… he enters into communication with the force, brilliance, and joyful mastery of a power that is essentially the power of beginning, which is also to say, of a beginning-again …
This is from the essay ‘The Birth of Art’ found in the collection, Friendship by Maurice Blanchot (1997):
… everything seems to indicate that man retained a memory of distress and horror of his first steps into humanity. Everything forces us to think that latent man always felt himself infinitely weak in everything that made him powerful, either because he sensed the essential lack — which alone enabled him to become something completely other — or because, in becoming other, he experienced as a mistake everything that led him to fail what we call nature. This void separating him and the natural community is, it seems, what revealed destruction and death to him, but he also learned, not without pain or misgiving, to use this void: to make use of and deepen his weakness in order to become stronger.
[line break added to make this easier to read online] The prohibitions, which Georges Bataille assumes man used to draw a circle around human possibility from the very beginning — sexual prohibitions, prohibitions about death, and murder — are there as barriers preventing the being who goes beyond himself from coming back, in order to force him to continue along the dangerous, doubtful path, a dead-end more or less, and thus to protect all forms of activity that are tedious and against nature, and that have taken their final form in work and through work.
[ … ]
… Another transgression is called for, a transgression that is itself ruled, limited, but open as if resolute; one in which in an instant — the time of difference — the prohibitions are violated, the gap between man and his origin is put into question once again and in some sense recovered, explored, and experienced: a prodigious contact with all of anterior reality (and first with animal reality) and thus a return to the first immensity …
… There is something joyful, strong, and yet disconcerting in this thought: that man does not become a man through all that is human in him, strictly speaking, and through what distinguishes him from other living beings; but only when he feels confident enough in his differences to grant himself the ambiguous power of seeming to break away from them and of glorifying himself, not in his prodigious acquisitions but rather by relinquishing these acquisitions, by holding them, and, alas, by expiating them — it is true, also by overcoming them.
… what is indeed a beginning at Lascaux is the beginning of an art, the beginnings of which, let it be said, lose themselves in the night of all ages.
… Art is intimately associated with the origin, which is itself always brought back to the non-origin; art explores, asserts, gives rise to — through a contact that shatters all acquired form — what is essentially before; what is, without yet being. And at the same time it is ahead of all that has been, it is the promise kept in advance, the youth of what is always beginning and only beginning. Nothing can prove that art began at the same time as man; on the contrary, everything indicates that there was a significant lapse in time. However, the first great moments of art suggest that man has contact with his own beginning — is the initial affirmation of himself, the expression of his own novelty — only when, by the means and methods of art, he enters into communication with the force, brilliance, and joyful mastery of a power that is essentially the power of beginning, which is also to say, of a beginning-again that is always prior.