Friday, 21 October 2011

sixth discursion

ventriloquism is a performance in which a trick is played, but it is a trick you knowingly accept. what is at issue in the ventriloquist's act is the performance of a specific skill; how much do their lips move and are we able to 'believe' that the puppet is alive. The acceptance of a trick, of a manipulative act on the sense and cognition of the viewer is important in many forms of entertainment or stage-craft. But in all of these staged situations it is known that a trick is being performed, the viewer accepts the contract of the stage with its sub-clause of manipulation. in most performances, theatrical or otherwise, the key element is technical skill, the virtuosity of the performer and their ability to captivate the viewer, to generate an emotional or aesthetic experience. unlike the magician, or the ventriloquist whose obvious trickery is part of the pleasure of their practice; theatre, cinema and most forms of performance (except those of a Brechtian leaning) seek to hide their illusion, the strategic manipulation of space, time and the viewing subject. this is a politics, a construction of the subject, in which free agency is negated or at least put on hold before the seductiveness of aesthetic pleasure.
how much can we choose what gives us pleasure, an innocent and maybe pointless question, but when asked from inside a consumer society it reveals the limits of agency and will. when we experience aesthetic pleasure we become the ventriloquist's dummy, unknowing of whose grammar is animating us.

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