‘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
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
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,
you are opening a map.
This map that you see,
in the back of your eyes
does not have any backdrop
nothing to make sense of it for now.
Here, in between these lines
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.
you only see space
and you think :
it could be space from today,
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
to understand this a bit better,
you go back further to the 2nd century,
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
of coordinates according to the system he developed.
when you look at this index
that you see
you don’t know yet if you trust it
and when you,
when you have, in the back of your eyes :
and when you,
when you see
dividing your sight in squares
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
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
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
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
Where I want you now to be with me
Places I always visit when I’m around
Places I keep going to
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 :
practical knowledge and bricolage,
old fashion images,
cheesy dog names,
post breakup obsessions,
feasible fantasies, ...
And that is 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
You would draw — Imagine this.
Diagrams from the hearsay
Tracing from the back of your hand
Superimposed with those you came across
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. »