A ghost light on an empty stage. I walk towards it. I move slowly for I am barefoot and can’t see my feet, and there may be a nail or a tack on the floor. Finally, I arrive. Darkness on all sides. Just a little bit of illumination. Moon over the water. I am alone in a dark theater. I am a cosmonaut suspended in a light capsule floating in the void.
I sense someone’s presence. There is someone here. I look out, peering into the darkness. Anybody out there? No answer. But I notice that I just saw that: I saw myself looking out. I hear a breath. An intake and an exhalation. The breath stops. I notice that I have just stopped breathing. So it is me. I am here with me.
But still, there is more presence than that. The darkness itself is aware. Aware of me. Not in a distant kind of way but in an intimate, inquisitive fashion, as if following my every breath and counting every hair on my head: “Who are you? What would you have happen?”It is watching me watching myself, embracing the two of us in one act of seeing, a third watcher. Our seeing, however, is not only seeing but rather a complex perceptual act inseparably enmeshed in the flesh: my skin seeing darkness that touches my eyes.
Despite this enmeshing, the fundamental tripartite paradigm remains: I am myself, perceiving myself in the act of perception. One, two, three. And then, the new “I” emerges, both all-encompassing, like space, and in motion, like time. Sometimes it coalesces as the one standing on the dusty floorboards and looking out, her feet cold; other times it floats into the audience to watch the shape of the body or the expression of the hands from the back row. Still other times it lifts itself up towards the ceiling to observe a small figure below. But it always embraces. It is always a substratum in which everything occurs. Soon, this multisensory act of awareness becomes a sentient sphere filled with numerous, rapidly shifting and shimmering points of embodied vision; sensing eyes are everywhere, in every particles of dust, above, below around and in-between. I am both here and there and everywhere at once, a fundamentally tripartite entity, but infinitely divisible into perceiving singularities. I am the one who is three who can also become many, as many as there are points in space.
And then, it happens: my foot moves to do a quick tap on the boards of the stage—one, two, three. My right arm flies up, fingers uncurling into a curlicue. Standing on an empty stage in a pool of light, I perform.
Habit? Perhaps. But I rather think that performance is my response to the void that surrounds me. Darkness, even if filled with my own perception, comes rather close to the figuration of nothing. I raise my hand so that I can exist. I perform, for nothing else will do. Somehow, I feel that I cannot just stand there, as if a voice in my head said “offer something, why don’t you,” intimating that the emptiness itself hungers for expression. I don’t know about that. But I do know that only if I raise my hand, bending my fingers just so, I will emerge into existence, etching something like a fleeting human hieroglyph into the blinding darkness of the infinite, accounting for this conscious moment in the light.
Still: for whom do I do that? For myself? So that I can exist as myself? Yes, that seems to be what is happening. But something else operates here, too. If it were only “me, myself, I,” then why bother. I don’t cook for myself, either. Performance wants an audience, but an audience who is also fundamentally different than the performing self, Other than it, not just self-Same, no matter how expanded and panoptical it may be (“Who is out there?” an actor wants to find out, “I hope it is not only family”). The expanded self, watching itself watching itself, although an inherent part of the perceptual phenomenon of the theatrical experience, contains within itself a presentiment and a locus of the Other. Facing the void I perform, not only for myself, not only for the three aspects of my own perceiving, but also for something vaster and larger, for some unknowable but present audience, an ancient watcher up there in the sky of my own mind, hidden within its grey matter, which is also perhaps the dark matter itself. Facing the void, I perform for myself as the Other that is the same as me and the infinite universe, both. At least that’s what I think.
Aleksandra Wolska authored the articles in this blog. And to that, she says, "Meow."