These fragments I have shored against my ruins … Elegance consists of a considered critical attitude towards the self and an organization of expression in a world which consists of a series of formless experiences. It imposes this organization of the self — in appearance, manner, gesture, and language — in radical, critical opposition to chaos: it is a formal project. In this conscious organization, it recognizes the world in itself as this formless chaos rather than rejecting it. In this, radical elegance has its aesthetic roots in the Modernist consciousness.
Although grace consists in the consideration of the smallest gesture and the most correct word, it also inheres in what only seems to be chaotic. Neither the plethora of violent experience in Howard Barker’s plays nor the seeming kinetic disorientation of a Merce Cunningham dance is without detailed, formal arrangement: little is left to chance. It is always self-arranged: by the performer, the playwright, the designer. Elegant expression is impossible without this discipline, in the quietest and loudest moments.
Radical elegance gives form to irrational chaos rather than giving in to that chaos. Without the conscious eye to see, the conscious ear to hear, the most violent cosmic explosion is utterly without form — it is Nothing. Even if we imagine this cosmic explosion, we imagine it in terms of our senses: feeling the tremor of explosion, seeing the light, hearing the thunder. Without us, without the senses that we use to order experience, it is Nothing, formlessness. Radical elegance accepts this, accepts the anxiety which defines the tragedy of human life, and seeks a means of living continuously with that recognition, and perhaps even finding some happiness and pleasure on the edge of that abyss.