Text by Susan Gibb with Sarah Jones
In 'A Thousand Plateaus', Deleuze and Guattari refer to the brown stagemaker (Scenopoeetes dentirostris), an Australian species of bird native to Queensland that each morning lays down landmarks ‘by dropping leaves it picks from its tree, and then turning them upside down so the paler underside stands out against the dirt.’(1) In this act the brown stagemaker creates its own scene. For Deleuze and Guattari this bird and its act is a significant study, as it both disrupts the idea of art as an activity existing with in an anthropocentric hold, whilst demonstrating that territory or possession emerges with expression.
In year eight, my high school drama class decided rather ambitiously to stage a version of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. I was cast as Vladimir the more verbose and philosophical of the plays central two characters. I rehearsed for weeks, painstakingly practising to look into my hat, to turn it upside down, to stare into the paler underside. I imagine Joseph Breikers was standing somewhere not-so-nearby looking into his shoe.
Performance can imply a ‘doubling’, in what Derrida would describe as the ability to pretend to pretend. It provides a suspension and inversion, a purposeful act of willing and meaningful deception. Inside of pretending, there is both a tension and a security that the pretence may end at any time. All you have to do is step off-stage.
During rehearsals I would stand on the stage desperately trying to twist my brow into an expression that would clearly articulate what I knew of the search for Godot. Joseph and I of course knew that the search was fruitless, that we would find nothing more than the insides of our hats, the insides of our shoes; my unruly hair, his striped socks.
In his exhibition, Brown Stagemaker, Joseph Breikers gentlyoverturns his materials and makes his stage. Not with the brown leaves chosen by a small bird, but with an object of equal everyday mundanity, the humble striped sock. As Deleuze and Guttari point out, the relationship between the brown stagemaker and the artist can quickly be drawn through their desires to set their stages, through the subtle inversion of an object. It is a decisive act within the context of the lives of each of the agents, one of recognition and repetition; it is a turning upside down, and a waiting. The artist and the bird pretend to pretend that the socks and the leaves are something more, each willingly knowing that they are what they are, while willingly acting that they are something else.
When asked about the meaning of Godot, Beckett mentioned “a veteran racing cyclist, bald, a ‘stayer,’ recurrent placeman in town-to-town and national championships, Christian name elusive, surname Godeau, pronounced, of course, no differently from Godot.”(2) Waiting for Godot, is not about track cycling and Joseph Breikers’ Brown Stagemaker is not about BMX’s, but perhaps both perform the pulling up of striped socks to hide pedal scars, and perhaps both upturn objects to reveal their delicate undersides. Or perhaps both simply leave us staring into our hats, into our shoes, performing ourselves and waiting for Godot… in which case there is ‘nothing to be done’, aside of course, from setting the stage...
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brain Massumi, (London:The Athlone Press, 1987), p.315
- Hugh Kenner, 'The Cartesian Centaur', Perspective 11 (Autumn 1959), ed. Ruby Cohn, p.132-41.
- Susan Gibb with Sarah Jones
Written in conjunction with the exhibition and publication series, 'Not Only But Also', which invests in the creation of innovative works by 24 young and emerging Australian artists and writers, forming an integral part of Bus Projects’ inaugural artistic program in its new galleries on Rokeby Street in Collingwood.