‘How is it that you are how you are when you tell yourself out’

A performative lecture, essay talk.



June 25th, 2020, in Brussels, Belgium







(scroll down)

































 How is it that you are how you are when you tell yourself out ?















Please, relax your back in your seat,

and take a position that allows you to scroll on this page

while listening to my voice.














take a comfortable position

for the time we will spend together


















are sitting















you are sitting

in a room,
















staring at a computer,














looking up at the sky,

while scrolling down the page
















relaxing your neck,















 relaxing your shoulders,














 keeping your eyes wide open in the dark,















 and mentally,














 mentally only,
















you are opening a map.

















This map that you see,


in the back of your eyes















does not have any backdrop

 — nothing
















nothing to make sense of it for now.















Here, in between these lines

















you see,

you only see space,

and you come to realise it

when you realise how small

these white spots are, and how far you

are sitting from them, looking at a dark screen.











But here,

you only see space
















 and you think :



it could be space from today,


or space

from years

and years ago















 and me, I think that


you see space, from the 11th century.


















because we start with a book entitled

On the Light of the Moon and The Shape of the Eclipse.


















but this book, it is not really a book,

it’s a treatise















that you should see (imagine)






in the back of your eyes













Take it as a map, for now.











it takes place in that very space, that you are looking at.

space, from the eleventh century, a black curved canvas, sprinkled with stars.












while it explains why we see the moon, shining in the middle of the night,
















and why its shapes changes over time and place
















and why, on earth, we have a different access to things
















and why, as people, we have a different knowledge of things

















it is written by the Arab scholar Ibn Al Haytham.

















mind — that the shape changes,

and with it the knowledge that you have of it

it changes not because of you,


who stay still,


when the moon turns around around you

but because of everything, everything

that turns around and reconfigures,
















and you, you stay still
















   — with that map,


that you imagine,

in your mind

in the back

of your eyes


   — you are part of this

















and this book, this treatise

it reads that :




« We can see and therefore know something inasmuch this object emits light and allows us to access it. »

(repeat it, one time, two times)













 and there are of course so many things that we don’t know


we don’t know how to see

we don’t know where this light comes from

we don’t know — if we should trust — what we see

and we don’t know — if we know — because we see








and you,
















to understand this a bit better,















you go back further to the 2nd century,















in 120AD,















when Ptolemy, the famous greek polymath

published a study on cartography

and you mostly remember the maps he has drawn.

















if he ever produced maps in his lifetime














because none has survived









only copies, interpretations,







like this one, that you see, of the Mediterranean sea.











And if we are today to see this map,

that maybe is not his,

it is only because he has written a book.




With all the data relative to all the places located on this map

that is not his




And this consists basically of

an index,

an archive,

a list,

a register

of coordinates according to the system he developed.











and you,

when you,

when you look at this index

that you see

you don’t know yet if you trust it


not yet,


and when you,


 when you have, in the back of your eyes :






 and when you,


when you see

imaginary lines,

dividing your sight in squares


you just,


you just think about space,

and how you stand in it.



And when you,
when you think
about this map,
this lost map,
that you see.



mother of all maps

 that no one has ever seen

you just think about this map, and yours,

and all the maps that you have seen before

Now I say :

It’s a metaphor of the discrete and the continuous .  .  the discrete would be isolated samples, points on a map .  . 
A grasp from the real, dots sitting next to each other on a piece of paper  .  .   The continuous would be that imaginary line passing through the points on the graph .  .  A statistical fantasy wearing a linear and unified graphic form .  . In a sense, if the discrete is the real, it’s all the samples, individuals  .  .  private experiences, beings in the world and all the bearings that we have from reality . . The continuous is a fiction, drawing between the dots: it’s art, fiction, ideology, all that incorporates, melts and crushes chunks of reality .  . In a speculative line that weave samples together and try to make sense of them,





seen from above



And then you think :

What about the dots ?




Dots on a map : private individuals caught in crossing lines




And as you stand in the middle of it, in the back of your eye, you see



The sea line that connects the harbors on the shore

Straight railroads passing through continents

Stock market wet dreams

Borders drawn on a blank map

City names from a distant past

Relatives from a distant place

Star pins on google maps




And then you go back

to yourself

in your mind,


you go back

to Ibn Al Haytham

and the eclipse of the moon.



And after all what's so so missing

is the We

that is not on the map








We don’t know how to see

We don’t know where this light comes from

We don’t know if we should trust what we see

And we don’t know if we know because we see

We don’t know through whose eyes we see






And you think about :


Whats so difficult to put on a map — it’s like

the line of an argument

that I will never know how to straighten

it’s like a mountain road.

that takes tangents, shortcuts,

u-turns and détours.

spatial metaphors to explain yourself out

you know how to move yourself out

but not how to speak


And —


for you to tell yourself, you think of an index. Index of informality, repository of oral histories. An index, for you to make a map, to weave and stitch words dots on a page, a constellation behind your forehead that’s a cosmos in the back of your eye a cosmos for you to tell yourself.





What I share with you,

that you share again,

eventually comes back.

Filtered and refined.

Appropriated and adapted -

the I became a you and the we became a them.

The discrete becomes continuous

Interchangeable, contaminated

because we tend to speak, to chat, to gossip

to assemble bits and pieces of discarded things.

Hearsays, rumors, all that is left, so precious.

And then, this spreads along my horizon.

Like a thin line, where ends meet.

Where everything falls in place.



But you don’t know how to see

you don’t see where what you know comes from

you don’t know if we should trust what you know

and you don’t know who told you what you know

and you think, with clear sight

With whose blood were my eyes crafted, she said.



Places I went to, with others

than you

Where I want you now to be with me

Places I always visit when I’m around

Places I keep going to


To verify

Places as meeting points,

for one with oneself

It’s almost like





Before my eyes

And attending to them,

Them changing with me

like those with whom I came along




If I were to tell myself out,

I would start by low-key personality aspects :


childhood rememberings,

practical knowledge and bricolage,

local sayings,

inherited know-how,

familiar places,

old fashion images,

regional accents,

cheesy dog names,

random hobbys,

outdated sayings,

affective interests,

post breakup obsessions,

affordable lovers,

feasible fantasies, ...



 And that is so little

So little

So little for you to know

And you think — well,

It’s just a bridge too far

But after all I guess

that’s how one would locate oneself in the world.


And this is really funny because it reminds me this Paul Thek etching, a series of etchings where he was very confused to draw in reverse on the plate.




that’s how one would locate oneself in the world.

And that is the least that one has,

ensembles of informal knowledge

That altogether join, inelegantly

As they shift and reshape,

adjust and reconfigure

A precarious constellation

That’s not seeking accuracy, precision or exactitude.

It’s like a state of affairs,

that is always too late.

Too late for a home to be found anew

Informal remnants betray you while you speak

Slang, argot, workers’ jargon, queer languages

A handful of clues, stolen from some, contaminate others.





The words that I use that you heard me using

The words that I used to use and you started using

The words that I no longer use because you made them yours

Is this constellation I have been expelled from

A part of me that I can’t use



And you

You would draw — Imagine this.

Diagrams from the hearsay

Tracing from the back of your hand

Superimposed with those you came across

contaminated kinships

And you would see patterns that assemble, Archipelagoes.

Not really islands, nor yet to be continents.

Just your own hard core

Islands that stand as attempts

For pretending while finding back

Yourself and your peers, brothers and sisters

And at some point you all assemble, in bigger lands

And that's so nice, because finally,

Finally you don’t discern your own island anymore

but instead you just swap and exchange,

And you found home, emerged from the sea



 By the signs I have sent

By the words I have used

By the thoughts I have had

Why not you being me and me being you

For a second we split, join or swap

And when one hears my words in your mouth

No one could tell a difference

And these bearings spread and proliferate

In a form of contamination,

images that we are all familiar with

- What were you born too late for ?



But there’s still a thing

That you should get

It’s why such lands

Should appear on a map,

It’s just because making them visible

Make them count, it puts yourself out there

Vulnerable, shedding light on

Assembly and contamination

When it’s all about

Me myself and I

And as you were just about to trace,

and trace back not to the homogeneous and the similar

not to the known or the familiar,

Tirelessly tracing instead that opaque link

that joints these islands together

Continuous and discrete, again




I wish then that, that black light you mentioned   Would really exist   It would reveal, like a crime scene   All the traces I have erased   I’d be ashamed of course, for you to see   That your own map is partly mine   Superimposed and so so visible   All the traces I have erased   Trying to write them only for me   Because of course   Writing over does not erase   It just sums up,   It make these maps always heavier   Traces more visible, in their invisible


And perhaps it’s not about tracing   But revealing what was there, piling up   Sediment and replicate   In the back or your eye   And you remember the light of the moon   And the shape of the eclipse   It’s a matter of how you move   Up or down, sidestep and reveal   That you might see   through the layers   what you just have been taught not to see   Archipelagoes floating on seas



« All the images will disappear.» Annie Ernaux writes,

—the images, real or imaginary, that follow us all the way to sleep —the images of a moment, bathed in a light that is theirs alone. They will vanish all at the same time, like the millions of images that lay behind the foreheads of the grandparents, dead for half a century, and of the parents, also dead. Images in which we appeared as a little girl in the midst of beings who died before we were born, just as in our own memories our small children are there next to our parents and schoolmates. And one day we’ll appear in our children’s memories, among their grandchildren and people not yet born. Like sexual desire, memory never stops. It pairs the dead with the living, real with imaginary beings, dreams with history. Thousands of words will suddenly be deleted, the ones that were used to name things, faces, acts and feelings, to put the world in order, make the heart beat —dreadful sentences one should have forgotten, more tenacious than others due to the effort expended to suppress them—outdated expressions, heard again by chance, suddenly precious as objects lost and found again, and you wonder how they’ve been saved[...] Everything will be erased in a second. The dictionary of words amassed between cradle and deathbed, eliminated. All there will be is silence and no words to say it. Nothing will come out of the open mouth, neither I nor me. Language will continue to put the world into words. In conversation around a holiday table, we will be nothing but a first name, increasingly faceless, until we vanish into the vast anonymity of a distant generation. »