A continuous present, beginning again and again, with tenses such as past and future.
Is there a time you can’t look back on?
I would like you to walk in the space with me, for a minute, as an introduction for listening. Enough time for you to scan the space, its size in relation to yours, and experience distancing bodies in various arrangements. Register the shape of the room, its moving light and flows of air, circulating between you all. The withdrawal and release of space around you as you walk: safe spaces, borrowed from common space.
I invite you to eventually find a sitting position in the space — walk, look for a location from which you wish to attend to it, sitting down.
(once everyone is sitting)
Remember the space you just scanned.
Visualize it, eyes open. Try to see yourself at a distance, in this space ; think about the location you chose to attend to this space, in regards to this place in this building, in these fields.
The mandatory spaces, between your body and the other bodies.
And the kind of shape it could make when seen from afar.
Realize how your own body enters in contact with the floor : the contact points, the spaces, between you and the floor, and the way the folds of your clothes change when you breathe.
When you breathe.
— from small breaths to deeper breaths (X2).
And how all this air breathing, all this air, flowing down your throat, down to your lungs.
This — makes you feel slightly dizzy.
From small breaths to deeper breaths, makes your head spinning, maybe.
And you wonder : how is it that I’m breathing, regularly, without thinking about it?
And while you realize it,
you breathe, regardless.
And yet you're still breathing. Perhaps more irregularly, now that you are thinking about it. And you wonder again : how does thinking about something that I usually do without thinking about it make me do it differently?
You always did: maybe you remember other moments in the past when you were so conscious about what seemed to be taken for granted. But perhaps you also remember the moments when you were not — or preferred not to.
Like moments of blinking your eyes.
Or moments when you raise your eyebrows with contempt while listening to someone, moments when you swallow your saliva, and you notice it hurts your throat and pressures your ears in a sound that resembles a click.
All kinds of things that you could
cope without yet still do.
From small breaths to deeper breaths, this kind of breathing, raising, swallowing, pressuring ; this really makes your head spinning. Not just like all the things that you do in a repeated way ; but things that you used to do without being so conscious about them. All these things that got granted value now through this text and you do with being so conscious about them.
Because variation only exists within a multitude of repetitions — just like when you pick a word and repeat it mentally, until it’s not the word anymore : you exhaust meaning until it’s only sound, until its only sound — spinning around in your head, spinning.
And it’s not that the word changes. But you, that has changed, hearing and saying words in a different way. Let's imagine this applies to people and descriptions, that the more you meet and see and get used to, it’s not the thing that changes but you instead, who recombine them in a different way. Moonlighting, undercover, undeclared labor that changes you over time.
« Everything is the same except composition
and as the composition is different,
and always going to be different,
everything is not the same »1
This, is a sentence I remember having read for someone.
Do you remember ever having read for someone, as I once did for someone ?
And I don’t mean voicing words for someone, like I am reading for you now.
But instead :
I mean reading for yourself without that someone knowing that you do.
And you, reading secretly, regardless.
Reading for someone, to make the space between you thinner and thinner.
To fill in the mandatory spaces.
Reading someone else’s books to feel that the space between you two is reduced to that of a page. Reduced to the thickness of the paper, the page vibrating with the sound of your voice, and if one would look carefully, sense carefully enough, one would feel the paper vibrating with the tip of a finger. One would then touch the sound of someone else’s voice. Caress the tip of its modulations, feel the rugged grain of someone else's voice.
Sharing words and voices brings you virtually close on the space of the same page.
Reading words that someone else once read,
reading words to urge someone else to read :
the two of you reading words to hear what the two of you read ; same but differently.
Did you ever read for someone to get that someone better : to own them, to become them? Reading for you out loud with their voice as your head’s voice. Without that someone knowing that you do, of course. Privatizing someone: one might think that one should be able to own someone else's voice, provided that one knows it well enough. Its inflections, modulations, pitch and tones, accents : beyond imitation, you can be someone else for yourself.
And then you might read for someone with someone else’s voice, reading in your head: as it could be this person with your head’s voice, reading for you as you read for someone else. Gazing at the space of the page, your reflected sight triggers someone else’s voice as in a one-way mirror. Kind of a love triangle. Warped geometrics without any of these someone really involved.
It’s all in your head, it's all for yourself.
Think of it as visiting a place where someone else has lived with the hope that you may have stepped where this person once stepped, touched the handle of a door this person may have touched in their life. Touching the clothes that someone once wore. Breathing the same air as this person once did.
Geometrics of a never straight line, but instead, a triangle : your gaze bounces two times and finally comes back at you. You imagine the kind of diagram it could make when seen from afar.
And through these shared experiences, there would be a connection, a hyper-link through time, diverted rays on reflective surfaces that only you would capture. An invisible, hyper-space through which both of you met: that is for sure – both of you touched each other, knew each other, a little, via proxy, but only you remember.
Who do you think stepped and perhaps sat down on the floor before you do?
Who do you think breathed the same air before you do?
Close your eyes.
Now, it’s night. Your eyes are closed, and you imagine it’s the night. You imagine you immediately fell asleep when I started reading, and you are only waking up now at night. You must be picturing this place at night, while keeping your eyes closed.
Dark, silent, empty.
But the same air, same sound, same smells.
"And in the night, everything has disappeared.
But when everything has disappeared in the night,
“everything that has disappeared”, appears.
And this is the other night.
Night is the apparition
of everything that has disappeared."2
You open your eyes slowly, and you visualize this space, at night. You remember yourself, describing the room again in your mind. Someone once wrote3 that "describing something is like using it — it destroys ; the colors wear off, the corners lose their definition, and in the end what’s been described begins to fade, to disappear". "The truth is terrible", this person writes, "describing is destroying".
Once seen, it disappears, once owned it’s on the wane
— find for yourself: things, details, sounds, lights, even.
Find what for you, what the night now made visible in this room. It's not people, places, and memories – but abstractions : debris of history stacking up, abstractions we call myth.
Imagine you're opening a book by night, pitch dark night. This book could contain any text. And it’d be written in any language: prose, or verses. It’s just a small object, it’s not about the text : it’s not about the words that are shapeless, unreadable, probably owned by so many readers already they all got worn, and lost mean meaning — It’s all in your head, it's all for yourself.
And you’re not reading.
Well, not reading from your eyes.
You try to read that space as you would read that book : visualize it, evaluate its properties, all what’s possible to do with it.
Thick or thin pages.
Textured, slick, glossy paper.
You read that book through your fingers : through what you can guess while touching in the night.
It was believed in the middle ages, that eyes could see by way of sending beams of light, touching reality at a distance. Like a blind person, with a stick.
To see and to possess, is Orpheus myth, bringing back Eurydice from the dead. Some write that it’s the birth of the artistic gesture: the disappearance of the real object causes the poetic image to appear. Others4 write on the same myth that some people's speech is at the expense of others' silence.
Gliding over the black haze, your sight-beams hover around. What’s invisible you cannot touch. Feel your eyes, sending sight-beams through the night : pressuring your ears, raising your eyebrows. And with it, sense the aftershock: debris peeling off the wall at the action of your gaze, their disappearance, nameless shapes sinking in darkness upon your touch.
Feel the distance, interpret the feedback between the surface of your eye and what you caress at a distance : the slow peeling layers of the wall, screens you can see through. Feel their material softening as you rub, as you describe — unsharpening edges on the action of your gaze, leaving a soft trail as dim record of your looks.
There should be link through time, now, with you and the room, as we talked about before : a surface, a face, an object. In the room, a surface where someone else’s look might have fallen upon : a stray bullet, a weak looking-cue, a glance sent by someone in the past, waiting to be gleaned among the debris. The impact of a look, traveling through time, left in order to be returned:
and there would be a connection between you two.
Where both of your looks — Meeting halfway — Touched each other — Through time
Looking at each other, without seeing each other. Like scrawlings on tree trunks, soon you'll be obsessed with these marks of people’s passing presence on the walls and your imaginary intimacy with unknowns.
Did this ever happen to you?
Maybe it did, and you simply don't know.
Maybe someone looked at you through time, by looking exactly where you once did.
In turn, you could access some kind of past, looking where someone looked before.
Perhaps no one ever looked there, no one caressed that place with their eyes before.
And you would be the first, sending a look from the past.
A look sent to the future, a look that could not be given back; and if it could, you wouldn’t know. But you take the risk : you touch this precise place — you touch with your eyes, you look.
And doing that, you read what happened there, or what is going to happen. Or, you inform the future of what happened, what happened when you looked. A continuous present, beginning again and again, with tenses such as past and future.
And the difference is so thin
It’s like seeing a ruin
You don’t know if it means past of a place
Or the future of a place.
One must be able to mentally own a space and its characteristics if one were able to revive and brighten its impressions, emulate a place and time. Looking right through the place where someone else has looked, time stopped still ; one should be able to mentally own such place, grasp all its informalities — Once it’s owned, it already leaves you, should you describe it carefully, and slowly lose your investment.
If you have a place in mind that you own it that way
If you have a place in mind that you can read that way
You slowly describe it, use it, from memory.
Use its : shapes,
flows of air
and ambient sound
A place of your own
And you see yourself lying in the middle of that place
It’s a nice afternoon
You are breathing with a clear mind
And you open your eyes
1 Gertrude Stein: Writings and Lectures 1909-1945. ed. Patricia Meyerowitz, Baltimore: Penguin, 1967.
2 Maurice Blanchot : The Space of Literature. Lincoln; London: University of Nebraska Press, 2010.
3 Olga Tokarczuk : Flights. London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2019.
4 Lynne Huffer : "Blanchot's Mother", in Yale French Studies, No. 93 : Yale University Press, 1998.