What doe these two have in common?  On the one side, we have one of the most recognized and acclaimed writers of the twentieth century: Samuel Beckett.  On the other side, the performance artist William Pope.L is depicted casually in a library.  The stoic nature of Beckett’s portrait, contrasted with Pope.L’s laid-back demeanor is somewhat misleading.  However, as one performs the sort of stern and serious nature many of us may attribute to an artist of his stature, we must learn to rethink the ways in which that sort of affect may interdict a number of readings we may attempt in our approach to a text/image.

I have been thinking for quite a while about the ways in which Beckett’s novelHow It Isand Pope.L’s decades long performance “crawl piece” offer two of the most profound aesthetic enactments of the theory of survival (following what Derrida has formulated as the condition of existence between birth and death).  I am unable to elaborate this fully here, but I have been thinking about what these two artists do to and for an idea of survival.  In both of their works, Beckett’s protagonist and Pope.L himself actually crawl through a depleted landscape.  The mud and shit which generate a specific setting in Beckett’s novel are eerily echoed in the post-industrial urban landscapes of “crawl piece”.  The resonances of one in the other is resounding, and I am having a difficult time thinking about much else at the moment. 

I bring these two up now though, because I perpetually curious about the capacity for a theory of life and death to operate outside of its own economy.  By that, I mean to say that if the definiteness of this thing called life is regulated by an absolute end, do we also necessarily submit that form (i.e. life) to a system of valuation?  The answers which emerge in Beckett and Pope.L seem to suggest yes, but at the same time, that system is flawed and not nearly enough to understand—not to mention experience—the process between birth and death.  More to come on this later…