Filed under: Aesthetics, art, Philosophy | Tags: art, Cai Guo-Qiang, ethics, Nancy, Ontology, taking-place, zones of undecidability
Cai Guo-Qiang, Self-Portrait: A Subjugated Soul, 1985/89
From the first time encountering this image, the associations with a handful concepts were inescapable. In one fell swoop, ideas of subjectivity, energy, temporality, the trace, eventality, halos, and (most interestingly) incandescence glisten in the flow of attention when standing before the Qiang’s image.
Multiple passages from Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Experience of Freedom speak to this flash of bundled energy in the act of taking-place or becoming that Qiang’s self-rendering seems to record. In one particular instance, Nancy writes of the ontological dimensions of freedom’s flare (82):
…freedom is itself nothingness, which does not negate itself properly speaking, but which, in an pre-or paradialectical figure of the negation of negation, affirms itself by making itself intense.
The intensification of the nothingness does not negate its nothing-ness: it concentrates it, accumulates the tension of the nothingness as nothingness (hollowing out the abyss, we cold say…), and carries it to the point of incandescence where it takes on the burst of an affirmation. With the burst–lightning and bursting, the burst of lightning–it is the strike of one time, the existing irruption of existence.
This radiance occurs at the border between the formless being that lays beyond representation and representations of humanity that take on a determinate form or another. It is the most basic point of our existence where ontological and ethical categories blur and come into play with each other.
Qiang’s gesture shows a trace of a human being that at a point in time glistens with a particular intensity, radiates heat and energy, and warps and bends the field around him. At some points the halo surrounding the figure crackles with electric flashes whose ardor match that of the body.
In the halo’s dark singes it is difficult to determine whether each ray is a wayward flash straying outward from the body or if the body is attempting to collect loose bits of energy from the surrounding environment to concentrate and make possible that blinding flash of light that burns the parchment of our world. The halo allows itself to radiate and dissipate outwards in a faint light to reveal the dark, unknown form that captivates our attention.
Filed under: art, Flaneurie, Ideas, Poetry, Politics, Psychoanalysis, Uncategorized | Tags: City of Work, ICite, ideology, Language, meaning, Michael Lewy, Ontology, speculations, word clouds
The image above is from artist Micheal Lewy’s City of Work tumblr. (His website is well worth paying a visit.) It caught my attention in light of some reflections at ICite that I’ve been following at a distance concerning the phenomena of word clouds and their relation to language, poetry, politics, psyche, and symbolic efficiency. It started with this post, and has so far continued here and here. Juxtaposing the blog posts and Lewy’s work raised more questions than answers.
First, some questions regarding the relationship of Lewy’s piece to language, its social use, and the piece’s orientation as an artwork. If, as ICite argues, word clouds flatten sense and the possibilities of meaning (through ’marking a moment’, or being a form of secondary orality, a trace of chatter, or a positionless marker of intensity, etc.), does Lewy’s rendering of office lingo serve to pit this terminology against itself? In effect, the piece seems to expose the terminology’s flatness, its lack of tonality, and its reliance on the frequency and intensity of its use in our working lives. Could it be argued that Lewy’s piece is a parody of technical applications of language upon the seemingly neutral language of work?
A second group of questions arise with respect to discourse, psyche, ontology, and politics. Is workplace jargon an apparatus of master discourse reliant upon biopolitical coersion to acheive its politcal-economic ends? Does it not reveal that the language of work is not merely natural, but vulnerable to a decline in symbolic efficiency?
It would seem that Lewy’s ‘work cloud’ brings to sharper relief the contingent properties of social relations, capitalism included.
Filed under: Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: abandonment, being-with, Jean-Luc Nancy, Kay Ryan, Ontology, Philosophy, Poetry
Recently-minted U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, from a July 17 New York Times article:
“I realized that whatever we do or don’t do, we’re utterly exposed.”
At first blush, any one who’s read Jean-Luc Nancy’s work on being-with or his ontology of plural sinularity will at the level of basic philosophy some resonance in Ryan’s words. But Ryan’s economy of expression at once withholds itself and leaves itself open to questions and amplifications. ‘Exposed’: to what, or two whom? To things, to people, to beings, to a beyond, or being wherever we are? If there’s any suitable supplement to Ryan’s utterance of resignation, it can perhaps be that exposure itself is the basic human fact placing us with relation to many others, be the people, ourselves, or objects.