work of communication. Roman jakobson indentifies this operation in verbal behavior wherein duplication signals "that the uttered sounds do not represent babble, but a senseful, semantic entity.:" what if on the other hand as Watt proposes the knock is not simply a knock in that it occurs not twice but too many times? What happens for instance when a word is repronounced until that senseful semantic entity collapses into a series of too distinct phonemes? the result is not simply babble. rather, what the excess finally signals is its own presence. the sound then, not of someone at the door, but of knock knock knock knock- and this mechanism of repetition.

Jacques Derrida describes repetition not as posterior to the origin, but somehow simultaneous with it, "a trace which replaces a presence which has never been present". the notion of an autonomous origin, then, is a kind of lure, a fantasy: "... once it lends itself a single time to such representation- that is to say, once it is written,- when one can read a book in the book, an origin in the origin, a center in the center, it is the abyss, is the bottomlessness of infinite redoubling"

Affirming, like Jakobson, that signs are born in their capacity to be repeated, derrida goes on to venture that at the mystical center where there is no such play of origin, we find death. Repetition is thus conceived not as supplementary accumulation, but as an essential "bottomlessness" that provides the very grounds for existence. It finds voice in Beckett's and Nauman's production, when a spoken phrase becomes a maddening refrain, when a sound begins to grate in its seeming sameness. through these repetitions, refusing an isolated origin, Beckett and Nauman show being, so that one might have mentioned to the other as did Estragon and Vladimir, "We always find something, eh, Didi, to give us the impression we exist?"

These exercises, however, consistently maintain themselves as failed affirmations, as finally only "impressions" which in their patent actuality always ever return to the question "We Exist?" for this is also the function of repetition, to unmake the very identity that it seeks t confirm, disrupting the hierarchy of model and copy, as Derrida describes: "We are faced then with mimicry imitating nothing; faced, so to speak, with a double that doubles no simple, a double that nothing anticipates, nothing at least that is not itself already double." Rather than reaffirming the identity of the one, repetition inspires the rabid production of another, from which the one cannot extricate itself, but with which it will never be identitcal. It is this relationship of non identity, somewhere between parasitic and symbiotic, which Beckett and Nauman force their characters to endure with every recurrence

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