In the play "Attempts on Her Life" by Martin Crimp he introduces his main character, Anne, through various methods via other characters. However, we never see Anne herself. The entire construct of her character is based solely on the information provided by other characters. Which become increasingly odd as the play progresses. This reliance on others, rather then illuminating, emphasises her total absence from the piece. The accounts themselves are contradicting and the speakers themselves are never identified or defined. All of the confusing and opinionated accounts are represented in various ways, an answering machine, a song, an ad. We rely so heavily on visual elements to construct and analyse others that we are instead forced to look through others' eyes. Which begs the question, who do we listen to?
This brings into question the nature of the Gaze. Which as Lacan puts it "is the power of looking that makes up a network of relationships in which we give reality and solidity to ourselves and those we look at. " Looking and its close relation between control and desire is a powerful weapon and the Gaze is the process of looking and then creating relationships and networks between the objects we view. With the power of the Gaze taken out of the audiences' hands, or the inherent spectator, it is instead shifted to the director, actors and designers. This turns the spectators into the spectated, as what the audience looks at and where they look is moderated.
Rather than a play, "Attempts on Her Life" seems more like a Happening which may have words but they may not always make literal sense...
"The line between the Happening and daily life should be kept fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible" -Allan Kaprow
"- She's driving away from the bombed-out city in a metallic red Cadillac circa 1956...
-...when she reaches a checkpoint lit by burning tyres and is asked-exactly- for her name.
- Strangely enough she doesn't reply to this reasonable request but begins instead a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse. ' You mother-fucking shit-faced murderers.' she says ' You pig-fucking cock-sucking bastards."
- 'You sister-fucking blaspheming child-murdering mindless fuck-faced killers.'
-' I shit on your graves and on the graves of your mothers and fathers..'
- '... and curse all the future generations.' And then when asked once more- that's right- for her identity falls silent.
scene 12 Attempts on Her Life
Then onto another scene wholly different in both voice and presentation, she is Anne, Anya, Anny- a vehicle, Annie, or Annushka. But who is she really?
How we present our image changes how others view us and then form opinions on our personalities. Since the image itself is based solely on our manipulation of our own outward appearance, what can be said to be the reality? If our very being, our substance and personality, is dependant on such outward mediations, on what then do we base our own sense of reality and that of others. In the modern era this perception is largely mediated through the manipulation of images replete with fluid meanings. While an image is there to be seen, it is not necessarily a truthful representation of reality. Martin Crimp is well aware of this power and uses it, or lack thereof to create awareness of our use of the Gaze. In an era where we are constantly bombarded with images and words we scarcely notice their total impact.
As Crimp reminds us, sometimes we have to step back and contemplate. I am trying to use this awareness of our own spectatorship as an audience as I find ways to set his play, and in doing so find out how to grapple with the effects of the digital age on how we perceive image, or rather the image without its meaning. Crimp has opened a new and different way to view a play, dispensing with the conventions of playwriting. This rambling dialogue, poetic at times is a perfect and imperfect reflection of the fragmentation of communication that we find ourselves in today.
So, why not use that same vehicle to stage the play itself. How about a scene played out on twitter and another on an mp3 file?