Some time ago in 2016 I read von Kleist’s essay ‘On the puppet theatre’ in which he argued that a puppet could be more graceful than a dancer. Its in the form of a dialogue.
‘He smiled and replied that he dared to venture that a marionette could perform a dance that no dancer could equal…
Symmetry, mobility, lightness, only all of that to a higher degree…
For affectation appears when the dancer locates itself at any point other than the centre of gravity..
The puppet possess the virtue of being immune to gravitys force…the puppets need only touch upon the ground and the soaring of their limbs is newly anmated by this momentary hesitation”
I now realise that Agamben was in some way responding to this essay in some way in his Notes on Gesture. In Notes he takes Marey’s chronophotography and identifies this technology as a point at which human beings become like puppets – Chronophotography being an early form of motion capture, which ultimately led to the encoded of human motion in CGI puppets. So just as the wooden puppet is constrained by its strings and mechanics which we are all too aware of, so we are constrained by our own body-our being in a medium. But motion capture also allows us to understand our body and its motion and offers new potential otherwise inaccessible to us.
So in the context of the intermedial gesture the puppe is positioned as follows
Being in a medium – the materiality of the puppet and its constraints allow us to identify with it and our own mediality
Staging the medium – we know the puppet isn’t human so we compare its behaviour to actual humans.
For example in Wael Shawkys puppet films we encounter the violence of the crusades through the materiality of the puppet which are also human. So we can re enages with our being in a medium of history and our own bodies.
So lightness as in Calvino appears in the intermedial gesture as a kind of suspension between conflicting forces – see also the suspended fire engine of Theaster Gates.
I’m also now thinking of Odradek as a kind of puppet or maybe a fragment of a puppet, its spool , trailing thread. Searching on this idea returns a book by Keith Piper in which he makes just this point…