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Shameel Arafin

first performed on February 5, 2011
my apartment, New York, NY
performed twice in 2011


(performers) Henry Baumgartner, Jim Findlay, Kourtney Rutherford, Jason Schuler; (callers) Michael Di Paolo, Bobby Previte, Raquel Cion, Cecil Castellucci; (video performer) Hajoe Moderegger

New York, NY


“Rationality” re-created an episode of a live, call-in, cable-access philosophy TV show that aired in Arlington, Virginia in 1992. The episode featured four philosophers descending into crisis when one argues that rationality is irrelevant.

“Rationality” was an attempt to re-enact the episode, itself an improvised, imperfect event. The actors had only one rehearsal and were not required to memorize the verbose script-they read lines off a teleprompter. The piece was performed in my living room with the audience closely surrounding the actors, creating an intimate, voyeuristic experience replicating the proximity and scale of watching television. The result was a mash-up of live television, live theater, philosophical debate, and cacophonous confusion as the structure inevitably broke down.

My interest in the concept of re-enactment is to explore the nature of acting from a conceptual point of view apart from its history rooted in theater. How much of acting is repeating or re-enacting? How much is responding to the emotional charge of the performance event? What is the concept of “being in the moment”? What makes a performative “moment”? Since its basis was a call-in television show, “Rationality” featured remote performers who telephoned from wherever they happened to be. One performer said, “I felt like I was performing to no one.” For one performance she was alone in her car. For the other, she excused herself from a dinner party table to make her call.

The selection of the philosophy TV show came from my personal interest in the show’s creator, Ken Knisely, whom I knew briefly when I was a teenager. I set out interviewing people who had known Knisely and who had worked with him on his show, “No Dogs or Philosophers Allowed.” The performance project “Rationality” is an extension of those interviews: an ongoing documentary event. A “DVD Extra” of a documentary film that does not exist, or that only exists (or existed) in these moments of interviews and performances. What the cumulative project will be, I do not yet know. My idea is that, like a researcher or documentarian, the synthesis only becomes evident through the act of searching and doing. Can this performance itself be re-enacted? Or would the actors begin to “know” the material too well and develop faculty and skills that could make the re-enactment somehow less authentic to the original? By re-enacting, are we actually moving farther away from memory?