Bernard-Marie Koltès, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields
The post-market ethics and esthetics, understood from the aspect of the autoreferentiality of the subject which is directly involved in the market as topos, is articulated with many meanings and mutlimedially, thus not avoiding theatre as a medium, i.e. play as a performative category on one hand and as a language system on the other.
Staring from the impossibility of the existence of innocence of the language – with Roland Barthes’s terminology, via the paradigms of post-market ethics and esthetics, Bernard-Marie Koltès creates the world of relations between his characters via the voluptuous dramaturgy of the dramatic text. “In the Solitude of Cotton Fields”, starting from the broad understanding of consumerism as the main narrative tool, i.e. the language of drama theory – the performative character of the dramatic text, or, best said – the reason for action: le deal.
The dramatic structure of the text is (seemingly) very simple: a duet between the Dealer and Client in a sales, trade dialogue which can be interpreted (read and understood) as a constant encounter of two monologues, two inner voices that touch and repel each other, as if they are two poles of a magnetic needle, warning about the danger that they bring: the threat that escalates to a conflict (assumed, felt) because of the impossibility to reach an agreement, to buy and sell, to make the transaction1F, to be part of the market as equitable exchange of experience and possessions. However, it is only the linguistic material of the text which further on creates the contexts that are the subject of this speculation about Koltès’s play.
The political background which tackles the global market in Koltès’s text is only the first axis that the action rotates around: criticism of the global order and free market that destroys the borders between the conditionally independent actors that make it and which in the end (have to) surrender to the will of the stronger, the Master, and even the Oxidant – with Said’s terminology, subdue to the extent of their own (again – assumed and sensed, because of the innocence of the language) disembodiment. In this criticism of consumerism, Koltès does not reveal the object of buying and selling relationship and puts the reader, i.e. the future reader in many traps, sets them for him to move carefully, so that he can reach the open antagonism between the characters. These atopic places or linguistic knots (places with thick meaning that need to be interpreted) which are born in the social and political context of the text open the next position from which Koltès constructs his dramatic action.
In the middle of this metaphor of capitalism as a domination technique2F, Koltès opens the second line that pertains to love as a category of the body and the object of interest between the Dealer and the Client, love as a market commodity, under the veil of a highly octane sexuality, love as being, as a personal quality that becomes part of the products that are offered at the global market; love coded in the format of (homo)eros which in the end should express itself in a performative way, to fulfill itself, to be realized in (homo)sexuality.
The Client and the Dealer have at least double coded relationship. They are the Eros and Thanatos: the Dealer presented as Death and the Client presented as Love in the terminality of their encounter, the fulfillment of the transaction. The encounter between Eros and Thanatos in Koltès’s text clearly refers to the 1980es when the AIDS became the new world plague, which is closely related to author’s biography. At this level, the text can be freely read as a self-prophesy, as knowledge of one’s own price of love, need, urge, awareness about the dogma against which there are still battles in many areas of human existence.
In this network, the second code of the relationship between the Client and the Dealer is clearly given in the transformation of the object into abject. The object of love ultimately becomes abject, repulsiveness, it becomes and emotional state of spite to once so desired object, imposed in a threefold way: when the object of love if the Other, when the object of love is place within oneself (autoerotism) and when the object of love is love itself. In the end – in this combination, love becomes an abject product offered at the market of feelings, a transaction that nobody would reach for unless involved in this transaction from the beginning, while the character (the Client) becomes an abject to oneself from the position of his own sexuality which he despises enough to raise it to a despised feature, a despised part of the being, a weapon ready for suicide/murder.
Finally, “In the Solitude of Cotton Fields” on one hand becomes a piece on solitude as a necessity, as a model offered to the object for never becoming an abject (which is most probably the only catharsis moment of the directly involved reader and future spectator), and on the other hand an artistic act that presents the alienation as a means for self-salvation, an escape from the so desired Other to oneself, just to keep the yearning for the final encounter between Eros and Thanatos alive. Only the question of the method remains: Alors, a quelle arme?
1. As Koltès also writes in the introductory didascalia of the dramatic text: The deal is a commercial transaction.
2. The term if borrowed from M. Foucault. As quoted in “Technology of the Self”, where Foucault speaks of the existence of three main types of techniques: production technique, signifying technique or communication and domination technique.