tirado/thrown


Incandescent Phenomena
December 13, 2009, 2:30 am
Filed under: Aesthetics, art, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , ,

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=

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.

Cross-posted at the brand-new tirado/thrown tumblr. Be sure to visit there, too!

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Citacion del Dia: Solitude Makes You a Charlatan

From Juan Villoro’s Artaud Prize-winning collection of short stories, Los Culpables (The Guilty Ones), which made for excellent subway reading:

“La soledad te vuelva charlatán.”

Roughly translated, it means, “Solitude turns you into a charlatan.”  Taken alone, the quote uttered by the narrator of Villoro’s title story efficiently sheds light on the work of Octavio Paz, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Giorgio Agamben.  With Villoro as an heir to Paz’s cultural project in El Laberinto de la Soledad, his narrator’s thought expresses the non-knowledge gained at the very limits of social and ontological isolation.  It is the point where Paz notes that solitude renders human existence to getting on day by day with little but one’s wits and no pre-existing knowledge, “al dia”.    

Paz’s post-revolutionary Mexico is an ur-post-modern space from which Mexico can contribute to a universal philosophy acutely attuned to a situation that persists in varied forms. This situation is marked by heightened social alienation and the evacuation of meaning in the face of devastating traumatic encounters that influence the trajectories of our moods and thoughts inwards, and our disposition to the existence of others problematic at best.  Agamben refers to this situation in various forms in The Coming Community, Means Without End, Homo Sacer, and Profanations.  In The Coming Community he introduces us to the characters in the limbic* world where politics, culture, and religion can only react against and unsuccessfully make its own: ‘toons, fakes, assistants, tricksters.  Charlatans, thugs, con-men**, swindlers, and similar figures dwell in this area at the borders of identity, nationality, language, culture, and class. They are left to themselves, abandoned to one another (an idea that Nancy pursues in Being Singular Plural under the term co-appearance or compearance, which Agamben uses in his discussion of the sovereign ban in Homo Sacer.)  Which is all to say, we are all charlatans of a sort or another, most especially when we are at our most earnest or seeking out the authenticity’s perverse thrills. 

As to how tricksterism and solitude come into play in Nancy’s philosophy, I can only pose the question.  Though a discussion devoted to solitude in a portion of Being Singular Plural entitled “The Measure of the ‘With'” may offer some clue.

Admittedly, in light of this pochista musing concerning things Mexican I’m much more partial to the more colorful and morbid cover art for the book’s Argentine edition over the domestic version in Mexico.  But a bright, a lime-green silouhette of an iguana set against a black background on the cover of the Mexican edition shouldn’t deter a good translator from making the book available to an Anglophone reading public.

*Interestingly enough, the brain’s limbic system plays a key role in non-verbal communication, including the generation and regulation of gestures, a topic that Agamben attends to in Means Without End.

**Having started Melville’s The Confidence Man: His Masquerade a couple of days ago has got me on an uncanny path asking about the significance of these figures and types in philosophy and politics more than usual.

Photo credit: Juan Villoro at a reading and book signing in Puebla, MX, 2007; Source: Colorpardo on Flickr.