working notes, 74 – 26.IV.2021
« A man knows nothing who hasn’t been overseas ».
Eustache Deschamps (circa 1340-circa 1405), Selected Poems, edition by Ian S. Laurie and Deborah M. Sinnreich-Levi, English translation by David Curzon and Jeffrey Fiskin, New York and London, Routledge, 2003, p. 192-193.
working notes, 73 – 15.II.2021
A mindset and a practice that deserves to be shared by all humans : being bio- and eco-acoustician.
(Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde, Être la rivière. Comment le fleuve Whanganui est devenu une personne vivante selon la loi, Paris, PUF, 2020 ; Nicolas Mathevon, Les Animaux parlent. Sachons les écouter, Paris, Éditions humenSciences/Humensis, 2021).
working notes, 72 – 31.I.2021
From an image, do not expect what it cannot give.
Do not believe that it could articulate fundamental intellectual operations : abstraction, negation, problematization, conceptualization, deduction, consequence, implication, alternative, etc.
Do not believe it and, above all, do not sustain such a belief (1).
However, do not believe either that an image could not contribute to the development of our knowledge. But of what knowledge ? And how ? Knowledge about human and other-than-human life forms ? Illustrations of this knowledge ? No, neither of these. Rather attempts to better define new ways of thinking, feeling and adapting our transitions towards the human and other-than-human outside, our relationships with the terrestrial world. In any case, thinking about this difficulty invites us to always carefully consider the extent to which an idea can, or cannot, be adequately stated, established and understood by means of philosophical analysis or scientific investigation without the need to use any image whatsoever (2). « There is no great expedition in art which is not undertaken at the risk of life [...], the road to be followed is obviously not the one lined with guardrails » (3).
(1) On this topic, read Carole Talon-Hugon’s critical observations against the very uncertain notion of « research-creation » : L’Artiste en habits de chercheur, Paris, PUF, 2021.
(2) Ernst Haeckel’s magnificent plates – his plates of deep-sea medusae, radiolaria, siphonophora or calcareous sponges – have, for example, no function as a simple illustration of this or that philosophical or scientific thesis : L’Art et la Science d’Ernst Haeckel, Cologne, Taschen, 2017.
(3) André Breton, Prolégomènes à un troisième Manifeste du Surréalisme ou non (1942), in Manifestes du surréalisme, Paris, Gallimard, coll « Idées », 1981, p. 170.
working notes, 71 – 12-14.IX.2020
How can you welcome the human figure in your walks ?
Nudity at its most.
But how can you avoid the dead ends of the nude ?
Listening to, and radically meditating on, the early cosmologies of the Upper Paleolithic.
Letting yourself be surprised, according to the hypotheses formulated by Alexander Marshack (1), by the intertwining of empirical counts, lunar cycles and women’s menstrual cycles, which many engravings on bones, antlers or stones seem to reveal :
« Thus, as early as the Upper Paleolithic, a link seems established between sky phenomena, mathematics, natural cycles, hunting and collecting, human and animal reproduction, sex and blood, therefore life and death, and the colour red so universally favoured for certain signs [...]. Thus, in his Préhistoire de France, Bourdier was among the first to point out that Laussel’s famous ‘Venus’, bearing a horn decorated with thirteen notches, could demonstrate a symbolic link between women and the number of lunar months. And after describing the evolution of Paleolithic figurations linked to sex, and particularly to female sex, he added that in Laussel the female vulva was represented according to the shape of the lunar crescent. Should we thus propose a link between empirical counts, lunar cycles and women’s menstrual cycles ? Without being able to establish this as a proven fact, we can nevertheless point out that some objects invite us to explore this avenue. In Moravia, for example, an ivory disc with a female vulva and 29 and 31 notches was found. Or a pebble with an animal’s head and a girl engraved on it, a girl with similarly frequent striations under the pubis, has been found in Italy. Similarly, Emmanuel Anati describes an ivory female figure dating back 30,000 years, discovered in Malta in Siberia, which was probably a pendant, since the statuette is pierced at the level of the feet. This figure has the characteristic of having 27 notches along its entire length, with notches 14 to 17 at the pubis. It is as if this object had been designed to help a young girl memorise her menstrual cycle » (2).
Geological and cosmological nudity.
Extreme contemporary nudity.
Ochre, iron : periods of cycles, periods of flows.
Listening to them.
Taking care of them.
(1) Alexander Marshack, « Lunaison Notation on Upper Paleolithic Remains », Science, vol. 146, no 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, Mémoire no 8, 1970, VIII-123 p. On the links between the lunar phases and « primitive » eros, see Fodé Diawara, Le Manifeste de l’homme primitif, Paris, Grasset, 1972, p. 110-111: « ‘Primitive’ sexuality is above the religious and the moral levels ; it is a means of linking man and Being. As a primordial cosmic force and transcendent fire, eros has the power to tune the rhythms of human life to those of nature. In the horizon of ‘primitive spirituality’, the moon, far from being a lifeless planet, is, on the contrary, always in a phase of gestation and development and therefore requires adequate nourishment composed of earthly matter and the sexual energy released during the rituals consumed in relation to the lunar phases. The purpose of these rites is to favour the nutrition of the moon and to exalt, by rebound, the sexuality of men, the fecundity of the herd, of the game and of the earth ». See also Boris de Rachewiltz, Eros noir. Mœurs sexuelles de l’Afrique noire de la Préhistoire à nos jours (= Eros nero. Costumi sessuali in Africa dalla preistoria ad oggi, 1963), Paris, Jean-Jacques-Pauvert / Terrain vague, 1993, p. 13 and p. 20-21.
(2) Jean-Paul Jouary, Préhistoire de la beauté. Et l’art créa l’homme, Bruxelles, Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2012, p. 107-108 et p. 111-112. Reference to the work of Franck Bourdier, Préhistoire de France, Paris, Flammarion, 1967 and Emmanuel Anati, Les Origines de l’art et la formation de l’esprit humain (= Origini dell’arte e della concettualità, Milan, Jaca Book, 1989), French translation by Diane Ménard, Paris, Albin Michel, 1989.
working notes, 70 – 22.VI.2020
In the stroke, its retreat.
In any stroke. Always at the same time its retreat.
A property of essence : inscribing without appropriating.
Difficulty n° 1: thinking this property of essence and its consequences.
Difficulty n° 2 : making so as one can feel it and preserving it, not thwarting it, not trying to delete it.
A resource : the Platonic thought about the image.
Remember certain divisions of the Sophist.
In the art of production (ποιητιϰή τέχνη), a divine production and a human production : 265 b-e. In the divine production as well as in the human production, a production of things and a production of images (εἰδωλοποιιϰή) : 265 e-266 d. In the human production of images, a production of copies (εἰϰαστιϰή) and a production of simulacra (φανταστιϰή) : 266 d-e. In the human production of images as simulacra, a production by tools and a production in which the producer is himself the tool (μίμησις) : 267 a.
What distinguishes a copy (εἰϰών) from a simulacrum (φάντασμα) ? Loyalty. But loyalty to whom, loyalty to what ? Loyalty to an original, that is to say, to an exteriority : a copy is an imitation that knows how to borrow from an original its exact ratios of length, width and depth, and that knows how to cover each of its parts with the colours that suit it : 235 d-236 b.
But what is then precisely, according to the word of the Cratylus (432 b and c), the « correctness » (ὀρθότης) of an imitation that knows how to remain loyal to an original ?
It is necessary, as the same dialogue (432 a-c) shows, that a gap be maintained, that a distance be preserved : a copy, in order to remain a copy, cannot want to be a duplicate that would seek to abolish the difference that separates it from an original, since this difference is constitutive of the image.
= making so as the image does not curl up on itself = joining without reaching = linking without attaching = maintaining in the stroke its retreat.
And is not this also a property of the essence of desire ?
Henri Matisse, according to Sarah Stein, « A Great Artist Speaks to His Students » (1908), in Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse : His Art and his Public, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1951, p. 550-552 : « One must always search for the desire of the line, where it wishes to enter or where to die away. Also always be sure of its source ; this must be done from the model ».
working notes, 69 – 14.VI.2020
She does not standardize dance as a « profession ».
She does dance.
In the steps of Nadia Vadori-Gauthier.
Because, for her, dancing is a « second life » that she assumes to let come.
Without worrying any more about this or that corset which assigns, she writes, to « conventional, dull and risk-free behaviour » : being the one who is not allowed does not concern her.
« Nonconformist », « leant », free : conditions of the dance.
She does through her daily dances what she thinks she needs to do. Without shame, without fear. By accepting to expose herself to the risk and the chance of living against and in encounter with the living beings, with all the living beings : in order to « discover the equation, the force of things that animates with such beauty and perfection the plant and the animal ».
She is absolute fidelity to life.
There is a consequence, which engages a pattern of existence : her dancing body never seeks to contradict the common gravity that is shared by all bodies. On the contrary, she explores with extreme attention more harmonious relations with the outside : the outside of her intimate space, when she dances with the places of her home, restored to their unaccustomed beauty ; the outside of the city, when she dances with an urban environment pierced by the mechanical noise of car engines ; the outside of nature, when she dances with yew and fig trees, cock’s-foots and finger-grasses, thrushes and cats, sand, sea, wind, rain.
Her foot is of silk, her skin is of honey : making sure that the gestures and movements of the dance are always tacts.
« Feeling the ground and finding balance before putting your foot and weight on it » : dances with humus, dances to humus, in accordance with « the fertile ground for life ».
So that, dressed or undressed, she dances nude.
Because « dancing under a gaze is always stripping nude before it ».
But also because her dancing body attempts, even before any ornament, new and more loving arrangements between thought, body and outside, between what is self and what is not self.
Her body does not imitate, does not symbolize.
When it becomes wing flapping, it does not make the bird, but converse with the trills of the hedge accentor, in osmosis with the sounds of rainwater runoff.
With the cat, she does not meow : they tell each other their differences, their continuities, their friendship.
Her body is a sensitive plate that moves ahead of itself, impregnating itself with the outside without ever wanting to encumber or appropriate it. Letting the body go out of frame, erasing oneself in order to reveal, erasing oneself and thus revealing oneself : dance, in its very essence.
And always in sequence-shot. Before the minute, she dances ; after the minute, she dances. No beginning, no end : linking without attaching, extending.
Dancing body, listening body : « When we become nature again. Without interfering. Fluidity ».
In your research, the human figure does not appear.
Or only obliquely and in an indirect way.
But the dancing body.
Her dancing body.
The perfumes of its breaths.
Like an opening to that erased part, like a path to that missing part.
the crossing of parallels.
(one minute of dance a day, 07.VI.2020 / 29.V.2020 / 11.VI.2020 / 14.VI.2020, photograms)
working notes, 68 – 05.VI.2020
A bias : believing that bodies are incapable or unworthy of acting on their own, « solely by virtue of the laws of nature considered exclusively as being corporeal », « ex solis legibus naturae, quatenus corporea tantum consideratur » (1).
A tenacious bias : believing that it is self-evident that bodies cannot do anything without the intervention and command of a spirit.
A bias that is dismantled by the cause of artworks – « buildings, paintings, and other such things that are produced only by human art », « ut causae aedificiorum, picturarum rerumque hujusmodi, quae sola humana arte fiunt » :
« But, they say, solely by the laws of nature as it is considered only as being corporeal, one cannot deduce the causes of buildings, paintings, and other things of this kind which are produced only by human art ; and the human body, unless determined and driven by the soul, could not build a temple. But I have already shown myself that they do not know what a body can do, or what can be inferred from the consideration of its nature alone ; and that they themselves have learned by experience that many things can occur solely by the laws of nature which they never thought could happen without the guidance of the soul : such as, for instance, what sleepwalkers do while they are asleep, and which astonishes them themselves once they are awake. I add here the fabric of the human body itself, which surpasses by far in artifice all that is fabricated by the art of man, to say nothing of what I have shown above : from nature considered under any attribute whatsoever, follow an infinity of things » (2).
Drawing like a sleepwalker : solely by the natural laws of the productivity of bodies.
« Painting is a science and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature. Why, then, may not landscape painting be considered as a branch of natural philosophy, of which pictures are but the experiments ? » (3).
(1) Baruch de Spinoza, Ethics (1677, posthumous edtion), III, proposition 2, scolie, French edition and translation by Pierre-François Moreau, in Œuvres, edited under the supervision of Pierre-François Moreau, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France / Humensis, 2020, t. IV, p. 247.
(2) Ibid., p. 249.
(3) John Constable, Lectures on the history of landscape painting, Fourth Lecture at the Royal Institution of London, 16th June 1836, in Charles Robert Leslie, Memoirs of the life of John Constable, composed chiefly of his letters (London, Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1843 and 1845), edition by Jonathan Mayne, London, The Phaidon Press, 1951, p. 323.
working notes, 67 – 02.VI.2020
Baruch de Spinoza, Ethica / Éthique, text prepared by Fokke Akkerman and Piet Steenbakkers, French translation by Pierre-François Moreau, introduction and notes by Pierre-François Moreau and Piet Steenbakkers, with appendices by Fabrice Audié, André Charrak and Pierre-François Moreau, in Œuvres, edited under the supervision of Pierre-François Moreau, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France / Humensis, coll. « Épiméthée », volume IV, April 2020, 694 pages.
working notes, 66 – 22-24.V.2020
Painting : « silent poetry » (1).
And the silences of drawing.
But a silence, let us not forget, is not an absence of sound, noise or speech.
Just as a sound, a noise or a speech are only possible through the silences that give them rhythm and punctuate them (2), so silences, whatever their content (a soothing silence, an oppressive silence ; a silence of complicity, a silence of hatred), are only possible through the sounds, noises and speeches that contrast and modulate them (3).
Can we discern with complete clarity when a sound ceases and when a silence begins, or when a silence ceases and when a sound begins, by drawing clear and precise boundaries ?
« Hear this fine sound which is continuous, and which is silence » (4).
You love the silences of painting and drawing.
Not at all because in painting and drawing there would be an access to an « unspeakable » or « ineffable » – as if there were some kind of « parousia » of a raw, without signification, « presence », escaping words and getting out of speeches.
You love the silences of painting and drawing for the attention resources they sharpen.
You love the silences of painting and drawing, above all, for the particular sounds they allow to unfold – as if, while you are silently making or looking at a painting or a drawing, your ears are discovering new openness and new abilities.
« Listen to what you hear when nothing is being heard » (5).
But what sounds exactly ? Those of black stone, charcoal or brush on paper ? No. Rather those of possible intersections and resonances between the gestures of your body, on the one hand, and the multiple voices of the other-than-human nature as they can be heard, on the other hand : rain, wind, sometimes snow ; in the garden, the elegance of a cock’s-foot, the shadows of the cherry tree, the song of common blackbirds or Eurasian bullfinches.
Do you think, however, that this could be a characterization of the essence of this tone of silence that would be specific to painting and drawing ? No. It is more of an experience of your own. Because the fact is that you never listen to music when you draw, and most often you draw outside, outdoors – and when you draw in the studio, its doors are always open. This experience is therefore linked to your practice, but also to the drawings that, in one way or another, are important to you – for example, Lepidodendron leaf print, Landscape with a character near a tree, From Line or the series The Memory of the Wind (6).
And you also love, with regard to Spinoza, this testimony of Johannes Colerus – even if it is only an invention : « After having perfected himself in this Art [= that of the cutting of lenses for approach spectacles & for other uses], he set out to draw, which he learned by himself ; & he was good at drawing a portrait with ink or charcoal » (7).
(1) According to the formula attributed by Plutarch to the Greek lyric poet Simonides of Ceos (556 BC-467 BC) : Plutarch, Moralia, Treaty 22 (The Glory of the Athenians), 346 F, French translation by Françoise Frazier and Christian Froidefond, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1990, vol. V-1, p. 189 : « Πλὴν ὁ Σιμωνίδης τὴν μὲν ζῳγραϕίαν ποίησιν σιωπῶσαν προσαγορεύει, τὴν δὲ ποίησιν ζῳγραϕίαν λαλοῦσαν », « Simonide, however, calls painting a silent poetry and poetry a talking painting ».
(2) A musical silence, for example, is a breath in a musical phrase : this breath is a suspension that can give the ear as much fullness as the sounds, but, above all, it alone can give the sounds themselves all their fullness. Similarly, in spoken speech, sentences are only audible when they are detached from each other, while being connected by moments of silence – just as the « blanks » that separate the written words from each other make it possible to identify each one and to organize them all together. The silences fulfil a kind of syntactic function.
(3) Not always, but very often, we can only remove the possible ambiguity of a silence by the words spoken elsewhere and the contexts in which it is taken.
(4) Paul Valéry, Autres Rhumbs (1927), « Poésie perdue », Tel quel (1941 and 1943), in Œuvres, edition by Jean Hytier, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1960, t. 2, p. 656.
(5) Ibid., t. 2, p. 656.
(6) Lepidodendron leaf print, dating from the Primary Era (Westphalian Carboniferous), extracted from the site of the Carvin coalfield (Nord Pas-de-Calais), 12,2 x 9,2 x 4 cm, 426 g, private coll. ; Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Landscape with a character near a tree, 1852 (? ), pen and brown ink on the back of a printed announcement fragment, 20,6 x 16,6 cm, Paris, Louvre Museum ; Lee Ufan, From Line, 1979, pencil on Japanese mo paper, with fading effect, 56 x 75,6 cm, Paris, Pompidou Centre, National Museum of Modern Art ; Bernard Moninot, The Memory of the Wind, e.g. Desert of La Huasteca, Mexico, 2002, twenty Petri dishes, smoke black engraved by a crystal filament, neon, 12,3 x 203,4 x 5,5 cm, ø 10 cm each, Amiens, Regional Contemporary Art Fund of Picardie.
(7) Johannes Colerus, Korte, dog waaragtige levens-beschryving van Benedictus de Spinoza, uit authentique stukken en mondeling getuigenis van nog levende personen opgestelt, Amsterdam, Lindenberg, 1705 / La Vie de B. de Spinoza, tirée des écrits de ce fameux philosophe et du témoignage de plusieurs personnes dignes de foi qui l’ont connu particulièrement, La Haye, T. Johnson, 1706, in Baruch de Spinoza, Éthique (1677, posthumous edition), French edition by Bernard Pautrat, Paris, Seuil, 1988 and 1999, p. 565.
working notes, 65 – 12.V.2020 : weeds
Jean-Philippe Cazier, « Le désir de l’herbe », Chimères, vol. 82, n° 1, 2014, p. 7-10 (URL : particularly p. 8 : « By its movement of expansion, the grass escapes from the earth, from the ground, which is for it an opportunity but not its environment : the nomadic grass exists by constantly pushing back this ground which holds it back in order to, between the earth and the air, through this in-between, persist in the movement of its desire. Through this movement, the expansion of the grass equally nomadizes this ground which, losing its boundaries and, through the grass, jumping out of itself, becomes something like air, an extension out of itself, ever further. Isn’t grass one of the vectors by which the Earth, full of life, escapes from itself and flees in all directions ? The space according to grass does not correspond to humanized, Euclidean and Aristotelian space, which defines some limits, some oppositions. The space according to the grass has its own coordinates : mobile space, constantly exceeding what it is and which it tends to no longer be, a space that is acentric or constantly off-centre, with no a priori hierarchy, no squares or differences ».
Georges Canguilhem, « La valeur et la polarité du jugement », unpublished notes, contemporary with the preparation of the Essai sur quelques problèmes concernant le normal et le pathologique, the medical thesis of 1943, collected in the Canguilhem Fund (GC. 11.2.2. ) of the CAPHÉS (Centre d’Archives de Philosophie, d’Histoire et d’Édition des Sciences), Unité Mixte de Service (UMS 3610), Unité de Service et de Recherche (USR 3308) CIRPHLES (Centre International de Recherche Philosophie, Lettres, Savoirs), CNRS and École normale supérieure of Paris, fol. 128, notes cited by Camille Limoges in the Introduction to the edition of t. IV of the Œuvres complètes of Georges Canguilhem, Paris, Vrin, 2015, p. 35-36 : « If we admit, in accordance with the etymological suggestion, that to judge is to discriminate and to evaluate, why would we deny judgment even to an amoeba, to a plant ? Wherever there is life [...] there is discernment and choice and therefore there is judgment. Because the relative consciousness he enjoys allows man to build a theory of judgment, this does not mean that the power to judge begins with him and is denied to living beings which are other than him ».
Reference points for the philosophical statement, the drawing, the poem.
Truthing in order to libertying.
(Thanks to Marie Pierre for the indication of Jean-Philippe Cazier’s text).
working notes, 64 – 06.V.2020 : questioning oneself
Dandelions after flowering, common yarrow, ribwort plantain, but also various grasses – cock’s-foot, creeping bentgrass, blue grass – and various flowering plants – perennial lawn daisy, bird’s-eye speedwell, hound’s-tongue.
1503 : in the art of drawing, an opening.
An expansion – right down to the roots under the earth.
But is it a study from nature ?
This is very unlikely if we think about the efforts required at that time to prepare the coloured pigments used to paint. Moreover, the shades of the grasses, the way they are distributed (slightly offset to the left, extending beyond either side of the sheet of paper, with a horizon line visible on the right), the play of light and shadow : everything suggests that the drawing was conceived and produced in the studio, based on prior observations and rigorously elaborated thoughts.
Is it an attention to common grasses and ordinary plants for their own sake ?
Is it not rather a study intended to take its place in a repertoire of motifs, so that it can eventually be used for a future engraving or painting – in the tradition of medieval « repertoires of models », those collections of studies accumulated in artists’ studios and regularly used, over decades, to support all kinds of engravings and paintings on a wide range of subjects?
It is difficult to answer the question with certainty. The fact is, however, that the motif of The Great Piece of Turf is not found in any other work by Dürer (1).
Accuracy, meticulosity, care given to the smallest botanical details : is this a kind of exercise in virtuosity ?
We may even recall Thomas Bernhard’s formula : « [...] that terrible proto- and pre-Nazi Dürer, who put nature on the canvas and killed it » (2). « Proto- » and « pre-Nazism » in a few blades of grass in 1503 ? Excessive, the formula is artificial and misleading.
There is, however, an embarrassment : doesn’t virtuosity give the drawing such an intense brilliance that it threatens to reject the reality that was its source out of visibility and, more broadly, out of all consideration – as if the image were to curve back entirely and concentrate all the attention and admiration on itself ? A real embarrassment. This is perhaps evidenced by the constant dialogue that herman de vries began with Dürer’s drawing from 1979 onwards : taken delicately, then presented directly, with a sense of the lightest intervention and by thwarting the frames of the representation, the clump of grass that herman de vries transmits, in 1979 but also in other subsequent « gatherings », shows nature as a system of interdependences in which all living beings are equally involved. However, the recommendations of Dürer himself should not be forgotten : « But life in nature shows the truth of these things. Therefore look at it with application, direct yourself according to it and do not leave nature for your own pleasure, thinking that you will find something better for yourself ; for you will go astray » (3).
A question, however, rather disconcerts your thinking : the use of certain graphic techniques and pictorial means cannot explain, by itself, the fact that it was not until 1503, at least in Europe, that dandelions after flowering – their necessary forms of life, their singular spaciosity – managed to receive the attention of painters and the respect of humans ; why then such blindness and deafness ?
(1) Daniel Arasse, Le Détail. Pour une histoire rapprochée de la peinture, Paris, Flammarion, 1992, p. 136-137.
(2) Thomas Bernhard, Alte Meister – Komödie (1985), Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp Taschenbuch, 1988, p. 62.
(3) Albrecht Dürer, Hierinn sind begriffen vier bücher von menschlicher Proportion durch Albrechten Dürer von Nürnberg erfunden und beschriben zu nutz allen denen so zu diser kunst lieb tragen, Hieronymus [Andreae] Formschneider, Nuremberg, 1528, in Lettres et écrits théoriques. Traité des proportions, French translation by Pierre Vaisse, Paris, Hermann, 1964, p. 196.
Albrecht Dürer, The Great Piece of Turf (Das große Rasenstück), 1503, watercolour and gouache on cardboard, 40,8 x 31,5 cm, Vienna, Albertina
herman de vries, das große rasenstück – collected 11 06 1979 wiese am rehenhügel, eschenau, 1979, plants on paper, 96 x 149 cm, Düsseldorf, Stiftung Schloss and Park Benrath’s collection
working notes, 63 – 05.V.2020 : orienting oneself
1. No mystery. The clear sense of where the problems lie.
« Zu einer Antwort, die man nicht aussprechen kann, kann man auch die Frage nicht aussprechen. Das Rätsel gibt es nicht. Wenn sich eine Frage überhaupt stellen läßt, so kann sie auch beantwortet werden ».
« For an answer which cannot be expressed the question too cannot be expressed. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered »
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung. Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1921), 6.5, edition by Brian McGuinness and Joachim Schulte, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2003, p. 110 / Tractatus logico-philosophicus, English translation by Charles Kay Ogden, Londres, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1922, p. 89.
2. No inexpressible. The right sense of the relationships between the sciences and the arts.
« No one can feel more strongly than I do that the greatest miracles on earth are wrought by the poet and that no revelations and values can compare with those given to us by art, and I have the greatest admiration for the expressive power of poetry, but at the same time I know that the poet cannot express anything that could not be expressed by science, and that most certainly a volume of poetry does not communicate content any more than a scientific book ».
Moritz Schlick, Form and Content. An Introduction to Philosophical Thinking (1932), II, 10, in Gesammelle Aufsätze, 1926-1936, Vienna, Gerold & Co., 1938 (reprint Hildesheim, Olms, 1969), p. 212.
3. No formalism. The exact sense of the forms in the process of their formation.
« We must not make the mistake (which is really the source of all difficulties here) to think that art would be more wonderful or more perfect if it could express content, and that its inexpressibility must always remain a matter of regret. No such thing ! These misunderstandings must be radically overcome. It is perfectly true that Poetry – one of the great realities in life – is a matter of content, but content is important because of its formal properties ».
Moritz Schlick, Form and Content. An Introduction to Philosophical Thinking (1932), II, 10, in Gesammelle Aufsätze, 1926-1936, Vienna, Gerold & Co., 1938 (reprint Hildesheim, Olms, 1969), p. 213.
working notes, 62 – 28.IV.2020-02.V.2020 : space, time, knottings
« My reasoning is as follows : if it is true that painting uses for its imitations means or signs different from poetry, namely forms and colours spread out over a space, whereas poetry uses articulated sounds that follow one another in time ; if it is indisputable that signs must have a natural and simple relationship with the signified object, then juxtaposed signs can only express juxtaposed objects or objects composed of juxtaposed elements, just as successive signs can only translate successive objects or their successive elements. Objects, or their elements, that are juxtaposed are called bodies. Thus, the bodies with their apparent characters are the proper objects of painting. Objects, or their elements, arranged in order of succession, are called actions in the broad sense of actions. Actions are therefore the proper object of poetry » (1).
The arts of space versus the arts of time, the arts of time versus the arts of space.
But what about dance ?
An art of bodies, an art of actions, an art of space and time ?
The objection is not entirely valid, however, because Lessing analyses painting (and sculpture) and poetry very specifically. Moreover, in the context of the debates caused by the statuary group Laocoön and his sons and, more broadly, in the context of the criticism and overthrow of the doctrine of ut pictura poesis, the originality and radicality of Lessing’s separation should certainly not be underestimated (2). « It is necessary to be young to realize the influence that Lessing’s Laocoön had on us, which wrenched us from the passivity of contemplation by opening up the free fields of thought. The ut pictura poesis, so long misunderstood, was suddenly discarded, the difference between the plastic arts and those of the spoken word was illuminated ; they seemed to us quite distinct at their summits, although they are similar in their foundations [...]. All the consequences of this magnificent thought appeared to us like a flash of lightning ; we rejected all the precepts and norms of the old critic ; we considered ourselves free from all evil » (3).
By the way, is the issue at stake the revival of the ut pictura poesis ?
The doctrine of ut pictura poesis implies a determined relationship between the forms of representation, on the one hand, and the matter in which these forms are made, on the other hand : it affirms in fact that the laws of representation apply equally, that is to say whatever the matter of representation is – language, painted canvas or sculpted stone. In other words, it is a rule of indifference. This rule remains problematic : there is no point in returning to it.
Moreover, the Renaissance and classicist doctrine read the ut pictura poesis, against the very letter of Horace’s formula in the Epistle to the Pisos (4), especially in one sense more than the other : it was painting that was to be like poetry, rather than poetry like painting (5). Such an idea remains problematic here too : there is no point in returning to it either.
Does this mean that we should endorse the clear and unambiguous « boundaries » drawn by Lessing ?
You are wary of all thoughts that believe they can validly split and separate space and time.
The Kantian « form of inner sense » (6) : can one really « very well » (zwar ganz wohl) take the appearances away from time ? Is it sure that one would never have the experience of any succession or change if one did not first have an original consciousness of temporality ? Or, put another way, is the passage of time really independent of the fact that there are successions and changes ? Isn’t time a reality that derives from the relationships between events (7)?
The Bergsonian « duration » (8) : can we really give meaning to the idea of « multiplicity without divisibility » or to the idea of « succession without separation » without making the ideas of multiplicity and succession lose their coherence ?
Should we then temporalize the drawing and spatialize the poem ?
The fact is that such a path would only renew, without really displacing it, the Lessingian starting point of the separation between arts that would only be arts of space and arts that would only be arts of time.
Orienting yourself differently : how ?
From the point of view of metaphysical investigation, it would certainly be necessary to take into consideration the difficult teachings, stemming from special relativity and general relativity, of the spacetime continuum doctrine : is it a « spatialization of time » ? Einstein did not think so (9). Is it not rather an introduction of time into geometry ? Or perhaps even, more precisely, a geochronometry ?
From a more descriptive point of view, another possibility is to be taken into account : considering this that there is no time without space and no space without time.
It is not just a matter of a subjective or socio-historical intertwining of spatiality and temporality.
Isn’t it space itself that is time ? A place, whatever it is, is never without its circumstances, that is to say its developments, its evolutions, its transformations. It remains, however, to question the relationship between space and place : is it not generally said that Modernity in mathematics and physics has been characterized by the removal of places, as the immediate vicinity of bodies, in favor of a squared and quantified space where all places are equalized in a homogeneous and isotropic extension ? The space of the Moderns : a kind of « anywhere-nowhere » ? Perhaps, but if, as Leibniz already suggested, even before the topological approach opened by Bernhard Riemann and Henri Poincaré (10), we apprehend space from its undifferentiated points, it is clear that the spatial form emerges when it defines certain relationships between them, which Leibniz called « situation » or « locality » : space is thus characterized by the fact that it is a set of points on which certain relations of « situation » are ordered – an idea that opens up the possibility of a variation in the forms of spatiality according to the ways in which the relations of situation that order the points are specified. Now, according to Leibniz, this leads us to have to distinguish between extensum, as the result of the ordering of places, and extensio, as the result of this action that spaces places : indeed, one thing is extensum as a result, another thing is extensio taken in the sense of a capacity of things to extend (11). Space as the diffusion and as the spacing of places : space is time ?
Likewise, isn’t it time itself that is space ? When Heraclitus says that one does not bathe twice in the same river (12), he says that each time the same river is also another river : each time another circumstance, each time another topicality of the moment. The moment is topography and circumscription of a singular arrangement of places.
But why does the correlation of space and time matter ?
The fact is that fossils and rocks – the matrices in which fossils are embedded – are archives spread out in the space of processes that have taken place over time : they are spacetimes.
Space, time, their entanglements, their interweavings, their intertwinings : the very dimensions of terrestrial existences, of geological lives ?
(1) Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Laocoon, ou Des frontières de la peinture et de la poésie. Avec quelques explications sur différentes questions d’histoire de l’art antique (= Laokoon, oder über die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie, 1766), French edition and translation by Jolanta Bialostocka and Robert Klein, Paris, Hermann, 1964, chap. XVI, p. 109-110 : « Ich schließe so. Wenn es wahr ist, daß die Malerei zu ihren Nachahmungen ganz andere Mittel, oder Zeichen gebrauchet, als die Poesie ; jene nämlich Figuren und Farben in dem Raume, diese aber artikulierte Töne in der Zeit ; wenn unstreitig die Zeichen ein bequemes Verhältnis zu dem Bezeichneten haben müssen : so können nebeneinander geordnete Zeichen auch nur Gegenstände, die nebeneinander, oder deren Teile nebeneinander existieren, aufeinanderfolgende Zeichen aber auch nur Gegenstände ausdrücken, die aufeinander, oder deren Teile aufeinander folgen. Gegenstände, die nebeneinander oder deren Teile nebeneinander existieren, heißen Körper. Folglich sind Körper mit ihren sichtbaren Eigenschaften die eigentlichen Gegenstände der Malerei. Gegenstände, die aufeinander, oder deren Teile aufeinander folgen, heißen überhaupt Handlungen. Folglich sind Handlungen der eigentliche Gegenstand der Poesie ».
(2) Laocoön and his sons, Roman marble copy of an ancient Greek bronze sculpture, 2nd or 1st century BC (?), height : 242 cm (from Laocoon’s right hand to the base of the statue) x width : 160 cm, Rome, Vatican, Pio-Clementino Museum, courtyard of the Belvedere. See Le Laocoon : histoire et réception, edition by Élisabeth Décultot, Jacques Le Rider and François Queyrel, Revue germanique internationale, vol. 19, 2003.
(3) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung und Wahreit (text written between 1808 and 1831), in Goethes Werke, edition by Erich Trunz, Hamburg, Christian Wegner Verlag, 1955, t. 9, Autobiographische Schriften I, II, 8, p. 316 : « Man muß Jüngling sein, um sich zu vergegenwärtigen, welche Wirkung Lessings Laokoon auf uns ausübte, indem dieses Werk uns aus der Region eines kümmerlichen Anschauens in die freien Gefilde des Gedankens hinriß. Das so lange mißverstandene ut pictura poesis war auf einmal beseitigt, der Unterschied der bildenden und Redekünste klar, die Gipfel beider erschienen nun getrennt, wie nah ihre Basen auch zusammenstoßen mochten […]. Wie vor einem Blitz erleuchteten sich uns alle Folgen dieses herrlichen Gedankens, alle bisherige anleitende und urteilende Kritik ward, wie ein abgetragener Rock, weggeworfen, wir hielten uns von allem Übel erlöst ».
(4) Horace, The Art of Poetry (c. 19 BC), v. 361-364, edition by François Villeneuve, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1961, p. 221 : « Ut pictura, poesis ; erit quae, si propius stes, / Te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes ; / Haec amat obscurum, volet haec sub luce videri, / Judicis argutum quae non formidat acumen ; / Haec placuit semel, haec deciens repetita placebit ».
(5) Daniel Arasse, Le Détail. Pour une histoire rapprochée de la peinture, Paris, Flammarion, 1992, p. 386.
(6) Immanuel Kant, Critique of pure reason (1781, 1787), I, The Transcendental Aesthetic, Section II, § 4, A 31/B 46, English translation by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press I998, p. 178-179 : « Man kann in Ansehung der Erscheinungen überhaupt die Zeit selbsten nicht aufheben, ob man zwar ganz wohl die Erscheinungen aus der Zeit wegnehmen kann. Die Zeit ist also a priori gegeben. In ihr allein ist alle Wirklichkeit der Erscheinungen möglich. Diese können insgesamt wegfallen, aber sie selbst (als die allgemeine Bedingung ihrer Möglichkeit) kann nicht aufgehoben werden », « In regard to appearances in general one cannot remove time, though one can very well take the appearances away from time. Time is therefore given a priori. In it alone is all actuality of appearances possible. The latter could all disappear, but time itself (as the universal condition of their possibility) cannot be removed » ; § 6, A 33/B 49, p. 180 : « Die Zeit ist nichts anders, als die Form des innern Sinnes, d.i. des Anschauens unserer selbst und unsers innern Zustandes », « Time is nothing other than the form of inner sense, i.e., of the intuition of our self and our inner state ».
(7) This remains a controversial issue. It contrasts, in contemporary philosophy of time, the proponents of « substantialism » (according to which time flows even if nothing changes) and the proponents of « relationalism » (according to which the flow of time depends on changes that must take place or else it cannot « pass »). The problem was renewed, in particular, with the publication of the analyses developed by Sydney Shoemaker in his essay « Time without change », Journal of Philosophy, vol. 66, n° 12, 1969, p. 363-381, French translation by Baptiste Le Bihan, in Philosophy of Time, edition by Jiri Benovsky, Geneva, La Baconnière, 2018, p. 131-159.
(8) Henri Bergson, Durée et simultanéité. À propos de la théorie d’Einstein (1922), chap. III, in Mélanges, under the supervision of André Robinet, Paris, PUF, 1972, p. 97-98 / Duration and Simultaneity. With reference to Einstein’s Theory, English translation by Leon Jacobson, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, p. 44-45 : « Il n’est pas douteux que le temps ne se confonde d’abord pour nous avec la continuité de notre vie intérieure. Qu’est-ce que cette continuité ? Celle d’un écoulement ou d’un passage, mais d’un écoulement et d’un passage qui se suffisent à eux-mêmes, l’écoulement n’impliquant pas une chose qui coule et le passage ne présupposant pas des états par lesquels on passe : la chose et l’état ne sont que des instantanés artificiellement pris sur la transition ; et cette transition, seule naturellement expérimentée, est la durée même. Elle est mémoire, mais non pas mémoire personnelle, extérieure à ce qu’elle retient, distincte d’un passé dont elle assurerait la conservation ; c’est une mémoire intérieure au changement lui-même, mémoire qui prolonge l’avant dans l’après et les empêche d’être de purs instantanés apparaissant et disparaissant dans un présent qui renaîtrait sans cesse. Une mélodie que nous écoutons les yeux fermés, en ne pensant qu’à elle, est tout près de coïncider avec ce temps qui est la fluidité même de notre vie intérieure ; mais elle a encore trop de qualités, trop de détermination, et il faudrait effacer d’abord la différence entre les sons, puis abolir les caractères distinctifs du son lui-même, n’en retenir que la continuation de ce qui précède dans ce qui suit et la transition ininterrompue, multiplicité sans divisibilité et succession sans séparation, pour retrouver enfin le temps fondamental. Telle est la durée immédiatement perçue, sans laquelle nous n’aurions aucune idée du temps », « There is no doubt but that for us time is at first identical with the continuity of our inner life. What is this continuity ? That of a flow or passage, but a self-sufficient flow or passage, the flow not implying a thing that flows, and the passing not presupposing states through which we pass ; the thing and the state are only artificially taken snapshots of the transition ; and this transition, all that is naturally experienced, is duration itself. It is memory, but not personal memory, external to what it retains, distinct from a past whose preservation it assures ; it is a memory within change itself, a memory that prolongs the before into the after, keeping them from being mere snapshots appearing and disappearing in a present ceaselessly reborn. A melody to which we listen with our eyes closed, heeding it alone, comes close to coinciding with this time which is the very fluidity of our inner life ; but it still has too many qualities, too much definition, and we must first efface the difference among the sounds, then do away with the distinctive features of sound itself, retaining of it only the continuation of what precedes into what follows and the uninterrupted transition, multiplicity without divisibility and succession without separation, in order finally to rediscover basic time. Such is immediately perceived duration, without which we would have no idea of time ».
(9) Albert Einstein, « À propos de La Déduction relativiste de M. Émile Meyerson », French translation by André Metz, Revue philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger, vol. 105, 1928, p. 161-166, here p. 165 : « C’est ainsi qu’il [= Émile Meyerson] insiste avec raison sur l’erreur de maints exposés de la Relativité, où il est question de la ‘spatialisation du temps’. Le temps et l’espace sont bien fondus dans un même et unique continuum, mais celui-ci n’est pas isotrope. Les caractères de l’élément de distance spatiale et ceux de l’élément de durée restent distincts les uns des autres, et cela jusque dans la formule donnant le carré de l’intervalle d’univers de deux événements infiniment voisins ».
(10) See the texts by Leibniz in the book La Caractéristique géométrique, edition by Javier Echeverría and Marc Parmentier, Paris, Vrin, 1995.
(11) Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, « Entretien de Philarète et d’Ariste, suite du premier entretien d’Ariste et de Théodore » (1712-1714), in Die philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, edition by Carl Immanuel Gerhardt, Berlin, Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1875-1890, rééd. Hildesheim, Olms, 1978, t. 6, p. 585 : « L’étendue, quand elle est l’attribut de l’espace, est la diffusion ou la continuation de la situation ou de la localité », « Extension, when it is the attribute of space, is the diffusion or continuation of the situation or locality ».
(12) Heraclitus, Fragment B 12, in Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, edition by Hermann Diels then Walther Kranz, Zurich and Berlin, Weidmann, 1951-1952 (6th edition : final edition), 3 vol., here vol. 1 / John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy, London, Adam and Charles Black, 1920 (3rd edition), chap. 3, p. 136 : « ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμϐαίνουσιν ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ », « You cannot step twice into the same rivers ; for fresh waters are flowing in upon you » ; Fragment B 49 a, p. 139 : « ποταμοῖς τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐμϐαίνομέν τε καὶ οὐκ ἐμϐαίνομεν, εἶμέν τε καὶ οὐκ εἶμέν », « We step and do not step into the same rivers ; we are and are not » ; Fragment B 91, p. 136 : « ποταμῷ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμϐῆναι δὶς τῷ αὐτῷ », « You cannot step twice into the same rivers ».
working notes, 61 – 18.III.2020 : Pangolin
Propagation from Guangdong Province in China, from November 2002 to August 2003, 774 deaths in the world as of August 31, 2003 according to the World Health Organization.
The animal reservoir of the Sars coronavirus has been identified as an insectivorous bat ; the intermediate host that allowed the virus to pass to humans is the masked palm civet, a wild animal sold in markets and consumed in southern China.
Propagation from Meliandou, in Guéckédou Prefecture, in the south-east of Guinea, at the crossroads of the Liberian and Sierraleonean borders, from December 2013 to March 2016, at least 11,310 deaths in the world as of March 29, 2016 according to the World Health Organization.
Fruit bats are probably the natural hosts of the virus ; the virus does not make them sick, but it becomes pathogenic when it infects other wild animals in the rainforest ; humans become infected by handling these animals, by eating bush meat or by butchering them.
Propagation from Wuhan, in Hubei Province in China, from November 2019, 3,218 deaths in China (a statistic that is most likely distorted and vastly underestimated) and 3,388 deaths outside China as of March 16, 2020 according to the World Health Organization.
The reservoir of the virus is probably animal, but the animal responsible for transmission to humans has not yet been identified with certainty ; however, several publications suggest that pangolin may be involved as an intermediate host between bats and humans (2).
His body is covered with scales.
He has small clawed legs and feeds on ants and termites with a long sticky tongue.
30 cm to 80 cm long, the pangolin is a small mammal, found in Africa and Asia.
He is the most illegally hunted mammal in the world.
Far more in number than elephants and rhinoceros combined
According to an international study, published in June 2017 in the journal Conservation letters, pangolin trafficking in Africa increased by 150% between 1970 and 2014. In order to estimate the extent of hunting, researchers analysed data from 113 sites in 14 Central African countries, mainly Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of the Congo. The result of the inquiry indicates that between 500 000 and 2.7 million pangolins are captured annually in the forests of these countries (1). Unlike the continent’s large mammals, the pangolin is not hunted to become a trophy, but to be resold in Asia. In China and Vietnam, his meat is considered a luxury item : restaurant owners can pay around 1,750 euros for an animal. In addition, his scales are used in the composition of an allegedly « miraculous » powder, which is supposed to protect against the « evil eye »...
Sars, Ebola, Covid-19, other zoonoses (the 2004 influenza A virus subtype H5N1, the 2009 influenza A virus subtype H1N1, etc.) : like means that other-than-human animals use to fight and defend themselves against human animals ?
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a neoliberal principle of propagation has reigned unchallenged – the epithet « neoliberal » being understood here in the precise sense of the political, economic and sociological thought that has emerged from Walter Lippmann’s work.
It is in the name of this principle of propagation that the world trade, the ideology of relentlessly circulation, the digitalization of sensitivities, the standardization of languages, the invasion of thought by ready-made constructivist economic and sociological formulas have grown up.
Why should viruses not borrow the weapons of propagation developed by human animals to turn them against them ? They have always done so : epidemics are ancient and universal phenomena. Undoubtedly, but is the multiplication of zoonoses really unrelated to the drastic reduction of the « wild part of the world » and its living places ? Moreover, is there not now a change in scale and, perhaps even more so, a change in acceleration ?
The fact is that the neoliberal passion for perpetual movement makes it blind and deaf to the basic vital needs of all living organisms. For neither movement nor stability, considered separately and to the exclusion of each other, are constitutive of life. What is constitutive of life are the tensions, always renewed, between movement and stability, between flow and stasis.
(1) Daniel J. Ingram, Lauren Coad, Katharine A. Abernethy, Fiona Maisels, Emma J. Stokes, Kadiri S. Bobo, Thomas Breuer, Edson Gandiwa, Andrea Ghiurghi, Elizabeth Greengrass, Tomas Holmern, Towa O. W. Kamgaing, Anne-Marie Ndong Obiang, John R. Poulsen, Judith Schleicher, Martin R. Nielsen, Hilary Solly, Carrie L. Vath, Matthias Waltert, Charlotte E. L. Whitham, David S. Wilkie & Jӧrn P.W. Scharlemann, « Assessing Africa‐Wide Pangolin Exploitation by Scaling Local Data », Conservation letters. A Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, vol. 11, n° 2, March-April 2018, p. 1-9 (text published online on June 29, 2017 : ).
(2) Tommy Tsan-Yuk Lam, Marcus Ho-Hin Shum, Hua-Chen Zhu, Yi-Gang Tong, Xue-Bing Ni, Yun-Shi Liao, Wei Wei, William Yiu-Man Cheung, Wen-Juan Li, Lian-Feng Li, Gabriel M. Leung, Edward C. Holmes, Yan-Ling Hu & Yi Guan, « Identifying SARS-CoV-2 related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins », Nature, 2020 (text received on February 7, 2020 , accepted on March 17, 2020 and published online on March 26, 2020 : ). For Sars, Ebola and Covid-19, sources : Institut Pasteur, Paris (France) –
Photograph : A pangolin photographed in Namibia – © Cédric and Elyane Jacquet.
working notes, 60 – 24.II.2020 : dawning forest
Near the city of Cairo, in the State of New York, in the region of the Catskills.
There, in the fossil soil, some imprints of 386-million-years-old root systems.
To this day, these are the oldest remnants of a forest.
There are root systems of trees belonging to the genus Eospermatopteris – cladoxylopsids that looked like palm trees, with a very large base and a crown of branches but without leaves.
There are also root systems of « scale trees » belonging to the class Lyscopsida – which was previously thought by the scientists to originate during the Carboniferous period.
But also root systems of trees belonging to the genus Archaeopteris – large woody plants, formed from secondary tissues, which share a number of characteristics with modern seed plants.
Archaeopteris are the first known plants to have formed leaves. But paleobotanists also discovered, near Cairo, that these trees had an underground system allowing continuous root expansion, a system comparable to that of spruces or pines.
The roots of Archaeopteris could thus be at the origin of major soil nutrient cycles and carbon fluxes, with decisive consequences for the global climate. According to William E. Stein, emeritus professor of biological science at Binghamton University : « The Devonian Period represents a time in which the first forest appeared on planet Earth. The effects were of first order magnitude, in terms of changes in ecosystems, what happens on the Earth’s surface and oceans, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, and global climate. So many dramatic changes occurred at that time as a result of those original forests that basically, the world has never been the same since » (1).
To such an extent that, following James E. Lovelock or Bruno Latour, for example, the question can rightly be asked : is the Earth really a « planet » ? Since the recognition of heliocentrism, it is certainly a planet according to the principles of cosmology. But the fact is that the work of scientists is documenting more and more, and better and better, its singular history, its radical evolutions, its non-linear changes – as to its appearance, its atmosphere or its temperature : basaltic Earth, then Earth covered with oceans, then oxidized Earth, icy Earth, green and blue Earth, illuminated Earth... So the term « planet » seems narrow, perhaps even misleading : the Earth has such a complex and changing history, compared to that of other « planets », that it is legitimate to consider that it is not one of them.
However, it is important not to be mistaken : the facts of life, as Georges Canguilhem underligned as early as 1947, are not « enclaves of indetermination », « zones of dissonance » or « foyers of heresy » within the « physico-chemical territory ». Why not ? Because it is life that is first : « If the originality of the biological must be asserted, it is as the originality of a reign over the whole of experience and not over islets within experience » (2).
The upheavals/uprisings of life in the common space and the deep time of the Earth : do we feel them ?
(1) William E. Stein, Christopher M. Berry, Jennifer L. Morris, Linda VanAller Hernick, Frank Mannolini, Charles Ver Straeten, Ed Landing, John E. A. Marshall, Charles H. Wellman, David J. Beerling, Jonathan R. Leake, « Mid-Devonian Archaeopteris Roots Signal Revolutionary Change in Earliest Fossil Forests », Current Biology, vol. 30, Issue 3, February 3rd, 2020, p. 421-431 (text published online on December 19th, 2019 : ).
(2) Georges Canguilhem, « Aspects du vitalisme » (1946-1947), in La Connaissance de la vie (1952, 1965), Paris, Vrin, 2009, Part III (« Philosophie »), chap. I, p. 121-122.
Photograph 1 / The Cairo site : Eospermatopteris root system in overwash sediment – © William E. Stein.
Photograph 2 / The Cairo site : overview of Archaeopteris root system in greenish overwash sediment – © William E. Stein and Christopher M. Berry.
Photograph 3 / The Cairo site : overview of Archaeopteris root system, left ; roots of another fossil tree that may belong to the the class Lyscopsida, right – © William E. Stein and Christopher M. Berry.
working notes, 59 – 04-05.I.2020 : Susan
« The earth hangs heavy beneath me. But who am I, who lean on this gate and watch my setter nose in a circle ? I think sometimes (I am not twenty yet) I am not a woman, but the light that falls on this gate, on this ground. I am the seasons, I think sometimes, January, May, November ; the mud, the mist, the dawn » (1).
She does not only say that nature is more than what we can know about it – as if nature was just a construction according to our coordinates and parameters.
Nor does she just say that nature is not exhausted in the acts of exploitation that we do against it – as if nature was only a quarry in which to extract materials for our exclusive use.
She states a precedence : « The earth hangs heavy beneath me ».
And a truth about what is, i.e. that what is is not by itself (a se) : « [I am] the mud, the mist, the dawn ».
She states this truth by making herself available to the vital and immanent sense of the seasons : « I am the seasons, I think sometimes, January, May, November ».
She states this truth by making herself available to « this trans-individual, and at the same time infra-subjective, phenomenon of the seasonal being » (2) : « I am not a woman ».
Feeling the dead ends of the idea of « aseity » does not imply having recourse to the idea of « creation » – neither that of a god nor that of men.
Everything is touching everything.
Are you Susan ?
(1) Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931), in The Selected Works of Virginia Woolf, Ware (Hertfordshire), Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 2007, p. 683.
(2) François Jullien, Du « temps ». Éléments d’une philosophie du vivre (2001), Paris, Librairie Générale Française, 2012, chap. 2, § 7, p. 84.
working notes, 58 – 28.XII.2019
Our melanomas dream of being cyanobacteria.
But the fact is that, whether squamulose (Squamarina cartilaginea) or fruticose (Ramalina siliquosa), foliose (Lobaria pulmonaria) or crustose (Graphis scripta), a lichen does not begin with the letter « l ».
working notes, 57 – 20.XII.2019
Seeing. Watching. And admiring.
Hearing. Listening. And resonating.
Smelling. Inspiring. And exhaling.
Tasting. Sampling. And savouring.
Touching. Caressing. And skimming.
Sensitive life, sensory life.
But are they equivalent, equipollent ? Are they identical – strictly identical ?
Writing « lips ».
Involving commissure, mouth, tongue, saliva and skin, speaking, whispering, murmuring, embracing and kissing, upper, lower, small, large and two, cleft, foam, lobe, corolla and outline, &c. – all mucous membranes, the whole of the mucous membranes.
They sharpen the sensitive, yet evade the accurate sensory, the words and the verses of the poem.
What about the drawing ?
There, is the sensitive the sensory ?
There, is the sensitive also other than the sensory ?
But are these questions correctly being asked ?
Jacques Rancière believes that « the production of the sensitive exceeds the capacity of this or that sense », so that « the sensitive is not the given that the senses would bring us », « it is the power of synthesis that makes a world » (1).
Is such a characterization really faithful to the sensory ?
The fact is that the sensory is neither isolated nor isolable.
The sensory is not isolated : it is relational. To feel is to be affected. Yet it is not true, not even in touch, not even in the case of sensory illusions, that there can be a self-affection of the senses. The sensory is related to an exteriority. From then on, the sensory too « makes a world », but only to the exact extent that it does not « make » it : it welcomes it, weaving all kinds of intertwinings with what, outside an organism, is not that organism.
The sensory is not isolable either : « Its exercise and its modalities are linked to the overall activity of the organism inserted in its environment, to its needs, to its way of life, to its motivations and to its system of action », « Nothing proves that there is a single layer of sensitivity (man is the result and also partially the summary of a complex evolution), nor is there any evidence that the sensitivity or the sensitivities are complete functions that can be defined and studied outside the overall activity where they manifest themselves as a subset and a link in a larger organization » (2).
Drawing : through dots, lines and erasures, let vibrate all the relations to the adverse that the thousand-resonances sensory welcomes.
(1) Jacques Rancière, Le travail des images. Conversations avec Andrea Soto Calderón, Dijon, Les Presses du Réel, 2019, p. 79-80.
(2) Gilbert Simondon, La Sensibilité (1966-1967), in Sur la psychologie (1956-1967), Paris, PUF, 2015, p. 361 and p. 496.
working notes, 56 – 20.XII.2019
30.XI.2019 : Urandangi Aerodrome, Queensland, 43,6 °C.
01.XII.2019 : Yampi Sound, Western Australia, 45,4 °C.
02.XII.2019 : West Roebuck, Western Australia, 44,1 °C.
03.XII.2019 : Curtin, Western Australia, 43,0 °C.
04.XII.2019 : Marble Bar, Western Australia, 44,9 °C.
05.XII.2019 : Telfer, Western Australia, 44,5 °C.
06.XII.2019 : Wyndham, Western Australia, 45,4 °C.
07.XII.2019 : Forrest, Western Australia, 45,8 °C.
08.XII.2019 : Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, 46,7 °C.
09.XII.2019 : Pardoo Station, Western Australia, 46,4 °C.
10.XII.2019 : Birdsville, Queensland, 46,5 °C.
11.XII.2019 : Birdsville, Queensland, 46,2 °C.
12.XII.2019 : Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, 46,3 °C.
13.XII.2019 : Julia Creek Airport, Queensland, 45,2 °C.
14.XII.2019 : Julia Creek Airport, Queensland, 43,2 °C.
15.XII.2019 : Cunderdin Airfield, Western Australia, 44,7 °C.
16.XII.2019 : Bedourie, Queensland, 45,0 °C.
17.XII.2019 : Ceduna, South Australia, 46,5 °C – moyenne nationale australienne : 40,9 °C.
18.XII.2019 : Birdsville, Queensland, 47,7 °C – moyenne nationale australienne : 41,9 °C.
19.XII.2019 : Nullarbor, South Australia, 49,9 °C.
20.XII.2019 : Keith (Munkora), South Australia, 49,2 °C.
31 °C : the water temperature above which a break in the symbiosis between corals and zooxanthellae occurs ; if the warming of the water lasts more than three weeks, the corals bleach and die quickly.
Human animals, still so self-centered, so sociologists : the cancer of other-than-human lives ?
Sources : Australian Government, Bureau of Meteorology – ; Serge Planes, « Les récifs coralliens sont en état de stress », interview with Bérénice Robert, Les Essentiels de La Recherche, special issue n° 32, December 2019-February 2020 (La Biodiversité en péril), p. 66-70.
working notes, 55 – 18.XII.2019
Your drawings and your poems are certainly not « creations ».
1/ The idea of « creation » is logically useless : a creator « is only supposed to be a creator to the extent that the notion of creation is useful for explaining created beings, so that the essence of the being invoked as a creator is in fact entirely known from the result on which one must fall, i.e. being as created being » (1).
2/ Metaphysically, the idea of « creation » is also deficient for two reasons with respect to becoming – with respect to ethical becoming, but also, and first of all, with respect to physical becoming : the creationist hypothesis « concentrates all the becoming at its origins, so that any creationism brings with it the problem of theodicy, the ethical aspect of a more general problem : becoming is no longer a true becoming ; it is entirely as it already happened in the act of creation, which forces us to make many local corrections to creationist theory in order to give meaning to becoming [...]. But creationism should be corrected on all points, because it is no more satisfying to annihilate the reality of physical becoming than to diminish that of becoming of the human being as an ethical subject : this difference of treatment can only be justified by a dualism that is itself questionable. There would be a real physical theodicy to add to ethical theodicy » (2).
3/ Whether it qualifies the action of a god, by overriding and abolishing causality, or the action of men, according to a transfer of meaning that has been precisely documented from an historical viewpoint (3), the word « creation » is one of those words to which a meaning seems to have been given without, however, we can really explain the rules of a rightful use : it is a word that is not senseless (sinnlos), but that is nonsense (unsinnig) (4).
Your drawings and your poems are not coming « from nothing ».
They are coming from and within a wide precedence.
The wide precedence of what Spinoza calls the « substance », that is, « God », that is, « nature » – because « God » is « nature », he is by no means its creator : « On the vulgar definition of creation. – It should be noted here that we leave aside the words from nothing commonly used by philosophers, as if nothingness were a matter from which things were drawn. If, moreover, they express themselves in this way, it is because it is a custom, when what is at stake is the generation of things, to suppose before them something from what they are made of, so that philosophers could not in creation leave aside this little word from » (5).
Without creator nor creation, our thoughts and our sensibilities root, bud, blossom : everything that is and everything that lives have the same rank of being.
Equality is not presupposed : it is observed, it is felt, it is lived – at the tip of the brush, at the tip of the pen, right on the skin.
(1) 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. 327.
(2) Ibid., p. 327.
(3) Hans Blumenberg, « L’imitation de la nature. Préhistoire de l’homme créateur » (1957), in L’Imitation de la nature et autres essais esthétiques, French translation by Isabelle Kalinowski and Marc de Launay, Paris, Hermann, 2010, p. 37-90 ; Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz, « The Sovereignty of the Artist : A Note on Legal Maxims and Renaissance Theories of Art », in Millard Meiss (ed.), Essays in Honor of Erwin Panofsky, New York, New York University Press (coll. « De Artibus Opuscula », n° 40), 1961, p. 267-279 ; text included in Selected Studies, New York, J. J. Augustin Publisher, 1965, p. 352-365 ; Jean-Louis Chrétien, « Du Dieu artiste à l’homme créateur », in Corps à corps. À l’écoute de l’œuvre d’art, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1997, p. 91-121 ; Olivier Boulnois, « La création, l’art et l’original. Implications esthétiques de la théologie médiévale », Communications, vol. 64 (« La création », under the supervision of François Flahault and Jean-Marie Schaeffer), 1997, p. 55-76.
(4) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1921, German version and 1922, English version), 4.461 and 4.4611, French translation by Gilles Gaston-Granger, Paris, Gallimard, 1993, p. 68.
(5) Baruch Spinoza, Cogitata metaphysica (1663), II, X, French translation by Charles Appuhn, in Œuvres, Paris, GF-Flammarion, 1964, t. 1, p. 377-378 : « Creationis vulgaris definitio rejicitur. – Ubi notandum venit, nos illa verba omittere, quae communiter philosophi usurpant, nempe ex nihilo, quasi nihil fuisset materia, ex quâ res producebantur. Quòd autem sic loquantur, inde est, quòd, cùm soleant, ubi res generantur, aliquid ante ipsas supponere, ex quo fiant, in creatione illam particulam ex non potuerunt omittere ».
working notes, 54 – 13.XII.2019
Hesiod, Theogony, v. 116-122
To be understood and to be lived, but without « theogony » : try it.
working notes, 53 – 07.XII.2019 : drawing, poem, sex
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 « in front of » or « before ») 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. But does it mean that their sex condition would then be unessential or secondary to them ?
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 (5), 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 of symbiotic interlacings, extensions of life.
(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. On symbiosis acts (in particular those of algae and fungi), p. 199-201 ; on asexual reproductions (the author relies in particular on the work of Étienne Rabaud, Zoologie biologique, Paris, Gauthier-Villars, 1932-1934, Fascicule III, Les Phénomènes de reproduction), p. 177-189. 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. 125-127 (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. According to Simondon, « [the world] of Spinoza strictly speaking includes only one individual, nature », the author of Ethics considering « the individual as an appearance » (L’Individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information, op. cit., respectively p. 65 and p. 93) : with regard to the spinozist characterization of bodies, these assessments seem questionable. One might even wonder whether there is not a common theoretical space between, on the one hand, what Simondon calls « pre-individual being » and « individuation » and, on the other hand, what Spinoza calls the power to live of the « substance » – Ethica, I, propositio XVI + demonstratio, p. 45 ; Ethica, I, propositio XXXIV, p. 77 – and the power to live of the « finite modes » – Cogitata metaphysica (1663), II, VI, French translation by Charles Appuhn, in Œuvres, Paris, GF-Flammarion, 1964, t. 1, p. 368-369 ; Ethica, IV, propositio XXI, p. 375.
(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 ».
(5) Gilbert Simondon, L’Individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information, op. cit., p. 168 and p. 169 : « It is the thanatological character that marks individuality [...]. An interesting point, which deserves to be noted before a general study, is the following : it is sexual reproduction which seems to be most directly associated with the individual thanatological character ». But Simondon, analyzing the reproduction by scissiparity, adds, p. 175 : « It should be noted that the profound modification that affects the individual in reproduction is not the same as in death ; even if, by splitting into two new individuals of equal size, the individual loses his identity, he becomes other, since two individuals now replace the single individual, but he does not die ; no organic matter decomposes ; there is no corpse, and the continuity between the single individual and the two individuals to whom he gave birth is complete ».
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 (
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.
« And when
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 Vallon-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 genitalium, 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 beauté. 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,