This is in a bid to close in on some matter.

I’ve found a text I remember reading a couple of years ago, from an essay by Maurice Blanchot called Two Versions of the Imaginary. Let me try to summarize what I find interesting about it, and bring it towards these ideas of crossing out and leaving gaps, which we’ve been discussing for the Silence talk.

Blanchot homes in on the cadaver as a unique instance of signification. He says “someone who has just died is first of all very close to the condition of a thing – a familiar thing that we handle and approach”, but shortly after death a moment comes when the cadaver’s relations with the world cease, as “our care and the prerogative of our former passions, no longer able to know their object, fall back on us”. The cadaver cannot be known, and yet he still appears within the world, and I think what Blanchot means is that the cadaver becomes a signified thing with no signifier. Or rather, it becomes its own signifier – a thing that is its own image – “the equal, equal to an absolute, overwhelming and marvelous degree”.

Last week Alex wrote: “like the openness of the wardrobe door, its state of gaping unshutness, crossing out is the absence that alludes to presence”. Can we tentatively say Alex’s open wardrobe door is Blanchot’s cadaver, whose presence before us, he says, “is the presence of the unknown”?

And there’s her box of split dead figs in Venice, which are maybe too gory to occupy the careful space of the new cadaver whose name has only just departed, but which in another way occupy this in-between space of the unknown. The relationship these things have isn’t clear to me yet, but I think it’s there.

She wrote: “the violence of the split fallen figs shocked everyone on the bridge, you could see their horrified, curious faces coming over the bridge, trying to decipher what death was there, carrion on the footpath – not wanting to look, but looking. Because of the violence of the scene though, it wasn’t even a relief to know that they were only dead figs”.

I’ll leave a gap here for thinking.




Then, the analogy Blanchot goes on to make is very close to my heart.
Two Versions of the Imaginary

I am glad to have read this paragraph. It cleanly makes sense of the feeling of the figure and ground I often have in mind and which is present in a lot of my work, and happily shakes out the questionable phrase “art is anything with a frame around it”, which I’ve used and heard people using to explain the differentiation with which art asserts itself from the stuff around it.

But what interests me specifically about his analogy is the resonance of the used utensil in the things I make, and that are beginning to appear in my writing. And I think it’s in the structure of my writing. Lately I am wanting to approach a thing and back down, and try again from another point, approach, and turn around, and never quite reach the thing. It’s the practice of quietening things and words to the point that they almost cease to refer altogether – which is something I’ve worked in for a long time, but I think more recently I’m making it happen on the level of discourse rather than inside the words themselves.