A Short Proposal for a Series of Microgravital Sorties

Background: In 1958, Hannah Arendt, in her preface to her most important work, The Human Condition, characterized the root of the human condition as the desire to escape. Reflecting upon the launch of Sputnik a year earlier (which she enthusiastically describes as an "event second in importance to no other, not even to the splitting of the atom") Arendt suggests that our desire to escape the earth is manifest not only in our first steps off planet but also in our attempts "to create life in the test tube" and "to expand man's life-span far beyond the hundred-year limit." A paradox: Arendt seems to propose that the root of the human condition is ultimately a desire to escape the human condition itself.

Quote: "Mankind will not remain bound to earth forever."

Question: What makes escapology so fascinating?

It seems that we all, myself included, love a good escape (and our culture has certainly produced its share of excellent examples -- consider Houdini's performances or Robert Bresson's 1956 film 'A Man Escaped'). Thus my first impulse for this project: to double the stakes (or perhaps the adventure?) by attempting to mount an escape within the escape. (Would it be possible say, to escape from a straitjacket in microgravity?)

Upon further consideration I find myself intrigued by what I think of as the iterative nature of the flight. While the pilot of the Ilyushin-76 MDK strives to repeat perfect parabolas, the contents of the aircraft oscillate between a state of microgravity and 2 G's -- back and forth across an imaginary threshold, following a rhythm somewhat like the structure of my own 'A Thousand Deaths' project. I appreciate this shifting back and forth across the threshold, the fact that the event, the experience, repeats itself. I even appreciate the fact that there appears to be some memory problems between iterations (the reported loss in microgravity of 'body memory'). For me such facts possess an 'aesthetic truth' although I would be 'hard pressed' to say exactly what that truth was...

Or would I? Imagining the desire to escape and the reversal of that desire, to consciously affirm (and will) one's chains, one comes to Nietzsche and his philosophy of Eternal Recurrence. A fine point of departure for this project. The birth of tragicomedy.

Working Title: Escape Redux or 'The Spirit Rides Again'

Abstract: (1) A performance based on Nietzsche's philosophy of Eternal Recurrence and the (quantum) time theories of J. W. Dunne and Julian Barbour. (2) An experiment designed to explore the artist's perception of an event before, during and after its (re-)enactment.

Proposition: During the coming months a script for an extremely short play is to be produced, in part inspired by the prophet Zarathustra and his arch-enemy, the dwarf known as 'The Spirit of Gravity' (Nietzsche), in part inspired by the recurrent elements of the microgravital flight and an interest in non-linear time and memory.

In respect to these interests, and my own previous experience of partial amnesia and subsequent remembering following my 'A Thousand Death' sorties, I additionally propose, by way of further research, to include what happens outside of the event proper, the rehearsals before and after the microgravital event so to speak, and in keeping with this approach, I hope to fold all three periods together in a final (filmic) synthesis.

Assuming, of course, it is possible to remember what occurrs between the recurrences.

Quote: "You do not remember your past lives, since there is no consciousness between occurrences nor memory of previous occurrences." (Steinhart on Nietzsche, 1998)

On a practical note, my proposal includes the construction of a large puppet or marionette who will play the role of Zarathustra (leaving myself, the artist, like Newton "standing on the shoulders of giants" -- to play the other role, that of the winged dwarf). At this point I prefer to leave open the option as to whether or not this creature will possess any 'robotic' properties.

And once again trust that practice makes perfect.


Barbour, Julian. The End of Time (1999).
Borges, Jorge Luis. The Doctrine of Cycles (1936).
Borges, Jorge Luis. Time and J. W. Dunne (1940).
Borges, Jorge Luis. Circular Time (1941).
Dunne, J. W. An Experiment With Time (1927).
Tipler, Frank. The Physics of Immortality (1994).
Toufic, Jalal. Forthcoming (2000).
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885).
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science (1887).

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