Maintenant: Seeing the Untouchable, Touching the Unseen

We can say . . . of time . . . that it is the whole of relations.
—Gilles Deleuze (1986, 10)

A cinematic screen is filled with the image of my hands conducting, caught from above and behind my left shoulder. The motion and the touch of my hands captivate as they reach out into the blackness of empty space to make visible the materiality of sound as I sculpt and shape the evolving music. The image of sculptor Joël Prévost’s hands appear deeply immersed in the sensuality of their touch as his fingers probe what lies hidden beneath the surface of his clay. It is an unexpected pairing—music and sculpture—yet, centre stage at a slightly forward angle, Prévost’s finished sculpture of my hands, suspended in motion, draws the images together. Its form as sculpture speaks to the fleetingness of the unfolding moment and its longevity as a present grasped. The play between the sculpture and the images, the fleetingness and the grasping, points to the image of the hand that holds time embodied in the roots of the French word for now, main-tenant. This exposition explores the transformational power of the moment in all its temporal complexity.

The project stems from the long-standing gap between knowledge about music and that garnered through its embodied experience in the moment. Driven by a definition of music as a temporal art, the gap has framed listening as a function of the ear alone. Deleuze (2004, 73), however, argues “even in the joining of sensations . . . there is resonance.” Hearing has a tactile dimension. Touch is also a movement, a gesture through which one situates or places oneself in relationship to an evolving whole; and, as both a touching and being touched by, it “necessarily constitute[s] couplings of sensation. . . . [that] produce resonance” (ibid., 66). Prévost’s sculpture of my hands, made while I conducted, allowed me to cultivate these relationships and marry my own touch and hearing to the tactility of the sculpting clay to make visible the thought—the grasping—that had been hitherto hidden in my gestures.

These couplings also make tangible the “invisible,” “insensible,” “dark precursor” that precipitates the paradigmatic transformations of sudden flashes of creative insight. As in a developing variation, the multi-sensory, temporal, and spatial possibilities of film are used in combination with the sculpture onstage continually to “look again,” each time from a different perspective. Enhanced through a kinaesthetic memory invoked by my (live) voice, the ensuing rub of sight, sound, motion, stillness, past and present, spawns the echoes from which Michel Serres (1995, 119) argues time itself is born. My hands are constantly “re-membered,” as echoes, many “unheard” and seemingly without a past, become an opening to the future. Time itself is set in motion and sound renews Deleuze’s concept of touch. The exposition unfolds around Pászti Miklòs’s Fekete Lány and is based on a poem by Federico García Lorca originally “found” through gestures of the hand.

Web: eleanorstubley.com; joelaprevost.com

References

Brunner, Christopher. 2013. “Affective Timing and Non-sensuous Perception in Differential Media,” Simondon and Digital Culture Conference, Leuphana University.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 2004. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Serres, Michel. 1995. Genesis. Translated by Geneviève James and James Nielson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.