- Planes of Immanence:Deleuzian Assemblage as a Mode of Thought in the Theatre of Ricardo Monti
It may be that to believe in this world, in this life, has become our most difficult task, the task of a mode of existence to be discovered on our plane of immanence today.—Gilles Deleuze1
Introduction: Performance and Immanence
Argentine playwright Ricardo Monti belongs to a generation, which includes authors such as Eduardo Pavlovsky and Roberto Sosa, who experienced the revolutionary and utopian impulses of the 1960s and 1970s in Argentina, in conflict with repressive forces that led to the dictatorship of 1976–1983. Since the return of democracy, Monti continues to write a politically and historically engaged theatre; he is considered a major reference for new generations of playwrights. Various scholarly studies of Monti’s theatre (by Monteleone, Pellettieri, and Graham-Jones, for example) are in agreement when establishing that theatrical dynamism, symbolic density, intertextuality, and experimentation with alternative structures are present in his work.2 Four main features characterize his work: the use of metatheatrical devices, the presence of various forms of parody, its reference to past history, and the ambiguity of its narrative resolutions. These highlight Monti’s search for alternative expressions of reality through theatre, as well as the eccentricity of his aesthetics. Nevertheless, identifying these characteristics falls short of pinpointing the source of the work’s impact, its unity, and its specific innovations. One reason for this shortcoming, I argue, is the treatment of the plays as representation, leading to hermeneutic impasses that, even as they are related to Argentina’s conflicted history, do not translate into a unified vision. A Deleuzian approach, where an author uses theatre for a project related to performance instead of representation, will be more efficacious in conveying continuity in Monti’s work. Rather than confronting us with aporias and/or indeterminacy, the plays are performances that draw paths of becoming. Monti believes that as an artist engaged in the bourgeois practice of theatre, he must commit to critique its thought immanently from the inside of that [End Page 79] practice.3 The plays, then, exploit theatre as an image of thought in the Deleuzian sense of “giv[ing] itself of what it means to think, to make use of thought, to find one’s bearings in thought.”4 The Deleuzian concept of immanence, specifically, as Laura Cull has suggested, allows us to “rethink performance itself as a kind of philosophy.”5 The aesthetics of Monti’s plays, the nature of their theatricality, and their ethical/political sense, come into prominence when his dramatic work is understood as a thought experiment that spans the playwright’s career.
Like Gilles Deleuze’s theories, Monti’s work concerns contemporary frustration about our mode of investment in the world, whether it may be understood in personal, political, economic, or historical terms. Deleuze understood this crisis as one of the plane of immanence; that is, our capacity to engage our human desire and potentiality in pure becoming with no transcendental end or reference. For Deleuze, it is not an issue of believing in the world but “in its possibilities of movements and intensities, so as once again to give birth to new modes of existence.”6 The search for planes of immanence is a historical task because it is tied to a critique of global capitalism, and to a recognition of the openings and obstacles for revolutionary transformation that globalization offers. Immanence therefore defines practices that engage the state of things as a being in crisis, yet refuse to seek a transcendent path out of the crisis. Instead, this practice chooses to produce more immanence and freedom from the givens in the status quo.
In relation to theatre, Deleuze translates the issue of immanence as a rejection of the fixity of representational theatre, which emphasizes perception, while searching for a theatre that takes root in the instability of becoming. This means that theatre must yield to the productivity of desire and thought. Similarly, the plays of Ricardo Monti insist on the theatrical condition of characters and actors, because theatre, unlike the illusions that inform our situation in the world, gives us a better...