Man looking into the sea,
Taking the view from those who have as much right to it as
you have to it yourself,
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing,
but you cannot stand in the middle of this;
The horizon we observe as we look out to sea exists in some untouchable, unrealizable place between the constant mutations and motions of the water and the air. It is the horizon that was there yesterday – and is it the horizon that will be there tomorrow? The very fact of the horizon is what is immutable; it is an infinite dividing line between infinite entities, a place toward which the mind journeys and yet a place that appears as a continuous, productive deferral of place.
Susan Stewart, What thought is like, p.103.
- Goethe also worries over the destructive effects of writing. In particular, he worries over how to “keep the essential quality [of the thing] still living before us, and not to kill it with the word.” I must admit, I no longer worry much about such things. For better or worse, I do not think that writing changes things very much, if at all. For the most part, I think it leaves everything as it is. What does your poetry do? – I guess it gives a kind of blue rinse to the language (John Ashbery).
Emily Dickinson once said that poetry rinses the language, I say to him.
After William Carlos Williams (The Descent)
The layers, strata and signifying partitions that veil subject-object encounters, astonish the empiricist.
Empiricism is the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. Signification manifests as arbitrary noise that conceals in its anthropocentric reduction of objects.
Language consistently weaves the last defending wall in front of our delicate skin, obscuring direct access to the thing.
Language consists of signs.
Demonstrated is a muted object-object dialogue: a relation that oscillates in phenomena outside the restrictive realms of cerebral and bodily thought.
The object-object relation denies the domination of human perception.
A phenomenon is mere fiction: simply the thing as it appears to the observer.
The path undulates between language and object.
Magritte gave Broodthaers a copy of Mallarme’s Un coup de Des jambs n’abolira le Hasard. In a sense this act was Magritte’s way of ‘explaining’ his art to the young admirer without explaining it literally but it also opened out the heritage of which his art was a part.
Broodthaers (b. Brussels, 1924) was a poet until he turned himself into an artist in order to explain Magritte’s art, at least to himself, by means of objects.
Cette roublarde a evité le moule de société
Elle s’est coulee dans le sien propre
D’autres ressemblantes partagent avec elle l’anti mer
Elle est parfaite.
This clever thing has avoided the mould of society
She has cast herself in her very won.
Others just like her share the anti-sea
She is perfect.
This poem (impossible to translate adequately because of its pun une mould = a mussel; un moule = a mould), was written before he became an artist. It could have been for a bestiary, for obviously the mould stands for a type of person or behaviour as do the animals of La Fontaine. It, or ‘she’ in French, is her own mould, the crustacean literally, the person metaphorically. She is shaped by her own shell not by fashion. At the same time she makes (secretes) her own mould or shell.
Words are stripped of meaning by being turned into an object but as a result attain to a new meaning. Mallarmé’s poem ‘Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’ (1897) uses the shape of lines of words to add to their grammatical meaning.
From Marcel Broodthaers (London: Tate Gallery, 1980)
Marcel Broodthaers Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance) 1969
This work is a homage to the 1887 modernist poem Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance), by French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, of which Broodthaers wrote: “Mallarmé is at the source of modern art. . . . He unwittingly invented modern space.” Mallarmé’s poem proposed to liberate language from conventions of space and typography by stretching sentences across spreads and using multiple typefaces to abstract both form and content. In designing his edition, Broodthaers blocked out the lines of the original work with solid black bars of varying width, dependent on the original type size, turning the original text into an abstract image of the poem (Broodthaers also replaced the word Poème, on the title page, with Image).
From Ian Hamilton Finlay SELECTIONS
What cannot be said with a Doric, an Ionic, or a Corinthian column, is perhaps not worth saying.
Even real stone columns are now the idea of columns.
The three orders of architecture – the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian – originated in Greece. The architectural order of a classical building is akin to the mode or key of classical music, the grammar or rhetoric of a written composition. It is established by certain modules like the intervals of music, and it raises certain expectations in an audience attuned to its language.
We must realise that despite the irreconcilable gap between language and object, we are not at a loss in attempting to comprehend the thing that is representative of the something else that is not present. We must acknowledge the differences, yet remain in search for fleeting phenomenological oscillations in their rare and harmonious appearances.
Rather than mourn, ‘that which is not here’, we must revel in the undulations where sign and signifier collide in phenomenal clarity.
We don’t assume that an indirect mode of access to objects is incapable of disclosing the truth about things simply because its indirect. Indirect access is still access, and can’t testimony sometimes be accurate?
To encounter an object in any way is to translate that object, hence to transform it, hence to distort it; as a consequence, he claims, we are everywhere and always surrounded by fictions:
objects in the world [that] are submitted to rough translation by the human senses and human brain… all of the objects we experience are merely fictions
^London Review of Books, How complex is a lemon? Stephen Mulhall (on Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything by Graham Harman).
If an object in its truest form is is already simplified-translated-distorted-false-fictional by human understanding, then is a literal translation of an object (in an ulterior metalanguage or metaphysicality) a fictionalised fiction? Or a translation of a translation? At this point would the object in its truest form remain the object. Or would the metaphysical translation become the object in focus?
A fictionalised fiction takes form as a double negative, does this equate then to authenticity?