working notes, 53 – 07.XII.2019
What do the drawing and the poem do to sex ?
If the question can be rightly raised, does it nevertheless have a truly binding necessity ?
Above all, how to avoid the pitfall of conventional answers : celebrating, questioning ; sublimating, worrying ; disturbing its clarity, shading its opacity ; accentuating its gravity, emphasizing its lightness ; revealing its simplicity, detailing its obscurities ; complicating its delights, magnifying its stains ; singing its raptures, singing its sorrows ; etc. ?
You are asking yourself a different question : what does sex do to the drawing and to the poem ?
There is an admiration : an admiration for the diversity and the singularity of sexual lives.
And, inexhaustible, an astonishment : an astonishment for (you do not write « before » or « in front of ») a fact of life – the sex condition of living beings.
The symbiotic acts of xanthellae and corals, those of Coccomyxa algae and Ginkgo biloba cells, so many others : theirs forms and their colours, their smells and their sounds, their tastes, their touches, all their touches – they are acts of sex (1).
Þ living beings = sex living beings ?
Of course, some living beings have asexual reproductions. And extremely varied asexual reproductions : by simple mitosis, schizogony, budding, fission, strobilation or polyembryony. However, if their reproduction is asexual, in the sense that it does not involve any fusion of two opposite sex gametes, does it mean that asexually reproducing living beings would themselves be asexual ? Are not asexual reproductions also, each in its own way, possible forms of the sex condition of living beings ? The fact is also that some living beings can reproduce both asexually and sexually depending on the time of year or the conditions of their lives : the medusa Obelia sp., for example, alternates an asexual benthic phase (when it lives as a polyp) – a phase that is accomplished by budding – and a sexual pelagic phase when it is adult (when it lives as a medusa).
Besides, it is true that many living beings have only episodic sexuality. Does it mean that their sex condition would then be unessential or secondary to them ? This is doubtful.
In any case, what does it mean for sex living beings to live and exist according to a sex condition ?
Sexuality, writes Gilbert Simondon, « realizes the inherence to the limited, individualized individuality of a relationship to the unlimited », so that sex « preserves the being from aseity and correlatively deprives it of complete individuation ». This preservation and deprivation are in no way to be complained : « The adherence of sexuality to the individual being creates the inherence of a limit of individuation within the individual [...] ; putting the being in motion, it makes the subject understand that he is not a closed individual ». Moreover, the philosopher further points out that sexuality is neither a function of the individual nor a function of the species : « It is not true that it is only a function of the individual, because it is a function that brings the individual out of himself. Nor is it a specific function put by the species in the individual as an alien principle : the individual is sexed, he is not only affected by a sexual index » (2).
Being a presence of the unlimited within the individualized limit, the sex condition means that sex living beings only live and exist by each other, to each other, against each other, in a multiplicity and diversity of relationships – intra-, inter- and multi-specific ones – of an intense and prodigious richness.
Moreover, was not it already, in a way, one of Spinoza’s teachings – that a body is not defined by the substantial nature of its parts, but by the relationships under which its parts are composed : « Bodies are not distinguished in respect of substance ; and that which constitutes the form of an individual consists in a union of bodies » (3) ? A body is built from its relationships : an individual is not undivided.
What then was Jacques Lacan trying to say when he claimed that psychoanalysis is based on the principle that « There is no such thing as a sexual relationship », the corollary of which stating that « Jouissance is impossible » (4) ? If the idea consists in arguing that between the sexual dimension and the relationship there is no analytical involvement link, it may seem very uncertain : does not the sexual dimension name the « act of living » as it is constituted by an infinitely diversified multiplicity of relationships of sex living beings to the encounter of each other and against each other ?
Sex : blossomings through which the individuation of a sex living being can never be a self-curved individuation, an entirely completed individuation as individuation.
What then does sex do to the drawing and to the poem ?
To say that sex penetrates the drawing and the poem with life and death is certainly true, but even if it is a truth, it does not seem sufficient. Because sex touches the drawing and the poem in this deeper sense that it opens them to the lack of aseity and perseity of living beings : it inscribes them in the relational logics of « the act of living ».
Must then the drawing and the poem display sex ?
Rather, at least as far as your own practice is concerned, it is a matter of making the drawing and the poem branches and vectors of the sex condition of living beings.
Not in the form of a « history of sexuality » : in the form of a geology of life.
The drawing, the poem : prints of sex lives, witnesses and extensions of Chthonic life.
Could it be, in another way than a reverie, that there is a sex of metallic iron and magmatic rocks ?
(1) Lynn Margulis’ works are essential : Origins of Sex : Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination, avec Dorion Sagan, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1986 ; Symbiosis in Cell Evolution : Microbial Communities in the Archean and Proterozoic Eons, New York, W. H. Freeman, 1992 ; What Is Sex ?, avec Dorion Sagan, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1997 ; Slanted Truths : Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis, and Evolution, avec Dorion Sagan, New York, Copernicus Books, 1997 ; Symbiotic Planet : A New Look at Evolution, New York, Basic Books, 1998. And Thierry Hoquet, Le Sexe biologique. Anthologie historique et critique, Paris, Hermann, 2014, vol. 2 (Le sexe : pourquoi et comment ? Origine, évolution, détermination). The « asexism » of contemporary liberalism, to use Cédric Lagandré’s expression, can legitimately worry : it postulates an individual « overhanging his sexual determination », an individual « unaffected by and unengaged in his sexual condition » (Du contrat sexuel, Paris, PUF, 2019, p. 11) ; among the blind spots of the analyses developed by the author, however, there is the fact that they are exclusively focused on human sexuality alone.
(2) Gilbert Simondon, L’Individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information (text of the main thesis defended in 1958), Grenoble, Éditions Jérôme Millon, 2005, p. 308. When Alain Badiou, seeking to distinguish « love », i. e. what he calls the « scene of Two », and « sexuality », considers that « through sexuality as such, in short, the only thing that speaks is the great voice of the species », the question arises whether he adequately takes into consideration the elements of sexuality : Pour aujourd’hui : Platon ! 2007-2010, t. 14 of Séminaire, edition by Isabelle Vodoz, Paris, Fayard, 2019, meeting XVIII of October 28th, 2009, p. 608.
(3) Baruch Spinoza, Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata (1677, posthumous ed.), II, Lemma IV, demonstratio, edition by Bernard Pautrat, Paris, Seuil, 1988 et 1999, p. 125 (in the « little physics ») : « Corpora enim ratione substantiæ non distinguuntur ; id autem, quod formam Individui constituit, in corporum unione consistit ». By the way, Spinoza had written little about sexuality – which does not mean that his thought concerning this topic is not significant : Bernard Pautrat, Ethica sexualis. Spinoza et l’amour, Paris, Payot & Rivages, 2011.
(4) Jacques Lacan, « De la jouissance » (Novembre 21st, 1972), in Encore, 1972-1973, t. 20 of Séminaire, Paris, Seuil, 1975, p. 14 : « J’énonce que le discours analytique ne se soutient que de l’énoncé qu’il n’y a pas, qu’il est impossible de poser le rapport sexuel. C’est en cela que tient l’avancée du discours analytique, et c’est de par là qu’il détermine ce qu’il en est réellement du statut de tous les autres discours. Tel est, dénommé, le point qui couvre l’impossibilité du rapport sexuel comme tel. La jouissance, en tant que sexuelle, est phallique, c’est-à-dire qu’elle ne se rapporte pas à l’Autre comme tel », « I state that analytical discourse is only supported by the statement that there is no such thing as sexual relationship, that it is impossible to set it. This is where the progress of analytical discourse comes in, and it is from there that it determines what the status of all other discourses really is. This is the point that covers the impossibility of sexual relationship as such. Jouissance, as sexual jouissance, is phallic, that is, it does not refer to the Other as such ».
working notes, 52 – 30.XI.2019
You do not like the word « performance » : its showy side.
You do not like the word « installation » : its « Get out of the way, so I can take your place » side.
Your « performances » are not « performances » and your « installations » are not « installations » : they are contacts.
working notes, 51 – 30.XI.2019 : (i) → (ii), change of aspect
(i) « Seeing other-than-human living beings as if they were, all and exclusively, by and for human beings ».
(ii) « Seeing other-than-human living beings as being lives that, in their own and unique ways of being other, are not those of human beings ».
Is this « seeing-as » in the sense analyzed by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations (1) ?
The statement (i) presumes finalized and anthropocentric acts of interpretation.
Certainly, there are affinities between interpreting and « seeing-as » : « We can see the illustration now as one thing now as another. – So we interpret it, and see it as we interpret it » (PI, II, XI, p. 193).
But the fact is that there are many situations in which « seeing-as » is not based on any act of interpretation. When I see the « duck-rabbit » figure as a duck, I do not interpret it as a duck : I then experience what Wittgenstein calls « noticing an aspect » (PI, II, XI, p. 193), in the sense that the figure suddenly appears to me under one aspect, that of a duck, rather than under another, that of a rabbit, without this requiring any hermeneutical act on my part.
Moreover, an interpretation is not enough so that there can be a « seeing-as ». I can interpret the « duck-rabbit » figure as the figure of a duck that, envious of a rabbit’s ears, would like to become a rabbit itself. My interpretation is then a legend that is added to the « duck-rabbit » figure in a purely external way, without giving rise to a « seeing-as » : « The text supplies the interpretation of the illustration » (PI, II, XI, p. 193).
(i) is purely and simply an interpretation. And probably an interpretation in the particular and problematic sense that a thinker like Nietzsche, against the necessary distinction between « interpreting » and « understanding », thought he could give to the interpretation : « There is no ‘state of fact in itself’, on the contrary you must always project a meaning beforehand so that there can be a state of fact » (2).
Þ (i) ≠ « seeing-as ».
As for the statement (ii), is it not simply an ordinary, perceptual « seeing », with a factive dimension ?
However, if « seeing-as » is indeed a « seeing », it is not in the sense of a simple « seeing » : « ‘Seeing-as’ is not part of perception » (PI, II, XI, p. 197).
(ii) expects nothing from us except to simply see : to simply see at last the presence of other-than-human living bodies in the time and the space that are common to all living beings.
Þ (ii) ≠ « seeing-as ».
By contrast, the change from (i) to (ii) implies a « seeing-as », because such a change points out a « change of aspect » (PI, II, XI, p. 195). It is impossible to see (i) and (ii) simultaneously. And there is indeed a « seeing-as » because what appeared to me in a certain way, namely under the aspect (i), is redesigned and suddenly imposes itself on me as having (or possibly having) another aspect, the aspect (ii). I see things differently than I did before. The « -as » of the « seeing-as » is that moment when a certain way of seeing is required : the moment when I not only see, but when I see that I must or can see differently. « I must distinguish between the ‘continuous seeing’ of an aspect and the ‘dawning’ of an aspect » (PI, II, XI, p. 194).
The experience is confirmed by the case of « the aspect-blind man » (PI, II, XI, p. 213). The « aspect-blind man » can see aspect (i), just as he can see aspect (ii), but lacks the perception of the change of aspect (i) → (ii) : « The aspect-blind man is supposed not to see the aspects A change. But is he also supposed not to recognize that the double cross contains both a black and a white cross ? So if told ‘Show me figures containing a black cross among these examples’ will he be unable to manage it ? No, he should be able to do that ; but he will not be supposed to say : ‘Now it’s a black cross on a white ground!’ » (PI, II, XI, p. 213). Similarly, the aspect (ii)-blind man cannot say : « Now I see that the living beings of the silts and clays of the Scarpe live without needing me to live ».
Þ (i) → (ii) = « seeing-as ».
« Seeing-as » does not in any way lead to seeing realities which are not visible. There is no mystery, no transcendence, no eviction from sensitive life. Only the possibility, here, of a gap, a spacing, a « de-coincidence » between the seen and the way it is seen.
However, is it not obvious that the « seeing-as » that occurs in the change of aspect (i) → (ii) is just as well, and at the same time, an « hearing-as » and, more broadly, a « feeling-as » ?
Above all, is such a change of aspect not a common and vital resource of philosophical questioning and artistic inquiry ?
Considering the change of aspect (i) → (ii) tactfully : opening up to it, taking care of it. Not cultivating it, but being cultivated next to it.
Seeing, hearing, feeling that aspect (ii) changes aspect (i). Seeing, hearing, feeling that aspect (i) gradually disappears.
Then, in the pleasure garden and in the vegetable garden, in the studio and at the writing table, seeing, hearing, feeling that the people of grasses, insects and birds have lived without you, live without you and will live without you. Seeing, hearing, feeling that it is good like that.
(1) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (1936, then 1945-1946, 1st part ; between 1945 and 1949, 2nd part ; 1st publication : 1953, posthumous edition), II, XI, English translation by G. E. M. Anscombe, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1986, p. 193-229.
(2) Friedrich Nietzsche, Fragments from the fall of 1885 and the fall of 1886 (= Nachgelassene Fragmente, Herbst 1885-Herbst 1886), 2 , in Kritische Studienausgabe, edition by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Berlin/New York, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, t. 12, p. 140 : « Es giebt keinen ‘Thatbestand an sich’, sondern ein Sinn muβ immer erst hineingelegt werden, damit es einen Thatbestand geben könne ». See Vincent Descombes’ critical analyses : « Le moment français de Nietzsche », in Pourquoi nous ne sommes pas nietzschéens, Paris, Grasset, 1991, p. 99-128, especially p. 112-116.
working notes, 50 – 01.XI.2019
Sociological the « humour » of those who believe that everything is a social construction by men, for men, towards men : from sex to mathematics, from zircon crystals to stromatolite bacteria.
They are those who « know ».
They speak the language of the masters – the language that puts out of tune and that disconnects human voices and other-than-human natural voices .
They are lords.
You are not a sociologist.
You have never been.
You will never be.
(reviewing notes n° 6, n° 27, n° 32, n° 37, after a walk with Jojo along the banks of the Scarpe)
working notes, 49 – 29.X.2019
to the naked eye : will you reach it ?
working notes, 48 – 25-26.X.2019
« [...] as in The Triumph of Flora, marrying curves of women with shoulders of hills » (1).
Is it a question, as in those games that children love, of trying to guess the body of a tiger in the particularly elegant shape of a rock, the unexpected presence of a grey wolf in the evanescent shape of a cloud, the curves of a woman in the shoulders of a hill ?
Those who « know » will probably say that this is pareidolia.
Is another understanding of Paul Cézanne’s formula possible ? A more material, more geological understanding ?
An understanding, if not authorized, at least perhaps suggested by Cézanne himself : « This is what we must give back. This is what you need to know. This is the science bath, if I may say so, where you have to dip your sensitive plate. To paint a landscape in the right way, I must first discover the geological foundations. Consider that the history of the world dates back to the day when two atoms met, when two whirlpools, two chemical dances combined. These great rainbows, these cosmic prisms, this dawn of ourselves above nothingness, I see them rising, I saturate myself with them as I read Lucretius. Under this fine rain I breathe the virginity of the world [...]. I see the rocks outcropping under water, the sky weighing down. Everything falls straight down. A pale palpitation envelops the linear aspects. The red earth comes out of an abyss. I begin to separate myself from the landscape, to see it » (2).
The wedding perceived by Cézanne : the geological links between the human body and the other-than-human bodies ? In the common time and the common space, their shared roots ?
Is this what Nicolas Poussin already knew ? Is this one of the reasons why « the nakedness of his figures is very much like painted stone » (3) ?
(1) Joachim Gasquet, Cézanne (1921), II (« Ce qu’il m’a dit… »), III (« L’Atelier »), Dijon-Quetigny, Éditions Cynara, 1988, p. 193.
(2) Ibid., II (« Ce qu’il m’a dit… »), I (« Le Motif »), p. 135-136.
(3) Roger de Piles, Abrégé de la vie des peintres, avec des réflexions sur leurs ouvrages, et un Traité du peintre parfait, de la connaissance des desseins, & de l’utilité des estampes, À Paris, chez François Muguet, 1699, Livre VII (« Abrégé de la vie des peintres français »), « Réflexions sur les ouvrages du Poussin », p. 477.
working notes, 47 – 22-23.X.2019
It gives no milk.
It gives itself.
In the splendor of itself.
Proudly, without any rest, it shows itself, takes the pose.
Without any roundness or whiteness, due to extreme roundness, extreme whiteness.
A sphere, a globe, without any curve.
Certainly, the orb is no longer the orb of celestial bodies. It is the unexpected of the gods : its pallor is staggering. Only the smooth flesh of petrified seraphim remains, so tense that their skin is about to tear. And their plastic blue, their electric red : seraphim, « the burning ones ».
At the edge of the tip of the thorn, the crown is distressed, the vinegar dries, the nail rusts : the comfort of a gather, so thin – finite so as to never finish.
A., O : infinitely finite.
But the fact is that this unfolding does not extend any trouble.
Everything for the sight and the view, nothing for the touch : it does not have the taste of kiss.
Amazon areola, smoothed to the flattening of swelling : no striations, no protrusions.
Sneezed ocher. Exhausted fold. Overcome nodosity.
It makes its revolution and starts from the beginning : as if nothing had happened. It only contracts the heavens to expand their vault, which is however now empty.
Opalescence in weightlessness : it does not have the sense of gravity.
Melun sumptuous breast : disarrounding it.
Bending the nude towards the nudity : down to Earth.
Jean Fouquet, Melun Diptych,
right panel (The Virgin and Child surrounded by angels),
ca. 1452-1455, wood (oak), 94,5 x 85,5 cm,
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Inv. 132
working notes, 46 – 22-23.X.2019
« The tree of life should perhaps be called the coral of life, base of branches dead ; so that passages cannot be seen. — this again offers | contradiction to constant succession of germs in progress
no only makes it excessively complicated.
Is it thus fish can be traced right down to simple organization. —
birds — not ?
| We may fancy according to shortness of life of species that in perfection, the bottom of branches deaden, so that in Mammalia, birds, it would only appear like circles, & insects amongst articulata. — but in lower classes perhaps a more linear arrangement. — » (1).
« There are uncertain beings, the corallines, for example, that the three kingdoms argue. They are animal-like, they are mineral-like ; finally they have just been awarded to plants. Perhaps this is the real point where life obscurely rises from the stone sleep, without yet detaching itself from this harsh starting point, as if it warns us, we who are so proud and so high placed, of the ternary brotherhood, of the right that the humble mineral has to rise and come alive, and of the profound aspiration that is within Nature » (2).
Feeling, in the present, the evolutions of the geological « deep » time and the evolutions of the biological « deep » time (3).
Feeling, in the present, the indeterminate and hesitant nature of life forms.
(1) Charles Darwin, Notebook B – Transmutation of species (1837-1838), Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, Dar. Ms. 121, fol. 25-27.
(2) Jules Michelet, La Mer, II (« La genèse de la mer »), IV (« Fleur de sang »), Paris, Hachette, 1861, p. 139.
(3) The term « deep time » seems to have been coined, for the first time, by John Mc Phee in a book on the geology of Nevada and Utah : Basin and Range. Annals of the Former World, New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1981. It was then adopted by Stephen Jay Gould : Aux racines du temps (= Time’s arrow, time’s cycles : myths and metaphor in the discovery of geological time, 1987), French translation by Bernard Ribault, Paris, Grasset & Fasquelle, 1990. And by Martin Rudwick : Scenes from Deep Time. Early Pictorial Representation of the Prehistoric World, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1992.
working notes, 45 – 21.X.2019
In the irregularities and cavities of the rocks, a physics of life and death, a physics of blood and sex.
Perhaps even – as some say (1) – striations intertwining menstrual and lunar cycles : the birth of elementary mathematics and early astronomy, at the root of women’s bodies ?
And horses, bison, aurochs, mammoths, deer, ibex. And reindeer, wild boars, bears. Rhinoceros. Felines. Also fish.
The soils – their horizons, sections, edaphons
The plant lives and essences.
What did the first women and the first men feel, what did they think so that they would not touch the sources of life and humus ?
Geologists without being soil scientists ? Zoologists without being botanists ?
Would not it be rather that the first women and the first men knew that they were painting animal lives and human nudities in the bosom of the bedrock ?
(1) Following Alexander Marshack’s research : « Lunaison Notation on Upper Paleolithic Remains », Science, vol. 146, n° 3645, 6 November 1964, p. 743-745 ; Notation dans les gravures du Paléolithique supérieur : nouvelles méthodes d’analyse, French translation by J.-M. Le Tensorer, foreword by Hallam Leonard Movius, Bordeaux, Publications de l’Institut de Préhistoire de l’Université de Bordeaux / Imprimerie Delmas, Dissertation n° 8, 1970, VIII-123 p.
working notes, 44 – 15.X.2019
Ecoart, as described by Paul Ardenne, is characterized in particular by the fact that it « requires us to leave the form that values form » : the form, « freed and lightened from its former aesthetic status », sees « its nature fused in the principle of the useful, demonstrative and compensatory action » (1).
Breaking the dead ends of formalism is undoubtedly, in the context of the advent of the Anthropocene and the « New Climate System », a necessity, a pressing urgency : opening our arts, as well as our sciences and techniques, to the « Terrestrial », to the « thousand-folds Earth » (2).
But should we give up the idea of form ?
Is not any artistic research necessarily a rigorous exploration, not of forms already formed (Gestalt), but of forms in the process of their formation (Gestaltung), as Paul Klee said (3) ?
And is not this exploration of forms in the process of their formation a fitted way in order to open up to the « nature » conceived, as Bruno Latour himself invites us to think, in its first sense, including « a whole range of transformations : genesis, birth, growth, life, death, corruption, metamorphoses » (4) ?
If ecoart means surrendering the forms in the process of their formation, then your drawings and your poems (for example, your ongoing research on crossings, intersections and continuities between human organic fluids and life materials : vegetable colours, grape seed oil, honey, egg white, egg yolk, cow milk, ox blood, etc.) do not fall under ecoart.
(1) Paul Ardenne, Un art écologique. Création plasticienne et Anthropocène, Lormont, Éditions Le Bord de l’Eau, coll. « La Muette », 2019, respectively p. 239 and p. 211.
(2) Bruno Latour, Où atterrir ? Comment s’orienter en politique, Paris, La Découverte, 2017, p. 54-61, p. 105.
(3) Paul Klee, « On modern art » (lecture in Jena, 26th January 1924), in La Pensée imageante (= Das bildnerische Denken. Schriften zur Form- und Gestaltungslehre, edition by Jürg Spiller, Basel and Stuttgart, Schwabe, 1956, posthumous edition), text translated in Théorie de l’art moderne, French translation by Pierre-Henri Gonthier, Paris, Gallimard, 1998, p. 28 = La Pensée créatrice, French translation by Sylvie Girard, Paris, Dessain and Tolra, 1973, p. 92 : « The artist looks at the things that nature has put already formed in front of him. The further away he looks, the wider his horizon widens from the present to the past. And the more is imprinted in him, instead of a finite image of nature, the image – the only one that matters – of creation as genesis ». And La Pensée imageante, text translated in Théorie de l’art moderne, op. cit., p. 60 = La Pensée créatrice, op. cit., p. 169 : « The path [Weg] determines the character of the performed work [Werk]. The form in the process of its formation [Gestaltung] determines the form [Gestalt] and therefore takes precedence over it. Nowhere and never is the form acquired, completed, concluded. It must be considered as a genesis, as a movement. Its being is becoming and the form as appearance is only a malignant apparition, a dangerous ghost [...]. The form is end, death. The form in the process of its formation is life ».
(4) Où atterrir ?, op. cit., p. 89. Latour even notes that « it is the etymological meaning of the Latin natura or the Greek phusis, which could be translated as origin, engendering, process, course of things » (p. 89) – in other words, « nature as process » (p. 93), « process-nature (natura or phusis) » (p. 97).
working notes, 43 – 11-12.X.2019
Notebook B – The Transmutation of Species (circa July 1837-October 1838) : a notebook bound in brown leather with a raised edge, 280 pages from one cover to the other, 17 x 9,7 cm.
First diagram of evolution : fol. 26, about 2,7 x 2,4 cm.
Second diagram of evolution : fol. 26, about 1,8 x 1,8 cm.
Which artist has ever been able to create drawings that have so profoundly changed the thoughts and sensibilities of women and men ?
Perhaps Galileo : the observational drawings of the Moon, November-December 1609.
The « bigness » or « gigantism » that today’s arts often value : like an admission of extreme weakness.
A « scalability » issue (1).
(1) Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Le Champignon de la fin du monde. Sur la possibilité de vivre dans les ruines du capitalisme (= The Mushroom at the End of the World. On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, 2015), French translation by Philippe Pignarre, Paris, Les Empêcheurs de Penser en Rond / La Découverte, 2017, p. 78-79.
Charles Darwin, First and second diagrams of evolution,
1837, pen drawings,
Notebook B – Transmutation of species (1837-1838),
Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, Dar. Ms. 121, fol. 26
Galileo Galilei, Observations of the Moon,
brown ink and wash on paper,
Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Gal. Ms. 48, fol. 28r
working notes, 42 – 07.X.2019
Contemporary engineering of desires : a negation of bodies, i.e. a negation of thought.
Painting = painting bodies.
working notes, 41 – 04.X.2019
neither master nor possessor.
not even « like ».
working notes, 40 – 19-23.IX.2019
Painting : « a thing of the mind ».
« A thing of the mind » which « perfection » is achieved through « manual operation ».
The analytical elegance of a truth.
A naked truth stated with sobriety and firmness (1).
But the idea that painting is a science (2) : does it still have an understandable meaning, however little it may be ? does it still have a fertility ?
If painting is a science, what are its objects ? Its methods ? Its experimental protocols ? Its procedures for establishing evidence ?
According to Plato, the imitative arts (especially, but not only, painting) are exposed to the danger of remaining captive in an immediate form. This is why Plato condemns purely decorative or purely melodramatic effects : driving women and men into a kind of illusory stupor can only lead them to get used to the formlessness.
However, from their own radiance, sensory lives can also play the role of a mediation towards Ideas : not from the point of view of thought (mathematics is responsible for this mediation), but from the point of view of affect. Loving admiration for the grace of a body can be the entry into the no less admiring grasp of the Idea of beauty : straight from the elegance of a gait or the grain of a voice, straight from the dawn of a shoulder.
In this sense, for Plato, what makes arts and mathematics similar, despite everything that separates them, is that they teach us both, on the edge of what is empirical but without reducing to it, what is a form, thus allowing us to begin a work towards the purely formal grasp of Ideas.
If « form » means what directs us towards Ideas, then an artwork has no meaning unless – whatever its sensitive pomp and seduction, so close that it stands for formlessness or obscenity, abjectness or pornography – what its form or forms assert(s) is ultimately purely intellectual. We could even say that an artwork is the articulated and articulating movement of its forms. In this respect, what constitutes an artwork is, as in mathematics, a system of relationships. The difference is that an artwork activates these relationships directly in the world as perceived by the senses, straight from the different blocks of objectivity (visual, sound, tactile, olfactory and gustatory objectivity) that it extracts from reality.
Painting : a branch of geology ?
(1) Leonardo da Vinci, Traité de la peinture, n° 15 and n° 14, French edition and translation by André Chastel, Paris, Berger Levrault, 1987, p. 87 and p. 86.
(2) Ibid., n° 16, p. 87.
working notes, 39 – 19-22.VI.2019
« Gaia » in Greek mythology, « Pachamama » in the Andean cosmogony, « Pārvatī » in Hinduism or « Mahimata » in the Rigveda, « Amalur » in the religion of the ancient Basque people, « Etügen Eke » in Tatar-Mongol tengrism, etc.
All this vocabulary, still so present in contemporary intellectual and political debates, is embarrassing.
Its New Age religiosity, his neopagan kitsch (1).
« God is dead » : taking the statement literally and making no exception.
A living being is alive until death and against death, and he is a living being only because he meets death, when the powers of life are exhausted or disintegrated. Without death, life is not life ; without life, death is not death. A life without death is not only a life that would not be desirable : a life without death would not be a life.
« God is dead » : this means therefore that God or the gods are no longer those living beings that we could meet in the immanent and egalitarian residency welcoming the community of beings of nature and all their forms of life. No thought, no practice can claim their rights from such a meeting. And nothing comes back : a death is irreversible. We don’t have to believe in spectra.
Everything is here : in the infinity of here.
You love the fact that these ideas have no originality. You love the fact that these ideas apply to our actions and works : an indelible trace is no longer a trace.
(1) See Denis Chartier’s analyses, « Gaïa : hypothèse scientifique, vénération néopaïenne et intrusion », Géoconfluences, October 2016 (http://geoconfluences.ens-lyon.fr/).
working notes, 38 – 06-09.VI.2019
waves that expect
neither center nor circle
seaweed of mytilene, figs of cyprus :
Edmund Burke, A philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757), III, 15 (« Gradual Variation »), Adam Phillips (éd.), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 105
working notes, 37 – 04.VI.2019
On the one hand, the artist who fuels the unbridled growth of the speculative economy.
On the other hand, the contemporary figure of the moralizing artist who is subordinated – with or without qualifications – to the social sciences : the fashion of societal art, the fashion of documentary art.
It is not uncommon for them to be the same.
Both jaws of the same vice.
Recovering the sense of attention and question : the sense of patience and offence.
working notes, 36 – 04.VI.2019
They say : « Your walks, your poems, your drawings, your questions, they are so naive ! ».
They say : « Don’t you know that we only have access to nature, world, others, ourselves through our sensations, our images, our concepts, our maps ? Kantian thought is certainly debatable in more than one respect (for example, its strange doctrine of arithmetic and geometry), but is not the distinction between phenomena and things in itself simply impassable ?».
The metaphor of « access » is surprising : like bacteria, all plants and all other-than-human animals, women and men live in the midst of nature, world and Earth. It is not clear why they should have to « access » it, even if they have to institute truly human forms of life.
There are our sensations, our images, our concepts, our maps : that is a fact. But from this fact to the idea that « Only our representations and constructions exist », the deductive link is simply inconsistent. Why should our representations and constructions alone have the privilege to exist ? By virtue of what magical power do our representations and constructions, even if we are « locked » in them, believe they can decide about existences or non-existences ? Even Kant certainly did not admit such a so-called power, he who established that no existence or non-existence can be deduced from our concepts. We only feel, imagine, conceptualize, map things that are outside of us through our labels : perhaps. But, in any case, it does not follow that the being of things that are outside of us consists in being labelled by us. There is, within nature and world, a nature and a world that are not those of women and men : that is too quite simply a fact.
Is it original to say that « Only our representations and constructions exist » ? Is it interesting ? Is it important ? Does it make us smarter ? Does it enrich our sensitivity, our thinking, our body ? Is it commensurate with the density, diversity and complexity – sometimes the extreme simplicity – of our encounters with the other-than-human nature and world ? What is really puzzling : how did we come to seriously consider such banal and impoverishing thoughts, namely the various forms of constructivist thought, such as the alpha and omega of the conceivable ?
In this respect, there are some knowledge that it is good not to know. Not, of course, all knowledge, but some of it. Which knowledge ? Is not dividing knowledge in this way giving free rein to whim and exposing oneself to accusations of arbitrariness, irrationalism, obscurantism ? There is, however, an objective and clear criterion : all the knowledge that promotes and reinforces the narrow vision of women and men who decide, alone, about the existence and non-existence of all that is and all that lives. « Emancipation therefore also involves a certain movement of "not knowing", of "not wanting to know". There are all the reasons why we are oppressed, exploited, mystified, okay ! But, at some point, we can try not to know all the reasons why we are unequal, but instead claim a certain form of equality » (1). This idea, why restrict it ? Why not extend it, beyond the claim of equality between all women and men, to the claim of equality between all forms of life ?
Or knowing this knowledge but as an enemy that it is good to know in order to be able to fight it effectively.
It is therefore by no means a question of « playing the naive ».
It is about offending our narcissism.
Starting with yours : certainly do not think that in you it would not be acting.
(1) Jacques Rancière, « La question politique de l’émancipation. Entretien (septembre 2011) », in Alexis Cukier, Fabien Delmotte and Cécile Lavergne (ed.), Émancipation, les métamorphoses de la critique sociale, Bellecombe-en-Bauges, Éditions du Croquant, 2013, p. 145.
working notes, 35 – 24.V.2019
The first one.
Χθών the Underground, Ζὰς the Celestial.
She unveils herself.
the third day after the wedding
Ζὰς makes a great and beautiful
on it weaves,
in various colours, Earth and Ogen
and Ogen’s palace...
truly that the wedding is
yours, with this I honor you.
But to you my salvation, and you,
unite with me. Such
were for the first time – it is said –
the rites of unveiling : from there
comes the use, for gods
and for men.
And she answers him,
by receiving from him
the coat... (1)
Wearing Ζὰς’s coat, this coat embroidered with images of rivers, lakes, mountains and palaces, Χθών is no longer Χθών.
Wearing the form of what will now be, and in an ever more exclusive way, the world for us, human animals, Χθών is now Γῆ, Earth (2).
Franco Farinelli, the great Italian geographer, professor at the University of Bologna, reports the story of Pherecydes of Syros, one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece in the 6th century BC (3).
And he is worried.
Have human animals not reached the highest point of the schematization of the world by the « cartographic reason » (4), believing they see what exists when they only see the image ?
Going down again.
Not towards a « golden age » of the relationships of the human animals to the world : it does not exist, has never existed.
Lower down : towards « the hidden, chthonic, underground, dark, abyssal body of the Earth herself » (5).
Χθών : who will be able to feel the clarity of her nudity again ?
Sometimes, unexpectedly, a reading reveals the meaning of your walks : all at once.
(1) « Pherecydes », 9 [A 2] I et II, in La Sagesse grecque (= La Sapienza greca, 1977-1978), edition by Giorgio Colli, French translation by Pascal Gabellone and Myriam Lorimy, Combas, Éditions de l’Éclat, 1991, t. 2, p. 79-81. And Giorgio Colli’s comments, p. 274 : « The Greek wedding rite of the anakalyptera (the bride removes her veil and receives the gift from her husband) is deciphered here by Pherecyde as a reflection of the great metaphysical event, it becomes an interpretative key to the world. The rite refers to the meaning – helping to unwind it – of the conjunction of the male god with the female goddess. While Chthonia takes off her veil, reveals herself, in her nudity, like the Underground, here Zas covers her – depth can never show itself in its nature – with his gift, namely something even more opaque than the veil, a coat on which Zas embroidered our world, on which he created the great illusion of our life, woven Earth and Ocean (Ogen is a variant of Ocean, as Zas is from Zeus) ».
(2) Diogenes Laërtius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (early third century), « Pherecydes », I, 119, French translation under the supervision of Marie-Odile Goulet-Cazé, Paris, Librairie Générale Française, 1999, p. 154-155 = 9 [A 1], in La Sagesse grecque, op. cit., p. 79.
(3) Franco Farinelli, L’Invention de la Terre (= L’Invenzione della Terra, 2007), French translation by Christophe Carraud, Trocy-en-Multien, Éditions de la revue Conférence, coll. « Lettres d’Italie », 2019, chap. 6 (« Le manteau de la terre »), p. 59-63.
(4) Franco Farinelli, De la raison cartographique (= Geografia. Un’introduzione ai modelli del mondo, 2003), French translation by Katia Bienvenu and Brice Gruet, Paris, Éditions du Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques, coll. « Orientations et méthodes », 2009.
(5) Franco Farinelli, L’Invention de la Terre, op. cit., p. 62.
working notes, 34 – 24.V.2019 : games, arts, life
In What is a game ?, Stéphane Chauvier writes : « In games, we act, but we act by having a fallback zone. What happens in the game is not a destiny. No matter what happens to us in the game, no matter what the outcome can be – because of the fate, of the others or of ourselves –, everything will be over when the game ends. A game is light action, action without the weight of its consequences, without the burden of its irreversibility. All these negations form a negative portrait of life. In life, what we do has consequences. In life, what we have missed can no longer be achieved. In life, if we regret our actions, we must do others actions in order to repair our mistakes and not erase them by doing a new game. In life, we can’t stop the game in order to reach a fallback zone where we can get away from the game. In life, we do not cheat : we die » (1).
The author relies here on the principle of significant negation : any term which plays a predicative role has a meaning, i.e. can only be validly applied by a speaker or understood by an interlocutor, if this term can be denied of something (in other words : a concept F only has meaning if not everything is F – for example : there is a meaning to say that something is alive only if not everything is alive) (2). From this point of view, the games offer a significant contrast to see how things go outside the games : « In order to see what it is like to live, we need the mirror of games. In games, we do not see life, but we see what is missing in games to be faithful imitations of life and, therefore, we discover or become attentive to the features by which life is distinguished from games » (3).
It seems justified to think, in the light of these characterizations, that the arts are like games, that the arts are games : « In the arts, we do not see life, but we see what is missing in the arts to be faithful imitations of life and, therefore, we discover or become attentive to the features by which life is distinguished from the arts ».
Perhaps this is even one of the reasons that can explain the importance of the confrontation with games in very many ways of approaching and legitimizing the arts in general and the contemporary arts in particular (4) : the place of chess in Marcel Duchamp’s work (5), the invention of new games or the diversion of existing games in the Fluxus movement (6), the replacement by Allan Kaprow of the word « artist » by the word « player » (7), etc.
But are we there on the side of play or on the side of game ?
When Allan Kaprow argues that brushing your teeth in the morning can become an artistic activity if you change your attention, he is more on the side of play than on the side of game. Because what exactly do you play when you brush your teeth ? What material has been used to create a new form, once we have said that we brush our teeth as artists and players ? Taking the game seriously, i.e. in a way that is not only a metaphor, would imply that artists play by transforming what is first of all a support into a material that generates new forms and a new sensorium.
This is a critical issue.
Jacques Rancière, meditating on Friedrich von Schiller’s ideas about game (8), has shown the correct importance, from a political point of view, of the concept of play within what he calls the « aesthetic regime of art » (9).
But he has also shown the critical and political dead ends to which the use of games could now lead. There is no doubt that a large number of contemporary artists play : they divert the codes and the forms of the merchandise and of the capitalist circuit ; they reverse values ; they practice all kinds of games of deviation or reversal ; etc. The fact is, however, that the effects then produced are in reality indistinguishable from those that can be produced by advertising : the commercial discourse is also quite able to play with its own values and codes (10).
The question you ask yourself is then the following one : is it meaningful to say that games can be a mirror in order to better see what they lack to be arts ? Is it meaningful, in the Anthropocene era, to say that the arts can be placed on the side of life rather than on the side of games ?
« In games, we act, but we act by having a fallback zone. What happens in the game is not a destiny. No matter what happens to us in the game, no matter what the outcome can be – because of the fate, of the others or of ourselves –, everything will be over when the game ends. A game is light action, action without the weight of its consequences, without the burden of its irreversibility. All these negations form a negative portrait of the arts. In the arts, what we do has consequences. In the arts, what we have missed can no longer be achieved. In the arts, if we regret our actions, we must do others actions in order to repair our mistakes and not erase them by doing a new game. In the arts, we can’t stop the game in order to reach a fallback zone where we can get away from the game. In the arts, we do not cheat : we die ».
(1) Stéphane Chauvier, Qu’est-ce qu’un jeu ?, Paris, Vrin, 2007, p. 86.
(2) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1921, German version ; 1922, English version), 5.5151, French translation by Gilles-Gaston Granger, Paris, Gallimard, 1993, p. 86 : « Der positive Satz muß die Existenz des negativen Satzes voraussetzen und umgekehrt », « The positive proposal must presuppose the existence of the negative proposal, and vice versa ».
(3) Stéphane Chauvier, Qu’est-ce qu’un jeu ?, op. cit., p. 85-86.
(4) Only two examples, with very different theoretical orientations : in a pragmatist vein, see John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934), chap. 12, French translation under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Cometti, Paris, Gallimard, 2005 and 2010, p. 449-453 ; in a hermeneutic vein, see Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (1960), French translation by Pierre Fruchon, Jean Grondin and Gilbert Merlio, Paris, Seuil, 1976/1996, p. 119-128.
(5) Marcel Duchamp, « Entretien avec James Johnson Sweeney » (1955), in Marcel Duchamp, Duchamp du signe. Écrits, ed. by Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson, Paris, Flammarion, 1994, chap. III (« M.D., criticavit »), p. 183.
(6) George Maciunas, « Art / Fluxus Art-Amusement » (1965), in Fluxus dixit. Une anthologie, ed. by Nicolas Feuillie, Dijon, Les Presses du Réel, coll. « L’écart absolu », 2002, vol. 1, p. 109 : Fluxus « strives for the monostructural and nontheatrical qualities of a simple natural event, a game or a gag. It is the fusion of Spike Jones, Vaudeville, gag, children’s games, and Duchamp ».
(7) Allan Kaprow, « Art which can’t be art » (1986), in Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, ed. by Jeff Kelley, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993 et 2003, p. 219-222.
(8) Friedrich von Schiller, Lettres sur l’éducation esthétique de l’homme (1795), Letter 15, French translation by Robert Leroux, Paris, Aubier, 1943 and 1992, p. 221 : « Der Mensch spielt nur, wo er in voller Bedeutung des Worts Mensch ist, und er ist nur da ganz Mensch, wo er spielt », « Man only plays where in the full meaning of the word he is man, and he is completely man only where he plays ».
(9) Jacques Rancière, Malaise dans l’esthétique, Paris, Galilée, 2004, p. 41-53.
(10) Ibid., p. 74-76.
working notes, 33 – 13.V.2019
Recently, some interlocutors have been invited to the studio – some interlocutors who, in one way or another, are important to you : Leonardo da Vinci’s The Vitruvian Man, Gustave Courbet’s The Origin of the World, Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride stripped bare by her Bachelors, even.
There was previously Édouard Manet : Olympia, The Luncheon on the Grass, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.
Each time, not the work in general of this or that artist, but singular and precise works.
It is not a matter of taste or judgment of taste : in front of The Vitruvian Man, for example, it would not occur to you to say « It is beautiful » ou « It is ugly ».
Is this then a way of curving even more on itself the studio, this space which seems entirely enclosed, by turning it only towards the arts, their history, their pantheon ?
Isn’t it rather quite the contrary : a way to open it ?
For these singular works are for you critical marks, problematic resources, points of tension that need to be understood.
Let us then consider Wittgenstein’s question about musical understanding : « Following a musical phrase with understanding, what does it consist of ? » (1).
Let us consider Wittgenstein’s answer : « How do you explain to someone what it means ‘to understand music’ ? Is it by naming the representations, the sensations of movement, etc., that are those of the one who understands it ? No, but rather by showing him the expressive movements of the latter [you underline] » (2).
If we follow Wittgenstein, it would therefore be absurd to think that there is a particular category of mental acts that would correspond to what is called « understanding music ».
Understanding music means actually giving signs of understanding : through movements, gestures, actions. And these signs of understanding are themselves linked to customs and rules.
« The understanding and explanation of a musical phrase. – The simplest explanation is sometimes a gesture ; another would be, for example, a dance step, or words that describe a dance » (3).
In other words, no one needs to know what is going on in the mind of a musician or a music lover to know whether or not they understand music.
Emotion and expression, on the other hand, are associated in a fully and perfectly visible physiognomy : when we look at the behaviour of another person, we do not see « external » manifestations of « internal » mental events, we actually see the thing itself. It is indeed Ulysses’ love for Penelope that manifests itself in his conduct, his words, his attitudes, his actions, etc. What others can see are not the external effects that suggest that there is love in him, it is his love itself.
Here too, therefore, it is necessary to remove the supposed « mysteries » of « interiority ».
« Following a musical phrase with understanding, what does it consist of ? Or playing it with understanding ? Don’t look inside yourself [you underline]. Instead, ask yourself what makes you think someone else is doing it. And what gives you the right to say that this other person has a certain lived experience ? ».
Understanding music is not about looking inside yourself : it is about looking at what another person is doing. We are indeed dealing with something that is lived, but not with something that is lived in the sense of an « inner » experience that would be the source of it.
What I feel is probably part of understanding music : Wittgenstein does not deny it.
But what I feel is what I can say about it (we are then here in the order of reasons, not of causes), or what I can express myself in turn by means that are not always or necessarily those of language alone : by fitted movements, by relevant gestures, by suitable actions.
However, what Wittgenstein describes and analyses about musical understanding also applies, in your opinion, to the understanding of a poem, a drawing, a sculpture or an installation.
Understanding critical marks, problematic resources, points of tension : through movements, gestures, actions.
In order to better extend them.
That is, in the Anthropocene era, in order to better disalign them.
(1) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Mixed remarks (between 1914 and 1951), French translation by Gérard Granel, introduction by Jean-Pierre Cometti, Paris, GF-Flammarion, 2002, p. 115.
(2) Ibid., p. 141.
(3) Ibid., p. 139-140.
(4) Ibid., p. 115.
working notes, 32 – 06.V.2019
IPBES 7 (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services 7), Paris, France, Unesco, 29th April-4th May 2019 :
1/ Workshop in order to finalize the first global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services since 2005 : a report that will be published in its full and final version in 2019 and will be more than 1500 pages long, a report on which more than 400 expert authors from 50 countries have worked for the past 3 years and which is based on a systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources.
2/ Publication of a summary for policymakers (« Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services ») on Monday 6th May 2019.
Excerpt from the media release : « ‘The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,’ said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. ‘The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide’ ».
Reports and publications (1) that could be read, slowly, by the supporters of neoclassical economics and constructivist sociologies – and by those who still believe that this economic approach and these sociologies provide scientific knowledge.
The neoclassical economist, the constructivist sociologist : the princes of the Anthropocene ?
« The developments of humanity are linked in the most intimate way with the surrounding nature. A secret harmony is established between the earth and the peoples it nourishes, and when reckless societies allow themselves to lay their hands on what makes their domain beautiful, they always end up repenting. Where the ground has become ugly, where all poetry has disappeared from the landscape, imaginations are extinguished, spirits are impoverished, routine and servility seize souls and dispose them to torpor and death » (2).
(2) Élisée Reclus, Du sentiment de la nature dans les sociétés modernes (Revue des Deux Mondes, n° 63, 15th May 1866, p. 352-381), Paris, Bartillat, 2019, p. 109-110.
working notes, 31 – 29.IV.-02.V.2019 : disaligning
More than just a discussion.
Not so much with Leonardo’s whole work (it would be a ridiculous pretension) as with, more narrowly, his Vitruvian Man (1).
Is it without reason that, from 1965 to 2006, the drawing was used as an emblem for the American company Manpower ?
Here too, meditating on Vitruvian homo bene figuratus, Leonardo innovated.
He innovated by significantly correcting the measurements of the human body proposed by Vitruvius (2).
He innovated by combining in a single image the « man in the circle » and the « man in the square ». Without clearly mentioning the problem of squaring the circle, Vitruvius has suggested that an equivalence could be established between the two figures. But he did not dare to say what exact relationship the square could have with the circle : inscription ? tangency ? Leonardo, it is worth noting, did not seek either to specify the relationship that could exist between the two figures. By unifying the two positions described by Vitruvius into a single figure, which thus seems to have four arms and four legs, he was pursuing another goal. However, he did not give only a more condensed version of Vitruvius’s man than his predecessors or contemporaries : he dynamized the proportions by inscribing them in the supposed movement of the figure, giving it a « cinematographic element » (3), according to a « kinetic approach » (4)
He innovated, but, in some respects, « curious investigator of all things, except God » (5), he seems here above all to have recovered and renewed the teachings of Protagoras : « Man is the measure of all things, of those which are, in the sense that they are, of those which are not, in the sense that they are not » (6).
According to Leonardo, there is a fundamental analogy between the macrocosm and the microcosm : for this reason, making the « cosmography of the microcosm » (7) is unquestionably an attempt to better connect man to nature. No misinterpretation is therefore allowed : for Leonardo, the art of painting, which is « granddaughter of nature and relative of god », makes it possible to reveal nature’s « admirable necessity », its « law », its « reasons » (8).
The navel of the « man in the circle », the penis of the « man in the square » : are they not, however, as the very centres of all anthropocentric perspectives on the world and the nature ?
The insistence in your thoughts and the recurrence in your practice of square forms and circular forms ; the male nudity in some body art experiences as well (9) : some attempts to try to shift and disalign the Vitruvian Man, to make him leave his circle and his square, to relate him differently and better to the other-than-human nature – an other-than-human nature to which it becomes vital to connect differently and better.
More generally, even beyond Leonardo’s thought and drawing, the supposed normativity of an « ideal » anthropometric division, which has lost all the force of human promotion it may have had at the time of the Renaissance by misguiding itself in all kinds of ideological drift, is now null and void : there is no reason to regret it.
Above all, the fact that the Vitruvian Man – Leonardo’s, but Vitruvius’s just as well – is a man, that the body of women is not considered, not even mentioned, that it has no right to be heard : for you, not only a confusion or an embarrassment, but a deep incomprehension (10).
There is also an absence you can’t help but notice. Very briefly mentioned in Leonardo’s notes (11), the figure of the triangle does not appear in his drawing : as if the open dimension that is characteristic of the triangle, i. e. its singular way of extending beyond itself, offends the perfection and closure of the circle and of the square.
« Cosmography of the microcosm » : victorious nude without nudity.
From now on, bending our respects, softening them : a necessity.
Geology of tongues/languages, of throats/gorges, of breasts/wombs : of all tongues/languages, of all throats/gorges, of all breasts/wombs. Of all voices.
More than just a discussion.
Drawings to be made :
1/ The proportions of the body of loess on the banks of the Rhône in Ardèche according to Vitruvius,
2/ The proportions of the body of black poplars on the banks of the Loire near Saumur according to Vitruvius,
3/ The proportions of the body of jennies of the Pyrenees according to Vitruvius,
4/ The proportions of the body of m. according to Vitrivius,
5/ and so on
(1) Leonardo da Vinci, The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius, c. 1487-1490, pen and ink with wash over metalpoint on paper, 34,4 x 24,5 cm, Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia (inv. 228).
(2) The measurements of the human body calculated by Vitruvius can be found at the beginning of the third book of his treatise De architectura : De l’architecture, III, 1, 2, French edition and translation by Pierre Gros, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1990, p. 6-7. To be able to be inscribed in a circle and in a square – De l’architecture, III, 1, 3, op. cit., p. 7 –, the body characterized by the Vitruvian measurements must be abnormally stretched : according to Vitruvius, the distance between the base of the neck and the hairline must correspond to one sixth of the height of the body ; the problem is that this measurement exceeds the height of a silhouette with the measurements of ten faces (each from the chin to the hairline) and of eight head heights (from the chin to the top of the skull) that Vitruvius proposes. Willing to articulate the anthropometric division according to the rules of proportion (metric coordination between the module and the whole) and harmony (correspondence of the parts in relation to the whole) to greater naturalistic and anatomical accuracy, Leonard perceived the difficulty. As shown by the notes accompanying the Vitruvian Man’s drawing, he reduced the distance between the base of the neck and the hairline by almost one-fifth compared to the Vitruvian measurement, clarifying that the distance between the top of the chest and the top of the head is equivalent to one sixth of the body. Written in old Tuscan language with the technique of mirror writing, these annotations by Leonardo (Venice Academy, R 343) can be read in French translation : Carnets, edition by Edward MacCurdy, French translation by Louise Servicen, Paris, Gallimard, 1942, t. 1, p. 224-225 / Traité de la peinture, French edition and translation by André Chastel, Paris, Berger Levrault, 1987, p. 233. See Matthew Landrus’s analyses, Léonard de Vinci, Paris, Gründ, 2018, p. 75.
(3) Erwin Panofsky, The Codex Huygens and Leonardo da Vinci’s Art Theory (1940), French translation by Daniel Arasse, Paris, Flammarion, 1996, p. 80.
(4) Daniel Arasse, Léonard de Vinci. Le rythme du monde, Paris, Hazan, 1997 and 2011, p. 94.
(5) Ibid., p. 387.
(6) Plato, Theætetus, 151 e : « Φησὶ γάρ που πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἄνθρωπον εἶναι, τῶν μὲν ὄντων ὡς ἔστι, τῶν δὲ μὴ ὄντων ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν ». From this point of view, should André Chastel’s efforts to bring Leonardo’s thought and Florentine Neoplatonism closer together be supplemented ? It is up to philosophy and art historians to judge it. See André Chastel, « Léonard de Vinci et la culture » (1952), in Fables, formes, figures, Paris, Flammarion, 1978, vol. 2, p. 251-277.
(7) Traité de la peinture, op. cit., p. 261.
(8) Traité de la peinture, op. cit., p. 110-113. « Granddaughter of nature », because the « daughters » of nature are « all the visible things », that is, all the natural beings that make up the space that is common to all that is and to all that lives. « Granddaughter of nature and relative of God »: Leonardo’s way of saying « deus sive natura » ?
(9) In 2018.
(10) One could think of Milo Manara’s diversion : Omaggio a Vitruvio : la Donna vitruviana, 2014, watercolour drawing on paper, 100 x 70 cm. On the occasion of the exhibition « Manara, from Bergman to Caravage » (Paris, Huberty & Breyne Art Gallery, 20th June-6th September 2014), Manara explained about this drawing : « For me, it was a challenge, a game : to know if the harmony and balance of Leonardo’s drawing could adapt to the female body. So that my version can work, I had to rebalance everything. Initially, the centre of the circle is located at the level of the human navel. I had to place it lower to keep the length of the legs. As for the woman’s head, so that it would not come out of the square, I had to bend it... and eliminate the neck » (remarks reported by Vincent Brunner, « Milo Manara, the man who drew naked women, but not only », 3rd July 2014, electronic version : ). From your perspective, however, an ambiguous diversion : a tribute to Vitruvius and Leonardo, which, in many ways, may still seem very masculine.
(11) More specifically, Leonardo makes the following observation : « Settu ap(r)i ta(n)to le ga(m)be chettu chali da chapo 1/14 di tua altez(z)a e ap(r)i e alza tanto le b(r)acia che cholle lunge dita tu tochi la linia della somita del chapo, sappi che ’l cie(n)tro delle stremita delle ap(er)te me(m)bra fia il bellicho. Ello spatio chessi truova infralle ga(m)be fia tria(n)golo equilatero », « If you open your legs enough that your head is lowered by one-fourteenth of your height and raise your hands enough that your extended fingers touch the line of the top of your head, know that the centre of the extended limbs will be the navel, and the space between the legs will be an equilateral triangle » – Venice Academy, R 343, in Carnets, op. cit., t. 1, p. 225 / Traité de la peinture, op. cit., p. 233.
working notes, 30 – 21.IV.2019
How many other-than-human forms of life have you encountered today in the vegetable garden ?
Could you count them exactly ?
Could you name them accurately and precisely ?
How many of them did you actually pay attention to ?
This worm : was it a common earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) or a brandling worm (Eisenia foetida) ?
Wasn’t it more likely a Plathelminth ?
Especially at the end of the concluding Chapter VII of The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits, London, John Murray, October 1881, 326 p., here p. 313 : « When we behold a wide, turf-covered expanse, we should remember that its smoothness, on which so much of its beauty depends, is mainly due to all the inequalities having been slowly levelled by worms. It is a marvellous reflection that the whole of the superficial mould over any such expanse has passed, and will again pass, every few years through the bodies of worms. The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of mans inventions ; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures. Some other animals, however, still more lowly organised, namely corals, have done far more conspicuous work in having constructed innumerable reefs and islands in the great oceans; but these are almost confined to the tropical zones ».
You call upon the philosopher who will be able to write the Tractatus geologico-philosophicus that is still missing.
Gottlob Frege’s essay « The Thought » (« Der Gedanke », Beiträge zur Philosophie des deutschen Idealismus, vol. 1, n° 2, 1918-1919, p. 58-77) : it would be obviously the first essential milestone.
working notes, 29 – 17.III.2019
« It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction ; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction ; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse ; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms » (1).
Will we be able to live and to think about this universe of intertwinings and spacings, of crossings and uncrossings which evolution invites us ?
« Bend over only to love. If you die, you still love » (2).
Come, let’s have a walk.
(1) Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, London, John Murray, 1859, chap. XIV (« Recapitulation and Conclusion »), p. 489-490.
(2) René Char, Fureur et mystère (1948), Le poème pulvérisé (1945-1947), « À la santé du serpent », n° XX, in Œuvres complètes, edition by Jean Roudaut, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1983, p. 266.
working notes, 28 – 15-17.III.2019
Untitled, uncaptioned, undated.
Only, on the left, a signature.
Most often, Sengai Gibon’s painting is called Circle, Triangle, Square or The Universe.
It would be necessary to refer to the teachings of the Rinzai School, the Japanese Zen Buddhist school to which Sengai belonged.
However, let us leave the possible symbolisms aside, and let us simply note that the triangle attracts attention.
More particularly its centrality, but off-centre : as if it were slightly moved.
Not exactly by encroachments. Rather, and more precisely, by slow spacings : an overflow towards the circle, a touch towards the square. As if they were kisses.
Of the elementary figures of geometry, the triangle, even acute, even incisive, is the most open : not closing either by quadrature or circularity, it tends to spread its sides beyond its points.
The centre is not then a centre : it is a crossing and an uncrossing, a junction and an expansion, a connection and a fork. Extending beyond itself, it soberly points out, with softness and slowness, an excess without symbolization : it unfolds intersections and transitions.
It is indeed The Universe that shows itself : the common life, in its encounters and its relaunchings, its intertwining and its excesses.
Sengai Gibon (1750-1837), Untitled (or Circle, Triangle, Square or The Universe),
undated, ink on paper, 27,8 x 47,5 cm, Tôkyô, The Idemitsu Museum of Arts
working notes, 27 – 12.III.2019
Men, who love so much being sociologists rather than geologists, know their fantasies better than nature.
A foreseeable logical consequence of the prevalence of correlationist thinking.
working notes, 26 – 09.III.2019
Calculate the volume of the roots of an elder.
Measure the surface of the branch of a cedar.
Do you not then make the same mistake as when you say that a virtue is green, that the number 2 is bitter, that a god has thought and sensitivity ?
Bernard Bolzano, Théorie de la science (= Wissenschaftslehre, 1837), § 67, French translation by Jacques English, Paris, Gallimard, 2011, p. 196-197.
working notes, 25 – 04-05.III.2019 : on philosophical practice and arts
« Der Zweck der Philosophie ist die logische Klärung der Gedanken. Die Philosophie ist keine Lehre, sondern eine Tätigkeit », « The purpose of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a theory but an activity » (1).
Moritz Schlick comments on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea as follows : « Philosophy is not a science, that is, a system of statements ; rather, its task is to clarify the content of scientific statements (and ultimately all others as well), that is, to discover or determine their true meaning […]. Any indication of a meaning (called ‘definition’) must ultimately lead, usually through a series of sub-definitions, to immediately show what is thought, what can only happen through a real action, a physical or intellectual act. The determination of the final meaning therefore always occurs through an activity ; this activity constitutes the essence of philosophy : there are no philosophical proposals, but only philosophical acts » (2).
This precise determination of philosophical practice – that is, philosophy as a practice – is accompanied by a profound criticism of the claims of metaphysical thought and theological thought to believe that they can deliver a scientific knowledge, Schlick being in perfect agreement with the authors of the Vienna Circle Manifesto : « The metaphysician and the theologian, mistaking themselves, believe they are saying something in their statements, presenting a state of affairs. The analysis shows, however, that these statements say nothing, but are in a way only an expression of a feeling of life [Lebensgefühl] » (3). More precisely, according to Schlick, metaphysics does have content, but this content is by no means theoretical and does not in any case refer to any state of affairs : this would be to take wrongly « what can only be the content of an apprehension [kennen] for the possible content of a knowledge [Erkenntnis] » (4).
However, no misinterpretation is allowed.
Those proposals do not imply any rejection of life issues (Lebensfragen) : « The expression of the feeling of life is certainly an important task in life. But the appropriate means of expression is art, such as poetry and music » (5). Schlick even says : « For me personally, it goes without saying that enriching the lived experience is always a higher task, indeed the highest one that can be » (6).
From all those characterizations – philosophy as an activity of clarifying thoughts, criticism of the scientific claims of metaphysics and theology – you retain this idea, for you decisive and crucial : artistic practice is the exact and necessary counterpart of philosophical acts when it comes to addressing and facing issues that directly concern life.
The way you see things, there can therefore be no possible confusion between the philosophical activity of logical clarification of thoughts and the practice of the arts.
However, there is, if not an intersection, at least a meeting point or rather a point of tangency.
Philosophical practice, as an activity of clarification of thoughts, and artistic practice, as an opening to the feeling of life, develop, cultivate and enrich the same effect : making it possible to feel better the earth, and the Earth, which carry and lead down ; making it possible to feel better the obvious links that every woman and every man maintains with the bottom line that envelops every form of life.
From this perspective, is not the only lucid and significant « humanism » the one that accepts to acknowledge the participation of women and men in all the « realms » of life ?
Here, no abdication concerning the usual rules and the sharp demands of common rationality, but the simple and ordinary acknowledgement that a community of bodies makes women and men familiar to all living beings.
Knows this anyone who has felt, right on the skin, the simple joy of rest when his body lies on a rock caressed by the heat of the sun.
Knows this anyone who has felt the confusion and the delicacy of nudities : « Nudity is in contrast to the closed state, i.e. the discontinuous state of existence. It is a state of communication, which reveals the quest for a possible continuity of being beyond the withdrawal into oneself » (7).
Acknowledge our co-belonging to the earth and to the Earth : our incorporation into a material that embraces us, that overwhelms us and which in the end we are also – like all other forms of life.
At the dawn of humanity, at the Pont d’Arc, at Lascaux or at Font-de-Gaume, the astonishment and the joy of feeling part of a common reality, of a flesh shared with all forms of life : the very origin of what is called « philosophy » and what is called « art » ?
(1) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1921, German version ; 1922, English version), 4.112, French translation by Gilles-Gaston Granger, Paris, Gallimard, 1993, p. 57.
(2) Moritz Schlick, Questions d’éthique (1930), Foreword, French translation by Christian Bonnet, Paris, PUF, 2000, p. 9-10.
(3) Rudolf Carnap, Hans Hahn and Otto Neurath, « La conception scientifique du monde. Le Cercle de Vienne » (1929), in Manifeste du Cercle de Vienne et autres écrits, French ed. by Antonia Soulez, Paris, Vrin, 2010, p. 104-146, here p. 112.
(4) Moritz Schlick, « Le vécu, la connaissance, la métaphysique » (1926), in Manifeste du Cercle de Vienne et autres écrits, French ed. by Antonia Soulez, Paris, Vrin, 2010, p. 173-188, here p. 175.
(5) Rudolf Carnap, Hans Hahn and Otto Neurath, « La conception scientifique du monde. Le Cercle de Vienne », p. 112.
(6) Moritz Schlick, « Le vécu, la connaissance, la métaphysique », p. 179.
(7) Georges Bataille, L’Érotisme (1957), Introduction, in Œuvres complètes, Paris, Gallimard, 1987, t. 10, p. 23.
working notes, 24 – 23.II.2019 : Donna Haraway
« Staying with the trouble » (1) : declaring all the « kin links », all the « kinds of relatings » (2).
In this way, paying attention to « emerging naturecultures » (3) : the co-evolutions and the co-habitations of all forms of life, all inter- and multi-specific co-constitutions (4). In a history that grows in the cells, the body forms, the affects, the habits of all beings – biotic as well as abiotic beings – that have transformed themselves together, by each other, with each other.
Being thus faithful to Darwin’s teachings : all living and extinct forms of life as an « inextricable web of affinities » (5).
And to Lynn Margulis’ ones : sex relations as all those contacts leading to vast and multiple genetic exchanges (6).
Feeling therefore to what extent the relationship is « the smallest unit of analysis » (7) : interconnections, intersections, iridescences as places where meanings are located, always in between.
Saying here « feeling » rather than « thinking » : acknowledging that feeling is a mode of cogitation – when I feel, I think in the full sense of the word.
Feeling that « we are all lichens » (8) : « We are humus, not Homo, not anthropos ; we are compost, not posthuman » (9).
The stunning force of Donna Haraway’s thought : do not believe that you can assign it to this or that position that would neutralize or devitalize it.
(1) Staying with the trouble. Making kin in the Chthulucene, Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2016.
(2) Manifeste des espèces compagnes. Chiens, humains et autres partenaires (= The Companion Species Manifesto : Dogs, People and Significant Otherness, Chicago, Prickly Paradigm, Press, 2003), French translation by Jérôme Hansen, Paris, Climats/Flammarion, 2018, p. 33.
(3) Manifeste des espèces compagnes, op. cit., p. 21-28.
(4) Manifeste des espèces compagnes, op. cit., p. 61-64.
(5) Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, London, John Murray, 1859, chap. XIII, p. 434.
(6) Lynn Margulis, L’Univers bactériel (= Microcosmos. Four billion years of evolution from our microbial ancestors, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1986), with Dorion Sagan, French translation by Gérard Blanc with Anne De Beer, Paris, Albin Michel, 1989 and Paris, Seuil, 2002, chap. 5, p. 85-100, especially p. 87 : « In its broadest sense, sexuality is simply defined as a recombination of genes from several sources ». See also Origins of Sex. Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1986 ; Mystery Dance. On the Evolution of Human Sexuality, New York, Summit Books, 1991 ; What Is Sex ?, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1997.
(7) Manifeste des espèces compagnes, op. cit., p. 53.
(8) Jan Sapp, Scott F. Gilbert, Alfred I. Tauber, « A Symbiotic View of Life : We have Never Been Individuals », The Quarterly Review of Biology, vol. 87, n° 4, December 2012, p. 325-341, final sentence of the essay. See Olga Potot, « Nous sommes tou.t.es du lichen. Histoires féministes d’infections trans-espèces », Chimères, vol. 82, n° 1, 2014, p. 137-144.
(9) Staying with the trouble. Making kin in the Chthulucene, op. cit., chap. 2 (« Tentacular Thinking : Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene »), p. 55.
working notes, 23 – 23.II.2019
walking ≠ walking in
walking ≠ walking on
walking = walking with
walking = walking with granites that are not visible, walking with thermoplasma acidophilum and mycoplasma genitalina, walking with mosses and lichens, willows and brambles, grey wolves and common blue butterflies, with the Scarpe and the Ponente
walking = feeling the space in time
walking = feeling the time in space
walking = becoming other
walking = becoming oneself
Baptiste Morizot, Sur la piste animale, Arles, Actes Sud, coll. « Mondes sauvages. Pour une nouvelle alliance », 2018, Foreword, p. 21 : « Our eye, accustomed to unobstructed perspectives and open horizons, only gets used to this landslide of the landscape at first with difficulty : from in front of us, it has passed under our feet. The soil is the new rich in signs panorama, the place that now calls our attention »
working notes, 22 – 01.II.2019
« In any individual life, you know what is going on. We surround ourselves with our works, with our acquisitions, we triumph to be increased in this way. But at times we realize that our personality is no longer light. We have disappeared under what makes us rich. We find it heavy, and sometimes we moan about it. Wouldn’t the Earth experience something like that ? Wouldn’t she remember the time when she was less charged with her works ? You would believe she was thinking about it, that under the magnificent exterior that has thickened so much, she sometimes panted. And I am not talking about volcanic convulsions, or even about those vast regions that seem to rise and fall. I am talking about some inner vibrations that have been compared to the tides of the Ocean. Doesn’t even her solid parts have their own tide ? Does she remain insensitive to the nearby passage of friendly stars ? Doesn’t she, even in her darkness, have the sense of the Sun’s movements, this father, this cherished lover ? Her momentum towards him, compressed, seems at times to raise, fill her breast... ».
Jules Michelet, La Montagne, Paris, Librairie Internationale, 1868, I, X, p. 130-131.
working notes, 21 – 20-21.I.2019
They said : « Der Stein ist weltlos ».
They also said : « Das Tier ist weltarm ».
With « serenity », they have unified, generalized, assigned.
With « serenity », they have seen and known nothing about the life of plants – not even on their « country path ».
Now they are the men of the Anthropocene. They said that too : « Der Mensch ist weltbildend ».
And their irresponsibility disseminates, with this same strange sense of « concern » : « The heavy carbon accounting of contemporary art ».
Jill Gasparina, « Le lourd bilan carbone de l’art contemporain », Le Temps, Sunday, January 6, 2019 :
working notes, 20 – 13-14.I.2019 : deleting the reflections
Is it really necessary to add some more about the current climate ?
It could be : in order to detect ruts, to feel cramps that are coming.
Let’s say then that the word « environment » is a misleading word.
Composed in French with the prefix en-, « in », and the old French word viron, « contour », « ring », « circle », the word originally designated, around 1265, a « circuit », an « outline », then, from 1487, the « surroundings » of something or of a place, in a sense close to that of « vicinity » (1). But the idea of the circle assumes a center and therefore implies the image of something or someone standing in the middle of the circle. That’s why, almost thirty years ago, Michel Serres strongly warned : « Forget the word ‘environment’ [...]. It assumes that we human beings sit at the centre of a system of things that revolve around us, the navels of the universe, the masters and owners of the nature. It reminds us of a bygone era, when the Earth (how can we imagine that it represented us ?), placed at the centre of the world, reflected our narcissism, this humanism that promotes us in the middle of things or at their excellent completion. No » (2).
In this respect, the idea of « environmental art » should always arouse rightful mistrust.
Similarly, the word « landscape » is only seemingly easy to use.
First, because it is subject in contemporary intellectual work to an inflationary use, which has the effect of making its handling very delicate – a situation undoubtedly caused by the concerns generated by the acceleration of the various evils of the ecological crisis : global warming ; dramatic erosion of biodiversity ; increased pollution of soil, water and air ; unbridled deforestation and artificialization of land ; increased urbanization ; ever-increasing ugliness of places to live ; etc. (3).
Secondly, because its origin seems to link it fatally to an anthropocentric logic.
A few brief reminders.
The word appears in Europe – lately, at the end of the 15th century –, in Dutch (landschap), in order to designate not a natural site, but a painting – the first landscape paintings in Western painting, it is sometimes claimed, probably in a questionable way (4). The equivalent French word was forged by Jean Molinet in 1493, then included in Robert Estienne’s dictionary in 1549, also to designate a painting representing a country view or a garden (5). Émile Littré indicates that the word has three meanings : « 1° Extent of the country that we see with only one aspect », « 2° Type of painting that has as its object the representation of country sites », « 3° Painting that represents a landscape » (6) – thus taking up elements of the definition proposed by Antoine Furetière : « Aspect of a country, the territory that extends to where the view can carry. The woods, hills and rivers make beautiful landscapes. Also known as paintings where are represented some views of houses, or countryside. The views of the royal houses are painted in landscapes in Fontainebleau and elsewhere » (7). The landscape, which therefore presents itself first and foremost as something to « look at » and « represent », thus seems to be glued to the « point of view » of a « subject ». And so it seems difficult to extract it from the logic of the « spectacle » – except relieving it by using the resources of the Chinese language-thought-world, as François Jullien was able to do it (8).
Which word then to say the outside from the outside itself ?
How to designate the being out of the mind ?
« From now on, the fact that Mr. Palomar looks at things from the outside and not from the inside is no longer enough : he will look at them with a look that comes from the outside, and not from within him. He tries to experience it immediately : it is not he who looks now, but the world outside that looks outside » (9).
The task, barely stated, necessarily seems doomed to failure : does not any attempt to say and to think the outside out of the mind come up against the simple fact that it is we who say it and think it ?
« This duly established, [Mr. Palomar] looks around him in anticipation of a general transfiguration. Nothing. It is the usual daily grayness that surrounds him » (10).
More than others, however, some words have the merit of not spreading subjectivity everywhere, of recognizing an outside dimension, of relieving the pressure that the subjectivity puts on the outside world.
This is the case with the word « biosphere », which refers to all living organisms (not only human ones) and their living spaces, and therefore all ecosystems, whether in the lithosphere, hydrosphere or atmosphere. The German word « die Biosphäre » seems to have been created by the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess in 1875 in his book The Origin of the Alps (11), then used in his three volumes of The Face of the Earth published between 1883 and 1909 (12). In addition to integrating the elements of Darwinian thought into the Earth sciences, and in particular into geology, the word then underlines the interdependence between the different species and the whole reality they constitute. The biogeological and ecological aspects of the biosphere concept were then developed in the 1920s by the Russian mineralogist and chemist Vladimir I. Vernadsky (13), before the British botanist Arthur George Tansley thematically developed in 1935 the notion of « ecosystem » (14) to designate the unity and the interdependence of the various components (both biotic and abiotic) of natural groups.
Should we prefer to the word « biosphere », because of its origin, sometimes considered too closely linked to the vocabulary of geochemists, that of « ecosphere », forged in 1958 by the American ecologist Lamont C. Cole (15) ? Some people think so. The fact is that this word also seeks to designate an ecosystem in which several levels interact with each other in a constitutive way : matter, energy, living beings.
« Biosphere », « ecosphere » : don’t we remain prisoners of the image of circularity ? From plan to volume, has the situation really changed ? A displacement has actually occurred, because there is no longer a privileged centre : any place is a place to be ; any place is a place to live ; each element is a centre connected step by step to all the others. As if, from now on, the centre was really everywhere and the circumference nowhere. Deus sive natura.
« Biosphere », « ecosphere » : trying a more geological language.
More geological, that is, more egalitarian, more dishierarchical.
A lighter language : relieved of inconsistent fantasies of ego preeminence.
But also a heavier one : weighted by relational gravity, redistributing objectivity and subjectivity equally among all beings, both biotic and abiotic.
Saying in a fitter and in a more loving way the multiplicity, diversity and richness of the relationships that unite men to the other-than-human Earth.
Why not then reactivate the meaning of « real » and « reality » ?
It is a fact : these words, whose philosophical history is complex and sinuous, also appear to be struck by an ambiguity that seems irreducible between essence and existence (16). But can’t this ambiguity become a resource ? Because, whether it is a question of essence or existence, « real » says what remains subject to the principle of identity without any conditions or restrictions. And a thinker like Clément Rosset has been able to explain and display all the consequences of such a characterization : « I call here real [...] everything that exists according to the principle of identity which states that A is A. I call unreal what does not exist according to this same principle : that is to say, not only everything that shows an existence only in the mode of the imaginary or the hallucination, but also and more precisely what seems to benefit from the privilege of existence but is illusory to analysis because it does not rigorously fit with the principle of identity (that is, any A that is not reduced to the A that it is, but connote in some way a B that it could also be or, more subtly, a ‘other’ A). According to me, it is the very definition of illusion : never resolving, or resigning, to the strict application of the principle of identity (and that is why I think that illusion is always bearing the stamp of the double, of a hallucinatory duplication of the single which constitutes precisely its ‘duplicity’) » (17).
In other words, saying the « real » in order to delete the reflections, to forget the echoes, to dissipate the duplications. And becoming impregnated with the identity between the being and the common realities.
Why not also try to de-sink the meaning of the word « nature » ? In order to acknowledge a « wild part of the world » in its dimension of exteriority, otherness and autonomy (18) ? Maybe. This would be a discrepancy with the ideas defended by Bruno Latour (19) or by Timothy Morton (20). Below the various ideological forms of « naturalism » that have led to the prohibition of the use of the word, we must reconsider at least a minimal meaning : the vital dimension of birth and development which, if it also characterizes men, is certainly not their prerogative or their privilege. « All that touches us is called nature […]. Nature is this wonderful whole in which our body introduces us » (21). De rerum natura.
Should we then simply give up the « environment » ? Why not try instead to take it out of its circle, by making it more biospheric, more ecospheric ? And the « landscape » ? Why not try to take it out of its framework, by opening it to the resonances of the other-than-human reality and nature ?
Giving back a geological gravity and slowness to the language : giving back to it a harsh softness.
For a walk does not invite us to contemplate the « biosphere », the « ecosphere », the « real » or the « nature » as « spectacles » : it invites us rather to insert ourselves and situate ourselves within them. And not only by the sight, but by all the senses.
A walk is never the discovery of « scenes ».
A walk, it is the undulating freshness of a still undefined dawn or the exhausting heat of a blazing sun, the grey rain of the Opal coast or the strong wind of the Vésine, the grassy wayside of the Scarpe or the rocky path of the Volane, the melancholic song of the yellowhammers or the contact call of the song thrushes, the haughty elegance of a Siberian tiger or the amused sweetness of a donkey from Provence, the humming of syrphid flies or the tymbalization of plebeian cicadas, the smell of wet earth or the perfume of cut hay, the tiredness that comes and the water that soothes.
And, always, supporting the touch of each step, the unquestionable and faithful time-being of the stones – « from before man » (22).
the Seam of the Calvary,
ears, nostrils, heels, skin
of rails of eyes when
water without thirst
to other than yourself
and device speeds
enough : seen had known
this world of photography
with no return,
(1) Alain Rey (ed.), Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, Paris, Dictionnaires Le Robert, 1992, t. 1, p. 703 a-b, art. « Environ ».
(2) Michel Serres, Le Contrat naturel (1990), Paris, Éditions Le Pommier, 2018, p. 79-80.
(3) See the information provided, for example, by Jean-Marie Besse, Le Goût du monde. Exercices de paysage, Arles, Actes Sud/ENSP, 2009.
(4) The Greeks and the Romans called landscape painting topiographia or skenographia. Pliny the Elder mentions Studius, « the first to imagine a charming way of painting the walls, featuring country houses and harbours as well as landscape themes [topiaria opera], sacred groves, woods, hills, fish-bearing ponds, water-filled ditches, rivers, shores, to suit everyone », as well as Serapio, who was « an excellent set painter [scaenas] », « unable to paint a human being » : Natural History, XXXV, 37, respectively 116 and 113, ed. by Jean-Michel Croisille, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1985, p. 85 and p. 84. We must think about the Pompeian frescos, but also the petrified landscapes painted on the walls of the Campanian villas. See Monica Salvadori, « Amoenissimam parietum picturam. La fortuna del paesaggio nella pittura parietale romana », Eidola. International Journal of Classical Art History, vol. 5, 2008, p. 23-46.
(5) Catherine Franceschi, « Du mot ‘paysage’ et de ses équivalents dans cinq langues européennes », in Michel Collot (ed.), Les Enjeux du paysage, Bruxelles, Ousia, 1997, p. 75-111.
(6) Émile Littré, Dictionnaire de la langue française (1863-1872), Paris, Hachette, 1873-1874, t. 3, p. 1022 b, art. « Paysage » : « 1° Étendue du pays que l’on voit d’un seul aspect », « 2° Genre de peinture qui a pour objet la représentation des sites champêtres », « 3° Tableau qui représente un paysage ».
(7) Antoine Furetière, Dictionnaire universel contenant généralement tous les mots français, tant vieux que modernes, et les termes de toutes les sciences et des arts (text begun in the early 1650s ; 1st ed. : 1690, posthumous), La Haye et Rotterdam, chez Arnout et Reinier Leers, 1690, t. 2, n. p., art. « Paisage » : « Aspect d’un pays, le territoire qui s’étend jusqu’où la vue peut porter. Les bois, les collines et les rivières font les beaux paysages. Se dit aussi des tableaux où sont représentées quelques vues de maisons, ou de campagnes. Les vues des maisons royales sont peintes en paysages à Fontainebleau et ailleurs » (modernized spelling).
(8) François Jullien, Vivre de paysage. Ou l’impensé de la raison, Paris, Gallimard, 2014 (about the difficulties concerning the concept of environment, see p. 156-157).
(9) Italo Calvino, Palomar (1983), 3.3.1., French translation by Jean-Paul Manganaro, Paris, Seuil, 1985, p. 112.
(11) Eduard Suess, Die Entstehung der Alpen, Vienna, Wilhelm Braumüller, 1875, Achter Abschnitt, p. 159.
(12) Eduard Suess, Das Antlitz der Erde, Vienna and Leipzig, F. Tempsky and G. Freytag, 3 vol., 1883-1909.
(13) Vladimir I. Vernadsky, Biosfera, Leningrad, Nauchno-techn. Izd., 1926, 146 p. It is sometimes considered that Vernadsky was to the unity of biological space what Charles Darwin was to the unity of biological time. Life is therefore expressed as a geological force and constitutes a cosmic phenomenon.
(14) Arthur George Tansley, « The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts and Terms », Ecology, vol. 16, n° 3, July 1935, p. 284-307.
(15) Lamont Cook Cole, « The Ecosphere », Scientific American, vol. 198, n° 4, 8 April 1958, p. 83-96.
(16) Jean-François Courtine, art. « Réalité », in Barbara Cassin (ed.), Vocabulaire européen des philosophies. Dictionnaire des intraduisibles, Paris, Seuil/Dictionnaires Le Robert, 2004, p. 1060-1068.
(17) Clément Rosset, L’École du réel, Paris, Minuit, 2008, p. 311.
(18) Virginie Maris, La Part sauvage du monde. Penser la nature dans l’Anthropocène, Paris, Seuil, 2018.
(19) Bruno Latour, Face à Gaïa. Huit conférences sur le nouveau régime climatique, Paris, La Découverte, 2015, in particular p. 188 : « Nous sommes bel et bien entrés dans une période postnaturelle », « We have indeed entered a postnatural period ».
(20) Timothy B. Morton : Ecology Without Nature. Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 2007 ; La Pensée écologique (= The Ecological Thought, 2010), French translation by Cécile Wajsbrot, Paris, Zulma, 2019 ; Humankind : Solidarity with Non-Human People, Londres, Verso Books, 2017 ; Being Ecological, Londres, Pelican Books, 2018.
(21) Novalis, The Novices at Sais (= Die Lehrlinge zu Sais, 1798), II, French translation by Maurice Maeterlinck, in Les Disciples à Saïs et les Fragments de Novalis, Bruxelles, Paul Lacomblez, 1895, p. 33-34 / Schriften, edition by Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel, Berlin, G. Reimer, 1802/1837, t. 2, p. 85 : « Was uns rührt, nennt man die Natur […]. So ist die Natur jene wunderbare Gemeinschaft, in die unser Körper uns einführt ». On those Novalis statments, see Jean-Christophe Bailly, « À partir d’une pensée de Novalis » (2015), in L’Élargissement du poème, Paris, Christian Bourgois, 2015, p. 47-50.
(22) Roger Caillois, Pierres (1966), Dedication, Paris, Gallimard, coll. « Poésie », 1971, p. 7.
working notes, 19 – 10.I.2019
walking : systole
reciprocating : diastole
« breathing from the heels »
Zhuang Zhou, The Complete Work, chap. 6, in Philosophes taoïstes, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1980, p. 128
working notes, 18 – 30.XII.2018
« Extension is an attribute of god, or god is an extended thing ».
« No one has hitherto laid down what the body can do, that is, no one has yet been taught by experience what the body can accomplish solely by the laws of nature, in so far as she is regarded as corporal ».
Has a contemporary artwork ever aroused in you such a deep and moving astonishment as that engendered by these two philosophical statements (1) ?
You don’t see any.
One exception : the reindeer love parade scene in the cave of Font-de-Gaume, in the main gallery, on the left wall, just before the crossroads.
There, right on the skin of the rock, an absolute nudity :
no bell :
she palms her horns, he leans his antlers,
on the face of she he puts his tongue of he
of high tenderness :
river living upstream
to what no way
— when, delicately,
(1) Baruch de Spinoza, Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata (1677, posthumous ed.), II, Proposition 2 and III, Proposition 2, scholium, ed. by Bernard Pautrat, Paris, Seuil, 1988 and 1999, p. 96 and p. 208 : « Extensio attributum Dei est, sive Deus est res extensa », « Etenim, quid Corpus possit, nemo hucusque determinavit, hoc est, neminem hucusque experientia docuit, quid Corpus ex solis legibus naturæ, quatenus corporea tantùm consideratur, possit agere ».
working notes, 17 – 19-25.XII.2018
Philosophical thought, poetry, drawing : some forms of life.
Some forms of life, but also some forms of knowledge.
About yourself ?
About what is not yourself : more essentially, more vitally.
Some forms of knowledge about human lives, about other-than-human lives, about their intertwinings, about their interlacings.
But you do not intend to give in to any facility. Because the fact is that some questions must necessarily and frankly be asked:
1/ Why would we need poetry and drawing, in addition to science and philosophical thought, to help us to pose and solve certain problems ?
2/ What kind of knowledge do we find in a poem and in a drawing that neither daily life nor scientific study nor philosophical analysis would communicate to us ?
3/ How do we acquire this knowledge ? Is it enough to say that it would be acquired by « intuition » ?
4/ What is the relationship between the shape of a poem or the shape of a drawing, on the one hand, and the knowledge they could provide us with, on the other ?
The situation is therefore as follows : it is not absurd to think that poetry and drawing contribute to knowledge, but it seems difficult to describe exactly and specifically how this participation goes.
Is it particularly appropriate to think that the poem and the drawing would make it possible to capture by « intuition » « specific » truths ?
But which « specific » truths ?
If we were to list these truths that are supposed to be « specific », would we not quickly discover that they have all been or could all be discovered by the sciences, according to their most common methods and approaches ?
And what means « intuition » ?
Does not « intuition » actually all too often correspond to « what is agreeable to reason », as Hilary Putnam suggests about the novel : « It seems to me wrong either to say that novels give knowledge of man or to say categorically that they do not […]. No matter how profound the psychological insights of a novelist may seem to be, they cannot be called knowledge if they have not been tested. To say that the perceptive reader can just see that the psychological insights of a novelist are not just plausible, but that they have some kind of universal truth, is to return to the idea of knowledge by intuition about matters of empirical fact, to The Method of What is Agreeable to Reason » (1) ?
In order to understand the situation more accurately, we could refer to the solution proposed by Gottfried Gabriel : rather than a rivalry or a competition, there is a « complementary pluralism » of the various forms of knowledge – the « complementarity » having to be understood here in the sense of the complementarity, in quantum physics, of waves and corpuscles (2).
But what exactly does such a « complementarity » imply ?
In any case, it does not imply any extension of the concept of truth. Such an extension would indeed imply accepting the idea of non-propositional truth (nicht-propositionalen Wahrheitsbegriff), which is simply not intelligible : the only admissible concept of truth to which we can have assured access is indeed the concept of propositional truth (3).
Rather than extending the concept of truth, it is therefore necessary to consider extending the concept of knowledge. This is how we can consider that there is non-propositional knowledge (nicht-propositional Erkenntnis). As it is perhaps the case, for example, with ethical knowledge, which is not suitable with theoretical formulations, as Ludwig Wittgenstein has shown (4).
The knowledge provided by the poem and by the drawing could then be designed on this model of non-propositional knowledge (5).
As for philosophical knowledge, Gabriel can place it, not without reason, in an intermediate position : because of its uncompromising use of argumentation, philosophy is to be placed on the side of scientific activities ; but, because it tries to show a certain rightful vision of the world, it is also to be placed on the side of the Dichtung (in the sense of poetry rather than fiction). Between science and poetry, philosophy can then be described as a « non-fictional argumentative form of showing » (6).
However, have the difficulties been overcome ? Did not they just step back a notch ? Because what is exactly a non-propositional knowledge ? And what is a non-propositional knowledge delivered by a poem or by a drawing ?
A kind of « knowledge through love » (7) ? Maybe. In the sense that the teaching of love, both for the body and for the mind of lovers, is to make them sensitive and careful, not only to the singularity of the forms of life, but also to the interlacings that relate those forms of life to each other ? Maybe so too.
But can you prove it ? Aren’t you again referring to some kind of lazy « intuition » ?
Shouldn’t we also qualify a characterization that may seem rightly far too general ? Does loving always make lovers know ? If a love makes known, what does it make known, and how ? And is it really the knowledge that we expect from our loves ? Do our loves have to be epistemic ? Are there not also a multitude of competing conceptions of love, all equally legitimate according to a « minimal ethics » (8) (contemporary forms of polyamory by surpassing the couple, the various challenges to heterosexual love, the development of negotiated sexualities, ephemeral loves, the different possibilities of chosen sexual abstinence, etc.) ?
It is clear that the difficulties remain.
One thing is certain, however : neither the poem nor the drawing are or should be mathematical proposals.
Above all, is it not a mistake here to try to generalize too precipitately ? And isn’t this error one of the main sources of our difficulties ?
Not all poems and drawings necessarily aim to contribute to our knowledge-based enterprises. It is therefore to be expected, without this being a problem, that some of them will not enter such an undertaking – either because they do not actually do so or because they set themselves the task of avoiding it. And even if their ambition were to contribute to our knowledges, there is no reason to think that all poems and all drawings would seek to increase them in the same way, from the same viewpoint. So trying to understand how a particular poem or a particular drawing contributes to broadening and deepening our knowledges requires us to examine, in a singular way, the devices they use, which are themselves singular each time.
As far as you are concerned, the practice of poetry and of drawing is a resource that allows you – not only, but especially – to de-bog thought, to take it out of the rut of some of its inclinations towards idealism, subjectivism or constructivism (9).
By practicing poetry and drawing, you can deepen with more acuteness what may be wrong in the coordinates of the « framing problem » as stated by George Santayana. According to Santayana, « a landscape to be seen has to be composed, and to be loved has to be moralized », the American philosopher adding : « That is the reason why rude or vulgar people are indifferent to their natural surroundings » (10). Santayana expresses here in his own way an idea that has become very common and still has very hard skin : that it would be impossible for us to live and appreciate the other-than-human nature in the absence of any culture and any convention that would « frame » the « show » it offers us. In other words, the feeling of the beauty of the other-than-human nature would be of social and cultural origin, since the other-than-human nature can only have beauty of its own if an education, in particular an artistic education, endows it with it in our eyes. Such artialisation (by which we mean the transformation of lived lands into contemplated landscapes through an aesthetic codification of the gaze) is therefore based on a double reduction : it makes the landscape the product of a gaze ; it also makes this gaze itself a pure product of art.
Against this approach, which is exemplary of all subject-centred thinking, your practice of poetry and of drawing consists in considering the other-than-human nature and the bodies that relate to it within the materials that compose them. It is a question of living two densities that only make sense to be linked to each other :
1/ The density of the other-than-human nature understood in all its biotic and abiotic components, their evolutionary processes, their interrelationships, their spatial and temporal geology.
2/ The density of the bodies involved in the other-than-human nature – the other-than-human nature that they feel and perceive with the help of all the senses (and not only with the help of sight).
Hence the orientation of your research : walking ; touching lightly ; in tune with the other-than-human nature, leaving the frame (11) ; painting without painting ; drawing without line ; making only ephemeral installations ; letting the canvas permeate with air, light, water, sounds of the trees and of the forest ; listening to all the voices of the other-than-human Earth ; laying your lips and your tongue only slowly and softly.
Does this allow for a knowledge ?
A knowledge through love ? Through material and physical love of materials and of bodies ?
To these questions, despite your doubts, you are often tempted to answer : « Yes, most likely ». Probably because you remember the words of Aldo Leopold : « It is inconceivable to me that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect, and admiration for land » (12). Probably – especially ? – because you keep meditating on that « intellectual love » described by Spinoza in the fifth part of the Ethics : « The more we understand the singular things, the more we understand god » – god, that is, nature (13).
However, to other thinkers – possibly – the task of demonstrating how this knowledge, if it is one, is indeed a kind of knowledge. Because you, too thin and too poor a philosopher, you do not know how to do it.
(1) Hilary Putnam, « Literature, Science, and Reflection » (1975-1976), in Meaning and the Moral Sciences, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978, p. 89. Hilary Putnam uses a formula by Charles Sanders Peirce. It should be recalled that Peirce, in the essay « The Fixation of Belief », distinguishes four methods of inquiry, or of fixation of the belief, and considers the first three methods as being specious : (a) The method of tenacity : while the simplicity, the strength and the directness can be admired in this method, it must also be noted that it leads to ignoring the opinions of others, which may nevertheless be perfectly valid ; (b) The method of authority : in this case, the State intervenes and can create institutions whose purpose is to maintain doctrines considered as orthodox ; this method can certainly be fearsome ; above all, it cannot in any case provide for all questions and prevent individuals from comparing what is thought in their society with what is thought in other societies ; (c) The method of « what is agreeable to reason » : in this case, the truth of the belief depends, not on its agreement with experience, but on the fact that it favours what we are inclined to believe ; if this method is intellectually more respectable than the first two, it nevertheless makes beliefs depend on elements that are strictly accidental and arbitrary ; (d) The scientific method : in this case, the inquiry assumes that it is possible to discover reality, so that unlike other methods, scientific inquiry can invalidate a belief or criticize, correct and improve it – « The Fixation of Belief », Popular Science Monthly, vol. 12, November 1877, p. 1-15, in Textes anticartesiens, presentation and French translation by Joseph Chenu, Paris, Aubier Montaigne, 1984, p. 266-286.
(2) Gottfried Gabriel, Zwischen Logik und Literatur. Erkenntnisformen von Dichtung, Philosophie und Wissenschaft, Stuttgart, Verlag J. B. Metzler, 1991, V (« Komplementarität der Erkenntnisformen »), « Erkenntnis in Wissenschaft, Philosophie und Dichtung. Argumente für einen komplementären Pluralismus », p. 202-224, here p. 209.
(3) In Alfred Tarski’s sense : « Le concept de vérité dans les langages formalisés » (1933-1935), in Logique, sémantique, métamathématique, French translation under the direction of Gilles-Gaston Granger, Paris, Armand Colin, 1972, t. 1, p. 157-269.
(4) Ludwig Wittgenstein, A Lecture on Ethics (1929-1930), in Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, French translation by Jacques Fauve, Paris, Gallimard, 1992, p. 137-175.
(5) Zwischen Logik und Literatur. Erkenntnisformen von Dichtung, Philosophie und Wissenschaft, op. cit., p. 214.
(6) Zwischen Logik und Literatur. Erkenntnisformen von Dichtung, Philosophie und Wissenschaft, op. cit., p. 223-224 : « Als argumentierende Disziplin steht die Philosophie zwar auf Seiten der Wissenschaften ; die Natur ihrer Einsichten, nicht auf Tatsachen in der Welt, sondern auf Sichtweisen von Welt auszusein, rückt sie aber näher an die Dichtung heran als mancher vielleicht wahrhaben möchte. Nach allem, was über den Erkenntniswert der Dichtung gesagt wurde, sollte man hierin doch keinen Mangel sehen, ganz im Gegenteil. Wenn man Philosophie, jedenfalles die Metaphysik, als ‘Begriffsdichtung’ abgewertet hat, so scheint mir, daß diesem Ausdruck durchaus auch ein positiver Sinn abgewonnen werden kann. Er markiert nämlich genau die Stellung der Philosophie zwischen Wissenschaft und Dichtung, charakterisierbar al seine nicht-fiktionale, argumentative Form des Zeigens ».
(7) In the sense that Martha C. Nussbaum gives to such a knowledge, but not necessarily, or only, because, according to this author, this knowledge would mainly concern our moral life, which, however essential it may be, is not our whole life : La Connaissance de l’amour. Essais sur la philosophie et la littérature (= Love’s Knowledge. Essays on Philosophy and Literature, 1991), French translation by Solange Chavel, Paris, Cerf, 2010.
(8) I.e. that ethics according to which the only truly ethical principle is concentrated in a principle not to harm others, which is divided into three principles : a principle of equal consideration of the voices and of the claims of each person to the extent that those voices and those claims possess impersonal value ; a principle of moral indifference of the relationship to oneself ; a principle of not harming others : Ruwen Ogien, L’Éthique aujourd’hui. Maximalistes et minimalistes, Paris, Gallimard, 2007.
(9) It is certainly in sociological thought that those inclinations are most pronounced. Exemplary from this point of view, even to the point of caricature, are the positions supported by Geoffroy de Lagasnerie in Penser dans un monde mauvais, Paris, PUF, 2017.
(10) George Santayana, Le Sentiment de la beauté. Esquisse d’une théorie esthétique (= The Sense of Beauty. Being the Outline of Æsthetic Theory, 1896), French translation by Anne Combarnous and Fabienne Gaspari, Pau, Pau University Publications, 2002, III, « Example of landscape », p. 119.
(11) Hence the importance for you of this idea expressed by one of the leading theorists of environmental aesthetics, Roland W. Hepburn, in his essay « Contemporary aesthetics and the neglect of natural beauty » : « Natural objects are ‘frameless’. This is in some ways a disadvantage aesthetically ; but there are some remarkable compensating advantages. Whatever lies beyond the frame of an art-object cannot normally become part of the aesthetic experience relevant to it. A chance train-whistle cannot be integrated into the music of a string quartet ; it merely interferes with its appreciation. But where there is no frame, and where nature is our aesthetic object, a sound or a visible intrusion from beyond the original boundaries of our attention can challenge us to integrate it in our overall experience, to modify that experience so as to make room for it » – « Contemporary aesthetics and the neglect of natural beauty », in British Analytical Philosophy, ed. by Bernard Williams and Alan Montefiore, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966, p. 285-310, here p. 290-291.
(12) Aldo Leopold, Almanach d’un comté des sables (= A Sand County Almanac, 1949, posthumous ed.), French translation by Anna Gibson, Paris, GF-Flammarion, 2000, p. 282.
(13) Baruch de Spinoza, Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata (1677, posthumous ed.), V, Proposition 24, ed. by Bernard Pautrat, Paris, Seuil, 1988 and 1999, p. 516 : « Quò magis res singulares intelligimus, eò magis deum intelligimus ». Deus sive natura : Short treatise (circa 1661-1662 ?), Appendix, French translation by Joël Ganault, in Œuvres, ed. by Pierre-François Moreau, Paris, PUF, 2009, t. 1, p. 416 ; Ethica, IV, Preface, p. 337.
working notes, 16 - 07.XII.2018 : stripping off - to a. m.
A difference that remains.
A Siberian tiger, no more than a velvet spider or a black-throated warbler, can undress.
As for the gods.
Women and men are not born naked, however. Or if they are born naked, it is without nudity. They have a nudity only because they can strip themselves naked.
But the fact is that undressing is never, for any woman, for any man, a gesture of serenity : undressing, bodies hesitate, seek each other, lose each other.
Stripping themselves naked, women and men reveal their humanity, without any particular or new certainty concerning an essence of the human species.
Stripping themselves naked, women and men reveal an unanswered humanity.
And a long and a slow belonging. A geological belonging. So far away, so close.
The links that bring back and unite the bodies of women and the bodies of men to the other-than-human Earth, the links that deport them, within it, to its bosom.
From the bark of their skins : their grains, their dots ; their reliefs, their cracks ; their scars, their burns ; their downs, their wines ; their smells, their colours.
earth-body : in the body, feeling « the unbaptized earth of the beginning », « the time that from within the earth looks upon us » (1).
Stripping themselves naked, women and men reveal thus a delicate equality, an undeniable equality.
As the plebeian virtue knows how to say it : «For all men, having the same origin, are equally ancient and are made with the same stuff by nature. Nude us and you will see that we are similar» (2).
Undressing : free from possessions, free by impossession.
And nudity invites nudity.
This is the law of Sparta : « The Lacedemonians enjoin us to leave or to undress » (3).
No nudity without enlargement.
But undressing does not only lighten up.
Our bodies, yours, mine : when, to the skin, all transparency ceases.
Our bodies, each other : shielding from their images, exposing themselves to their outside.
In immanence, uncovering and discovering each other :
a white jersey
– large, slowly
– none, frequently
dawn of shoulder,
woman sketched by
– drinking the water in the water,
from your woolen
the wooded orb
(1) Ana Mendieta, « Proposal to Bard College for La Maya de Yerba », 1984, text reprinted in Ana Mendieta. Le temps et l’histoire me recouvrent, ed. by Lynn Lukkas and Howard Oransky, Paris, Jeu de Paume and Dijon, Les Presses du Réel, 2018, p. 146.
(2) Nicolas Machiavelli, History of Florence (1525 for the first six books), III, 13, in Œuvres, ed. by Christian Bec, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1996, p. 768 – in the speech of harangue of one of the rebels to his fellow fighters, speech of harangue imagined by the author when he tried to think about the Ciompi Revolt that occurred in Florence in 1378.
(3) Plato, Theætetus, 169 b.
working notes, 15 - 30.XI.2018 : on conceptual art
Are some artworks « conceptual », while others are not ?
Can an art be not « conceptual » at all ?
Can any artistic practice solicit, from the artist who performs it, only his conceptual capacities, excluding, for instance, his sensory capacities, or only his sensory capacities, excluding his conceptual capacities ?
The question also arises for those who receive the artworks.
When an artist plans to realize a work, or when a person receives an artwork, can we really clearly detect a part that would only belong to the senses and a part that would only belong to the concepts ?
Moreover, why would it be necessary, or even simply appropriate, to adopt here a normative viewpoint ? Is it appropriate to prohibit the concept in favour of the senses or to prohibit the senses in favour of the concept ? Have Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made, opening the nominalistic viewpoint of a « de-definition » of the arts (1), not taught us the necessity to be ontologically generous ? Have they not rightly made us suspicious about the idea that there should be tight normative boundaries between the different artistic practices, as well as between the different artistic practices and the different dimensions of existence ?
We do not have to identify our sensitive life and our conceptual activity : a sensation of yellow is not a concept of yellow. I certainly cannot have a concept of yellow in my mental equipment if I have not previously had sensations of yellow : it is an empirical concept. But, once I have it, I can think about the concept of yellow in the absence of what causes the sensations of yellow.
But we do not have either to cut superficially and artificially one from the other our sensitive life and our conceptual activity (2) – and the different arrangements between them can vary greatly : our mathematical practices, for example, may not solicit them in exactly the same way as our artistic practices.
So why, in the 1960s and the 1970s, did some artists (Sol LeWitt, Joseph Kosuth, Ad Reinhardt, Lawrence Weiner, Robert Barry, Art & Language, etc. : these few names are in no way a list that would claim to be comprehensive) wish to name their practice « conceptual art » ?
Is it appropriate, for example, to say that the parietal drawings of the cave of Font-de-Gaume or of the cave of Les Combarelles would not be « conceptual » (3) ?
And is Duchamp’s statement really controversial when he says : « This is the direction art must take : intellectual expression, rather than animal expression. I’m tired of the expression ‘stupid as a painter’ » (4) ? Were the painters of Font-de-Gaume and the Combarelles « stupid as painters » ?
Artists who claim to be « conceptual artists » do not present a characterization of « conceptual art » that could easily be unified (5). Perhaps one thing in common, however, is what Sol LeWitt says : « In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art » (6).
It should be noted that such a characterization in no way implies considering that « conceptual art » would have to be a « rational art » : « Conceptual art is not necessarily logical. The logic of a piece or series of pieces is a device that is used at times, only to be ruined » (7).
Does this derealization of the execution allow a defetichization of artworks ? « Conceptual art » has in any case very well reached the networks of the various artistic institutions (art schools, galleries, museums, foundations).
With regard to these orientations, what is your position ? Is your practice of drawing and poetry « conceptual » ?
The fact is that painting, for example, when it is practiced « per kilometer » (whether figurative or abstract, expressionist or formalistic, gestural or geometric), leaves you a little bit puzzled. It is obvious that, when claiming to add other images to existing images, a painter should always have better, and more necessary – more « conceptual » – reasons than those that consist, often in such a naive and narcissistic way, in wanting to « express » his « personality ».
But the fact is that Sol LeWitt’s statements also sometimes leave you a little bit puzzled. The idea, the realization : is there not something forced, perhaps even something a little bit too « lazy », and even a little bit too « wise », in this clear division and this sharp distribution ? Ideas can be developed, modified, enriched, complicated, oriented differently according to the realization processes ; similarly, the realization processes can be developed, modified, enriched, complicated, oriented differently according to the ideas.
Is this not Duchamp’s own idea when he characterizes the « personal ‘art coefficient’ » as « an arithmetical relationship between ‘what is unexpressed but was projected’ and ‘what is expressed unintentionally’ » : « The struggle towards realization is a series of efforts, pains, satisfactions, refusals, decisions that cannot and should not be fully conscious, at least aesthetically. The result of this struggle is a difference between the intention and its realization, a difference of which the artist is in no way aware. In fact, a link is missing in the chain of reactions that go with the act of creation ; this split that represents the artist’s inability to fully express his intention, this difference between what he had planned to realize and what he has realized is the personal ‘art coefficient’ contained in the work » (8) ?
The really interesting questions are therefore the following ones : what is the technique of the intentions ? what are the materials of the ideas ? what are the « schemings » of the concepts ?
Your point of view is thus very specific : simply giving up all forms of opposition and hierarchy between the idea and the realization – whether it is a question of favouring and valuing the idea over the realization or the realization over the idea (9). Not out of contempt. But because, in your practice, the idea and the realization count both equally. When, for example, the purpose of an installation is to remain ephemeral, this does not mean that the realization would then only be « a perfunctory affair », to use LeWitt’s words. Quite the contrary : this ephemeral character is precisely made possible only by the way in which the realization, with its specific logic and its specific constraints, is conceived and accomplished. More broadly speaking, in the contemporary background of the anthropic dislocations of nature, the care given to the realization – ensuring that it is not abrasive but as light as possible – is inseparable from the idea that drives your walks and your approaches. Avoiding the use of the most polluting materials ; avoiding the facilities of « bigness » or « gigantism », while ensuring that the scales are as accurate as possible (10) : is this « idea », is this « realization » ?
You would then willingly complete Sol LeWitt’s statement : « The idea and the body are a machine that make the art ». And you would perhaps add, not a condition, but an explicitation : « The idea and the body connected to the other-than-human Earth and nature ».
In particular for a reason that comes from Spinoza’s thought : « The mind and the body are one and the same individual, conceived now under the attribute of thought, now under the attribute of extension » (11). According to Spinoza, the mind is an idea, itself made up of a multiplicity of ideas. The object of this idea is the body, and that is why the ideas of the mind are first and foremost the ideas of the affections of the body (12). What the mind immediately perceives is not the nature of things, but the impression they make in the body. By virtue of the parallelism of attributes (nature, by producing something, expresses itself in an infinity of attributes), everything that happens in the body is perceived in the mind (13), and, correlatively, any idea of the mind is accompanied by an affection of the body. The mind and the body of an individual are thus one and the same thing, considered from two different points of view : they are two distinct modes (because they belong to two different attributes – thought and extension) ; but they are two modes expressing the same reality produced by nature.
There is no interaction, or causal relationship, between the mind and the body (14), for the simple reason that the mind and the body are two different expressions of the same reality. But because the mind and the body (skin, feet, breasts) are two different expressions of the same reality, then, yes, your practice of drawing and poetry is « conceptual ».
(1) Harold Rosenberg, La Dé-définition de l’art (= The De-definition of Art, 1972), French translation by Christian Bounay, Nîmes, Éditions Jacqueline Chambon, 1992.
(2) Ludwig Wittgenstein, L’Intérieur et l’Extérieur. Derniers écrits sur la philosophie de la psychologie, II (notes written from 1949 to 1951), French translation by Gérard Granel, Mauvezin, Trans-Europ-Repress, 2000, p. 94 : « Wäre es richtig zu sagen, in unsern Begriffen spiegle sich unser Leben ? Sie stehen mitten in ihm », « Would it be correct to say that our concepts are the mirror of our life ? They are involved with it ».
(3) Paleolithic artworks, at least following the hypotheses formulated by Jean-Paul Jouary, have assumed that homo sapiens sapiens have a mental functioning based on « sensed-believed-thought », the author specifying that this is « a single word, made up with three words » which refers to something « prior » to the « distinction » between sensitivity, belief and thought – Préhistoire de la pensée. Et l’art créa l’homme, Bruxelles, Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2012, p. 24.
(4) Marcel Duchamp, « Propos » (1946), in Duchamp du signe. Écrits, ed. by Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson, Paris, Flammarion, 1994, chap. III (« M.D., criticavit »), p. 174.
(5) Tony Godfrey, L’Art conceptuel (2003), French translation by Nordine Haddad, Paris, Phaidon, 2003, p. 12-15.
(6) Sol LeWitt, « Paragraphs on Conceptual Art », Artforum, vol. 5, n° 10, Summer 1967, p. 79-83, text reprinted in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Art en théorie, 1900-1990 (1992), French translation under the direction of Anne Betrand and Anne Michel, Paris, Hazan, 1997, p. 910-913, here p. 910.
(7) Ibid., p. 910. See also « Sentences on Conceptual Art », The Journal of Conceptual Art, vol. 1, n° 1, Coventry, May 1969, p. 11-13, text reprinted in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Art en théorie, 1900-1990, op. cit., p. 913 : « 1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach. 2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements. 3. Illogical judgements lead to new experience ».
(8) Marcel Duchamp, « Le processus créatif » (1957), in Duchamp du signe. Écrits, op. cit., chap. III (« M.D., criticavit »), p. 188-189.
(9) For example, in Alain’s philosophy : « No design is an artwork. And it is an opportunity to warn any artist that he is wasting his time searching among the simple possibilities which would be the most beautiful ; because no possible is beautiful ; reality alone is beautiful. So do and then judge » – Système des beaux-arts (1920), I, VI, in Les Arts et les Dieux, ed. by Georges Bénézé, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1958, p. 236.
(10) Robert Smithson, « The Spiral Jetty » (1972), in The Collected Writings, ed. by Jack Flam, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1996, p. 147 : « Size determines an object, but scale determines art. A crack in the wall, if viewed in terms of scale, not size, could be called the Grand Canyon. A room could be made to take on the immensity of the solar system. Scale depends on one’s capacity to be conscious of the actualities of perception. When one refuses to release scale from size, one is left with an object or language that appears to be certain. For me scale operates by uncertainty ».
(11) Baruch de Spinoza, Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata (1677, posthumous ed.), II, Proposition 21, scholium, ed. by Bernard Pautrat, Paris, Seuil, 1988 and 1999, p. 142 : « Mentem, & Corpus, unum, & idem esse Individuum, quod jam sub Cogitationis, jam sub Extensionis attributo concipitur ».
(12) Ethica, II, Proposition 13, p. 116 : « Objectum ideæ, humanum mentem constituentis, est corpus, sive certus extensionis modus actu existens, & nihil aliud », « The object of the idea constituting the human mind is the body, in other words, a certain mode of extension which actually exists, and nothing else ».
(13) Ethica, II, Proposition 12, p. 114.
(14) Ethica, III, Proposition 2, p. 206.
working notes, 14 - 23.XI.2018
We are not
And not even when
you drink me,
And not even when
I lip you.
Acasta gneiss and Jack Hills zircons
Nuvvuagittuq hematites and Isua stromatolites
lotic rivers and lentic puddles
glassy obsidians and silky serpentines
black antane and white levanter
foliose lichens and spiny amaranths
glabrous willows and wayfaring trees
European greenfinches and Bengal tigers
working notes, 13 - 16.XI.2018 : breasts
Made for the tongue, made for the language, the breasts.
― The body outside. Lines at their broadest. To their very high porosity.
― The truth of the faults, the truth of the reliefs. In its most naked grain, the intense of a silk soil.
― A kiss, a touch – geological ones. Living fosssils. In the heart of the skin, the present of precedence.
― The childhood, but without assignment, of the points, the lines and the masses. The origin of the drawing.
Because they are one.
― Being within, being qua being.
Because there are two.
― To the right and to the left. Up and down. Above and below. Being numbers. Being relations.
They are the least substitutable complementary realities.
― For the mouth and the lips.
― For the hand and the fingers.
― For the black cell.
― For the loving ruler.
― For the clumsy stalk.
They make the voice of the landscapes resound.
And the path for the tongue, the path for the language.
Will we ever know everything about a body can do ?
working notes, 12 - 15.XI.2018
A life of Platonic commas.
A Platonic comma life.
Do we even know, asks Spinoza, what a body can do ?
Let’s add : do we only know what a comma can do ?
Connecting by spacing, spacing by connecting. Weaving.
working notes, 11 - 04.XI.2018
Emancipating the drawing from visuality ?
Is it even possible ?
And why should we consider visual pleasure as an evil ?
So, more essential, also more critical, trying to emancipate the drawing from the unjustified privilege and the questionable exclusivity granted to visuality.
For a drawing, whatever it may be, is never just a raw presence offered to those who examine or admire it, a raw presence that would be like hedged in an instantaneous punctum that would be both silent and hermetic.
A drawing is rather, and in a way that is always singular, a set of relationships : between what is present and what is absent, between what is seen and what is felt by the other senses, between what is looked at and what is imagined or thought, between what is shown and what is said – following registers of speech and discourse that can be extremely varied (the speech and the discourse of the draughtsman himself, those of receivers, critics, writers, art historians, philosophers, etc.).
Moreover, the fact is that a drawing is also a set of relationships between different times, between different temporalities.
Or, in the contemporary context of the misadjusted and dissonant relationships that men have with the other-than-human nature, this temporal relational consideration has become crucial, perhaps even vital.
What astrophysicists, geologists and biologists are gradually documenting – both increasingly and better – seems a real challenge to human understanding capacities. For their intellective abilities, but also for their imaginative abilities and for their abilities to feel.
How can we understand – think, imagine, feel – the geological time scale, which describes the history of the Earth over nearly 4.6 billion years ?
How can we understand – think, imagine, feel – the evolutionary bushings of life on Earth during fossiliferous times after several billion years of maturation ?
How can we understand – think, imagine, feel – that the origin of life, which occurred during the Archean period, i. e. between -3.9 and -2.5 billion years ago, is bacterial ?
Above all, how can we understand – think, imagine, feel – that bacteria, melting each others into complex symbioses that have took place during several billion years, have created all living cells, including human living cells ?
In this regard, the work of American microbiologist Lynn Margulis is truly stunning.
Especially when these studies show that the human body is not only the result of this geological precedence but also the memory of this immemorial past.
It is worthwhile to quote here the text at some length : « As we examine ourselves as products of symbiosis over billions of years, the supporting evidence of our multimicrobe ancestry becomes overwhelming. Our bodies contain a veritable history of life on Earth. Our cells maintain an environment that is carbon- and hydrogen-rich, like that of the Earth when life began. They live in a medium of water and salts like the composition of the early seas. We became who we are by the coming together of bacterial partners in a watery environment […]. The detailed structure of our cells betrays the secrets of their ancestors. Electron microscopic images of nerve cells from all animals reveal numerous conspicuous ‘microtubule’. The waving cilia in the lining of our throats and the whipping tail of the human sperm cell both have the same unusual ‘telephone dial’ arrangement of microtubules as do the cilia of ciliates, a group of successful microbes including more than eight thousand different species. These same microtubules appear in all cells of plants, animals, and fungi each time the cells divide. Enigmatically, the microtubules of dividing cells are made of proteins nearly identical to some found in brain cells » (1).
All these indications are an invitation to make a very deep change of perspective and respect. They show that there is no evidence that human beings should be considered as the supreme governors of life on Earth. But there is evidence that they are recombinations of bacterial communities with a history of several billion years, that they are made therefore exactly with the same common material as all the living beings.
We see this geological precedence only indirectly : in the eroded rock strata, in the depths of ocean rifts, on fossils. Could we see it more directly, it is not sure that we would like to, so much it hurts our pride of subjects dreaming of themselves as the all-powerful centers of everything.
This geological precedence, however, we are touching it. Every time we walk, on the soles of our feet, all over our skin. « Biota – that is, all living beings – are shrinking at extreme altitudes and depths. The nucleus of life on Earth, the place where biota are most fertile, is located a few metres from the surface, and has always been there » (2).
Hence the questions you are asking to yourself :
How can you adjust the drawing to this ever-present and to this ever-active geological anteriority, to this geological anteriority that we do not see directly and which nevertheless constitutes us throughout, in the whole body ?
How can you open its present so that it can become a surface of welcome and resonance, a space of crossings ?
How can you soften and thus de-sink its presence so that it can become a « membrane » (3) ?
Georges Braque : « It is not enough to make what you are painting able to be seen, you still have to make it able to be touched » (4).
(1) Lynn Margulis, Microcosmos. Four billion years of evolution from our microbial ancestors, with Dorion Sagan, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1986, Introduction, p. 32-33.
(2) Ibid., chap. 3, p. 74 – you underline.
(3) Ibid., chap. 2, p. 60-61.
(4) Georges Braque, Le Jour et la Nuit. Cahiers, 1917-1952, Paris, Gallimard, 1952, p. 10.
working notes, 10 - 15.IX.2018
and, and not but.
working notes, 9 - 09.IX.2018
« When you are in the mud, there is only one thing to do : walking » (1).
But why only when we are « in the mud » ?
Going along the banks of the Scarpe. Immersing yourself in the currents of the Volane.
Deleting the reflections, forgetting the echoes.
And opening yourself to resonances : of karsts and limestones, gorses and alders, thrushes and hamearis lucina.
(1) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Carnets de Cambridge, 1930-1932, in Carnets de Cambridge et de Skjolden, 1930-1932, 1936-1937 (1997, posthumous ed.), French translation by Jean-Pierre Cometti, Paris, PUF, 1999, p. 82.
Ana Mendieta, Creek, July1974, San Felipe Creek, Oaxaca, Mexico,
Super 8 film, color, silent,
collection of the Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, Miami
working notes, 8 - 20.VIII.2018 : art and sex
A confusion. An opacity.
Let us consider the words of Pablo Picasso reported by Jean Leymarie : « Twenty years ago, I was asked to give a talk on art and sexuality […]. I went to Picasso, and asked him : what should I say ? He replied : ‘It’s the same thing’ » (1).
Apart from what it may mean for Picasso’s own work – the work of a « fauna » (2) –, how can be understood such an identification between art and sex, at first glance disconcerting ?
What do art practices and sex practices have in common that could justify this identification ? To fertilize, to give birth, to reproduce ? Many sexual practices do not have this vocation or purpose. To stimulate and develop pleasures, to increase the powers of life ? Many contemporary artistic practices do not particularly or primarily aim at pleasure, and sex can be a source of joy but also of suffering. Would art and sex have the same driving forces ? Establishing such an idea is not an easy task, and reducing artistic and sexual practices exclusively to the expression of impulsive forces may seem simplistic. Moreover, the identification cannot be justified by content : many artworks have no sexual content and the idea that sexual practices have an artistic content seems very obscure. There may be beauty or ugliness in sex, but the development of the arts has taught us how doubtful it is to make beauty and ugliness the central and exclusive values of artistic practices and of artworks. Do sexual lives necessarily lead to artistic practices ? Are artistic practices necessarily related to certain forms of sexual life ? These associations seem very risky. We can love art without loving sex, we can love sex without loving art. Moreover, if it were to have a precise and intelligible meaning, the question arises as to whether the identification between art and sex would concern the producers and receivers of art in the same way.
To address these difficult issues, many hypotheses could be considered. According to very diverse orientations : psychological ones, psychoanalytical ones, anthropological ones, ethnological ones, historical ones, etc. Not to mention the contribution of contemporary gender studies. For example, it would be necessary to question the multiplicity and diversity of erotic behaviour and pornographic practices. It would certainly also be necessary to question the ideas of norms and deviances – or supposed deviances. The fact is that artists have always been able to explore in many ways the trouble – sometimes the torment – that sexuality is in the lives of every woman and of every man (3).
Sex : what no one is ever really familiar with.
Below these possible approaches, all of which are equally legitimate and essential, the fact remains that the identification between art and sex touches on a dimension that we can try to bring back to a simple, naked, essential expression : the involvement of the body, of the whole body. What Paul Valéry says about the artist – that he « brings his body » (4) – should we not also necessarily say it about the lover ? Likewise for what Maurice Merleau-Ponty, commenting on Paul Valéry’s formula, says of the painter : « And, indeed, we do not see how a Spirit could paint » (5) / « And, indeed, we do not see how a Spirit could lead a sexual existence » (6).
However, Merleau-Ponty will no longer be followed when he adds : « It is by lending his body to the world that the painter transforms the world into painting » (7). Does a painter lend his body to the world ? Are not the world and the painter’s insertion into the world through his body – his sexualized body and his sexual body – some really primary dimensions ? What can the idea of « lending our body » mean ? And what about the idea of « transforming the world into painting » : is this really what a painter wants or would necessarily have to want ? Does he not rather, very often, seek to discover through his research a more adjusted practice of the encounter with the outside, with the reality ? While men provoke and suffer ecological crises of catastrophic proportions, is it appropriate to think that, for the painter, the world would have to be « transformed into painting » ?
In this respect, the involvement of the whole body required by the identification between art and sex, however questionable it may possibly be, offers a resource. A resource to explore and experience renewed and more loving relationships with the space which is common to all that is and to all that lives. But what resource ? The forms and practices of sex – their joys and/or sufferings, their exuberances and/or miseries, their sweetness and/or brutality, their refinement and/or coarseness, their ecstasy and/or defilement – are of infinite diversity. However, none of them can be without a sense of caress. Absolutely none. The question then is : is it naive or, worse, simply inane to consider that the drawing and the poem are also like caresses ?
There are several ideas to consider.
1/ I can see without being seen or be seen without seeing. But I cannot touch without being touched or being touched without touching. The touch is reversible. This is true of any touch, and any caress makes it live with clarity and intensity. But what is particularly remarkable about this reversibility of touch ? It puts in crisis the distinction and opposition of the « subject » and the « object ». To say that, with the touch, the subject that touches is immediately an affected object and the affected object a subject that touches, would be insufficient and even inaccurate. Because, more deeply, there are a desubjectivation and a disobjectivation that occur in the slightest touch : when I touch or when I am touched, I am neither a subject nor an object, nor an interiority or an exteriority, I am a body open to an exterior that permeates it and of which it is impregnated. And, here again, it is true of any touch, and any caress in the acts of sex makes it live and feel with acuity.
2/ It is also remarkable that, both when I touch and when I am touched, there is an anteriority and a precedence of the Other. When I touch : in the lightest touch as well as in the most fiery embrace, it is the Other – its grain, its reliefs, its shapes, its movements – that commands my desires and my gestures. When I am touched : it is the Other – its desires, its gestures – that makes me discover new possibilities of my own body – for example, that the slightest surface of my skin is likely to become an erogenous zone. Is Sartre then right to think that, in caress, « it is my body of flesh that gives birth to the flesh of the Other » (8) ? Sartre distinguishes between the « flesh » and the « body in situation », and he maintains that, apart from caressing, the flesh of the Other does not exist for me because I then only see the body of the Other in situation, that is, as an object under my gaze ; he adds that the flesh of the Other does not exist either for the Other itself, because, as a « being-for-itself », the Other transcends its flesh towards its possibilities and towards the object. As such, Sartre asserts, it is only by caressing the Other that « I give birth to its flesh through my caress, under my fingers » (9). Is this not, however, to grant the I and the « being-for-itself » an illegitimate power of constitution (10) ? Is not the flesh of the Other already a flesh without me – and is this not why it can disturb me and invite me to caress it ? « There cannot be only one body, and the body carries the difference. The bodies are forces placed and stretched against each other. The ‘against’ […] is the major category of the body » (11).
3/ It is sometimes said that we can « caress with our eyes ». We say so, but can we really do it ? Is it not a very vague way of speaking and even a misleading image ? To do so would really imply a very deep transformation of sight and gaze : it presupposes that they are no longer a sense of distance, but above all, and by the same token, that they are no longer a sense of non-adherence, of non-involvement. To touch, to be touched : the whole body is involved, the whole body is called. Let us note, moreover, that we can caress with our eyes closed : perhaps it is even so, when lovers consent to a destitution of the gaze, that their caresses are the most sensitive, the most sensual, the most loving.
4/ We can certainly play at being in love or at being passionate. We can probably pretend to be sexually aroused. We can probably even simulate a jouissance or an orgasm. But can we simulate a caress ? There may be, perhaps, all kinds of « ceremonies » surrounding the caresses, to use a word from Sartre (12). But no theatre is really possible : no stage where we can pretend.
1/ Living outside the distinction between « subject » and « object ».
2/ Living from the anteriority and the precedence of the outside.
3/ Living by removing the privilege of the gaze and by rediscovering the sense of touch – in the hands, in the feet, in the whole body, on the whole skin.
4/ Living outside any scene where we can pretend.
Is that what causes your astonishment about the idea of a possible identification between art and sex ? Is that why this idea confuses you ? The opacity of the identification remains.
This confusion, this opacity : do not believe that you can dissipate them. « Sex is not only disturbing, it is disturbing in itself, its essence is a disturbed essence – which contravenes the very idea of essence » (13).
Art, sex : the experience of what escapes the very experience we make of it – that which we are not the « subject » of, that which we do not « make », but which experiences us without us being able to relate it to ourselves.
For you, there is here an orientation : no longer project or cast nudes, but open up to nudities.
Starting painting and poetry again : from there.
Pablo Picasso, once more : « Art is never chaste [...]. Or if it is chaste, it is not art » (14).
(1) Jean Leymarie, « Entretien : Normes et déviances en art », in Normes et déviances. Textes des conférences et des entretiens organisés par les trente-et-unièmes Rencontres Internationales de Genève, Neuchatel, Éditions de La Baconnière, coll. « Histoire et société d’aujourd’hui », 1988, p. 151.
(2) Ibid. See the catalogue Picasso érotique, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2001.
(3) Consider, for example, the artwork of Tracey Emin. In the contemporary context in connexion with the questioning and the renewing of our links with the other-than-human nature, see in particular the very impressive videos by the Chinese artist Zheng Bo Pteridophilia 1, 2016, colours and sounds, 17 minutes and Pteridophilia 2, 2018, colours and sounds, 20 minutes (http://zhengbo.org/2018_PP2.html). More generally speaking, see also, for example, Edward Lucie-Smith, Eroticism in Western Art, London, Thames & Hudson, 1972 and 1991. And also Lydie Pearl, Corps, sexe et art. Dimension symbolique, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2001.
(4) Paul Valéry, Mauvaises pensées et autres (1942), section S, in Œuvres, ed. by Jean Hytier, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1960, t. 2, p. 895 : « L’artiste apporte son corps, recule, place et ôte quelque chose, se comporte de tout son être comme son œil, et devient tout entier un organe qui s’accommode, se déforme, cherche le point, le point unique qui appartient virtuellement à l’œuvre profondément cherchée – qui n’est pas toujours celle que l’on cherche », « The artist brings his body, moves back, places and removes something, behaves with his whole being like his eye, and becomes a whole organ that accommodates itself, deforms itself, seeks the point, the unique point that virtually belongs to the deeply sought-after work – which is not always the one we seek ».
(5) Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L’Œil et l’Esprit, Paris, Gallimard, 1964 (posthumous ed.), p. 16.
(6) Let’s put it bluntly : for this reason, the contempt for the body – for its dimension of material gravity and sensitivity –, a contempt which characterizes both constructivist gender theories (John Money, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Judith Butler) and contemporary transhumanist ideologies, raises very serious problems : see Jean-François Braunstein, La Philosophie devenue folle. Le genre, l’animal, la mort, Paris, Grasset, 2018, p. 21-143.
(7) L’Œil et l’Esprit, op. cit., p. 16.
(8) Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Être et le Néant. Essai d’ontologie phénoménologique (1943), Paris, Gallimard, coll. « Tel », 1976, III, chap. III, § II, p. 440.
(10) Sartre goes so far as to say that « the revelation of the flesh of the Other is made by my own flesh » (ibid., p. 441, you underline).
(11) Jean-Luc Nancy, 58 indices sur le corps, Québec, Nota Bene, 2004, p. 35.
(12) L’Être et le Néant, op. cit., p. 440.
(13) Jean-Luc Nancy, Sexistence, Paris, Galilée, 2017, p. 137.
(14) Antonina Vallentin, Picasso, Paris, Albin Michel, 1957, p. 273, in Pablo Picasso, Propos sur l’art, ed. by Marie-Laure Bernadac et Androula Michael, Paris, Gallimard, 1998, p. 170.
working notes, 7 - 04.VIII.2018
« I don’t manipulate or play with space. I declare it » (1).
To declare space : to declare a precedence.
A precedence that is common to everything that is and to everything that lives. A continuous precedence that is one and diverse at the same time.
To declare it, this precedence, as one declares a love : by letting the tracing roots of the one you love be diffused in all your body, in all your thought, as a centre of a new gravity.
As a centre of a new gravity : as a reality.
An ancient reality : the foundation of everything. A new reality : the resource of everything.
« By reality and perfection, I mean the same thing » (2).
A reality outside of which nothing exists. A reality, therefore, to which one cannot oppose notions that would be external to it and in whose name one would judge it : « For the perfection of things must be judged solely by their nature and power, and that is why things are not more or less perfect according to whether they charm or offend the senses of men, according to whether they contribute to human nature or whether they are contrary to it » (3).
(1) Barnett Newman, « Frontiers of Space : Interview with Dorothy Gees Seckler », Art in America, vol. 50, n° 2, Summer 1962, p. 83-87, in Selected Writings and Interviews, ed. by John P. O’Neill, with Mollie McNickle and Richard Schiff, Berkeley / Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1992, p. 249.
(2) Baruch Spinoza, Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata (1677, posthumous ed.), II, Def. VI, ed. by Bernard Pautrat, Paris, Seuil, 1988 et 1999, p. 94 : « Per realitatem & perfectionem idem intelligo ».
(3) Ethica, I, App., op. cit., p. 90 : « Nam rerum perfectio ex solâ earum naturâ, & potential est æstimanda, nec ideò res magis, aut minùs perfectæ sunt, propterea quòd hominum sensum delectant, vel offendunt, quòd humanæ naturæ conducunt, vel quòd eidem repugnant ».
working notes, 6 - VI-VII.2018
For you whose job is to be a philosophy teacher, why the drawing, why the poem ?
Have you learned nothing from Plato’s profound lessons ?
« παλαιὰ μέν τις διαφορὰ φιλοσοφίᾳ τε καὶ ποιητικῇ », « Ancient is the conflict between philosophy and the art of poetry » (1).
Don’t you know that there is a radical discord between poetry and thought such as philosophy seeks to think of it – a much deeper discord, as Alain Badiou shows (2), than the one concerning images and mimesis ? The poem, says sharply Plato, « ruins the element that is able to reason » (3). Discursive thought is connection and demonstration : it deductively displays reasoning, it does not grant any right to what is equivocal. His model is the mathematical proposal. The poem sovereignly declares, and this declaration does not require, at least apparently, any kind of justification.
But things are not so simple :
1/ When what is at stake is the Idea of Good, shouldn’t Plato agree that we are « ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας », « beyond the essence » (4), and therefore beyond what is exposed within the scope of the Idea ?
2/ Does not the poem also have a properly intelligible vocation ? Is it really relevant to think that it would necessarily be foreign to « measurement », « calculation » or « weighing » (5) ? Is it really relevant to think that it is the opposition of the sensitive and the intelligible that shapes the relationship of the poem to philosophy – something that Plato in no way supports ?
Should we then follow Ludwig Wittgenstein when he believes that « Philosophie dürfte man eigentlich nur dichten », « philosophy should basically only be written by means of poems » (6) ?
Let us observe that this thesis concerns not the writing of poetry, but the writing of philosophy.
The opposite statement would be highly questionable : « The poem should basically only be written by means of philosophical theses ». It would lead to a subjugation of the poem, as if it were only an instrument at the service of the external and contingent illustration of this or that philosophical proposal.
Is the poem, however, the real philosophy, including its writing and its form ?
Wittgenstein’s proposal could have been understood in an exclusively constructivist sense, that is, in the sense of a reduction of philosophy to a form of art (7). A conceptually questionable reduction : is it true that the requirement of a universal search for universal truths is only a more or less arbitrary « construction » in human existence ? But also morally and politically shocking : without universal norms of truth and falsity, in what name is it still possible to legitimately denounce the reality of all forms of domination and oppression ? Is this not the rut in which a large part of contemporary sociological thought is still often bogged down, when it can only see in everything – including the logical laws of the true being and the physical laws of nature – « social constructions », being blind to all attempts – for example, to mention just one, the one developed by Augustin Berque (8) – to articulate more accurately the « given » order and the « constructed » order ?
Your idea is therefore different.
Recognize first of all in the mathematical theorem, the poetic verse and the philosophical thesis three specific and distinct intelligibility regimes. Therefore, no confusion : neither « philosophical poem » nor « poetic philosophy ». And while the arts should be seen as forms of knowledge of the nature, the world and the reality, the relationship should not be considered reversible : defending the contribution of the arts to knowledge in no way implies that knowledge should be reduced to art.
Recognize porosities at the same time.
Why ? And what meaning should be given to this term, which may seem very vague ?
The fact is that, at the « time » or the « age » of the Anthropocene (the qualification is controversial, but it is not a decisive point here), we can no longer adhere to the idea of isolation or self-sufficiency of the drawing and of the poem. We can not anymore : maybe we do not even have to anymore. It is necessary to consider the dead ends to which formalist perspectives can lead, as well as – in a register which, although not exactly the same, is not very distant – the difficulties to which the « modernist » theses defended by Clement Greenberg lead (9). When the drawing and the poem, cut off from everything, are locked up in a kind of autotelicism, when they are blind and deaf to the reality, to the outside, to the nature, it is not that they would then be threatened with insignificance or emptiness – as is repeated over and over again in a worn-out and superficial discourse of denunciation of « contemporary art ». They are then, more deeply, threatened with derating : as if their contribution to the understanding of the common space – i.e. the space that is common to everything that is and to everything that lives – no longer matters, becomes useless.
And constructivist confusions in this respect are shocking in two ways : by their reduction of philosophy to a form of art, but also by their prior reduction of the arts to the rank of arbitrary games with forms.
Dialogue with philosophical thought then acquires a necessity because, unlike what has been the case with the « Moderns », so preoccupied with the means of their art, it is appropriate to reintroduce an interrogation about its ends.
Therefore you expect from the confrontation between drawing, poetry and philosophical practice a resource to better discover the forms of a new sensorium. A new sensorium that is required by the advent of the Anthropocene. A more egalitarian one, welcoming in a more fitted and in a more loving way the other-than-human nature.
The philosophical practice : to open the mind and the body to the assent of the sharpest deductive consequences of the adequate idea of equality.
The poem : to open the tongue and the body, by the cut, the straddling and the real sonority, to the listening of the voices of the Earth, of all the voices of the Earth.
The drawing : to open the touch and the body, by the dismiss of the privilege of the eyes, to all the interlinks, including the most underground ones, which connect our body to the other-than-human outside.
In this respect, the resistance of the poem and the drawing is not a resistance against the concept, the reason, the logic or the proof : it is a resistance against the chatting which constitutively threatens any word ; it is a resistance against the capture which constitutively threatens any image. Therefore, no effusion, no exaltation. Or, in another vocabulary : no « onwards language », no « over language ». But the search for an exacting accuracy, letting happen new experiences of the common space.
(1) Plato, The Republic, X, 607 b.
(2) Alain Badiou, « Que pense le poème ? » (1993) and « Philosophie et poésie : au point de l’innommable » (1993), in Que pense le poème ?, Caen, Nous, 2016, p. 13-27 and p. 61-78.
(3) The Republic, X, 605 b.
(4) The Republic, VI, 509 b.
(5) The Republic, X, 602 d.
(6) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Mixed Remarks (= Vermischte Bemerkungen, notes written from 1914 to 1951), French translation by Gérard Granel, Mauvezin, Trans-Europ-Repress, 1984, p. 35 (1933-1934 note).
(7) Against this interpretation of Wittgenstein’s thought, read carefully § 47 of the Philosophical Remarks : « I wanted to say that it is remarkable that those who attribute reality only to things, and not to our representations, move so naturally in the world of representation, without ever feeling the need to escape it. This shows how obvious the data is. The devil should get involved so that it would be nothing more than a small photograph taken awry. And we would like such an obvious fact – life – to be something accidental, secondary, when what I normally never care about would be reality ! In other words, what we cannot and do not want to get out of would not be the world. The attempt to limit and bring out the world through language is constantly reappearing – but it does not work. The obvious fact of the world is expressed precisely in the fact that language does not and cannot mean anything else. Since language owes its mode of meaning only to what it means, to the world, no language is conceivable that would not represent this world » – Philosophical Remarks (= Philosophische Bemerkungen, notes written between February 1929 and July 1930), V, § 47, French translation by Jacques Fauve, Paris, Gallimard, 1975, p. 78-79.
(8) Augustin Berque, Médiance. De milieux en paysages, Montpellier, GIP Reclus, 1990.
(9) From Clement Greenberg, see in particular : « Vers un nouveau Laocoon » (= « Towards a newer Laocoon », Partisan Review, VII, n° 4, July-August 1940, p. 296-310), in The collected essays and criticism, John O’Brian (ed.), Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1986, vol. 1 (Perceptions and Judgments, 1939-1944), p. 23-37, French translation by Annick Baudoin, in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Art en théorie, 1900-1990 (1992), French translation under the direction of Anne Betrand and Anne Michel, Paris, Hazan, 1997, p. 614-620 ; « La peinture moderniste » (= « Modernist painting », Arts Yearbook, n° 1, New York, 1961, then Art & Literature, n° 4, Spring 1965, p. 193-201), French translation by Annick Baudoin, in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Art en théorie, 1900-1990, op. cit., p. 831-837. For example, Jacques Rancière has considered many times in his work the deficiencies of modernist theses : Le Partage du sensible. Esthétique et politique, Paris, La Fabrique Éditions, 2000, p. 18-19, p. 33-34 ; Malaise dans l’esthétique, Paris, Galilée, 2004, p. 41 ; Aisthesis. Scènes du régime esthétique de l’art, Paris, Galilée, 2011, p. 13 ; La Méthode de la scène, with Adnen Jdey, Paris, Lignes, 2018, p. 126-133 ; Les Temps modernes. Art, temps, politique, Paris, La Fabrique Éditions, 2018.
working notes, 5 - 13-14.VI.2018 : walking out
On sheets of paper : not in « Portrait » size, but in « Landscape » size.
In order to open or at least to try to open.
But in order to try to open what up to what ?
The drawing and the poem. Up to the reality, to the outside, to the nature.
In the Anthropocene era, an emergency, a necessity.
The situation created by this advent requires men to be inventive. In metaphysics : through the conception of more realistic metaphysics, in the sense that the philosophical tradition has been able to give to this epithet. In moral and legal thought : by questioning the distinction between persons and things. In politics : by the concern given to the common goods and by the attention given to the practices of hospitality. In science and technology : through a more in-depth and adjusted, also more loving, understanding of nature, of its balances, of its frailties. Consider, for example, David Chamovitz’s and Stefano Mancuso’s work in plant genetics and neurobiology (1).
The contemporary effervescence in the field of thought is in any case truly inspiring : as if the ecological crisis forced men to modify their most entrenched prejudices, their most established presuppositions, to explore the dark corners of their cultures, those blind, and sometimes dirty, corners that their consciences reject, for lack of adequate philosophical and political categories.
But also reconsidering what we already know, what even in reality we have always known.
And first of all this simple, universal, necessary truth : that man is a being of relationship. Better : that man is made for relationship. The eyes, the ears, the tongue, the nostrils, the skin : so many ways of access to the otherness – how it feeds our body and our thought. The landscapes of stones and earth, the springs and the rivers, the foliage and the branches, the bodies that breathe and shudder : all these forms of life share with us the same common space. We are linked to these beings, to these roots : with them we struggle, we suffer, we enjoy ; with them we live.
This therefore implies also a reconsideration of man’s own : not the tools of communication which man can dispose of in the same way as other-than-human animals, often in a less efficient way than them, but rather the language, in that it is specific and even radical. And first of all this involves reconsidering the links between language and reality ; in particular this involves thinking about what alphabetic language can mean.
Let’s consider David Abram’s proposal : « It is only with the transfer of phonetic writing to Greece and the resulting transformation of the Semitic Aleph-beth into the Greek ‘alphabet’ that the progressive separation between linguistic meaning and the world of life that wraps up us has reached a form of completion. The Greek scribes have taken up, with small transformations, both the form of Semitic letters and their names. The aleph – the name of the first letter and the Hebrew word for ‘ox’ – became alpha ; beth – the name of the second letter and the word for ‘home’ – became beta ; gimel – the third letter and the word for ‘camel’ – became gamma, and so on. Thus, while Semitic names had an older, nongrammatical meaning for those who spoke a Semitic language, the Greek version of these names has strictly none for the Greeks. The Semitic name of the letter was also the name of a sensitive entity commonly evoked by, or associated with, the letter ; the Greek name no longer has any sensory reference at all. The Semitic name recalled the material origin of the letter ; the Greek name only serves to designate the human artifact, the letter itself. The pictorial (or iconic) meaning of many Semitic letters, whose names were still remembered when they were spoken, was now intended to be lost. The debt of human language to the more-than-human perceptual field, a debt preserved in the names and forms of Semitic letters, could now be completely forgotten » (2).
The problem can be then simply and precisely formulated : how could we find the meaning of the debt again ? In other words : how could we honour again the debt that human language cannot avoid incurring towards the other-than-human reality, towards the space that is common to everything that is and to everything that lives ?
Should we desire the development of new forms of cratylism ? Is there not necessarily both a lot of irrationality and a lot of naivety in such undertakings ? A lot of irrationality : is this not simply ignoring the specific capacities of the sign in relation to the symbol ? But a lot of naivety too : is this not simply ignoring the possible defects of certain forms of naturalism ?
Rather than hoping in vain to be able to find a consistent form of cratylism, is it not advisable to look for accesses making it possible to return the readable to an original and first unreadable ?
The poem, writes Giorgio Agamben, is what never ceases « to inhabit, to work and to underpin the written language in order to restore it to the unreadable from which it comes and towards which it keeps us moving » (3).
The question is, however, what can this « unreadable » mean ?
For the problem now arises in all its magnitude : should we really continue to address the interactions between man and the other-than-human world through the opposition of the readable and the unreadable ? To understand the other-than-human world as an unreadable one, even if it is considered as first and primordial, is it not to deprive most of the inhabitants of the Earth of expression ? Can we live and think about the interactions between man and the other-than-human world without assuming that the former would be the only agents that transform nature ? How can we hear again the voices of the other-than-human beings – all the voices of all the other-than-human beings – without expressing them through ventriloquist humans ?
But should we simply give up the alphabet ? That would be a very strange direction, and David Abram, for example, does not follow it : « It cannot simply be a matter of giving up alphabetization and writing. Our task is rather to take charge of the written words and all their power in order to, patiently, carefully, inscribe the language back into the surrounding land. Our job is to bring out the earthly intelligence that lies sleeping in our words, to give them the freedom to respond to the words of things themselves – like the green scream of the leaves on the branches in spring. It is a practice that consists of making stories that respect the rhythm and the pace of local soundscapes, stories for the language of our mouths, stories that want to be told again and again, slipping from the screen or the written page in order to populate the coastal forests, the desert canyons, the grasslands, the valleys, the murmuring marshes. Find sentences that put us in contact with the shivering muscles of a deer’s neck as it holds its ant high when swimming towards the coast, or with the ant lugging along the grass a grain of rice collected from the garbage. Plant words, like seeds, under fallen rocks and trees – allow language to take root again in the silence of the earth, the shadow, the bone and the leaf » (4).
Succeeding in listening again to the voices of the Earth – all the voices of the Earth – thus implies renouncing the opposition of the readable and the unreadable, by including human beings and other-than-human beings within a more inclusive « semiosis », by understanding, for example in the wake of Eduardo Kohn’s work, that there are other forms of representation than the one that uses arbitrary and immotivated signs (5).
For the arts, there is an issue. Not the question about the logic of representation : « Which words or images can show the Anthropocene ? ». But the more crucial question about the conditions for the advent of a new sensorium : « What does the Anthropocene do to our words and to our images, what does the Anthropocene do to our poems and to our drawings ? » (6).
(1) Daniel Chamovitz, What a Plant knows. A Field Guide to the Senses of Your Garden – and Beyond, Oxford, Oneworld Publications, 2012/2017 ; Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola, Brilliant Green. The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence (2013), English translation by Joan Benham, Washington, Island Press, 2015.
(2) David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous (1996), French translation by Didier Demorcy and Isabelle Stengers, Paris, Les Empêcheurs de penser en rond / La Découverte, 2013, p. 139.
(3) Giorgio Agamben, « On the difficulty of reading » (2012), in The Fire and the Narrative (2014), French translation by Martin Rueff, Paris, Payot & Rivages, 2015, p. 96.
(4) David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, op. cit., p. 347-348.
(5) Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think. Towards an Anthropology beyond the Human (2013), French translation by Grégory Delaplace, Bruxelles, Zones sensibles – Pactum serva, 2017.
(6) On a series of drawings and poems entitled to walk out, June 2018.
working notes, 4 - V.2017
Your practice of drawing and poetry takes place in the context of contemporary ecological crises.
This context creates some strong obligations.
It requires artists – or should require them – to rethink the aims and means of arts.
At the background of your work, there is therefore a close confrontation with the Albertinian characterization of the painting as an « open window on the historia » (1) : how to get out of the historia, out of the representation, in order to go outside towards the common space ?
But there is also, in view of this questioning, a necessary confrontation with the formalist approaches that have characterized some orientations of modernity – the « object-painting » identified by Michel Foucault in Édouard Manet’s work (2).
Hence, in the wake of the works of the Italian Arte povera, the Japanese Mono-ha or the Land art (or at least some forms of the Land art : A line made by walking England 1967 rather than Double negative), a bias in favour of a kind of minimalism :
1/ By the use of common media or ordinary materials : common papers, used fabrics ; use of glass, shoe polish or tar for certain devices.
2/ By the use of poor natural pigments : earth, mud, dust, grass, plant colours, vegetable oils (olive oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil), wood ashes, natural charcoal, graphite powder.
3/ By the use of dull colours, in particular those allowed by Indian ink.
4/ By the use of plant roots or of waste collected in the street or in the forest during walks.
5/ By the choice in favour of modest sizes, not to enclose or dominate the common space, but to turn away from the possible failings of all forms of « bigness », of « gigantism ».
6/ By the adoption of rudimentary and simple techniques : imprinting ; rubbing, with earth or with stones.
7/ By the use of seriality conceived as a way of taking only fragments, thus trying to make our traces and our prints as light as possible.
8/ By the realization of installations, some of which will remain ephemeral.
9/ By some performances or some body art experiments.
10/ By the use of video in order to record the performance of some works that are carried out in nature – fields or forests.
And, always, an attention for the stones, the lands, the soils, a consideration for the skin : as an orientation for the research, as a space for the walk and for the reciprocation.
(1) Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting (= De Pictura, 1435, Latin version and 1436, Italian version), I, 19, ed. by Thomas Golsenne, Bertrand Prévost and Yves Hersant, Paris, Seuil, 2004, p. 83.
(2) Michel Foucault, Manet Painting (1971 Tunis Conference), ed. by Maryvonne Saison, Paris, Seuil, 2004, p. 47.
working notes, 3 – IX, 2017
1. Getting out of the approaches centered on the I and on the judgment of taste – without din, without particular state of mind either.
« The use of the word ‘I’ is one of the most misleading forms of representation of our language, especially where it uses ‘I’ to represent immediate lived experience – as in the sentence ‘I see a red spot’. It would therefore be instructive to replace this way of expressing oneself with one in which the immediate lived experience is not represented by the personal pronoun, because in so doing one could see that this representation is not essential to the facts » – Philosophical Remarks (= Philosophische Bemerkungen, notes written from 1929 to 1930), VI, § 57, French translation by Jacques Fauve, Paris, Gallimard, 1975, p. 86.
« Taste tightens and loosens nuts, it does not create a new cog » – Mixed Remarks (= Vermischte Bemerkungen, notes written from 1914 to 1951), French translation by Gérard Granel, Mauvezin, Trans-Europ-Repress, 1984, p. 72 (1947 note).
2. Getting out of the approaches centred on the exhaustion or the death of arts – similarly, without din, without particular state of mind.
« Currently, it is when I peel potatoes that I can work best. I always volunteer for this. For me, it is the equivalent of what the glass size was for Spinoza » – Secret Notebooks, 1914-1916 (= Geheime Tagebücher, notes written from 1914 to 1916), French translation by Jean-Pierre Cometti, Cadenet, Les Éditions Chemin de Ronde, 2008, p. 35 (note of the 15th of September 1914).
3. Linking the drawing and the poem to forms of life – to all forms of life : mineral ones, vegetable ones, animal ones.
« In order to see clearly about aesthetic words, you have to describe ways of living » – Lectures on aesthetics (summer 1938), I, § 35, in Lectures and conversations on aesthetics, psychology and religious belief (= Lectures and conversations, notes taken from 1938 to 1946), French translation by Jacques Fauve, Paris, Gallimard, 1971, 1992, p. 32.
« But the human body, especially my body, is one part of the world among others, among animals, plants, stones, etc. Whoever sees this will not want to make a privileged place for his body or the human body. He will consider men and animals naively as things that are similar and made for each other » – Notebooks, 1914-1916 (= Tagebücher, notes written from 1914 to 1916), French translation by Gilles-Gaston Granger, Paris, Gallimard, 1997, p. 153 (note of the 2nd of September 1916).
4. Linking the drawing and the poem to the necessities attached to the forms of life.
« Compare a concept to a way of painting : Is our way of painting also only arbitrary ? Can we choose one at will ? (The Egyptians one, for example.) » – Philosophical Investigations (= Philosophische Untersuchungen, notes written from 1936 to 1949), II, XII, French translation by Françoise Dastur, Maurice Élie, Jean-Luc Gautero, Dominique Janicaud and Élisabeth Rigal, Paris, Gallimard, 2004, p. 321.
5. Bending the drawing and the poem towards gestures involving the whole body.
« If I say that A has beautiful eyes, then one can ask me : what do you find beautiful in his eyes ? I will answer something like : the almond shape, the length of the lashes, the tenderness of the eyelids. What do these eyes have in common with a Gothic church, which I also find beautiful ? Should I say that they both make a similar impression on me ? What if I said : what is common here is that my hand is tempted to draw them both ? It would in any case be a narrow definition of the beautiful » – Mixed Remarks (= Vermischte Bemerkungen, notes written from 1914 to 1951), French translation by Gérard Granel, Mauvezin, Trans-Europ-Repress, 1984, p. 35 (1933 note).
6. Bending the drawing and the poem towards the internal relationships linking things to each other.
« The thinker looks very much like a draftsman who would like to reproduce all the relationships between things » – Mixed Remarks (= Vermischte Bemerkungen, notes written from 1914 to 1951), French translation by Gérard Granel, Mauvezin, Trans-Europ-Repress, 1984, p. 22 (1931 note).
7. Each point is a place for an argument – a place to be, a place to live.
« The space object must be in infinite space. (The spatial point is a place for an argument.) » – Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1921, German version and 1922, English version), 2.0131, French translation by Gilles Gaston-Granger, Paris, Gallimard, 1993, p. 35.
Getting out : walking, spacing oneself, soaking up oneself.
Linking : considering, touching, breathing.
And bending : towards materials and lights, perfumes and slownesses – from the South (Ethiopia, Greece) and from the North (John Constable, J.M.W. Turner), from Amazonia (Frans Krajcberg, Susana Mejia) and from Asia (China, Japan).
Faced with the advance of anthropic dislocations of the environment, is it not necessary to find a renewed thought of «what there is » (« to be alabaster », « to be river », « to be gorse », « to be sole », « to be & »), but also an adequate sense of justice and of the least intervention, as well as an anxious and loving concern for the outside, the real, the nature ?
« The world is independent of my will » – Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1921, German version and 1922, English version), 2.0131, French translation by Gilles Gaston-Granger, Paris, Gallimard, 1993, p. 109.
(1) Willard Van Orman Quine, « On what there is » (1948), in From a Logical Point of View (1953, 1980), French translation under the direction of Sandra Laugier, Paris, Vrin, 2003, p. 25-48 ; Stéphane Ferret, Deepwater Horizon. Éthique de la nature et philosophie de la crise écologique, Paris, Seuil, 2011.
(2) The quotes are all from Ludwig Wittgenstein.
working notes, 2 – VIII, 2017
1. The causes : « Art is the celebration of success in loving one another. Art conveys this transcendence. It all starts with us » – Jeff Koons, « Confidential/madam. Interview with Laureen Parslow », Madame Figaro, supplement of the French newspaper Le Figaro, n° 22712 and 22713, Friday 18 and Saturday 19 August 2017, p. 102.
2. The consequences : Wednesday 2nd August – Earth Overshoot Day for the year 2017.
3. The conclusion : « One would say [that man] is destined to exterminate himself after having made the globe uninhabitable » – Jean-Baptiste de Monet de Lamarck, article « Man », in Pierre Deterville (ed.), Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle, appliquée aux arts, à l’agriculture, à l’économie rurale et domestique, à la médecine, etc., par une Société de naturalistes et d’agriculteurs, Paris, Chez Deterville, 1817, t. 15, p. 270-276, here p. 271, note.
working notes, 1 – VII.2015
Let’s consider Paul Klee’s proposal : « Writing and drawing are identical at their core » (1).
Would it be inappropriate to try to increase it : « Writing and drawing and gardening are identical at their core » ? Is it betraying Klee, the painter of Garden plan (2), Cosmic flora (3) or Strange vegetable (4) ? He also writes : « Dialogue with nature remains a sine qua non for the artist. The artist is man ; he himself is nature, a piece of nature in the area of nature » (5).
There are common acts : tracing, irrigating, pruning, triming, tousling, cleaning, accommodating, dividing, soiling, staking, grafting, layering, transplanting, lignifying, stratifying, surfacing, lightening, loosening, seeding, brushing, touching...
But not only those acts.
Does not gardening reveal – by delineations and tests, sometimes assured, sometimes hesitant – the forms and the signs of the fact that there is a common necessity ? A common necessity that is present, active, effective, in its precise structures, simple and complex at the same time ? At the tip of the eye, in the palm of the hands, all over the body, no secrets. But an ascesis in order to feel and to understand. An ascesis in order to be able to make all kinds of movements – slow or fast, meticulous or carried away, each time unimagined, but such that they dispose themselves to welcome the outside, the nature, the space that is common to everything that is and to everything that lives. And to do this it is necessary to cultivate, with soft and light steps, the sense of the right and of the least intervention.
Is it not in this respect that writing, drawing and gardening can be related and respond to a distant common need, a primordial and primitive need, a need to welcome and collect – not subjectively but by forgetting oneself on the contrary – the grammar of things and the logic of truths ?
« What I have not drawn, I have not seen », « Was Ich nicht gezeichnet habe, habe Ich nicht gesehen ». This formula, noted one day by Goethe in one of the sketchbooks he filled in during his trip to Italy, the work that you lead seeks to understand the various branchings of it : how can a drawing or a poem open a specific path to sensation, perception and knowledge, which could not be replaced by any other ?
But this questioning regarding the relationship between the arts and the sciences must now also take place in a particular context. What does it mean to draw or to paint or to write poems in the light of contemporary emergencies due to the advent of what many now call the Anthropocene era ?
How can we ensure that the practice of drawing, painting or poetry no longer curves in itself, but manages to open up, with renewed accuracy, to the reality, in the circumstances of the acceleration of ecological devastation ? What can we expect from the arts ? That they make us feel and think – avoiding the pitfall that would consist in merely illustrating this or that thesis coming from the natural sciences or the human sciences, while knowing how to be open to their teachings. But that the arts make us feel and think what, and, above all, how ? How can we ensure that our media and our surfaces become spaces that appropriately welcome the unity, the equality and the community of everything that is and everything that lives ? How can we make them open to the fact that « physics and metaphysics are one » (6) ?
A renewal of the confrontation between the arts and the sciences is thus a necessity. In the form of an attentive, anxious, demanding confrontation. This means that the arts and the sciences, each in its own way, have to be considered as searches for truth. But it also means that the arts have to ask for the truth of the sciences and that the sciences have to ask for the truth of the arts. In the sense that the sciences undoubtedly have to question the arts about their truth, but also in the sense that the arts have, similarly, to question the sciences about their truth. The arts and the sciences must ask each other for truth as a service, as a solicitation, as an expectation. And why such a reciprocal demand if not because the arts and the sciences know that they have their truth outside them : in the common space ?
The best, then, is to take the brush and the ink as you take a spade and a germoir :
of what –
and the tiger
(1) Paul Klee, The Image Thinking (= Das bildnerische Denken. Schriften zur Form- und Gestaltungslehre, ed. by Jürg Spiller, Basel and Stuttgart, Schwabe, 1956, posthumous edition), text translated in Théorie de l’art moderne (= Modern Art Theory), French translation by Pierre-Henri Gonthier, Paris, Gallimard, 1998, p. 58 = The Creative Thinking, French translation by Sylvie Girard, Paris, Dessain et Tolra, 1973, p. 17.
(2) Paul Klee, Garden plan (= Garten-Plan), 1922 / 150, watercolour and ink on paper mounted on cardboard, 26,6 x 33,5 cm, Berne, Paul Klee Fondation, Kunstmuseum.
(3) Paul Klee, Cosmic flora (= Kosmische Flora), 1923 / 176, brush drawing, watercolour on chalk preparation on paper mounted on cardboard, 27,2 x 36,6 cm, Berne, Paul Klee Fondation, Kunstmuseum.
(4) Paul Klee, Strange vegetable (= pflanzlich-seltsam), 1929 / 317 (3 H 17), watercolour, gouache and pen, pasted paper on watercolour paper with black background, mounted on cardboard, 31 x 23 cm, Berne, Paul Klee Fondation, Kunstmuseum.
(5) Paul Klee, Various ways in the study of nature (= Wege des Naturstudiums, Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar, Weimar-Munich, Bauhausverlag, 1923), text translated in Théorie de l’art moderne (= Modern Art Theory), op. cit., p. 43.
(6) According to herman de vries’ proposal : « the world we live in is a revelation » (October 1992), « as a child » (autumn 1992) and « physik und metaphysik sind eins » (December 1994-January 1995), in to be. texte – textarbeiten – textbilder. auswahl von schriften und bildern 1954-1995, ed. by Andreas Meier, Stuttgart, Cantz Verlag, 1995, respectively p. 157, p. 160 and p. 180.