THE MINDSET OF “GEESE” and a cultural allegory of a leftist mindset from revolt to obliteration
The mindset of the 2002 Bali bombers is more understandable when considered in light of the radical mindset of an extreme revolutionary activist from any time period. For a relatively politically passive society like Australia, there has been (and probably still is) a surprising degree of radical revolutionary passion and activism. The splintering of the Communist Party and the strong influence of philosophers such as Herbert Marcuse (visit the website) and Erich Fromm on student activists produced an impassioned, if not fragmented, leftist revolutionary movement in Australia.
While often at odds with the more traditional movement in the trade unions, its focus was on issues of the Vietnam war, rising feminist consciousness, the Chinese Cultural Revolution with such off-shoots as the Danish published Little Red School Book and incorporated wider cultural dimensions influenced by writers such as Wilhelm Reich. In short, there was a fusion: “of Marxism and Psychoanalysis to forge a revolutionary sexual radicalism which argued that capitalism sexually repressed the masses in the interests of its life negating and exploitative goals.” (Susanne Martain: http://www.issi.aust.com/ accessed 3/4/2011)
GEESE, THEATRE PRODUCTION
The Shadow House PITS 2011 production, GEESE, explores the mindset of Simon Weigl (later Rodez) who spends his adult lifetime expunging his cultural and family past in order to transform himself into a new human being free of hereditary religious, sexual and cultural attachments. This journey connects him to people who, like the Bali bombers and today’s Islamic terrorists, have seen death as a kind of romantic offering for whatever the idealistic cause. On another level, Weigl is the ultimate post modern existentialist; always at war with the universe and always unsatisfied with his current condition, his biology his own world view.
For Weigl, it all comes back to biology, the cause of his misogyny. His efforts to overcome his biological programing and cultural conditioning were all part of his revolutionary action. He was initially Involved with Maoist, Workers Self Management Groups and even more extreme political and cultural movements in the early seventies. He later transformed into a more personal revolutionary character ultimately centred around his passion for a totally dedicated revolutionary artist he only knew as Green. By attempting to re-program their predispositions (ie. the way they heard music, the language they used and the travel to unfamiliar countries) and even their names (Simon Weigl became Simon Rodez after the city where Antonin Artaud was incarcerated in an asylum), Rodez and Green might have succeeded were it not for the Bali bombing in 2002.
The three key women in his life were all concerned with forms of sacrifice: the mother as a kind of suffering martyr for her Jewish faith; the radical girl, Eva, sharing his journey from Maoist revolutionary and the extreme left to the ultimate sacrifice of death; and Green who sought transformation of self through art as a revolutionary act in the tradition of Antonin Artaud. There is irony as his life is shattered through the barbarism of another kind of idealism and belief as the Balinese night club in Kuta was bombed.
The leftist mindset that began with revolt in the sixties and ended with intellectual death at the time of the Bali bombing is paralleled by the fragmentation of idealism into suicide. This is explored through the meeting with a young girl, Anais, with what is left of Simon Weigl at a railway station in early 2003. She is more than a stranger; more than some angel of death. The geese that lived around the station, the train and the eerie connection with the last moments of the now aging Weigl all merge into a screaming moment that will echo within the girl for the next ten years.
The memory of an all but forgotten Australian revolutionary character may well find a source of expression though the chronicles of Anais as she re-assembles the past in order to find a way of explaining; of picturing a complex interweaving of lives.
OBLITERATION AND REASSEMBLING: A Fractal Ontology of Antonin Artaud
A central aspect of the play GEESE is the notion that how Weigl / Rodez thinks and sees himself is less significant than the way others receive him and carry his thoughts. This is a deceptively simply proposition; except that it embodies the key element of Antonin Artaud’s thought: ie. obliteration and reassembling and a Fractal Ontology (check this excellent website).
Mao’s constant revolution as the highest form of human endeavour is possible only within a mindset of constant shedding and constant moving within the body politic. Such a notion is compatible with quantum physics and the difficult artistic notions espoused by Antonin Artaud. Mao wrote in his section on criticism and self-criticism in The Little Red Book:
The proverb “Running water is never stale and a door-hinge is never worm-eaten” means that constant motion prevents the inroads of germs and other organisms. To check up regularly on our work and in the process develop a democratic style of work, to fear neither criticism nor self-criticism, and to apply such good popular Chinese maxims as “Say all you know and say it without reserve”, “Blame not the speaker but be warned by his words” and “Correct mistakes if you have committed them and guard against them if you have not” – this is the only effective way to prevent all kinds of political dust and germs from contaminating the minds of our comrades and the body of our Party.”
While it can be argued this thinking led to disastrous results (or the reverse depending on one’s standpoint) in China, the thinking is very different from traditional Marxist resolving of contradictions as a means for humanity’s moving forward and general progress. It suggests a constancy is required within the very act of resolution and that such acts need constant criticism, assessment and renewal. Leaving aside questions of practicality, the emphasis is on a state of flux as the norm rather than the achievement of a pre-determined status quo.
CONSTANCIES IN MOVEMENT AND SUBVERSION OF RESOLUTIONS
This is essentially what Artaud sought in his theatre, art and life. Capitalism (like “liberalism” in Mao’s thinking) sought equilibrium with no values and peace at the cost of ethical considerations. Artaud thus was different to Brecht, less in ultimate potential forms of expression, but rather through his demand for understanding of constancies in movement and the subverting of whatever resolutions (even revolutionary resolutions) were possible.
In a practical sense, this can only become manifest through a “tendency” rather than a dogma because it is impossible to achieve while providing a means to social cohesiveness. It becomes an easy target for critics and those arguing for greater cultural considerations; especially more traditional cultural considerations.
Ziauddin Sardar, for instance, has tended to link communist and capitalist thinking as one and the same (post modern) because of the de-emphasis on cultural roots and traditional truths established over long periods.
The production of GEESE utilizes forms (ie. Butoh, music, poetic/metaphorical text, Balinese dance) to illustrate the paradigm in thinking that was energized by the radical cultural/political movements of the 1960s and early 1970s in Australia. That such thought has all but disappeared and lost the relevance it might have once had provides GEESE with a socio / historical context which is a central role of artistic creation and presentation within our society.
… especially as new waves of radicals try to reshape and recreate themselves into the means for a new revolution and a new human being shaped this time by the interpreters of the mind of Allah!
Originally published in “scream No. 51. April 2011” on www.shadowhousepits.com.au (no longer current)