The mosaic absurdity that is My Onliness—the child of One-Eighth Theater, IRT Theater, and New Ohio Theater—is an avant-garde experience to say the least. The spirit of the Polish playwright, painter, and philosopher Stanislaw Witkacy, a precursor to the Theater of the Absurd, is summoned through the writer and lyricist Robert Lyons’ keen treatment of his vision and work.
It is indeed a challenge describing the dystopian society depicted in My Onliness, as there is no clear overarching plot. It is billed as: “A Mad king’s desperate attempt to impress a mysterious petitioner. (The poor writer is simply collateral damage!) Is this a glimpse of our dystopian future? Or just the structure of human consciousness?” My consciousness was strikingly stirred with the post-modern theories I seek to illuminate. Unlike Lyons, “The Writer” (played by Rhys Tivey) lacks such authority, as his rationalism turns into crazy scribbles of scientific theories on the walls surrounding the audience. The illogical, non-linear, disorienting flow of the performance is an intellectual kaleidoscope of postmodern theories, forcing the audience to think about the authenticity of living in a socially-constructed world.
Nietzsche asserts that language isn’t the adequate expression of our reality: it is created by mankind, claiming a center as the one holding and exercising knowledge to bridge the gap between the sensible (the physical things) and intelligible (forms and ideas) world. Language, a system of predetermined concepts, becomes a vessel in which to express our experiences. The language exists only within the social constructs, dictating what the body of the words is communicating, to exist socially. There is no risk or play, or creativity in framing the world and existence. Everything is connected in a logical manner and is therefore fixed. This is the misfortune of the rational man. Any experience that cannot fit into the structure becomes inaccessible. Nietzsche emphasizes that in order to use language novelly and break this fixed cycle tied to social norms and beliefs, we need the “intuitive man”– the one who uses words creatively, in non-literal ways. This way of treatment will also advance us into new scopes of knowledge by showing what has not been seen.
This postmodern thinking is present in Deleuze and Guattari’s view of the unconscious as a rhizome tree. A rhizome tree lacks a true center, shooting its branches in various directions. Thus, they describe rhizomatic multiplicities as “libidinal, unconscious, molecular, intensive multiplicities composing particles that do not divide without changing in nature and distances that do not vary without entering another multiplicity”. The language of My Onliness embodies this decentralized unconsciousness through the amalgamation of body language (American Sign Language, dance), verbal language (monologue, dialogue, songs belonging to different genres), and stage language (lights, props, costumes). Libidinal in a Freudian sense, in which the Court Mediums (Malik Paris and Dickie Hearts) sexualize their interaction with the objects and the audience.
The idea that we need to strip ourselves of a universal language to secure an authentic life is also present in D&G’s concept of the schizophrenic position. The schizophrenic is on the edge of the crowd: not fully in it, but not completely abandoning it either; They live in the social construct but do not mold experiences to fit into common expressions and predetermined concepts. The schizophrenic is an experimentalist, unchained from the limits imposed on them. They live in intensities and affects that are not regulated by social codifications, therefore their expression of being is outside the organized representation of common sense, the “universal language.” Thus, they are perceived as delusional, incoherent, and confusing. However, their position is arguably one that is closest to reality as they are experiencing life through instantaneous multiplicities.
In order to achieve novelty, that is My Onliness’ choreographed absurdity, one needs to be as skilled as this cast is because one cannot break boundaries if one isn’t aware of them—as D&G emphasize, on the edge with a foot in the crowd; proving Nietzsche’s point that for novelty to arise, one cannot fully be rid of the rational man. The desired relationship of the rational and intuitive man is further embodied through the Mad King’s use of a giant metallic object with jiggles as a pen (carrying Dada’s nonsensical spirit) to sign the mysterious woman Morbidita (Cynthia LaCruz)’s petition, whom the Mad King is trying to impress. To recite the words of the Writer, My Onliness is an experience in which “senselessness makes sense.”
Elif Baysak is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist from Turkey and holds a BA in Theater from The New School. She has always found herself drawn to the experimental nature of the arts, with a focus on avant-garde movements as their groundbreaking ideas have pushed the limits of what can be achieved through art. Working through her impulses and desires, she experiments with video, drawing, writing, and performance.