The Bloc was born in Autumn 2003 when a text by Joris Lacoste met a collective exercise that often involved several of us racing to a public speaking engagement. Sometimes the race was easy, but speaking proved more difficult. Speaking together, in other words, not at the same time, but each for the whole, without any premeditated order, and with flexibility and openness, sometimes ended up being a chaotic endeavor. We had to learn to improvise a type of speech we could make up as we went along. We had to learn how to speak like we run through the streets, in packs.
The rather heterogeneous group which founded the Bloc in the Autumn of 2003, had initially planned to write a text. Most participants were fed up running races like they run their mouths, and running their mouths like they run races. The question put forth by the text was answered by placing a row of five chairs behind five microphones; having five people sit in these chairs; talking in five voices about a subject they knew nothing about; and discovering it in the process. The Bloc doesn't require any particular method; it demands only a penchant for platitude, a liking for lower limits, a strong stomach, and a certain aptitude for letting go. The Bloc is the enemy of the snappy idea, the solo, the crowd-stopper. It resists premeditation and, in general, any attempt at managing, pinning down, or owning the discourse. The Bloc is a stable apparatus that produces an unstable discourse. The Bloc is an apparatus that protects you against the fear of the void, the need to shine, the desire for distinction, and the awareness of class. The Bloc is sufficiently brief to hold up to performance conditions. The Bloc doesn't stand for anything and prevents you, as long as you follow a few simple rules, from standing for anything at all. The Bloc is an impromptu conference that works toward constructing a collective statement.
Since 2003, the Bloc has undergone different waves of activity interspersed with periods of silence. It's been useful in making decisions, producing performance texts, negotiating difficult-to-obtain concessions, writing critical texts and, quite simply, for it's own sake. It has been aired in public, set up in the halls of government, made use of during student or performing arts workshops. It's been presented as a performance (to be watched) or as an open apparatus (to be tried out). Each time a Bloc takes place, a clerk at the end of the table writes down what's said. It was from of a body of 35 of these texts, written between October 2003 and November 2004, that we tried to extract what we identified, in retrospect, as relay tactics between the different statements that make up the Bloc's discourse.
The opposite of a (prescriptive) manual for becoming the perfect "Bloc-er," this empirical catalogue that has no other purpose than to flesh out the necessarily dry list of the Bloc's 14 formal rules. You will find these rules, which are intended for the use of new participants, at the end of this document.
How to begin? Rule number 1 sets up play, while the layout of the space sets the tone. The room should look as though it were intended for a press conference, public meeting, formal presentation, or official PR event. The arrangement must immediately dictate certain speech patterns to the players, it must evoke a public speaking event, a fluid and informal back-and-forth.
It's the type of setting that might be used to explain problems, reveal little-known facts, elucidate complex events, reestablish truths, unleash diatribes, express demands, announce candidacies or coup d'états, present cultural projects or political programs, launch new products, inaugurate official institutions, unveil new companies, or confer prizes and accolades.
Here, we'll only retain its operational dimension. It doesn't prescribe any content, it only determines a certain type of relation with the audience:
– Our voices sound a little hollow today. Ah.
– That's better. Ah.
– Is that better? We felt like we were talking in a cave. Can you hear me? Ah.
– A cave or an empty cargo hold, or a plastic bin, or a trunk. You might say we're in the trunk behind the cushion.
– Or in a Bill Viola installation.
Bloc held on October 31, 2004 at 4:30 P.M.
Taking the floor
As stipulated by Rule 8, the Bloc never has an object or predefined theme. It's concerned with talking about something it knows nothing about, something it discovers in the course of saying it. Often, it's only at the conclusion that the Bloc understands what it's talking about. The rule stipulates that you must "start with the present situation." What about the situation can be used to induce content? We won't try to impress with an initial statement that's particularly memorable; nor will we refrain from pulling a ready-made theme out of our hats. We just try to find something in a situation that everyone can understand. We aim for the most basic level of information - somewhat mundane redundancy - the simple awareness of the here and now.
The starting point can thus be suggested by the topographical or institutional setting:
– We're here in a basement of the theater.
– For the second time, we're working in a dance theater.
Bloc held on November 9th, 2003 at 4:15 P.M.
It may also come from an event that we bring to the audience's attention:
– An article in the October 20th edition of the Lien Public reads: "The State and taxpayers subsidize actors whose ranks have, surprisingly, doubled in recent years. This heavenly manna may quickly be used up. As for the nationalists, all their terrorist actions can only dissuade investors from giving their sons work."
Bloc held on October 22nd, 2003 at 12:23 P.M.
Or from a combination of these elements:
–We're sitting here wondering what a Bloc is made of, and, at the same time, in Liberation, Laurent Fabius wonders what "a people is made of."
Bloc held on November 9th, 2003 at 5:30 P.M.
After the first statement is made, a second follows. Indeed, Rule 9 indicates that the Bloc is made up of a series of statements. A certain number of objects gradually come to light. A discursive term (a word), a theme, a linguistic register, or a syntactic construction. The game consists of grabbing hold of one of these objects and bringing it to the surface. In other words, in following the proposition in a certain direction. That's what gives each player a little elbow room; they're not inventing ex nihilo, but continuing, prolonging, listing, extending, exploring and unpacking what's already there. Any element of the discourse can be continued; the Bloc makes no distinction between semantic objects and grammatical, rhetorical or phonetic ones. Its only discipline consists of picking (betting on) the object that promises the most future developments. The overall theme of the discourse will, in this way, draw itself out as it moves forward. In the first phase of the game, the Bloc frequently skirts several objects before succeeding in determining the one that will be most fruitful:
– ... or in an installation by Bill Viola.
– Some contemporary art installations make an effort to scramble internal communications. Maybe even to sabotage or disrupt them?
– In the tape Osama Bin Laden's made public yesterday, his voice was much clearer than ours are today.
– It was, uh, a live attack.
– Maybe we can start again. Hello?
– Now we've got an even stronger impression of being in a Gary Hill installation.
– Or in communication with NASA.
– We're without feedback or cigarettes.
– In the tape that appeared on Al-Jazzira, Bin Laden wasn't in a cave. It was a verifiably authentic three-minute video signed Pierre Huygue.
– Next to it was the British Petroleum insignia.
– After the broadcast, we realized that the picture had been saturated on purpose by a Final Cut Pro Filter, a Fanatic Filter.
– We'd like to ask the filter question.
Bloc held on November 31st, 2004 at 4:30 P.M.
Rule 6 stipulates that the Bloc say "we" rather than "I." This "we" isn't intended to imply some imaginary group mentality. Its purpose is to posit the group of speakers as one and indivisible. It attests to the fact that what is said is bigger than each individual player. Indeed, the politics of the Bloc follow this basic rule: you can't express anything in your own name. We must, on the contrary, speak in everyone's name. Each individual is responsible for the collective discourse. Each new comment must, as a result, take into account those that preceded it, exactly as if the discourse were the product of one and the same speaker. This immediately excludes expressions of disagreement, direct opposition, personal opinion, or internal debate. It is consequently the Bloc's job to develop objects that arrive in the game not because a player willed it, but by the pure internal logic of the discourse. Each player must welcome these objects as though they came from an indisputable truth. Their emergence evokes a certain enthusiasm, to the point that, at times, there is a sudden barrage of like-minded statements in the discourse:
– It can happen in a very stationary way, without any particular need for forward movement.
– It can happen in reverse.
– We can leave Seine Saint-Denis in reverse. It could happen.
– We haven't yet chosen the mode - the escape vehicle - but we think we'll leave in reverse, by whatever means possible.
– We can only leave Seine Saint-Denis in reverse.
– It's never occurred to us to leave Seine Saint-Denis in drive
– Posters for the upcoming elections will read: "Seine Saint-Denis in reverse!"
– The program is fairly clear. We outfit the buses in Seine Saint-Denis with reverse-traction motors. We inverse all the motors and it will create jobs.
Bloc held on October 31st, 2004 at 5:55 P.M.
The composite and rapid aspect of the discourse means that, frequently, a player can't place a statement he has carefully hatched. In these cases, a certain degree of self-control proves necessary. The player must let go of that winning line as soon as it becomes unusable. This basic discipline, which we call dropping, often turns out to be harder than it seems, as players are inclined to get excited about their own ideas. To stubbornly persist comes at the threefold cost of disobeying Rule 9, showing a lack of attention to fellow players and, most of all, putting cracks in the Bloc's precarious hull. Individual showmanship is only profitable to the ego of an individual player.
Moving the Bloc forward often requires a certain sang-froid. If the Bloc drifts too quickly, the discourse, rather than building, is in danger of becoming a series of non-sequiturs and finally ending up pure nonsense. That's why it's important to find a secure place from which to stabilize, slow down, and air out the discourse - to regroup, to buy time, to evaluate all possible directions before embarking on one that is more solid, promising, or engaging.
Among the best stalling tactics is "the List":
– Immediate rebroadcast on www.culture.gouv.fr.
– It's the best site around.
– Bringing together today's best minds.
– The people from Actors Equity.
– They publish government communiqués.
– Theatrical treasures.
– They champion counter-culture.
Bloc held on October 22, 2003 at 12:23 P.M.
Or its variant, the classification by type:
– There are several types of filters. We've already mentioned Fanatic Filters and Saturation Filters.
– There are also prophylactic filters, filters for protection.
– There are propagation filters.
– These are ostentatious filters.
– Finally, infiltration filters that are tautological filters.
– We might do a presentation on these filters with examples, if you have the time.
– There are also vacuum filters, coffee filters, cigarette filters, and many others kinds of filters. Feel fee to imagine them yourselves.
Bloc held on October 31, 2004
Or the enumeration of hypotheses:
– We should find a car, or rent bikes or Vespas.
– We might also find rafts or make them ourselves. We'd float down the Tiber in them.
– We don't rule out the possibility of moving around like Spiderman.
– We produce straight lines and curves at will.
Bloc held on December 29, 2003 at 12:50 P.M.
Once the Bloc sets out in a certain direction, it's everyone's responsibility to maintain and support its flight. Though Rule 6 prohibits individual positions and confrontations, it doesn't prevent the discourse from veering off in a new direction on its own. It is, indeed, always possible (and desirable) to cause the Bloc to deviate, provided Rule 9 is respected - in other words, by always taking into consideration the entirety of what's been said. The more the discourse has moved forward, the more sudden changes in course will be difficult to negotiate. What the Bloc gains in depth, it loses in handling. We begin as slender as a canoe and end up a transatlantic ocean liner with its holds filled with tempered steel or English tourists. The orientation is never immutable. Though the power of the Bloc's inertia increases over time, that doesn't mean it should abandon sudden changes in course, broken compasses, logical revolutions or opposing viewpoints:
– Nit-picking, on the other hand, is a shared practice.
– It's a scientific, professional practice that demands a great deal of precision.
– Which brings us to the question of the nits.
– There are lice who have them and lice who don't.
– A little like the caterpillar.
– A little like the beetle.
– A beetle can be compared to a calf because of it is sometimes golden quality.
– Or staphylococcus.
– Staphylococcus moves in groups.
– Staphylococcus is golden like the dancers in Emmanuelle Huymh's shows.
– The dancers in Emmanuelle Huymh's shows are all living National Treasures.
Bloc held on December 28, 2003 at 11:46 A.M.
Go with the flow
The Bloc's statements follow one another as seamlessly as possible. The device most emblematic of the Bloc is what, in rhetoric, is called concatenation. That means there is no order imposed on the discourse from above. Rather, the flow is regulated from term to term by maintaining a common thread that passes from one mouth to another. The thread can have to do with meaning or form and guarantees the linear continuity of the discourse. In a sense, the Bloc navigates with the naked eye. It wagers that the rigorous logic of a string of statements will create an overarching order. However, this order is never decided upon ahead of time; it can never be apprehended in its entirety. It is the evolving product of a micro-construction. All kinds of strategies for transitioning from one statement to another are possible. They pursue a double objective: to make tracks from the point of departure, but to do so gradually enough that the discourse will gain in consistency and, at the same time, in imagination.
– All these characters make up a community of road-workers to whom little stones are dear.
– And it's this community that we would like to describe today.
– A scrupulous community.
– However, in the case of Hansel, it's an emergency-vehicle lane. He'll pick up the stones later.
– In the case of Molloy, saliva erodes the stone.
– The ostrich pushes it to paroxysms. We don't know what becomes of the stone.
– It's a community of transformation.
– When they arrive in Demosthenes' mouth, they are already polite, and never coarse.
Bloc held on November 30, 2003 at 4:21 P.M.
A new angle
A fundamental tactic of keeping the discourse going consists of changing angles. This involves choosing what has been, until now, a secondary object in the preceding statement and bringing it to the center of the discourse:
- We've talked about terrorists in terms of black holes. A black hole is a star that's burned up all its gas.
– We've talked of residues or waste, yet it turned out that light enters black holes in the form of residues, ejected particles reflected by the non-entry in the black hole.
– Pulsars are stars that pulse rapidly, which go p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p, like a rapid heartbeat perceived by radio telescopes before an explosion. It becomes a nebula, a cloud of gas.
– There is also French television's "Star Academy," which is the privatized and taxed form of "We."
– What is a star? It's a cold-blooded animal that is distinctive because of its professional character.
– The following hierarchy exists: professional, paraprofessional, stars-in-training (lukewarm but cold enough to garner hopes of becoming government approved).
– An animal like an iguana is extremely professional, isn't easily disturbed, and populates the Roquebrune Residency.
Bloc held on October 22, 2003 at 12:23 P.M.
In the same way, we can shift emphasis from a semantic object to a formal object (below, for example, we shift from a list of careers to a list of adverbs):
– We are opinion makers.
– School Superintendents.
– Set Designers.
– Prop masters.
Bloc, held on November 14, 2004, at 6:05 P.M.
Or else, we can shift the emphasis of the discourse:
– Maybe we are nymphs. Frowning nymphs.
– The issue for us, the frowning nymphs, is to harness the tides and, especially, the low tides.
Bloc, held on November 16, 2003, at 5:06 P.M.
Another method consists of playing with the polysemy of a term:
– The recycled paper might make us think that this lab lacks the funds to bring its missions to term.
– At present, its raining cats and huge dogs.
– We know that the reining theory of the universe is String Theory, the theory by which the universe is built on a principle of oscillation.
Bloc held on October 17, 2004, at 3:59 P.M.
– All the points are articulated in this way on the map.
– A network shaped like a spider web emerges. All the points in the network cross right here.
– We're near the zoo. There's a chance we'll find spiders, dangerous spiders, that might occupy the web in an optimal way.
– But, just as the center of the web moves with the spider, the lines all cross at other points.
– The Villa Médicis is situated very near the nodal center. We have several short-, mid- and long-term objectives there.
– We are almost certain that the Roman spider spins a very different web than spiders from other cities.
– When the spider is in the middle of its web, it can feel vibrations made anywhere else in the web with the utmost precision.
– The problem with Roman or French spiders is that they remain confined by the idea of centralized power. We would like to see if, by multiplying the spiders, we might multiply the centers and end up with urban maps that are less... or more...
– The city of Rome was established with a network of 12 roads and 7 hills. These 12 roads converge near the center of the city. We suggest multiplying the centers and multiplying the twelve roads.
– With what result?
– It's prettier.
Bloc held on December, 29, 2003, at 12:50 P.M.
Or to review its possible connotations:
– Which brings us to the question of the golden calf.
– The golden calf follows the inestimable manna from heaven.
– It could be a restaurant name, "The Golden Calf."
– It could also be a type of acupuncture.
– Or a musical genre. We'd dance the Golden Calf all Summer.
– Whoever dances the Golden Calf best would gain entry to inestimable manna from heaven.
Bloc, held on October 22, 2003, at 12:23 P.M.
Or to vary the context in which it's used:
– Local officials often use a handshake with potential voters.
– Inversely, local judges don't shake hands but would like the two parties to shake hands.
– "Comrade, shake a leg; candidate shake hands."
– But if the local judge shakes down everyone in town, it's not the same shake.
Bloc, held on November 9, 2003, at 5:30 P.M.
The transition between statements can also proceed from a multitude of formal devices of which we'll only give a few examples here (in no particular order):
- – Rhythm means there's always movement, even in immobility.
– The rhythm imposed by John Cage was the background for this Italian audience's bizarre expression.
– The rhythm produced by John Cage isn't the same as a batallion of soldiers marching over a crumbling bridge.*
Bloc held on December 20, 2003, at 4:30 P.M.
– There are those we waited for last time.
– Those we're done waiting for.
– Those we can't imagine.
– Those we imagine only too well.
– Those who give us a good surprise.
– Those we've forgotten.
– We speak for all of them today.
– We address them.
– We talk directly to them.
Bloc held on November 14, 2004, at 6:05 P.M.
– He's moving so fast, we can't make out the cowboy on his horse.
– In the light, we can't really distinguish the front from the back.
– In the dust, we can't make out the bleachers.
Bloc, November 28, 2004 at 5:10 P.M.
– The Paris Transit Authority's fair jumping fines stinks.
– They don't stink enough.
– They don't stink for everyone.
– We'd have to find an objective stink.
– We'd like to share the stink.
Bloc held on November, 9, 2003, 6:16 P.M.
– We've also defenestrated our representatives
(Audience - Do you think employees were demoted today?
– Does demotion ask the same question of motion as defenestration asks of a window?
Bloc held on November 16, 2003 at 6:47 P.M.
– We only do what we can.
– What we can do, we can't do alone.
Bloc held on October 23, 2003 at 7P.M.
– There are core members and rank-and-file members.
– Rank-and-file suits us best.
– Is a Bloc made of core members or rank-and-file members?
– We could substitute the term albacore for the term core.
– We'd have to consult a dictionary of ichthyology. The albacore members?
– The danger is that by paronomasia we'd quickly become bores (it's a weakness we already have).
– If an albacore gets bored, we're all in trouble.
Bloc held on November 9, 2003 at 4:15 P.M.
– We planned a hot air balloon stunt
– And a pigeon hunt.
Bloc held on November 9, 2003 at 6:15 P.M.
– Cuckoo cooking
– Cuckoo cooling
– What time does the Cuckoo Clock cuckoo?
Bloc held on November 14, 2004 at 4:30 P.M.
– He who does not work, does not eat.
– Chi non lavora non fa l'amore.
– It's interesting to draw a parallel between the concepts of love and work.
– Is there work in love and love in work?
Bloc held on October 21, 2003 at 6 P.M.
– We know that the most original and interesting works come from avoidance behavior.
– Black holes.
Bloc held on January 11, 2004 at 5:20 P.M.
Organizing the discourse
Besides the meticulous work of constructing a discourse statement by statement, the Bloc can find support on a larger scale.
The bullet list: The Bloc can thus announce all sorts of plans, chapters, itineraries, or programs. Since nothing is planned, the list of points to tackle is gradually improvised. The usefulness of such a list isn't negligible because it presents the twofold advantage of giving the discourse rhythm and allowing it readjustments that, while pretty major, don't jeopardize the Bloc itself (see: Jumping Around). Changing course is thus justified by moving on to the next order of business. This way, no one feels offended if another player, who may feel that the discourse is inexorably losing power and complexity, suddenly says "let's move to the next point" (see: Foiling).
– I think that brings us logically to the third point: the recourse to the animal.
– That brings us to our fourth point.
– Let's move directly to our fifth point: integrated schools...
Bloc held on October 20, 2003 at 3:08 P.M.
Nonetheless, the order of business must be current (when the problem arises, it's too late to invent something off the top of your head) and the different talking points must possess some kind of thematic or formal coherence.
The Recurrence: Sometimes, independently of the list of talking points, one of the Bloc's objects resurfaces at the earliest opportunity. This type of recurrence should never be forced (see: Dropping). Welcoming it when it arises, however, is often a way of making the discourse more imaginative.
The declaration, a feeble parent of the bullet list, consists of openly committing the Bloc to a certain type of discourse - presentation, song, poem, citation or demonstration - that orients and determines the statements that will follow. The declaration will allow the Bloc to regroup and subsequently rebound with even greater force. But, because it dictates a single direction, one should be aware that it can trap the discourse and not lose sight of the necessity of getting back out. (See: Staying Mobile)
– Technical Specs: How does one build social ties?
- Destroy a government building.
– We're very interested in low-income neighborhoods.
– We could offer workshops in local churches and unemployment offices on the theme: meet artists.
– For example at the City Hall of a posh suburb.
– Acts of terror likely to dissuade investors from participating in Corsican development projects.
Bloc, October 22, 2003 at 12:23 P.M.
– Rudolf Laban tried to find a method for notating movement. According to him, all movements can be expressed with eight action verbs.
– We don't know these verbs, but we could try to find them.
– Fall back on, seep into, turn away from, which is a phrasal verb with the root verb "to turn."
– In the same way, "fall back on" is a phrasal verb derived from "to fall".
– You have to turn away to turn.
– To multiply. Assemble, which comes from the same root as sembler, to seem. Assemble, resemble - it's all part of the same family.
– To be an ensemble. To seem like (resemble) an ensemble.
Bloc held on November 9, 2003 at 4:15 P.M.
This figure can also be implied. Below, the shift from simple presentation to storytelling happens implicitly:
– Crime reduction is a priority for the French county of Val d'Oise.
– However, we felt less safe in Val d'Oise than elsewhere.
– We could push the boundaries to include Picardie. We could even push them as far as the Belgian border.
– We'd set up our home base at the outskirts of the department. We would walk in large numbers, at variable speed, sometimes hopping, sometimes skipping, but always shrewd and persistent.
– We could do jumps. At some point, we'd even have to swim. To hold our breath, and swim underwater to the other side, where we'd help others cross.
Bloc held on October 31, 2004 at 5:55 P.M.
The Petal: This is a fairly long digression that ends up absorbing and returning to the original thread. If several petals follow one another, we refer to it as a daisy (which is sometimes articulated by a bullet list).
The Braid: This consists of maintaining, in parallel, two or more threads of a discourse, which weave back and forth closely. It is resolved either by abandoning the least substantive of the bunch, and pursuing just one, or by a process of synthesis that brings all of them together in a composite object.
Below is an example of a synthesized braid within a petal, itself organized by a bullet list:
– The second part will deal with the grammar of Building and Public Works (BPW).
– It's full of useful addresses.
– It offers a whole lexical field.
– Well, uh, a certain, uh, practical application of a lexical field.
– Despite Roland Barthes' participation, this BPW grammar project never got the publicity it deserved.
– What's attempted in this volume is the analysis of syntax and ideological resistance.
– Nonetheless, the project remains, how can I put it... in a state of confusion. After all, syntax is what divides.
– So actually, you can't learn how to build a house from the BPW dictionary.
– That's the very issue at stake in the quarrel between Noam Chomsky and Martin Boygues.
– The truth is we're not specialists.
– We were talking about this the other day with Laurence Louppe. Things move forward regardless.
– I think all that brings us logically to the third point.
Bloc held on October 31, 2004 at 5:55 P.M.
The purpose of all these micro- or macro- rhetorical tactics is to move the discourse forward. The art of the Bloc is to drift further and further away from the initial situation. This deviation is that of the imagination: the Bloc becomes more fanciful each time its enunciative code varies - that is, each time it's not completely in line with what is dictated by the present situation. From this point of view, the best strategy is a slight, even imperceptible drift that works through slow and continuous differentiation:
– What we call link, we could also call composition.
– We try to compose ourselves, to recompose ourselves with more and more outside bodies, impressions, languages.
– It's more about human links than chain links.
– In Rome, we finished several landscapes, we played around with airports and Anglo-Norman texts.
– We composed landscapes with wax, handmade linens, sounding balloons.
– A whole arte povera of collective action.
– And we composed a landscape at the intersection of the unemployed workers who were leaving the train and a monument to unwanted noise.
– And we tested our nuisance-making abilities and our resistance abilities.
– We had fun, we laughed a lot, we loved each other. - We say" compose" a symphony, a poem, a painting, we should be able to say "compose" an action or a monument.
– We occupied a place we'd never been.
– We took joy in what we were like a hot air balloon takes joy in what it is. - The wolf enjoys being a wolf.
– The storm enjoys being a storm.
– Our actions can't stop.
– The sum of our personal powers has reached a magnitude that has no common measure with.
(The audience deliberates.)
(The audience scatters.)
Bloc held on January, 11, 2004 at 5:20 P.M.
On the other hand, a sudden burst of imagination runs a big chance of appearing completely out of place. It's what we call a cut. A cut happens when, in contempt of rules 9 and 10, a player puts forward a statement that bears no relationship of any kind with everything that was said previously. The cut often occurs for lack of dropping (see Dropping). It jeopardizes the Bloc and may provoke its upheaval and even its all-out unraveling.
– Law enforcement is a public service.
– We can therefore cover it.
– We can imagine sitting on it.
– We can also envelop it.
– We can make it disappear.
– But we'd be badly dressed.
Bloc held on October 20, 2003 at 3:08 P.M.
When a cut happens, the most common strategy consists of simply ignoring the offending statement. Though this does disobey Rule 9, the statement itself disobeyed Rule 10. In this way, the two transgressions can, to some extent, cancel each other out.
Indeed, there's nothing to be gained by sending the Bloc down a path that is at best a misunderstanding, and at worst one individual's private whim. Such a miscalculation can send the whole patiently erected edifice crumbling. We simply continue as though the regrettable statement had never existed:
– We always experience a certain difficulty when grasping an outside presence.
– The link isn't direct.
– We like seizing this instant.
– Nous savons sourire dans une autre langue.
– We seize this instant to create a lasting link.
Bloc held on January 11, 2004 at 5:20 P.M.
Obviously, if the player persists, this strategy won't be possible a second time.
When faced with a cut, a possible though somewhat overblown response consists of seconding the statement - that is, acting in kind. This has the advantage of passing off an individual aberration as a wave of collective madness (it's just as uninspired, but the play is a little more amusing). This all-or-nothing behavior nevertheless carries the risk of sending the Bloc reeling towards one-upmanship, which almost inevitably ends up with a mid-air explosion:
– This Summer we invaded Paris-Plage by soiling the sand.
– Enough parentheses!
– Long live quotation marks.
– Enough quotes, more troublemaking!
– Enough brackets, dash!
– Why aren't we allowed rabbits?!
Bloc held on April 12, 2004
The most interesting and fruitful antidote to a cut consists of catching the aberration - that is accepting the ill-timed comment as though it weren't one - and integrating it (as per Rule 9) back into the discourse. This adds up to inventing an a posteriori justification for it by playing on the logical flexibility of the Bloc. It's a figure that we could name quarrel: a sudden about-face that, thanks to the level-headed drivers, charts a proud path around the mountain:
– Concrete's softness was one of the reasons early 20th century architects resisted it, because of the softness of the material. It took a Belgian architect to try. It was later used during WWII for Blockhouses. Public authorities resorted to concrete for reconstruction.
– Which brings us to the question of the golden calf.
– Gold is also a relatively soft material.
– Like glass, which very slowly softens. For example, in Versailles, the bottom of the window panes is wider. The glass ended up dripping.
Bloc held on October 21, 2003 at 5 P.M.
Attack / Defend
A flight of fancy is always a gamble that sometimes puts the Bloc in an unstable situation. In that case, it becomes necessary to return to more solid ground. Indeed, there is a whole defense of the Bloc whose purpose it is to emphasize these digressions, to crop, center, rebalance, or use them. The "stair strategy" consists of gradually getting more imaginative, by alternating occasional attacks that move the Bloc into new territory, with defensive saves that reestablish the logical continuity of the discourse before giving the offense the next play.
Sooner or later the Bloc usually gets stuck in representation: it starts describing something, expressing itself in a code that is too recognizable (scientific lecture, a National Front for the Liberation of Corsica press conference, an evening news broadcast). This produces a kind of self-consciousness that can be paralyzing. The awareness of representing something can also tend to promote exaggeration, overacting, or even a headlong dive into parody. It's a temptation that should be resisted at all costs. The Bloc should, on the contrary, try to remain constantly open to codes, without accepting any one of them, so that what it represents remains in constant mutation:
– You might say that the difference between a scientific research lab and an artistic research lab is that a science lab works on the invisible while an art lab works on the visible. Might the artistic lab be considered the naïve form of the science lab?
– We note the absence of lab benches.
– White smocks. - Mice.
– Test tubes.
– Bunsen burners.
– Particle accelerators.
– Even so, we should note that there are pandas with trees...
Bloc held on October 17, 2004 at 3:30 P.M.
This operation can get messy (see: Ignore):
– We imagined a plot.
– It's the story of a fly that shrinks. But no one realizes, because it's invisible.
– Which brings us back to our fourth point.
Bloc held on October 20, 2003 at 3:08 P.M.
Varied tactics of reviving or freeing up the discourse generally prove necessary when the Bloc shows signs of dawdling, rambling, or becoming self-involved. It may also get caught up in the pursuit of sincerity or high-mindedness, or (worse) try to persuade itself or the audience of the validity of an idea that it then takes it upon itself to defend. Not knowing the object of its discourse in advance, the Bloc is, in effect, structurally incapable of defending any thesis at all. On the off chance this does happen, it is imperative that the confining statements be foiled so that the discourse can be once again free to explore the potentialities it hides within:
– This year we won't put mint in the boiling water.
– This year we'll boil sniper bullets. - We'll take advantage of their passivity.
– Their absence.
– We should find a ritual that brings us together.
– We should fashion new molds.
– That won't be shaped like ogives.
– Then we could melt down the molds.
– To make motor bikes for example. - Or Swiss Cuckoo clock cocoons. - In this way, we could equip all of Mouquata's windows with Swiss Cuckoo clocks.
Bloc held On November 14, 2004 at 4:30 P.M.
– We're not far afield. That's clear.
– Does anyone have a question?
– Let's move on to the next point.
– We can ask the question, for example, of the field, infield, outfield.
– The question of the field, as in a field of action, a field of application, like a field to cultivate, like a lexical field.
– The question of the field is also the question of limits, from outside and inside, of the passage, and the possibility of parallels.
– It's the question of how to define these limits. - Where are the limits in this dance theater?
– Do they stop before or after the Addeco?
– Do they reach the heart of the city?
– It's also the question of how to dissociate the limit from the definition.
– For example, we thought of an action transforming the dance theater into an Addeco agency.
– In the end, we decided it was better the other way around.
Bloc held on October 23, 2003 at 7 P.M.
An extreme version of this tactic can happen when the Bloc starts making comments that are intolerable for one of the players. This player can then (as per Rule 13) leave the Bloc. But he can also, as a last resort, stay at the table and try to annihilate the offending statement, and with it, all its future incarnations. This is, of course, only acceptable if Rule 5 is respected at the same time. Thus, the exercise is subtle enough to justify its being called contre exquis:
– Can we outline different strategies for the day of the 30th?
– We thought of organizing a big lefty protest that would go from the Paris Opera to the Paris Opera. It would go around the opera.
– We thought about writing "Don't spend the day alone, vote" on the banner.
– We decided to abolish irony, so we abandoned the idea.
Bloc held on October 20, 2003 at 3:08 P.M.
Rule 14 stipulates that, after some time, the Bloc must remember to conclude (and thank the audience). It goes without saying, however, that the internal logic of the discourse is, above all, what dictates its duration. Very short Blocs are always possible, like the following time-saver:
– We can begin now.
– Let's go.
– We're off.
– Meeting adjourned.
– Thank you.
Bloc held August 21, 2008 at 5:55 P.M.
In general, we do our best to match up time constraints with some sense of closure in the discourse, so as to bring about a suitable conclusion at the desired time:
– This evening there are two Blocs: you and us.
– That's because we abuse words and you neglect them.
– Reality's caught up with all of us around this table. Speech about lived experience, precarious speech, has caught up with us. Words that weren't Blocs, that crumbled caught up with us. We weren't prepared for this crumbling.
– It's also a question of reality: the text ended up happening.
– Tonight's configuration happened, too.
– It's a joyous event.
– Thank you.
The end of The Bloc of October 23, 2003 at 7 P.M.
A pleasant and convenient way of finishing up consists of inviting the audience to participate in some kind of follow-up: a future Bloc, another type of meeting, a collective action, a dialogue, a drink at a bar, an informal discussion, a promise or a miracle:
– We'd like to invite you.
– We planned to celebrate an anniversary yesterday.
– You can come with sparkling apple juice to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Paris Classifieds at the Housing Authority.
– We can continue the discussion over drinks.
– Thank you.
End of the Bloc held on October 20, 2003
– We'd like to suggest a meeting in front of the baboon cage at the zoo. We'll leave from there for the action.
– Thank you.
End of the Bloc held on December 29, 2003
End on a high note
The best end to a Bloc is undoubtedly one that knows how to seize the moment of the conclusion to pose one or two statements that suggest a new beginning. These could potentially give way to a new development, but the coda's only value is not having a next step. It closes the discourse in a way that is as promising as it is definitive.
(Audience) – Are you a mob?
– We move, we are in movement, we are emotional, sometimes mute, sometimes motivated.
– We've been mutineers but that wasn't enough.
– We've been fighters, it's not enough.
– We worked part-time, but it was already too much.
– We are becoming.
– Fate smiles on us.
– Thank you.
End of Bloc held on December 28, 2003