Volume 16, 2014
Between Yesterday and Tomorrow
Véronique M. Fóti
Neither Pure Nascency nor Mortality: Crossing-Out Absolutes in the Event of Presencing
Since both these readings of Tracing Expression converge on a number of focal issues, namely the diacriticity and creativity of expression, memory, temporality, and the trace, the relation of artistic creation to the proto-artistic creativity of nature, and the elemental or what Toadvine calls “the end of the world,” I enter into dialogue with both interlocutors on these issues.
Given the differential character of expression and the silences that permeate the sedimentation that it draws upon, nothing is replicatively bodied forth by it, and its
spontaneity remains intact. While Lawlor suggests that a fundamental negation is at the core of of manifestation, I call attention to the need to guard against absolutizing the negative or giving it a “secondary positivity.”
I do not think that there is any fundamental tension, for Merleau-Ponty, between nascency and memory, given that sedimentation, as “the trace of the forgotten” remains efficacious as the exigency of a future. The basic character of the trace is not that of a mere residue but is akin to the archē-trace; and the past that it refers to iis immemorial. It is important, in this context, to bear in mind the event- and the field-character of institution.
I do not think that my emphasis on the autonomy of art breaks the contitnuity between art and the proto-artistic creativity of nature. Firstly, Merleau-Ponty’s own
understanding of painting as a “secret science” (which I am critical of) interrogatively addresses, not perceptual configurations, but “wild being” and thus presencing itself, whereas the autonomy I call attention to is not a pure transcendence. Indeed, Merleau-Ponty, in “Cézanne’s Doubt,” stresses that Cézanne’s approach to his work undercuts conceptual dichotomies (such as immanence and transcendence).
As concerns an understanding of non-figurative painting as an initmation of “the end of the world,” understood as a return to the pure elements in a paroxysm of sheer materiality, I voice three reservations. These concern, firstly, any unitary understanding of “world,” secondly a reductive understanding of the primordial elements, and thirdly that there cannot be any genuine art in the absence of perceptual configuration, or in sheer formlessness. Notwithstanding these reservations, however, I am profoundly appreciative of Lawlor’s and Toadvine’s intellectually engaged and perceptive readings of Tracing Expression.