Unreal Nature

November 29, 2015

Disappearing in Its Use

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… each living man, really, does not yet have any resemblance.

This is from the essay ‘Two Versions of the Imaginary’ found in The Gaze of Orpheus and other essays by Maurice Blanchot, translated by Lydia Davis (1981):

… The fortunate thing about the image is that it is a limit next to the indefinite. A thin ring, but one which does not keep us at such a remove. Through it, that remove is available to us.

… when we confront things themselves, if we stare at a face, a corner of a room, doesn’t it also sometimes happen that we abandon ourselves to what we see, that we are at its mercy, powerless before this presence that is suddenly strangely mute and passive?

… Here the distancing is at the heart of the thing. The thing was there, we grasped it in the living motion of a comprehensive action — and once it has become an image it instantly becomes ungraspable, noncontemporary, impassive, not the same thing distanced, but that thing as distancing, the present thing in its absence.

… Nevertheless, doesn’t the reflection always seem more spiritual than the object reflected? Isn’t it the ideal expression of that object, its presence freed of existence, its form without matter? And artists who exile themselves in the illusion of images, isn’t their task to idealize beings, to elevate them to their disembodied resemblance?

… each living man, really, does not yet have any resemblance. Each man, in the rare moments when he shows a similarity to himself, seems to be only more distant, close to a dangerous neutral region, astray in himself, and in some sense his own ghost, already having no other life than that of the return.

By analogy, we can also recall that a utensil, once it has been damaged, becomes its own image (and sometimes an esthetic object: “those outmoded, fragmented, unusable, almost incomprehensible, perverse objects” that André Breton loved). In this case, the utensil, no longer disappearing in its use, appears. … Only what has surrendered itself to the image appears, and everything that appears is, in this sense, imaginary.

… psychoanalysis says that the image, far from leaving us outside of things and making us live in the mode of gratuitous fantasy, seems to surrender us profoundly to ourselves. The image is intimate, because it makes our intimacy an exterior power that we passively submit to: outside of us, in the background motion of the world that the image provokes, the depth of our passion trails along, astray and brilliant.

My most recent previous post from Blanchot’s book is here.

-Julie

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