Unreal Nature

October 10, 2019

The Hollow of Its Entire Volume

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:02 am

… it warns the spectator of the opening in himself of a similar absence.

This is from Portrait by Jean-Luc Nancy, translated by Sarah Clift and Simon Sparks (2018):

… In the portrait, in its portrait — in its “proper” portrait (an expression that could not be more ambiguous) — the other withdraws. The other withdraws in showing itself; it makes a retreat within its very expression. The portrayed other is also the withdrawn other. Consequently, the other who is recognized — if resemblance is the same as recognition — is also the other who becomes more unknown than before this recognition. He is more unknown because he is withdrawn in his alterity. But this retreat reveals the mystery of this alterity: it does not unveil the mystery but rather reveals that it is a matter of a mystery — and that there is no question of dispelling it.

… in some way every portrait functions like a death mask: it converts the absence of the person who is present into the presence of the person who is absent. There is the presence of a mask here, more than there is a masked presence; that is, at issue here is a presence that recovers nothing and expresses nothing but the hollow of its entire volume. A parallel demonstration is ipso facto given an imposing weight: it warns the spectator of the opening in himself of a similar absence.

The other withdraws into the abyss of its portrait — and it is in me that the echo of this retreat resonates.

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




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