Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The artist paints his desire, paints himself desiring, torn apart, happy to be torn. He paints the desire to paint inasmuch as this desire is the subject to be painted par excellence, the inimitable subject of painting, absolutely. As if painting itself were something like desire: less desirable than desiring (and as such, infinitely heartbreaking - and desirable). What is painted here is representation as desire: not the desire to represent, but the representation itself, the painting, the image itself as desire.

It is as if the image were no longer the result of the product of a desire to paint, not representation achieved, but just a desire. An image-desire, which would thus no longer be an image-representation. (Which would imply, perhaps, that the desire is no longer to be constructed upon the representation of its object...) Just a desire, just the desire "itself," which no longer longs to render something present, or to render the presence of something - and consequently, to represent something - but which longs to desire. Desire that is, in and of itself, already pleasure: the pleasure, heartrending and happy, of going endlessly toward pleasure, of coming to pleasure, and not of having reached it. Something, thus, which would resemble the "fore-pleasure" that Freud considers to be the order proper of aesthetic pleasure - in art as in sex - which is none other than the pleasure of desire, and which remains, as he confesses, so mysterious to him. (He discovers it for the first time in his work on jokes, in the region of laughter: in fact, laughter is, for him, the first form assumed by "fore-pleasure.")

The desire to paint is the desire to paint endlessly. It is not the urge to conquer an image and to enjoy it, but it infinitely longs to not cease to be, to come into the coming of the image. It is the imagination, but in a sense that strips from this word all undertones of representation. It is the imagination of becoming-image: not to become an image, but to be the image that comes, inasmuch as it comes, to be the very plasticity of its fictioning - of its modeling. That is to say, the emergence of the visible as visible, the place, the time, and the gesture of light as it mixes with the birth of the forms it illuminates - like the moon, here, with the dance of a shadow. It is the desire to become, not the appearance, but the apparition, not the phenomenon, but the phenomenonalization, its phainestai. It is the desire to become the "surprise" that the poem presents as the essence of sublime beauty - the surprise that the woman is, that surprises the artist, that disconcerts his art, but in which his whole art becomes one of letting oneself be caught.

The desire to paint becomes arts' desire to let itself be surprised - surprised by a painting that will not have been executed as a canvas, but which will have come from the depths of the visible. A painting come from the depths of painting, from a place where nothing is painted, but where everything is in the process of blooming into the miracle of its own apparition. The place and the moment of this surprise are, here, those of laughter.

In this laughter, the presence (of the woman, of the artist, of beauty) desires itself in its surprising apparition - and surprises itself in its coming to presence. The woman's face is painted inasmuch as it does not compose a face but surprises itself, is the visibility outside itself where all faces (and their desire and their pleasure) burst. What is painted is the pleasure of painting, which surprises and disconcerts, which foils all desire for representation. Perhaps the painting of this laughter - this laughter of the painting - is nothing but the rendering in an image (in a poem) of these lines by Diderot: "What torture for the painter is the human face, the stirring canvas that moves, stretches, relaxes, becomes flushed or somber, in keeping with the infinite changing of that light and mobile spirit we call the soul! ... Does a woman have the same complexion in the expectation of pleasure, in its arms, coming out of its arms? Oh, my friend, what an art is that of painting!" ("Essai sur la peinture"). The soul of pleasure, the soul as pleasure, is what desires itself here, what imagines itself unimaginable, and laughs.

... The Birth To Presence, Nancy Jean-Luc

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