Mr. Josivaldo is in a maximum security prison, he has been detained for over 20 years, and he will never leave, he was sentenced over a hundred years, life imprisonment, it is not a human jail, his sentence will be extended beyond his death, it will be repeated in other instances, in all possible jurisdictions, it will not be prescribed at all, it has no hope – that is the situation of Blank, as he was known there -, Blank slept early and woke up early, he was not a sad man, he was pale as his nickname or sobriquet suggests, Blank seemed to feel nothing, despite having already killed many people, some in his own prison, others in his own cell, his will was tenacious, he could read the signs of time, the signs of people, the clues. The turnover in Blank, in his head, inside his head was his closed mind, or rather, he was not there, he was a free man, free within a 1.50 x 1.50 meter cubicle. In this tiny space he built his incomparable, unequal, assertive, discontinuous freedom, these are not the right words to describe this space, but throughout Blank’s description and his exploits, I will have the chance to qualify the unqualified word of his space – free space anyway, sleepless space, invalidated by any law, beyond convention. Blank turns from side to side, he sees the landscape that does not exist, through a gap on the wall, smaller than a matchbox; he sees a hole in the landscape, a hole in God’s world, Blank has a hole to watch the world through, a hole that has the violence of a tiny concrete body, the concrete inhabits Blank in the same way that Blank inhabits space or concrete – one is in the other intrinsically, absolutely. They communicate in silence to the music of laws, laws of laws, laws that out survives any law, law that wounds time, law that is a wound, wound in the endless skin of time, law that disqualifies any sentence, law, illegible law, law law law law, like a barbed wire fence within the strictest limits, stricter than the laws of Heinrich Himmler, yes these were the laws of Blank, in this little quiet space Blank lived his unconditional world, blankness of a life wrapped in a situation that allowed him no other alternative but to create his own life, because he couldn’t really live there, he would have to create something to support his portentous inner world, support the weight of his own body, which weighed the weight of a life that seeks, not seeks, that begs for meaning to live, one that yells a yes all the time, there was no possibility of not wanting to live, since death was the cement in the wall, death looked at him constantly, death never gave up on him, it was great company, Blank was company for death, however Blank had the fiercest life pulsing inside him, his skin was coated with life, his skin poured out life to dialogue with his own death, Blank had it on his fingertips, Blank had sharp fingers to point when conversing with death, they conversed with Blank in all his blankness, pointing his sharp finger, the sharp point towards the slime on the wall, his cement was green, green slime, moss. Blank didn’t give up, giving up was not possible, Blank’s punishment was having very hard skin, his sentence was to never be able to kill himself – by his own hand -, his body was shielded from himself, Blank could never take his own life, his life did not belong to him, it belonged to another, so Blank faced the space that closed in on him day and night, night and day. Blank survived a war that is yet to be fought, that we do not realize is taking over us, we are entering this war without knowing it, it is silent, cunning, sneaky, symptom of an era, an era without its own time, without its own life, time sought – time for searching.
My god, where will Beatriz be, who is Beatriz, Bia, my Bia, Blank does not think about Beatriz, Beatriz is Blank’s dream, Blank – Beatriz, Blank bank database, bank, Blank sunbathes on a park bench, Blank is alone sunbathing in the square, from there, from his own place, he goes where dreams cannot take him, Blank does not dream, Blank’s dream is a making, he is a victim of making and production. Blank breaks into the armored car of making every single day, stealing its actions from where there is no action to be stolen, it is a robbery without prey, haste less, fruitless, cargo less, product less, result less, the result is theft itself, only in the fruitless result does the robbery interest Blank, Blank is accused of stealing the only thing that commutes an unprecedented sentence, indefensible, that is, stealing a robbery that has no product for theft, so this crime is unbailable.
Attempt to expose myself to the obvious difficulty of writing a critical text about RES’ lyrical poems
The desire is to write a text about RES’ text, clearly this is impossible, but I need to find some kind of possibility of saying, saying at least what can be said today, at least what befits me to say today, since the text is greater than myself; I do not care if it is impossible, the point is that I need to say it, even if I do not say it in the way it is meant to be said, perfectly, even if it is still imperfect, I need to say it, even if Blank is no longer here, since Blank is the impossible, Blank is already my impossible way of saying what is to be said, it is what is always lacking in saying, in speaking, the moment I want to take control of my speech, Blank goes away: Blank is the void of myself, it is the emptiness of each of us, not the emptiness of meaning or emptiness because there isn’t something to be said, or thought, or lived, on the contrary, White, emptiness is the only possibility of actually doing something, it’s doing the deed, White it is the emptiness that holds everything1, it is the woman’s hand that extends her arm to an infinite floor, the woman’s arm extends her arm to Blank, to Josivaldos’ blank and to his own blankness, enabling the possible relationship space between all characters interrupted by their names and to-do’s and lives, and traumas, and tasks… There is an invisible tunnel2 that runs through all the lyrical poems , which is this, not only the text itself, the text object is porous, it is a passage into all other texts to come, all texts repeat themselves, they are all the same text recited in different ways, but there truly is a passageway, a space where all texts intersect, in the reflection of the tray, in the black tights that were there and yet have disappeared, ……
I would say that the 10 lyrical poems are at a high-level cinema, a cinema that is yet to exist, they are moving images within their own time, a fragment of frozen time, taken out of time and inserted in its own timeless time.
By wanting to understand the text, life, meanings, thoughts, we lose the moment of life itself being thought of by itself, the thought that thinks about itself does not think about something exogenous to itself, but to the very act of thinking, he grasps the instant of thought in itself. It embraces the void, the pure state of being alive, the pure state of realizing that “I” am just a fabrication, it is in that emptiness (blank), that dis-authorship of oneself, it is the same thing before it passes through the ordinary and conventional marginal filter of what was said, of the deed, of the speech that was taught to us in this dark time that we live in; Blank is the messianic time of myself, the instant time that happens every second while I lose the second by thinking about the second ahead, RES backflips in a time that supposedly moves forward, struggling even with his own lifetime. “Lifetime”, this phrase, or elaboration does not seem to make any sense, it seems redundant, pleonasm, there is a mistake in putting these two words together, there is no lifespan, there is only life, and there is only time, alone, only there is something now happening and in creating that distinction we have lost ourselves form it, we have lost what is happening now.
It transforms reality into what it is, a banal scene, a woman getting off a plane, with her suit and her suitcase, as she descends full of chores and the wind hits her hair and the sunlight warms her face, she frowns her eyes, the sun’s luminosity immediately generates a reaction in her body, this instant, lost by her and by ourselves, this cutout within reality, brings her back to this time, this moment, which has not passed, but goes on forever, this infinite moment of life, it brings it back, offers this ordinary woman, anonymous, insignificant, Beatriz?, Nilceia?, Josenildo, Anna, whatever it is, be it a green skirt or non-black pantyhose, that is also a black pantyhose by not being it, it is the man with an impeccable jacket, passing by, who crosses the street with no width – a street with no width, what then does he cross? He crosses the crossing itself, crosses the moment of the moment, the man crosses our bail, plays the dirty role of those who do not, the man who crosses the street without width crosses it while we are doing more important things, he pays this debt for us, all of us on this planet, he gives them back the constantly lost moment of what it is to be alive, like a cut in time, it prolongs that instant to infinity, it prolongs that moment to the very abyss of the moment, to the ladder of countless steps, of eternal steps that she will have to travel through to reach the ground after stepping out of the plane. An elite robbery of saying: it takes years to map the speechbase, its gates, its guards, how many guards, what weapons do the guards carry, what are the secret paths of the speech base, where are the nearest exits,
Life already belongs to itself, it already has its own autonomy, its own laws, codes, paths, routes, directions. We think we have free will, but as we think ourselves autonomous we interrupt an entire poetic possibility, of life itself coming through us. Of course, life doesn’t stop crossing, or passing by, but it seems to be stagnant in those who believe they can make all the decisions in their own lives.
Nilceia, Josivaldo, Dorine, Delfina are survivors, Rubens returns to them the proper material for life, of each one’s life, Rubens gives back to these ordinary and insignificant citizens the very significance of these insignificances, returns it to them, legitimizes them what is most beautiful and noble in the anguish and emptiness they feel of the meaninglessness of life. He returns them their namelessness, because it doesn’t have a life of its own, it is life itself. This is a great artists’ dizzying maneuver, being the very thing he is, being his own antecedence, by dispossessing himself he reappropriates the thing itself.
It is like a thing that refers, reflects, resonates immediately in the other. You write about Blank while Blank writes on you, writing about Blank is letting Blank inscribe through you, finding the description of Blank is already blank, like Blank on an empty sheet of paper, Blank himself is the emptiness of the silence that holds us before any speech, even before Blank speaks, even before you write about Blank, he is already there, so writing about Blank is constantly going back to the previous moment of writing about him, it is going back (blank) to a millisecond before, where you weren’t writing, and being able to write the instant of simply being in Blank.
He tirelessly circles himself, there is no content, his form is all possible content. He is still time, frozen, for eternity, because that’s just the way things are, a single instant, and you can step inside, dive very, very deep into the instant and live it in constant eternity.
The text prepares something for the event to happen, it builds itself, builds a fence, a noose, a trap, but it does not actually catch anything, it would be too pretentious to believe that the trap would be able to capture something, but it builds precisely as a space, as a possible way for the thing to infiltrate the trap.
Blank is Josivaldos’ unnamable, he is the survivor of all of us, he is the void, the emptiness of emptiness, he is the fact that he cannot kill himself, there is no way to kill life, the existence of the planet, there is no way to destroy the emptiness, emptiness will always exist and all lives pay the price of emptiness, consume the value of emptiness as they can, life, even the most banal and insignificant life, is a wiring of emptiness, therefore, Blank cannot die, let alone kill itself, Blank lives the maximum penalty of traveling through time, himself being the time that travels through time, the aura that travels through the lost moments, not the instants we lost, but the very instant that now is lost when talking about it, how then to talk about the moment if it is passing by, or was it left behind when trying to talk about it? Precisely, RES’ lyrical poems are a way of, at every moment of the saying, regress when saying, while the saying is inscribed in the next moment, RES makes the saying an ornamental leap, a backward somersault in the air, a regression to the past instant, regressing the instant of what is said with what is said, where there is no gap between one thing or another, there is no latency, nothing is left behind, nothing is left, since the text is the leftover, it is the latency manifest, it is the very impossibility of saying, it is insufficiency, RES’ lyrical poems are our insufficiency to the outside world, it is saying in the form of having nothing to say, it is having no subject in a pure state of manifestation, or else, the pure state of not saying, not as a bad thing, but as the only thing that can be said. We were taught that having nothing to say was something bad, synonymous with ignorance or stupidity, Rubens rips this apart, inside a library with 5,000 volumes completely underlined, his having nothing to say, not having the what to say. Even though this absence of something to say requires serious considerations: having nothing to say means being able to dive into the very saying in blank, of speech, precisely in Blank, his mind in blank.
Emptiness is already the destruction of something, emptiness is the silence that moves life, that touches it, moves with it, moves in it, runs through it, the silence, being in Blank is to be within the fabric of life, within life’s life, within the living itself. His form is the very emptiness of pre-speech, the speech, the text, the formless form, the form of what cannot be formalized, formatted, fostered, forced, RES’ lyrical poems are an elite assault, an elite squadron that passes and leaves no trace of stealing the thing itself, of the saying being told, saying: it is the very thing that cannot be said, the said saying cannot be said since that time would have to be frozen, there would be a negotiation with the time of saying, with the time of what is said, there would be an approximation of the next moment with the moment of now, there would be a tear inside its own chest so that there would be real negotiation with two impossible times coexisting, the law of life itself implies falling short, in some way, of being one step behind what is actually happening. It’s about this “actually”, the saying has to do with the “actually”, and the said itself is an adjustment between two times that are impossible to be adjusted, negotiated in a possible way to inhabit the world of things, it is an opening between the world of ideas and the world of things.
The poems are the speech that interrupts the saying, it finds a way of saying what is constantly interrupted every time we try to do so, it is the impossible to do being done, impossible to do not because of the difficulty of the matter, Rubens has already gone through the rigid matter of doing, now the matter is different, it is the matter of time itself, he finds a way to interrupt the matter of time, opens a breach in the viscous matter of time and extracts itself from it,
And if so, if it’s done, who does it? Who is Rubens Espírito Santo? How to do something without doing it? What is it to undo something while it is being done, to do the undoing? What am I really talking about here?
What are the problems presented by Western art’s narrative? There is a narrative, a way in which a story is told, a common thread that runs through time and forms what we call art history. Chronological or not, in any story there is a narrative. There are issues, specific problems within the visual arts that were articulated and intersected by those we call great artists. Problems solved by Giotto that consequently led to new issues, which were articulated by Masaccio, then Da Vinci, and then Rafael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, El Greco, Rubens, Dürer, Caspar David, Turner, taking a leap further let us go to France with the avant-garde Duchamp, or to the United States with Pollock, and so on, a story is told in what we call chronological Western art history. We can also note that great “discoveries” come along with it, the breaking of artistic paradigms are strongly linked to significant historical moments. The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Second World War, the Cold War, perhaps we can call modern times as the quantum revolution with the birth of the quantum computer, to name what some call the fourth Industrial Revolution.
Based on Alfred Gell’s anthropological theory of art, the idea of the artist as a social agent emerges, in which the artist acts as a person capable of “generating heat”, of articulating heat as friction, as excitement, as a real feeling, as a feeling of being alive, of feeling life pulse inside you. From what I understood from Gell’s work, a social agent is one among the tribe capable of generating heat and organizing the tribe in the service of said heat, the social agent is someone capable of generating meaning in people’s lives, he is the one who establishes the ritual in the life of that tribe. Ritual as a felt feeling, as an organization, as the tribe’s body of laws, as that which keeps the tribe’s flame alive.
What does Covid-19 have to do with art?
What the crisis stemming from Covid-19 opens to the entire world: beyond our work, or the daily mechanisms we create to keep us busy, we do not have something actually real that keeps our flame lit daily – we lack this internal device (perhaps this is what is meant by a spiritual life: the construction of a device that keeps the flame burning, that keeps the heat circulating, that preserves the heat of that flame). With all our daily tasks, we mask this lacking, we invent a billion excuses so not to see the real problem. The real problem right now is: the flame of most people is too low, there is barely enough power to generate light, let alone heat. When I say that the crisis is stemming from the Covid-19 crisis, I am not being precise: the crisis is not coming from Covid-19, but Covid-19 makes visible the crisis itself. This was bound to happen at some point.
Returning to the narrative of Western art history; we have two emblematic works from the 20th century: Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, 1917, and Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box, 1964.
I want to stick to a very specific aspect that is highlighted by both pieces: what is the object of the art in question? These objects lead me to conclude that no one actually buys an art piece, what is actually bought is a worldview materialized within an object, or within a maneuver, or even within a concept. In the case of Duchamp, I think that his work reaches levels that are still unthinkable to us. Something that he unshackled with his urinal, or rather with the urinal’s omission by the judges1, is that the art system, or the art market, consists of a very small group of people who hold, albeit for a short period of time, a transient power to legitimize what is and what is not art – that is, the art institution has, as jurisprudence, a criterion where some say whether something is, or is not, art. We already have a problem at this point. It is even more interesting to think that Duchamp’s urinal, which disappeared after being sent to the Armory salon, gained its importance after Alfred Stieglitz published its photograph in a magazine at the time. In other words, the great art work of the 20th century was never really an art object, but a maneuver, the art object became this maneuver. There was a brutal transposition that had never been done with such clarity. The art object presented itself as an abstract articulation with real implications for people’s lives and the history of art. With this gesture, Marcel Duchamp mobilized serious questions about art, and about his own era: what is an artistic object? What is really at issue when we discuss art? Is it the object? What do we purchase when we buy art? What do we really want, when buying an art object? In a similar fashion but in a symptomatic way (I insist on explaining the reason for this statement later), Warhol exhibited a wooden replica of an American dishwasher powder box in a gallery and sold it for millions, while the Brillo-branded soap box sold in supermarkets for $2.99. This raised a question among critics at the time: what is being paid for with those millions of dollars, if there is a similar object on the market being sold for $2.99? Something fascinating is discovered: nobody buys an object without context – the object only becomes artistic when it is inflated with context, insufflated by all the meaning surrounding it, circumscribing it. An object without this circumscription is meaningless – this is one of the reminiscing questionings from the Brillo Box piece.
Why do I think the Brillo Box is symptomatic? Andy Warhol was surrounded by the “art scene”. Andy Warhol saturated art’s connection with frivolity, while his work made an ode to it. I believe his work to be devoid of spiritual connotation. Even though, in today’s world, his work’s frivolity has reached an unsustainable peak and urges for change — we live at the height of artistic banality. (Although I accept to be called moralistic or binary in making such statements about Warhol. Perhaps I am, but I need to find arguments that generate more contradiction in his work for me – the figure of Andy Warhol does not captivate me, even if this work is an important milestone in the course of an artistic narrative).
Where am I going with this? What conclusions do I draw from all this?
Firstly: the artistic object seems to have always been, even before Giotto, a way for man to relate to something unknown to himself, whether it is God or heat, but art has always been a connecting tool with a very deep meaning for man – for both spectator and artist. We live in humanity’s most brutal moment of superficiality. What we call art nowadays, or what is produced in art, has no such purpose anymore. There is no longer an interest in the other, there is no longer an interest in ritual, in community, in building nations, in building deep and precious meanings for life.
This lack of interest does not mean that there is not a need for art; we are just not able to identify it, we are terrible at reading necessity’s symptoms, we are terrible in recognizing the urgency for spiritual bonds. Today the way in which art collecting works is superficial and meaningless. No wonder the art market, at a time of crisis, is also experiencing a crisis.
BINGO! the art object would have to be an object, a movement, an event, a speech, an articulation that precisely rescues its subjects from a crisis, it infuses oxygen into an almost extinguished flame, which lifts the subject from bed and energizes his day; it makes the subject turn Netflix off and do something useful for their lives – even if it is washing the dishes, but doing so with passion, cleaning with heart, washing with love, loving life for its simple pleasures, having passion for thinking about a problem, simply having passion. I believe that this is what a person actually buys in a moment of crisis, this is what the individual buys deep down, when buying art – and note, I am not talking about a sculpture, a drawing, or a painting, I am perhaps talking about any other word, even if it needs to be invented! There is something very profound we are trying to say to each other but we cannot – something was stolen from us and we are chasing our own tails to find it! We are chasing modernity’s skinned tail to find it – but modernity’s tail is meaningless at this time!
Art’s secret truth is perhaps that it is always dealing with the real issues of an epoch, a nation’s issues, art is very interested in saving lives, even if it is on a tiny piece of paper. Although we want to preserve our useless lives with grandiose things that have no real meaning, all the time, the artist, or the social agent, as I see RES, is the attitude of wanting to save your life and the lives of other people with daily attitudes. And while we want to draw, paint, sculpt, exhibit, write great texts and have great projects, RES really just wants to be fully involved in the way he organizes his library, for example. Art is actually a fetish! The object itself is just a fetish. To me, what is at stake is the potential link that this work, this movement, or this agent, manages to establish with the world. The meaning that this action can generate in other people. The will of life this work inspires in a person! The medium does not matter, the display does not matter, the language does not matter, what matters is that it is able to manifest itself outside itself, the important thing is the conversion from something useless into something essential in someone’s life.
According to Arthur Danto3, Duchamp and Warhol put an end to Western art’s narrative, without a doubt, because, faced with art’s problems in the 20th century there was really nowhere to go. I do not think that RES presents a solution to Danto’s problem, or that he represents the end of modernity, however, RES just radically closes the door to modernity, therefore seeing the end of art, not as a problem, but as a solution for the beginning of a new narrative. His work begins a narrative of something that has yet to be named, a narrative that builds a bridge for anthropological art, between the social agent of the tribe and the new social agents of the cities. I would even say that his work rescues something essential for humanity to survive in face of this pandemic: to not have a daily subterfuge and maintain one’s sanity, to create a life within oneself.
Where is a word born? Why is there such a great fear in writing, in plunging into the formless plots of thought, of anguish, and facing my own obvious limitations of existing outside my own head? Writing about the Cabin is a way of facing the inhospitable habitats within and saying something I cannot say, and then, that saying suffocates me, in this saga I find what I fear most of finding: my own limitations – in this saga I find that which oppresses me so, my frailty, and so, in this way, in this meeting, I begin to see the cabin a little more clearly, a word that supports itself out of its suffocation, a bloody word in raw flesh, Rubens’ fragility manifest, a Jew facing a Nazi and affirming himself a Jew. A word that needs to exist, which uses Rubens as its transmitter, its agent, acts through RES, or even, RES gives himself to its existence, and giving himself to that something has to do with entanglement, to become tangled up in his own mud, to throw himself into the abyss of insufficiency. Giving up oneself to this abyss of insufficiency is the starting point for something, initiating a reason to exist – solutions only begin to appear when the problem becomes unsustainable, and surrendering to that unsustainability is a gamble, it does not stop being a form of suicide, where man stops being the great protagonist of his own life, and understands that he is a mere slave of the life that passes through him.
If there is no dirt, if there is no discomfort, if there is no deep agony, the word remains in its superficiality, serving nothing, an empty word, an empty image, living forever on the surface of oneself and with the mistaken idea of that one can be an inventor. Perhaps there is no such thing, an inventor is one who, after constantly exposing himself to the insurmountable, swimming towards his own misery, transforms himself into a receptacle and a device for the invention, the inventor is then only a medium for the invention to manifest itself through him, and this invention becomes the available oxygen to breathe underwater, that is, “invention” is an empty word, what happens is that something is born, going from a solution to a vital requirement. Things need a real reason to be invented, to find themselves in an inventive plot, a word needs real resources to find its reason to break free from latency. If there is no requirement for something to be built, there is no possibility of invention at all. The Cabin is a combination of submitting oneself to one’s own most tragic, exposing oneself to one’s dead end, colluding with the gray area within and at the same time making it an activity, a battle, a saga, a pact with the spark of life that exists inside us.
With RES’ work it is clear to me that production becomes his surrendering to life, as an entity of its own, Rubens is a great worker who works in the name of being such a device, so that his word can find the channel of existence through it, and out of himself. There is no way to do anything without submitting to one’s limitations, to one’s own realm of impossibility; with each limitation, every punch thrown against an iron door, marks are made, and as with time, cracks appear, and one day, the wall breaks down – that is how I see RES, and I wonder: how can a man withstand his own wall broken down without breaking down with it? How can one be a living body entirely broken down? What I ask myself, very intimately, is: how can Rubens bear witness and remain alive, how can a work contain such a contradiction by being suicidal, while at the same time being the most genuine expression of life possible?
Rubens is a broken body that remains intact, standing, the Cabin is the space he created so he could negotiate with the Devil, to keep the Devil very close to him, RES builds a bed, a bunk bed, so the Devil can lie down under him and feel comfortable, RES builds an abode for the Devil, a trap to keep him around, and pays a high price for it… He pays the price of no more contradiction, where contradiction is a word for those who do not see, for those who cry for insufficiency – today Rubens cries for sufficiency, for having his eyes opened too far, for him there is no contradiction, there is no chaos, the supposed chaos is balance, it’s the Devil’s abode, who knows, maybe that is why so few endorse it – to maintain the contradiction, it is necessary to create a world that sustains it, a necessary a configuration is required, a bone structure strong enough to embody something that is just movement.
A word is not invented, a word is a requirement, a demand, a great amorphous animal that hibernates in man, that grunts to acquire form, that grunts because grunting is for now it’s only form of existence through man. RES did not invent his word, but rather it was the word that invented him, from provoking this beast so much, resisting inertia so much, from so much resisting the oppression of what is manifest, like a warrior, he enters a sea, a storm on the high seas with his great war equipment and faces the aridity of his own loneliness, the awareness of his incompleteness, the awareness of his limitations. The Cabin, the drawings, large and small, texts, conversations, articulations are all the same, they are all a universe of laws built by RES, a single cabin, a single world within the world, but not a closed world, but rather a rhizomatic world, a world with tentacles, tentacles connected to the soil, which feed on the water that runs beneath the ground, the earth, the water that is oppressed by the Catalonian cold, a cold that has no longer anything to do with to do with temperature, but rather a cold from something that is left undone, something stagnant, something choked in the times we live in: the Cabana assaults the Catalan, in 10 days it assaults a tradition already in ruins that serves us no longer – the cultural tradition, scholar, genetics, it doesn’t matter, we can no longer live in the history of our ancestors, we cannot let the blood of our ancestors clot in our veins, RES destroys the truths, the false truths that configure a scenario of man’s atrophy today – withdraws the objects from a predatory man configuration, which immediately places him as lord, lord of anything, the Cabana de-hierarchizes the man and returns him to his insignificance, that is, his most intimate identity – and so something can begin to be built.
“…and so, what could one dream of being taught by someone who did not have the keys to their own knowledge, and would not arrogate it. He would give way to space, leaving the keys to someone else to unlock the word”
The paper in question is not a white surface, the paper that Rubens hates to lose, or cannot lose, is a paper (role) assigned to him by life itself, which he has already negotiated in advance, it is a paper he owes, that is owed, and it has to be repaid. Losing to this paper would be frivolous or lazy, or unfaithful to his own word – Rubens digs his own grave daily, he creates problems specifically to be bound by them, he makes affirmations so that he may prove them, a word is not a word for Rubens (like it commonly is), the word has turned into or returned to be his own flesh, his life, the word uttered by RES is not spoken by RES, it is the word that is manifested through RES, it is the life that RES leads that found a word as way of existing in a display, as a thing, and so the word ceases to be a word and returns to its origin of being pulsation, volition, a spirit. RES fictionalizes life in such a way that, at a certain point, his life has already been confused with said fiction, there is no longer any way to discern fiction from reality, Rubens is indebted to his invented fiction: from so much fictionalization, his fiction has become reality itself, becoming its own condition for existence, fiction has become him, the fiction has moved his bone structure, altered the strand of his DNA, and now there is no turning back.
Many comments permeated RES’ lack of fatigue in relation to others in the drawing session. I cannot see it that way, I do not think RES was necessarily less tired than anyone else at that drawing session, in fact I think it is most likely RES was the most tired of all, but he invents this fictional space within himself, he subverts the common usage that we consider fatigue, and transforms it into a drawings starting engine, assuming his fatigue and using it to draw – just like Artaud2, who delved deep into the concept of “having nothing to say”3 as a starting point for his work, Rubens dug into his tired body on a Friday afternoon to be able to use the acidity of tiredness as fuel to keep on moving, like a raw material, as a starting point. He enters another realm of his own tiredness, into a secret compartment within, flirting with exhaustion’s intimacy, perhaps to dwell into the space of its rules so he may no longer be guided by them, dialoguing with the rules, and perhaps to take the rigor of tiredness, the authority of tiredness, to be the authoritative gesture in drawing, the rigor of its implication to that resistant surface to the point where the drawing can manifest the rules of exhaustion, to the point where this extreme imprisonment can become a stumbling block for attaining freedom from oneself.
It’s like everything else in his life: he perverts the common laws of things, and after perverting them so much, over time, other latent possibilities start to emerge. From so much insistence on tiredness, from putting up with not immediately doing what his body is conditioned to do with this exhausted information for so long, tiredness opens up and reveals itself as a potent chemical agent for many other things besides sleep, or rest. Our body is a precious organism, it has infinite types of intelligence that we rarely access, and that is what Rubens wants to invoke, letting go of the conditioned responses we give to our body, thus letting the body operate on a tilt, and see what response the body will give to this provocation. Like a board, where the pieces are always organized in one way, Rubens starts by subverting this organization, to see how the game can proceed from another point of view. He subverts a type of display of his body, subverts a type of display of his time, invoking other possibilities of latent responses, to bring a forgotten richness back to life.
And so, having invented this subversive fictional space to display responses for so long, he now owes a debt to his invention, he is indebted to his being, to his other, to his power, there is no turning back, he has aroused some of his forbidden latencies and now pays a high price for them. It is always more pleasant to think that we cannot do something, the point is that throughout RES’ life he said he could in public, thus creating a debt with that power. Power is an avid collector.
Tiredly, a slave draws a small van on a piece of paper, humbly, after a long week, so that the van can finally lead him down the path he ought to go on this Friday. He circumscribes a space for a happening to arise. This is where Rubens wants to go. We have an idea of arrival that concerns an end, a destination, a terminal point, while for Rubens the idea of finally arriving is a beginning, the arrival is when the body, tired from such provocation, turns to that other thing that will forever be unknown to those who go home simply to rest; the arrival is when Rubens feels a new body appropriating his own, and shedding his old skin, his drawing only starts at this stage, and to reach that stage, you need a reservoir of oxygen, a breath built by years of experience, for generational decades.
From so much fictionalization, from creating so many artifices, techniques, instruments, mechanisms to maintain this life in a different way, at some point the reason behind the fiction, the fictional volition fictions himself, invoking itself within RES, at some point Rubens stops to be the subject of the fictionalizing action, becoming the object that suffers the action of the very fiction he aroused, within himself. Like a hibernating animal that Rubens woke, that now demands something from RES.
He becomes fiction, he becomes what makes him want to fictionalize, he becomes what he wants within the invention. From insisting on an invented world so much, at a given moment Rubens is received before us by another world, not the one he was inventing, but the very world in which resides the desire for invention.
In the abyss, you either sail or sink. In this place where RES finds himself, at his own risk, losing to paper would be the equivalent to his death, since paper is the only body he can count on to exist today. Every Friday session, he leaves his body for a few moments and trusts the paper, in this journey through the paper, his becoming body is revealed. For a few hours Rubens abandons himself, he lunges into the abyss to be able to rescue himself in a drawing that does not yet exist, and in that leap, into the depths of the abyss, he rescues the drawing, this is also his new body keeping himself alive. However, the one who jumps has to be equipped to feel the moment that the spark turns into an internal flame, which yearns for him, summons him, finally electing who will be this heat’s vehicle.
(a brief introduction aiming at starting the organization of the places of these things)
I was thinking about the little understanding I got from what Beatrix said, about RES’ drawing having the same strength as Bruno Dumont’s film, “Ma Loute.” But I disagree, I particularly think that this drawing has nothing to do with Bruno Dumont’s film, of course, I may be being frivolous, and even arrogant, but I think that Bruno Dumont dreams with what is revealed in this drawing, dreams that this is possible, but I don’t know if he really believes that he himself can do it. This incisive observation in this text is important because I think it is urgent that we know how to separate things, not in a Manichean manner, but in a way that we can understand how one thing can be the bedrock of another and how one thing really dialogues with the other. It is vital that we know how to discern one thing from another, so that we can not only see things in a better way, but also understand the place where each thing belongs to, and how the fact that each thing has and knows its own space is essential for something to happen, so that one is not naive of his own ambition and situation.
I think his film is brilliant, “Ma Loute” is brilliant, but mainly from a critical point of view. I think he makes a stunning critique of art, of our time, of the miserable epistemology that involves us like a gooey and perverse sludge. I find Bruno Dumont’s film a prediction for times to come, a bet for the new human being, but these questions are only the beginning of questions in RES’ drawings. There is no way not to immediately relate this drawing, in particular, with Tarkovsky’s cinema – and that’s where “knowing how to see” gains a dimension that I believe is seriously urgent. It really is a charm, a talisman, an object that RES brings into the world of presence, into this world that we can see. Rubens brought an impossible object to a state of possibility, even if it never ceases to be impossible, since it will always be bigger than us. But to be bigger than us is the great beauty of the object, and to notice spasms of the understanding of something bigger than me makes me realize that I myself am greater than me, that in somewhere secret from us, this drawing dialogues, this drawing knows and we also know, even if we don’t know this known place; it shrieks inside of us and it awakes a new comprehension of what we are, or, of what is in us, of what indeed exists, which is me, beyond me: the most precious particle of life – though supposedly insignificant these days – and that, without it, we do not exist. It is humbling enough to not need to be seen or to be “the big star” of the show all the time, but it is there, in its tiny hidden room, in the attic of our dwelling, since it doesn’t need any bigger room, it doesn’t need to have any significant space, because all of space already belongs to her.
In this sense, I comprehend the approximation of the drawing with Bruno Dumont’s film, but I dare to say that I find it hard for a French director to make a film these days like this drawing – the times are different, the organization is different, the configurations are readjusting themselves, they are in movement, the configurations are in a moment of suspension, their links are suspended, loose, and in latency to be readjusted. Bruno Dumont is doing his country a great favor, France, the “great father of film”, and this favor concerns destroying an entire worldview; but Rubens does us a favor with his work that I don’t believe is doing a favor to his country anymore, I don’t know if his work has a country, but I think this drawing is not a favor either, but really, an obligation. Rubens has no way out, if the drawing was only a drawing or if it was in service of his country, he could have finished two hours earlier, but the time and the path that it, the drawing, ordered RES to take him, makes me give up everything I could come to think about, it no longer concerns this time we live in, much less a country, I think it really has to do with the sea, the great ocean that intervals the landmasses, intervals the supposed “countries”, the supposed “names”. The drawing has no name, it is the thing that names, even in a “non-language”, a language that costs us our identified existence.
And to make my view on Bruno Dumont clear again: I don’t think that the fact that his film doesn’t measure up to Ruben’s drawing demeans it, on the contrary, I believe it is vital that this film exists, but his film is still a film of this time, a prediction for future times, a prediction for a less sick future world; but RES’ drawing doesn’t predict a future for this world, it dialogues with a mythical time, it proclaims the impossible of times. Dumont’s “Ma Loute” is really a dream of this drawing, it is the desire that this other place that configures itself to give birth to this drawing is possible; and perhaps the existence of his cinema is indispensable to generate strength in Rubens, for Friday’s battle, so that Rubens doesn’t stop believing in what’s his – since other men are taking care of the Earth, Rubens must partake with the stars.
What am I saying when I say that Rubens expects nothing from his drawing:
The drawing waits for Rubens.
That is very different from saying that the drawing expects from Rubens. When I say that the drawing waits for Rubens, I mean, there is something that can always go further, waiting for us to find it, the drawing, it already exists, it already exists in some lost place of a world that we cannot see, just as Rubens that comes to his becoming after drawing, it is also found on a hold, on hold, in some place. There is a wait for us somewhere, something that waits for us, who knows, maybe life itself is waiting for us; our own life is waiting to be rescued. The drawing waits for RES, the drawing waits for this encounter, where RES lets go of being RES, and the drawing lets go of being a drawing, so that both can return to be what time requires of them to be. Rubens, I realize, listens to that calling, he hears the soft voice of the calling, like a Siren song, that intoxicated the sailors in the Odyssey; Rubens embarks on a journey without tying himself to the pillars with tensioned ropes, Rubens loosens the ropes so that this way, real tension can be established: the tension of having the ropes loose, the tension of not using any devices of tension, of not using devices anymore to exist, to do, to complain; the tension of a loose creature that suspends all rules to seek for its own salvation, to seek for itself in a journey that may have no return – the drawing is the amulet of this journey, it is what allows his feet to remain fixed to the ground, the drawing leads it, even though the drawing does not yet exist, the non-existent thing of the drawing is what makes the drawing itself, it is what whispers deafeningly in RES’ ear so that he doesn’t stop, so that he keeps following the path in the dark part of the forest, where his partners have already left him alone, where he is alone, and the non-existent thing is guiding him. RES listens to what Homer called “Siren song” and dives towards them, to the point in which he sees that the Sirens are not really Sirens, Rubens finds out the real identity of the Sirens, and negotiates with them the value of undressing them, undressing the fantasy through his drawing, and slowly, takes from himself another layer of skin of his own fantasy in the world. In each conquest, or in each destruction, the more intense is the smell of blood from his flesh being exposed, in each conquer, less recognizable RES becomes, and at the same time, the closer he gets to his impossible identity.
The drawing waits so that RES inaugurates it into the world, a three-hour session, a battle; a crack opens in time for the drawing to develop, evolves into the form of how it intends to exist. And if RES waits for something in particular to happen, the drawing is not going to exist. RES, on the contrary, is the one that must go after it, he must deflower the virgin forests that are supposedly invisible for us and rescue the drawing into this world. It is a very subtle, and yet a very violent battle between many worlds, between the infinite layers of invisible spaces.
The great misfortune of the drawing (and particularly a very difficult part to understand in this miserable time that we live in) is that it uses RES, and RES lets himself be used by it, RES no longer exists, Rubens Espírito Santo no longer exists for himself, this identity ceases to exist, it is handed over to the becoming that he came to fulfill on this Earth, or that – trying to be less abstract – he surrenders himself to being just a creature, an integral part of this tragedy: he ceases to be insignificant when he returns to being only a tiny part of reality: what other signifier besides this one? The way RES saves himself from his insignificance is by surrendering to it, so that the insignificant being gains such a form, such a strength, such a dimension of lucidity of disidentification, that it becomes again only a breath of life to articulate itself through him. Or even “through him” in this context does not make sense anymore, to think this way is to create a tear. He himself is this breath of life, we are a breath of life of a thing that came into existence, broken through the latency of this existence of ourselves to exist, so why on earth is there the tear? Maybe the tear is what makes the whole thing charming, is what generates grace, is what breathes beauty into life, if we knew about life all the time there would be no life to marvel at, life would be permanent boredom or permanent enjoyment, and so it would cease to be either one of those things. Possibly, the wonder of life is actually that it will always be greater than we are so that we are seduced by it. The misfortune is that we really have no choice, the misfortune is in realizing that consciousness is a concentration camp in which we are prisoners, prisoners of a life that waits for us. This being so, RES’ drawing, dedicated to Plato’s Phaedrus, is the misfortune of life, being misfortune as the most wonderful fortune that we have, of being antecedent to us. The drawing is a great lord that prevents RES from desiring, there is no more desire in drawing, there are orders, the conduction path exists so that RES follows it through its orders. It is no longer about plastics, no longer about art, about drawing, about anything that we can name, since the drawing is what nominates us, and desperately, we fear to hear the enunciation, the proclamation of ourselves that this creature declares. And even if we wanted to, it is enough to be in front of this drawing so that this name being uttered starts to echo in our ear. To be in front of the drawing, even for a second, is already enough time for it to infiltrate itself in the tiniest pore of our skin and make our body its dwelling-place; (this is why collecting is something so sophisticated, since the great work of art constantly collects us, it assaults us, and to possess the work, is to negotiate with this assault), this, I believe, is the power of a work of art, to awaken and accumulate the debt of life that awaiting us.
There is a moment where matter seems to clearly yield to RES, to yield to his will, but I wonder, what is this will? Exactly what is that moment, what happens in this moment? What does it mean for matter to yield? I believe it has to do with a pact, a great negotiation, where RES has to prove to matter who is implicating it, and to prove this, he cannot have any desire, he cannot expect anything from the matter, it cannot feel any reminisces of Rubens’ desire, what RES has to do, is to entirely dispossess himself of its desire, to dispute itself with all his erudition, and come to negotiate with matter as matter itself. Matter must feel that Rubens is an equal, must know that his implication is impersonal, that Rubens is only the messenger of an implication, he is only a vehicle of such implication. At this moment, matter yields, and RES can articulate himself in it, and can then really bind himself in it, where, only then, matter and Rubens become one again, only one body, at this moment dialogue is established, but in order for dialogue to exist, there must be an exhaustive construction of trust between the two, where it is clear that one does not desire anything from the other, the two must come to exist together, as only one.
In the aftermath of the life-and-death battle – talk about the fight for RES’ life in the drawing, what is at stake is his sanity.
But what is that about? What is this sanity, how not to say the opposite? Why does a man who spends three hours drawing say he is fighting for his sanity? I would like to focus on this word, sanity. In the drawing Rubens struggles for sanity, the sanity of coming out of his own alienation, or, we could also think of sanity as a state of being at the service of something, of letting himself act like the waves of the sea that are moved by the Moon, or even the Earth in relation to the Moon, the rotation of the Moon around the Earth is done on account of an intelligence of the Earth’s mind, the Earth itself has a mind, the Earth itself thinks, and this immediately destroys any ordinary idea that we ourselves think, any idea of what “thinking” is, and something seems to become clearer in relation to the moment when one perceives oneself being thought. I believe that fighting for his sanity would actually be fighting to stop thinking, and being thought, being thought by the planet’s mind, letting himself be an instrument, an organ of a body much larger than himself. I believe this refers to a sanity that RES seeks in drawing. Where the opposite of sanity here would not be madness, here the opposite of sanity would be autonomy. RES lets the Earth’s mind drive his actions, and so, only then, can he return to sanity.
It seems like a great contradiction, but from somewhere unknown deep inside me, I know it isn’t, I know that this sanity is about a deep abandonment, finally an abandonment of oneself, it is a fierce fight against the matter of oneself, which wants to resist, so erudite it wants to be in control, it wants to be bigger, it wants to feel significant, it is an excellent battle towards its own insignificance: here is the victory of RES’ battle, here is the sanity Rubens seeks in this saga: insignificance. And when matter yields to the will of the artist, what we are saying is that the artist gives in to the will of time, he gives in to the will of what something wants of him as a man.
Joana crosses the street
Joana arrives at home
She takes off her high heels
She moves her toes, twisting them up and down, she runs her hand through the quilt, she lies down. Joana stretches herself out on the bed. She wriggles. She gets up and goes to the window, stares at the park, Joana lives in front of a small park, just beyond a train line, in a low-rise building, 5 floors at most. Joana lives alone. Joana drinks a glass of water. The floor is wooden. This is not true, Joana wears tight jeans, leopard high heels, a black suit, she walks in a hurry, tight ankle pants, brown skin, as if her grandparents were indigenous, Joana is a character of herself, straight out of a cheap fashion magazine with a touch of unsuccessful colonization, there’s obviously a failure and frustration in Joana’s fast pace, an emergency that didn’t take off, there is something wrong with Joana, what is it? Resentment, what does Joana’s body reveal? The tight pants, the tight jeans? The cheap high heels, not very comfortable, the usual suit, standard, the straight and smooth haircut, indigenous hair, her skin is brown, dark, the face faces a little inward, not adjusting to the clothes. As if she was punched in the face. Disfigurement. Joana crossed the street in front of me, I don’t know where she was going or what she was going to do, it was too early on a Thursday morning, Joana obviously remembers the institution, the office, the corporation, the end-of-the-year get-together in a corner restaurant with tables on the street and lots of beer and loud music. Because Joana could not be different, because her clothes were not, her looks were not, her manners were not, Joana was in a straitjacket, in a frustrated and resentful woman’s uniform. Joana cannot be only that. Who, my god, is the real Joana? Where can you find what I could not see, what both Joana and I let slip away, my gaze and her body, what exudes the stench of this analysis? Why can I not see Joana neither from behind, nor without her tight pants, and when I return a long time after crossing the street, and see the still very young little girl crossing the street without codes and certainties, without the institution of getting things right weighing on her back, yoke, reed, polymath, false, innate, vernacular, yes I want the vernacular Joana, the innate Joana, the wandering Joana, the Joana crushed inside all this dirt, that became Joana by leaps and bounds, Joana without heels, the Joana unleashed, Joana in pajamas on the street, Joana without hair treatment, Joana without a flat iron straightener. Joana emerging from the ashes, like a phoenix, my lord how do I find this woman within the crushing structure that Joana has put herself in? How can I free her from myself? How do I escape from what I want to say about Joana and myself, how can I speak about Joana and Joana speak about me, the dead and forgotten language of the Eskimos of my soul? How do I resurrect the Joycean gaze in Joana and myself? How does one penetrate the never-open currents of our speeches, why not speak about our silence, why not wait for Joana’s own speech to speak, to speak to me, scream to me what wants to be said in this shitty text. In this communication, subject to not communicating anything, a hostage to everything, grammar, to my fascism, my traumas, my limitations, my prejudices. Yes, I am a damned prejudiced man. Joana only crosses the street the way she wants to, she has the inalienable right to have whatever shoe she wants, I just want a text from Joana, while Joana just wants to solve something, some business, why would my text be a cleaner thing than the business of Joana? Between me and Joana there is more connection than I wished for, than I would like to want! Joana and I crossed the same disgraceful street, that of the spectacle. She on Ipiranga street, I on the written street. My tight pants are saying in the text, my tight pants are getting rid of the grammar imposed on me, by me, to say what I want from me and Joana, I want to escape Joana as I want to escape what I am forced to say by the grammar and regency of this language. I want to be in a language that has never been spoken. With no rhetoric. Joana crosses me when crossing the street, I’m at the end of Joana’s walk, I’m the end of her journey even though we don’t both know about this phenomenon, if I don’t cross Joana through this text safe and sound, I failed as a Messiah, obviously an irony, the Messiah is another trap, I cannot want to save Joana, nor save myself, let’s leave this salvation business to the church, the Catholic institution, Joana and I are in the middle of the sidewalk without Salvation. They both look at each other, it makes me want to run, but our feet wouldn’t respond to this. Joana! Naked Joana is still Joana. Joana without a name would still be Joana, Joana without a job would still be Joana, Joana is impregnated with Joana, as I am intoxicated by myself to really be able to write what Joana is, Joana would come to me like a flood of not me, I cannot identify what is not me, my eyes are blind to what is not me: gauntlet, cyclops, one-eyed man, one-eyed eye, one-way eye, cut off back, of return. Without returning I cannot see Joana, I need to blind myself to see Joana. What I now see is myself expanding, I need to block myself, put a wedge in me, fall and hurt my mouth, spurt blood, break my teeth, this way I will be humble in establishing myself with Joana, Joana wants a legitimate trade with me. One pass. It is an tacitus agreement. Yes TACITUS. That is it, without the tacit I’m without Joana. Without Joana, I’m fucked. Joana who passes by me without my seeing her. Joana who passes by me without a way of being, improbable Joana, adjacency, without judgment, without law. I am done. Jumping from one subject to another, I can’t stand being in what Joana is, in Joan’s rotten substance, Joana’s garbage, Joana’s rottenness, even so Joana, joking substance, amalgamates, Joana begins to testify by herself, so invade this damned text and say what you want Joana: give your own testimony, intravenously, I’ll lend you my rude, rudimentary speech to talk about you and me, which I did not have the courage to pronounce, scum that we are. I lost contact with Joana, Joana come back, speak, babble, translate, even if it is in an incomprehensible dialect, even if it is out of language, of any known sign, of comprehension itself that is incomprehensible, out of the straitjacket of understanding. Consciousness. Dialect, tongue streaks, stuttering, nomad, slender —speak, insist, pierce, bend, cross the street, Joana, I wait for you on the other side of the street to receive you on my conscienceless lap, invalid password for the text, he faked himself, simulacrum, it’s horrible when the crossing is fake and only serves to impress, it’s for the other, it’s a doing and not an act. The text action falls apart. Joana crosses the street, but there is no longer another side.
Concerning what RES is doing with language, with the idea of text. As little by little he creates a trap, he deceives grammar, he deceives the gatekeepers of the organizational code of speech, who traps him inside a cage of himself , deceiving them little by little, until at one point they are all excited thinking that RES is telling them about a certain Joana, they’re all already fantasizing about this character in their minds, until without realizing it, RES found a way to be saying out of the cell, while they toss coins. A bit like Schrödinger’s cat: RES is in and out of the cell at the same time – inside the cell there is the story of Joana, and outside the cell there is also Joana, but there is J – O – A – N – A, or A – J – N – O – A, or O – O – O – O – O, J – J – J – J – J…
with all the letters already shuffled, new letters, new codes being used, codes hidden all over Joana’s skin, Joana lends her Joana skin and in tight pants and leopard sandals, and probably some pink-painted nails already peeling, Joana lends her skin to carry this new grammatical code – Joana is this code’s mule, so the guards are distracted by her ass, emphasized by her tight pants, she carries this infiltrated code in her body. It’s like his bone sculpture, in a way it is also a mule: after all, it’s also just a sculpted piece of bone. But it carries within its orifices, in the bones’ pores, another substance, it already carries another type of marrow. Rubens’ use of the figure is interesting, and since he is not necessarily a man of abstraction: the figures are his mules, the figure guarantees a body to deceive the doormen, so that from this body, this flesh, you transgress the grids of saying, without the doormen noticing. His figures fulfill Joanna’s roles in the text.
I’m starting to understand a little more what the maneuvers were for the great geniuses. They were not just some free inventions, but a maneuver developed as a tool to throw off the guardians of speech, and to finally be able to invent the language, for some there is nothing being invented, just a somewhat chronologically confused text, what is this text about? Did I not catch your message? I know a Joanna… Is he critiquing today’s fashion?…
But the flesh of the text is a bloody war between two factions in the Tower of Babel, people being killed randomly with stray bullets, men with their faces wrapped in T-shirts, covering their faces, old tires burning with people trapped inside, mothers walking down a hill and entering alleys with small children seeking shelter, 9-year-old boys with semiautomatics hanging around their necks – the flesh of the text is a city ablaze, in an entire country where speech is being burned, all its ancestors are contorted on the ground with gasoline being poured on them while Joana waits to light her zippo…
Joana is a bit like Judas – she sacrifices all her pride, her belief in speech, the supposed image she would like to build of herself for others, to betray the text, to deceive the gatekeepers into thinking the text is about her, to make the guardians think it’s just another little text about another little tramp they’re going to read while scratching their balls, but without betraying it, without Joana dressing up as a tramp to cross the street, the text cannot exist. The Text needs someone to betray him so he can live, so he can finally breathe a little bit out of prison.
I realize as I watch RES work, considering his speed for practical thinking, the velocity with which he creates solutions, with which he seeks new war tools, new battle instruments, these weapons that save him in battle, his solutions come not as “visual solutions”, but rather as solutions that rescue him from defeat, defeated by himself, by his insufficiency, he wants to be able to be defeated by sufficiency, by the failure of building a work that is greater than himself, this failure does not transform his ability to produce, but in producing something that is greater than himself. Or, going back to considering the way he acts, I realize that he himself, with so many assistants, is an assistant, Rubens takes orders and follows them, like an antenna that picks up signals, he has equipped himself with the ability to place these signals in the world, he created all the necessary devices for these signals to exist outside of latency. These signals, or rather, his drawings, already existed before hand, they already existed before they were made, however, RES generated a favorable space for the drawing to exist in another plain of existence, to exist while it presents itself to us – it is really a generous act, that of making something that already exists (even if it escapes our vision), for this material world, as a commission. The drawing is a commission that passes through RES to exist, RES is the vehicle for this commission’s existence, he is the postman, who seeks the commission in one place and takes it to another, RES seeks the drawing where some might call “beyond”, and brings it to nature, and thus, breaking the distinctions between these worlds, the drawing becomes the precise gap, the possibility of reuniting two worlds, which are actually split in “two” by the spiritual crisis of our time. Perhaps this is a term to think about, the artist as the postman, who collects a letter in a database of unique codes and laws, transcribing them to other laws, to another dimension, another galaxy, even if these two galaxies are the same, the postman does the dirty work of transfiguring one thing into another, of transforming an amorphous code into matter, yet still as amorphous matter, that s, the thing does not stop being what it was in the first place, but is now incarnated in the drawing before us.
And so, this commission comes to exist within RES’ visual, cultural, temporal, and social universe, just as it was with Cézanne, he is the vehicle for his painting’s existence, and that is where both RES and Cézanne meet, the first layer in the drawing can represent or situate the artist in chronological history, but after this layer, the drawings share the same anachronistic historical site. The first layer of the drawing is the artifice that sustains the drawing, which is actually what lies between the screen of Cézanne’s painting and RES’ drawing – among these, both are found. And as Chvaicer very precisely said, “RES did something that Duchamp wanted to do: eliminate the artist’s hand, by the artist’s own hand” – Rubens’ hand is just an instrument, as I said before, a medium, an actionable device for something that is not his. The question is then to investigate what exactly is the work done, in order to be able to dispossess oneself in such a way, and only then, in that dispossession, is able to return to oneself. In his passage about the collector, Benjamin says that a collector can have many objects, but that does not mean he owns them. By giving himself up, RES is ultimately possessed by himself – and he knows that he does not belong to himself.
And on a very personal level, his drawing, the drawing commissioned through RES, the work commissioned through RES, is a device that fertilizes the dispossessed embryos within me.
I find myself thinking about language, and what precedes it, the construction that precedes the language that builds it and how language builds us at the same time.
I understood clearly that RES, or what we call “a great artist”, does not speak the same language as the others. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that the words are different, that the verbs are conjugated in an eccentric way, that the syntax is ordered in a “freer” way, but the entire structure of the language is different, and that means: the entire structure of life apprehension is different. Much like the “Brazilian way” may not make sense to a foreigner, for a great artist the border of understanding, apprehension, response to life that an ordinary, common being has, makes no sense at all. Our language is a DNA of who we are, and more, we are now prisoners of this language, if it permits such phrases to be articulated then it means that this articulation is part of our blood, our epistemology, our history, we are languages’ hopeless prisoners, while at the same time, we invented it, and it invents us.
In the same way the structure of Japanese is different, in the same way Japanese or Greek are untranslatable – not because we don’t have the same words, but because our being is structured differently, what is untranslatable is not a word, but it is the life that passes through the one who utters it.
I find it very significant that our language allows the construction of a sentence like “life doesn’t make sense”. I believe that the available syntax in our language for such an elaboration already says a lot about our illness and about our strife. Of course, Freud himself would say, the anguish builds the neurosis, and not the other way around, so I may construe a parallel in this problem to make it even more complicated: the pain is what builds the language, the anguish that invents the language, even if the language imprisons us. Logically, could you then conclude that “we have imprisoned ourselves”?
I wonder if for an esoteric, if for someone like Madame Blavatsky, this statement would have any logic: life is meaningless. I feel that somehow this statement exposes an arrogance, a man’s arrogance, an ancestral, ontological human arrogance in thinking he is in charge. As I follow RES, I realize that this elaboration does not make sense to him anymore, but not in a demagogic way, or because he built an art piece, or because he has many students, many projects, and because he doesn’t have “time” to ponder on such a thing. I don’t think that is the issue. But rather that all of these things come from a life structured precisely around a deep awareness of insignificance, of humility (although these are all terms and definitions by a young woman who is building a life to be unraveled, so these terms are probably not the best ones about his point of view), are circumscribed by a knowledge that he is not in control – life is the meaning, it is the only meaning we have, we are constantly wanting to assign mundane meanings to life, to assign vulgar and much lesser meanings to life. It seems to me that this is a question of logic: really, with the kinds of meaning that we clog up life with, it will never possess, because life is much bigger than this kind of meaning, attributing a vulgar meaning to life will make it, thus, not make sense. Meaning seems to be whispered in our ears day and night, we just need to wake up, we just need to be asleep, the world may be at war and the meaning of life will continue to whisper. What’s more, I don’t hesitate to think that wars are part of this sense, this logic, this web.
It seems to me more that it is a matter of discovery, listening to the clues that life offers us. Step back. We are the ones who are arrogant, the meaning of life exists in a grammatical structure far beyond our comprehension and because we cannot access it, we conclude that there is none.
The language we speak today is running through this affluent of meaninglessness, it is running through the tributary of a construction that deeply fears looking at each other, at our emptiness, our supposed “emptiness of meaning” and seeing in it the “brightness emanating from truth”, as Joseph Beuys would say. It is precisely in this emptiness that all meaning is found in latency, it is in this emptiness that meaning murmurs.
I believe that becoming an artist means entering this language, subverting the laws of a language imposed by a country, a society, a time, and with the resources of that language, transfiguring it, so that it dialogues, so that it fits in a language that is far more subtle, in the language of the senses. The “meaning of life”, you could say, is its own language, it is a language in itself, it has its own codes, its laws, its syntax, grammar… the beautiful thing is that this languages’ vocabulary, the words that exist in this language are very ordinary, the vocabulary can be each human being’s subjectivity, the display is irrelevant: gastronomy, painting, text, juggling, shoeshine, peasantry, it doesn’t matter, there is no correct display, even, the very display constantly wants to be created. The display is undone, humanity will always be undone, or as Jimmie Durham says, “Humanity is not a completed project”.
But this meaning, this language I am referring to, does not reside in the binary vectors of yes and no, of haves and have nots, of sanity and madness. This meaning is not in opposition to something, RES is not opposing a system, or time, but within that time, within the resources that time offers, he transforms them into something else, he returns fleeting time itself to the ontology of time, the present that escapes us, the possibilities in latency, invisible to the obstructed eyes from the truths that we have constructed and that have been imposed on us.
What then seems particularly serious to me is that these meanings of life were all imposed on us, the course of life seems to be only one, the course of life seems to be already pre-established, the professions have already been taxed, the order is only one, relationships follow a script, a speech, a thought, a behavior, an education, all of these are already guided by a script from that time. I intuit, however, that we create all these truths because we cannot stand the grotesque emptiness, we cannot stand to be castaways, we cannot* stand not being in control, so we invent false controls through names, directions, professions, knowledge, recipes, scripts, anyway, a model of society and life, a very specific purpose for existence. (It’s really nerve-racking).
The question that really fascinates me, and which I believe has a lot to do with having life density, those closer to knowing are the ones who have endured the volume of life by destroying, breaking up, murdering all these supposed “meanings” imposed by a society, a country, a time, a social class, while remaining devoid of meaning, which does not mean being meaningless, it does not run through this epistemology affluent; but it means harnessing a void and working towards its meaning through life. And so, weaving the lost links, in latency of this deep sense, without authorship, letting life be created through us, really being an agent of life. In other words, having a life density would then be for those who are really empty, for those who have room to maneuver. Ironically, only those who are empty have this volume of life, so that they have room to maneuver their life in the world. A world that actually, dryly, with a light so strong that it is unbearable, is empty of that sense, so we are constantly giving to it. The world is raw. It is unbearably raw. But it is only possible to invent within this unbearable rawness. Dealing with the unbearable rawness until the rawness starts to change into something else – maybe that something else is an invention. That is why I say Rubens is a murderer. An assassin of an entire meaning of life that is constantly imposed on him, and, not to be flippant, that his own body constantly wants to impose on him, since somehow our body needs to protect itself from its owner. But the artist negotiates with greater forces so that the body can finally get back to living with itself. And only through this murder, and an arsenal of tools, does Rubens give birth to the new, from having nothing, to having something. That’s why RES has no limits, and that’s why he can do anything. For it is precisely by having nothing that one can have everything.
Rubens is the rigger who maneuvers through life in the world. He negotiates a space in the world for this life.
Firstly, I think is important to take into account this statement’s context, which is: I, Anna, who write every week, if not more, and have dedicated the last 10 years of my life to writing and thinking about RES’ work, am saying that I do not understand his text. That is, my “not understanding” speech was at no time presented to me as an impossibility focusing on his work, my non-understanding is not synonymous with an impediment. On the contrary, I believe that it is my “not understanding” that precisely generates a great magnetism on my part towards his work, towards his world, towards his being. I think it is very important to contextualize first, because a statement, or words, require a context to exist – the same statement can mean different things depending on who says it, that is, depending on the context in which the speech is inserted; and yet, this same statement coming from different contexts may end up belonging to another, larger, context, allowing them to actually want to say the same thing.
Returning then to my non-understanding, contrary to what it might seem, this is what authorizes me to want to walk towards his work, as I am fully aware that, as CCS said in a past text, it is like a snake, “it is the serpent of paradise that feeds you – when you can see it, it is already gone – you can see, with its trail, that the door of hell is the same as the one for heaven”1, the more I try to approach it, the more complex it presents itself to me, the more I understand, the deeper my non-understanding, and the more sacrifice it requires from me to get close, again, not to it, but to the desire to be close to it! (Note that there is a very significant difference here). This desire is rooted in my “not understanding”, saying it, saying “not understanding”, facing the contradiction that this non-understanding means, the contradiction that it is to be able to enter a non-cognitive space, although I only have the cognitive skills as tools to articulate myself, “not understanding” is what brings me closer to my desire, my non-understanding is my engine driving towards my desire, and my desire, I suspect, is actually this space of non-cognitive understanding of my being.
To not understand is to be fully aware that my understanding has limitations, that what I understand by “me” also has limitations, and that which I do not understand is unlimited – so I prefer to focus on the non-understanding than the understanding, since what has limits seems to be uninteresting to me – “not understanding” is being aware, or understanding, that my articulation is still binary, chronological, limited and lacking study; not understanding is being aware of the other, of the other, which in this case is the master, that is, is the other of the other2, is a new desubjective3 subject, it is the other of itself4, so it is much closer to me than myself – having said that, not understanding is the only way I can approach myself. To not understand is to finally be able to see the master, and know that between his words there is that which is said, that which is said is not in his words5, but in the existing context, to whom they serve – and that context is the abyss itself, this abyss that I fall through when I am engulfed by my desire; at the limit of the master’s erudition there is repression, the saying that is repressed to keep himself alive, the repressed sublime saying that sustains his life. I believe that “understanding” in fact would be the destruction of repression, therefore, an act of destruction of life, because, as said by Lacan, repression is what sustains the subject; if according to Warburg6 there is no art without repression, I also think that without repression there is no love.
What I mean by this is that I believe that RES’ text itself is precisely the limit between not understanding and understanding – since RES’ understanding also depends on very serious considerations, for RES understanding is no longer what we understand, perhaps if not from its contrary. RES’ understanding maybe means not “finding a way to identify with something”, as I often perceive it to be in my own body, but actually a constant un-identification with oneself, understanding for RES is a way of being in constant transformation of himself, of change, it is the moment when his brain is in a state of overhaul, so when RES understands, maybe it is also a way of un-understanding himself, and this un-understanding of himself, I believe is a big step towards what he really is, and that only when he un-understands can he come to know – even if unknowingly.