“Why if anyone were to ask me today what virtue I consider the finest, I should answer without hesitation – honesty. Oh Laura! I should like all my life long, at the very smallest shock, to ring true, with a pure authentic sound. Nearly all the people I have known ring false. To be worth exactly what one seems to be worth – not to try to seem to be worth more.”
-Andre Gide, The Counterfeiters, p.201
“Even though I have been out of psychiatric hospital for two years, I am still a missing person for the public who have heard of me. I am neither alive nor dead and, though I have not been buried, I am ‘bodiless’. I am simply missing, which was Foucault’s splendid definition of madness. In contrast with someone who has died and whose death marks the end of the life of an individual who is then buried, a missing person runs the curious risk of reappearing large as life (as happened in my case). . It is important to recognize – and can be observed everyday – that the peculiar status of a missing person who may reappear gives rise to a sense of unease and disquiet in relation to him.”
-Louis Althusser, The Future Lasts a Long Time, p.23
Honesty is a nice idea, but it is only a metaphor connecting us to the subject-supposed-to-know, and what that subject should know is the necessity of honor, of appearance, to be clothed and adorned with honor. Fidelity is more honest than the honest. We might say that it functions metonymically, rather than metaphorically, since the lossy metonym manages to carry on in plain sight of a loss of fullness. Fidelity is action rather than identity or vestment, and can pass through holes in knowledge that would appear to the honest man as an impasse. Fidelity, outside of the totalitarian demand for honesty in the sight of the law means the right to count exactly what we do not own as much as what we do, to think and to talk about our problems, and to undertake serious research in the manner of universal education: to come to know something, and attempt to relate it to everything else.
If in recent work, the subjective relation to the objective conditions of scarcity of materials was organized around having something that one shouldn’t – organized that is, around the minimal condition of illegality, this current exhibition continues to address the same problem by not having something that it should: complete knowledge of the meaning of the exhibition. In a famous photograph of French philosopher Louis Althusser, the subject stands in front of a chalkboard, cigarette dangling from his mouth, his hand still hovering over the completion of the phrase that would become the title of his autobiography, L’avenir dure longtemps while he turns to face the camera. Partially obscured by his body is a diagram. Having exhausted friends and acquaintances in search of the meaning of this diagram and coming up empty, this diagram becomes the unknown that generates all operations in the current show.
Having built exhibitions in relation to the necessity of abstraction over the past five years, while recently seeing so many appeals to abstraction or formalization newly carried out in the visual arts that amount to no more than reified contents taking on the clothing of the productive force of a formalization, it becomes necessary to alienate abstraction from the figurations that have accreted to it, allowing abstraction again to do the work of the Figure rather than figuration. That is, to insist once again that the abstract machine operates by matter, not by substance, by function not by form. Functions are not yet “semiotically” formed, and matters are not yet “physically” formed. The abstract machine forms a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. Thus it is important to say that the exhibition is not organized around the artist’s subjective not-knowing (who cares if the artist is honest about that kind of thing or not?) but around the forms of activity that are possible on the edges of the hole produced by a truth as it comes to rupture the previous settlement of knowledge.
Is it possible (if there is still any place at all for considerations of language in visual art) for writing itself to function at the level of the real, can the real materially write in a manual space, a space of heterogeneity prior to the attainment of forms of expression or content? Such a language would have to abandon its relation to the forms of value which constitute such meanings, in favor of operating as a language without backing, without coverage. Our sense of the continuing bifurcation of sculpture – between architecture and the readymade, or the built environment and epistemology – means that we might borrow Serge Daney’s description of cinema in saying that it no longer has any specificity other than to receive images that were not made for it. It might, that is, be asked to work outside of the logic of recognition – a pragmatics that is no longer a case of producing a new image, or a new image-regime, but producing the limit-experience of the image as such: not where the image ends, but in the immanence of the image – where it begins.
“One final word: I hope that those who think they know more or have more to say will not be afraid to do so. They can only help me live.”
-Louis Althusser, The Future Lasts a Long Time, p.286