Saturday, January 3, 2009

No More Strings

from On Bunraku
by Roland Barthes

"In dealing with a fundamental antimony, the animate/inanimate, Bunraku muddies it, makes it fade, without benefiting either of its terms. In the west, the puppet (Punch, for example) is expected to offer the actor the mirror of his contrary; it animates the inanimate, but the better to show its degradation, the indignity of its inertia. A caricature of "life," the puppet thereby affirms life's moral limits and presumes to confine beauty, truth, emotion in the living body of the actor, who, however, makes of this body a lie."

"It is very possible that the Japanese puppet retains something of this phantasmic origin, but the art of Bunraku imprints on it a different meaning. Bunraku does not aim to "animate" an inanimate object so as to bring a piece of the body, a shred of man, to life, all the while keeping for it its vocation as a "part". It is not the simulation of the body which Bunraku seeks; it is - if this can be said - the body's tangible abstraction. Everything we attribute to the total body and which is refused western actors under the name of "living" organic unit, the little man in Bunraku collects and states, without any lies. Fragility, discretion, sumptuousness, unparalleled nuance, the abandonment of all vulgarity, the melodic phrasing of gestures -- in short, the very qualities ancient theology accorded to heavenly bodies, to wit, impassivity, clarity, agility, subtlety -- this is what Bunraku accomplishes, this is how it converts the body-fetish into a body worthy of love, this is how it rejects the animate/inanimate antinomy and banishes the concept hidden behind all animation, which is, quite simply, the "soul".

"It is .. vain to wonder whether the spectator can forget the presence of the manipulators. Bunraku practices neither the occultation nor emphatic manifestation of its springs; it rids the actor's animation of all sacral staleness and abolishes the metaphysical connection the west cannot keep from making between the soul and the body, cause and effect, motor and machine, agent and actor, destiny and man, God and creature. If the manipulator is not hidden, why - how? - do you want to make him a god? In Bunraku, the puppet is not controlled by strings. No more strings, therefore no more metaphors, no more destiny. The puppet no loger apes the creature, man is no longer a puppet in the hands of divinity, the inside no longer rules the outside."

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