About the ineffable: the mystical conception | Angélica Liddell

“No one has the possibility to say anything, at all, because there is no word that can communicate or express this experience, nor is there intelligence or thought that can capture it, as it so much surpasses everything. As with God, who cannot be explained by anything. God really cannot be explained by anything!”, says St. Angela of Foligno to Friar Arnold in her Book of Life.

And: “The divine Scripture is so sublime that there is no wise man in the world, even if he is endowed with intelligence and spirit to understand it, that can understand it so thoroughly that it does not overflow him, and yet stammer something. But, about those ineffable divine operations that take place in the soul when God manifests Himself, absolutely nothing can be said or stammered.”

We will stammer something then, but neither why, nor what for, for that would be to diminish the experience, the indescribable, the ineffable of art. There is no such thing as ‘why’ or ‘what for’ theatre. Rather, and in line with St. Augustine, it unfolds like any spiritual experience in a ‘je ne sais quoi’.

On the other hand, like love, any artistic expression has value because of its uselessness. A great useless suffering, that is art, that is true love. Famous is the episode in which St. Augustine tells us about the theft of some pears just for the pleasure of stealing. “And we carried great loads from him, not to give them away, but rather to have them thrown to the pigs, though we ate some. We felt delighted to do that which pleased us by the very fact that it was forbidden to us.”

Absurd, purposeless thefts bring us closer to God. Any useless act, like art, like love, brings us closer to God. The suffering to which love leads us is absolutely useless and therein lies its necessity and its beauty. Only purpose, calculation and reflection keep us away from transcendence. We need to attract God even at the cost of heresy, even at the cost of love, even at the cost of theft. Madness is our best weapon of seduction.

Prohibition leads us right to another quality of aesthetic supremacy: transgression. If taboo and the law are applied with all their force to sex and death, art only finds its freedom in the violation of the law of life, and therefore of the law of the state. As long as theatre places the level of representation in ‘life’, amplifying the taboo and the prohibitions on the physical aspects of the representation and its reception, susceptible to censorship and scandal, above any other expression, painting, photography, cinema…, the sense or nonsense of the theatrical expression only discovers its space in the radical, in the violence linked to birth, sex and death, in that violation of the law, since the law of poetry is not the law of the state.

Here I link to my search in the dark. Following Florensky’s teachings, I propose a medieval vision. Nothing interests me about the world of appearances, the world of the explainable. I despise the illustration of the outside world in favour of the inside world, that is, the unrepresentable. With the Renaissance and the optical perspective, artificiality, the appear- ance, was established. On the other hand, what interests me is the inverted perspective, the perspective of God, the medieval concept, the contempt for the imitation of nature in favour of the supernatural. Everything in art is at the service of the unrepresentable. Appearance destroys the world, true likeness is the likeness of the non-existent, it is something other than what we can see with our eyes. In short, what interests me is the world of the invisible. And therefore, to create means above all to love failure.

Finally, we will not stop fighting for beauty. The pursuit of beauty is the torture of the soul.

April 22nd, 2020

Angélica Liddell is a Spanish director, writer and performance artist. She is known for her unconventional and visually stunning works about personal, social and political violence. Together with her company Atra Bilis she has produced and toured internationally and was i.a. awarded the Spanish National Dramatic Literature Award (2012) and the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale (2013).