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The Forensic Theatre memory playsfor the post-mortem condition Gregory Whitehead TRUE TO ITS MILITARY ORIGINS, the concept of shock describes a subjective experience of total sensual disorientation. Through the accumulation of collective, animal, mechanical, or electronic power into a single blow, the aspiring shock event only truly shocks if it exceeds the capacity of the target individual to absorb external stimuli. A large measure of the resulting sensual derangement centers around the psycho-physical qualities of the look, both what the shock event looks like as it happens and what the shocked target looks like later. For example, the power of the firearm salvo, which revolutionized infantry tactics during the eighteenth century and eventually climaxed in the invention of the machine gun, resided not just in the quantity of enemy soldiers killed, but in the chronoscopically uniform timing of their killing. The enemy experienced shock not just because its numbers were significantly reduced, but because they saw themselves reduced all at once. What began in a horse stirrup terminates in a circuit board and suddenly everybody is asking: what is this blank stare, and how do I get one for mysef? Whether in war or cinema, love or death, the power to send the other into a preferably irretrievable state of shock comes in high velocity to represent the locus of all power and (though we would prefer to repress it) of such stimulus desire. According to the standard psychoanalytic "call and response" model of traumatic neurosis cum stimulus shield, individual 99 spectators defend their psycho-physical integrity by developing various protective blinders and filters. Naturally, the devotees of shock culture then attempt to penetrate even the most super-hard stimulus shields through the production of sharper shock objects until, finally, both the body of the looker and the body of the shock text are ecstatically blinkered beyond all human recognition and the whole grisly mess grinds, at least for a moment, to a halt. Such is the genesis of the Post-Mortem Condition, and its corresponding looking place of the Forensic Theatre, built-at least in principle -to pick up the pieces. But is there anything left worth looking at? I OFF SCHEDULE "We Futurists are YOUNG ARTILLERYMEN ON A TOOT fire+ fire+ light against moonshine and against old firmaments war every night great cities to blaze with electric signs." -F. T. Marinetti, The Variety Theatre Writing in 1913 under the supremely intoxicating influence of "war every night," F. T. Marinetti proposed spectacles of "amazement, recordsetting and body-madness." If one takes this ambition at its word, then certainly the abbreviated trajectory of the space shuttle Challenger must rank as one of the most stunning manifestations of Futurist Variety Theatre. But for all his prescient anticipations of the theatricalization of technologically spectacular death, even Marinetti could not have imagined the thanaturgical excess of fire + fire + light that exploded over Cape Canaveral shortly before noon on January 28, 1986. Among those staring out into the vast blazing teatron were astronaut parents, children, and spouses, invited to witness the historic launching from the unobstructed perspective of a special viewing platform; June Scobee, wife of Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, and their two children, Kathie and Richard; Jane Smith, wife of Michael J. Smith, and their children, Scott, Allison, and Erin; Marvin and Betty Resnik, parents of Judith A. Resnik; and many others. I pause to recall some of their names because contemplating their particular experience of spectatorship is so particularly revealing. Whatever else can be said about their rapt star-gazing, members of this motley congregation of physical intimates were certainly wellpositioned to fully grasp what made the shuttle disaster just so amazing, record-setting, and body-mad, reducing spouses, parents, children, and 100 lovers to a few trays of microscopic tissue samples. Further, it was this group, subsequently referred to as "the Challenger families," that soon became deeply entangled in the shifty circumspections of the tight-fisted necrodrama that followed the fire +fire +light of the opening act. Reviewing the many photographs of the shuttle catastrophe, perhaps the most unsettling is the image of Christa McAuliffe's parents Ed and Grace Corrigan, standing next to their daughter Lisa, taken seconds...


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pp. 99-109
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