Scripting for Agency uses performance, storytelling and the cultivation of relationships with fictional characters, to estrange a set of popularly held assumptions about the ‘mechanics of self’. These include assumptions which underpin current debates about identity within the public sphere, such as the ethics of appropriation, self-identification, belonging, identity taxonomies, and related issues. The project responds to elementary studies of self, with a focus on testing, expanding, troubling or elaborating some of the a priori assumptions about how self works: its shape, movement, plasticity, mechanism, and scope.
The project begins by identifying self mechanics as a field devoted to theorising on the ‘architecture of agency’, bringing together examples from art, psychology, anthropology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, metafictional literature and evolutionary theory. It then proposes a set of performance art experiments as instruments for yielding new insights in this area.
Embarking from the well-documented psychological phenomenon of frame-switching, where it has been shown that people switch their behaviour, personality, and cognitive mechanisms depending on which ‘cultural frame’ they situationally adopt, my project expands this phenomenon to consider the role of ‘character’ in the mechanics of self. It is especially concerned with troubling the perceived relationship between ‘self-consistency’ and ‘authenticity’, through performance, reading and writing.
These three activities all depend on turning a human being into a ‘substratum’ across which a text is played out, allowing for a kind of exchange of consciousness (e.g. performer → character; reader → text). Through a performance practice in which I am possessed by fictional characters, my project is concerned with developing methods of exploring my personality bandwidth and developing an aesthetics self variability in relation to authenticity, inhabiting inconsistent self-conceptions, and phenomenologically reporting the movements my self makes in my character performances.
In parallel to the project, I am writing Anomaline, a novel in which I negotiate the dynamics of an author-character relationship, forming the ‘unconscious’ or ‘background radiation’ of the visible practice. The novel will be submitted as documentation, along with a series of performance works and a written dissertation exploring the following three-part hypothesis, which itself was partially generated by some of the characters active in my performances:
Character is a pattern which ‘plays out’ across a substratum, here referred to as ‘the human being’, that is embedded within a social milieu.
Character is the shape of what is thinkable to the human being at a given time.
‘The social agent’ is that character which enters the social milieu as a stakeholder and responsible agent on behalf of the human being.