Ghotes in the Machine

What appears in art, what art demonstrates, is the Idea’s failure to signify itself directly.’
-Slavoj Zizek, The Plague of Fantasies

When I first read this play in the Alaskan Quarterly Review I thought it was a piece of literature to be read and not acted. The dialogue even seemed a bit forced and formulaic at times. I never actually thought that it would be possible to direct the text until last summer when working on a pipeline and reading McLuhan , I realised how much fun this production could be for myself and all the actors. It was at that time I saw the pressing theme of how technology mediates, shapes and is our relationship with people. I thought the metaphor of an “Answering Machine” [AM] portrayed this idea “crystal clearly”.
Once I decide to do the play, I wanted to have as much fun as possible in the process [in other words, make it really difficult to do]. One of the weirdest aspects of this play has been the casting, rehearsing and separation of the performers.

Each performer was requested to partake in the play only knowing their own lines and no one’s else, as well as keeping a vow of silence regarding the play to all others. This estrangement between performers hopefully has extended the theme of [mis/non]communication from the text into real relation ships. This movement from text to reality is also the reason for moving the play from a professional stage to the real setting of an apartment. To use academic jargon: in this production, I am trying to dissolve the constructed binaries of reality and art.

One of today’s popular forms of contemporary art is “performance art.” Some of these artists include: Oleg Krulik who, invited by the art gallery, paid homage to the Greek philosopher Diogenes by living in a dog house naked day and night, finally biting people and getting arrested; or how about a Viennese Group who crucified participants upside, resulting in someone dying from self-mutilation; nowadays even rock musicians are being considered as “performance artists” who have not been paid their due. This play is subversive in that drama’s usual key defining essence is presence, but in AM there is no pure present performer—at least not in the traditional sense. The play has no live performers on “stage,” allowing all of them to be in the audience.

They can read themselves in the same way film actors do at a premiere screening of their own film. In this sense, AM is not avant-garde art. This play could be seen as a radio drama…but its not! I believe the play must be performed as “live” drama, which hopefully tonight will show. The people in the room at the time of the performance will be facing each other in a circle. Are the spectators performing? Are the performers spectating? Hopefully this play accents the complication of these two roles, a complication that I believe exists in all plays [including Shakespeare’s cliché: All the world’s a stage].

For those interested in the theory behind producing AM, I would start by stating that deconstructing binaries is an important part to this production. In one way I would say that this is what “Art” is for me. Fundamentally this is expressed in the binary of Form and Content. Throughout my life, in all things, I am continually trying to break this dichotomy by integrating the two. As romantic and enchanting as it seems that there really is not a dichotomy between Form/Content shown by deconstruction, the facticity of the analytical mind forces the “presence” of these two different aspects of art. As an alternative to deconstruction, which at times seems too abstract and Socratic for me, I attempt to return to the original state by dissolving the binaries through correlation. Another key word for me, for years, is threshold. Due to a loss of innocence caused by the western thinking that I embody, Form and Content are antipodal -- but they don’t have to be binaries. I see Form at one end of the threshold and Content at the other end. By thematically correlating the two ends, I hope to manipulate this threshold into a Moebius strip formation that, in a sense, melds the threshold into a redeemed whole. I know this process is completely artificial, but it’s my fantasy that sustains my idea of art.

Finally, as Brecht emphasised, The Measure Taken is ideally to be performed without the observing public, so too AM is ideally just for the performers. If you are not a “performer” this evening and are eavesdropping, a fly on the wall sort of speaks, beware, for you may be one of the “centres” outside of the circle.

Thanks for all the ghosts in the machine for having blind faith in me and the product[ion]. Special thanks to kmm [my “production assistant”], E [the only letter “utopia” is missing], and the most of the ghosts -- Flint [the propagandist and fellow conspirator in all mediums of light]. No, there will not be souvenirs to purchase [unless you want to buy the answering machine; I’ve already transgressed my fantasy and moved on to the more immaterial voicemail].

charles stankievech
02:49. 04.10.00 @ the crack_shack

directed and produced
sound engineer
stage manager
production assistant
technical consultant
  charles stankievech
jesse dryfhout
joshua estabrooks
marisse aguilar
aaron flint jamison
nathan wylie
(defunct technology)