Memory’s Wound Is a Space With-in Me. To Rethink the Crystalline with the Humane, to Rethink Abstraction with Depth
“If there is a modern age, it is, of course, the age of the cosmic” say Deleuze and Guattari. “The assemblage no longer confronts the forces of chaos, it no longer uses the forces of the earth or the people to deepen itself but instead opens onto the forces of the Cosmos.” The essential relation is no longer matter-forms but material-forces. The material is a molecularised matter that “harness[es]” forces, and the forces to be harnessed are “no longer those of the earth, which still constitute a great expressive Form, but the forces of an immaterial, nonformal, and energetic Cosmos. . . . When forces become necessarily cosmic, material becomes necessarily molecular, with enormous force operating in an infinitesimal space. . . . We thus leave behind the assemblages to enter the …plan of cosmicization of forces to be harnessed. . . . How does Paul Klee present this last movement, which is … a cosmic ‘breakaway’? And why so enormous a word, Cosmos …? Klee says that one ‘tries convulsively to fly from the earth,’ and that one ‘rises above it … powered by centrifugal forces that triumph over gravity” (A Thousand Plateaus, 372). The artist turns his attention to crystals, molecules, atoms, and particles, not for scientific conformity, but for immanent movement. Now, different from the abstract of the beginning of the twentieth century, the challenge is to think beyond this abstraction and also beyond the division between abstraction and empathy articulated by Worringer, and attend the abstract subreal: through working toward compassion—beyond empathy—and beyond the pure abstraction that has rejected the organic and the space of depth.
In this paper I present the meeting between the translucent fore-image and traces of trauma (in my own painting) and link this to the realm of subreality. I will talk about my experience of working a dynamically formed colouring-lighting painting and why I feel that the morphed colours touch memory’s wounds both during the process and within the painting as object. Fore-images arise from ephemeral configurations of vibrating elements that are somehow sensed and even trans-sensed beyond the senses’ capacity. Though the translucent fore-image in the mind is ephemeral and spontaneously appears and fades away, it attests to the realm of subreality where crystalinity addresses the humane and the human shares in it. This means going beyond the cleavage between the crystalline and the humane and rethinking abstraction for today: with the human. “BLACK, / like the memory-wound, / the eyes dig toward you” wrote Paul Celan (in “Schwarz / Black”). The same poet also wrote, however, “WE ALREADY LAY / deep in the underbrush, when you / finally crept along. / But we could not / darken over toward you: / there reigned / lightduress” (in “Wir lagen / We already lay”). Still humanising, always humanising—like Eurydice, the erotic antennae of the psyche is searching for a light—a sign of possibility for being-toward-life. Is it possible to work through art toward a being-toward-birth in a world that massively enjoys its own Death-drive? We can look in the pain’s eye and connect to the sorrow of the other and to the wounds of its oblivion by fragilising our own self. Beauty is one of the names of the transformation of trauma in the space opened by affective trans-sensing, when the memory of oblivion emerges and takes shape as abstract research meets the traces of trauma. In Abstraction and Empathy, Wilhelm Worringer writes that the dimension of empathy must vanish from the sphere of abstraction in the visual creation. He presents a split between empathy that concerns the human, and abstraction that concerns the inanimate. For me it was crucial to invent abstraction that relates to the human and to move from empathy toward compassion. When the abstract meets the wound’s traces in order to affect them, it is possible to think of beauty-with-sublimity and overcome the split between the human and the crystalline, at a level that I have named “subreality.” When the painting reverberates the subreal strings it transports and transmits and humanises its knowledge. The same space that carries us, rocks us, and puts us to sleep (and I paraphrase here Bachelard who speaks about water), the same space that can be a matter of despair, is also what gives us back our mother, the one who according to Celan is looking for some grains of light. My presentation is based on two earlier papers, “The Art-and-Healing Oeuvre” (2005) and “Translucent Fore-images: Glowing through Painting” (2017).