On Space

Boredom, Architecture and Modernity

Tag: Space

Max Beckmann: Boredom, Space and Painting

Love in an animal sense is an illness, but a necessity which one has to overcome. Politics is an odd game, not without danger I have been told, but certainly sometimes amusing. To eat and to drink are habits not to be despised but often connected with unfortunate consequences.To sail around the earth in ninety-one hours must be very strenuous, like racing in cars or splitting the atoms. But the most exhausting thing of all – is boredom.

So let me take part in your boredom and your dreams while you take part in mine which may be yours as well.

To begin with, there has been enough talk about art. After all, it must always be unsatisfactory to try to express one’s deeds in words. Still we shall go on and on, talking and painting and making music, boring ourselves, exciting ourselves, making war and peace as long as our strength of imagination lasts. Imagination is perhaps the most decisive characteristic of mankind. My dream is the imagination of space – to change the optical impression of the world of objects by a transcendental arithmetic progression of the inner being. That is the precept. In principal any alteration of the object is allowed which has a sufficiently strong creative power behind it.

[…]

If the canvas is only filled with two-dimensional conception of space, we shall have applied art, or ornament. Certainly this may give us pleasure, though I myself find it boring as it does not give me enough visual sensation. To transform three into two dimensions is for me an experience full of magic in which I glimpse for a moment that fourth dimension which my whole being is seeking.

[…]

Stars are our eyes and nebulae our beards… we have people’s souls for our hearts. We hide ourselves and you cannot see us, which is just what we want when the skies are red at midday, red in the blackest night. Our torches stretch away without end… silver, glowing red, purple, violet, green-blue and black. We bear them in our dance over the seas and mountains, across the boredom of life.

We sleep and our brains circle in dull dreams.

Full text

Max Beckmann, ‘My Theory of Painting’ in Max Beckmann. Paintings, Paperworks, Graphics. Galerie Thomas, 1938

The Space of Proclus Lycaeus

Space is nothing other than the finest light.

Proclus, Elements of Physics. 142a. In Panofsky, Erwin. Perspective as Symbolic Form. Translated by Christopher Wood. New York: Zone Books, 1991.

Interiority and Exteriority in Parallel: Fernando Pessoa’s Realm of Boredom

14 [118]

I’ve come to the realization that I’m always thinking and listening to two things at once. I expect everyone does that a little. Some impressions are so vague that only when we remember them afterwards we are aware of them at all. I think these impressions form a part (the internal part, perhaps) of this double attention we all pay to things. In my case the two realities I attend to have equal weight. In that lies my originality. In that, perhaps, lie both my tragedy and the comedy of my tragedy.

   I write carefully, bent over the book in which I measure out in balance sheets the futile history of an obscure company and, at the same time and with equal attention, my thoughts follow the route of an imaginary ship through oriental landscapes that have never existed. The two things are equally clear, equally visible to me: the ruled page on which I meticulously write the lines of the epic commercial poem that is Vasques & Co. and the deck where, a little to one side of the lines made by the tarred spaces between the planks, I watch intently the rows of deckchairs and the stretched-out legs of people relaxing on the voyage.

   (If I were knocked down by a child’s bicycle, that bicycle would become part of my story.)

   The smoking room protrudes on to the deck, preventing me from seeing anything more than their legs.

   I reach for the inkwell with my pen and from the door of the smoking room – […] right where I feel myself to be standing – emerges the figure of the stranger. He turns his back on me and goes over to the others. He walks slowly and I can deduce nothing from his back […]. I begin another entry in the accounts book. I try to see where I went wrong. Marques’s accounts should be debited not credited (I imagine him: plump, amiable, full of jokes and, in an instant, the ship has vanished).

Pessoa, Fernando (1991) The Book of Disquiet. London: Serpent’s Tail. 12-3

The Purer and More Perfect Space of Women: Kierkegaard on the Aesthetic Validity of Marriage

Further, it is said that the woman shall obey the man. Here you may say, ‘Yes that’s fine, and it has always appealed to me to see a woman who, in her husband, loves her master.’ But you find it shocking that it should be a consequence of sin, and you feel called upon to act as the woman’s knight. Whether you do her a service thereby I leave undecided, but I believe you have not grasped to the full the inner nature of woman, to which also belongs the fact that she is at once more perfect and more imperfect than the man. If you want to say what is purest and most perfect, you say ‘a woman’; if you want to say what is weakest, you say ‘a woman’; if you want to illustrate spiritual ascendancy over the sensual, you say ‘a woman’; if you want to illustrate the sensual, you say ‘a woman’; if you want to say what innocence is in all its inspiring greatness, you say ‘a woman’; when you want to say what the dispiriting feeling of guilt is, you say ‘a woman’. So the woman is in a certain sense more perfect than the man, and the Scriptures express this by saying she is more guilty. If you now recall that the Church only proclaims the lot of woman in general, then I do not see how there can be anything in this to cause first love disquiet, but only for the reflecting thought that does not know how to keep hold of her with this possibility in mind. Besides, the Church does not make the woman a mere slave, it says, ‘And God said, I will make for Adam a helpmeet for him’, an expression possessing as much aesthetic warmth as it has truth. Therefore the Church teaches that, ‘a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife’. One would almost have expected it to say, ‘The woman shall leave her father and her mother and cleave unto her husband’, for the woman is after all the weaker. In the Scriptures’ expression there lies an acknowledgement of the woman’s importance, and no knight could be more gallant towards her.

Kierkegaard, Søren (2004/1843) ‘The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage’ in Either/Or. London: Penguin Classics. 430-31

Boredom as a Plain Field: Jean-Luc Marion’s Desert that Rises Over the Things of the World

[In this way] boredom distinguishes itself just as much from nihilism and negation as from anxiety: it does not value, nor depreciate; it does not fight, nor predicate; it does not lack beings, nor suffer the assault of the nothing.

How, then, does the power of boredom exert itself? Do we not end up at an impasse where nothing happens, not even the Nothing? To be sure, boredom leads us to an impasse; but is it precisely in that very aporia that boredom holds away. Boredom leaves beings in place, without denying them, depreciating them, or suffering their absent assault. It leaves beings in place, without affecting them, above all without being affected by them; it peaceably and serenely abandons beings to themselves, as if nothing were the matter [comme si de rien n’etait]. But that very abandonment defines it: considering the mute interpellation of beings, of the other, even of Being, it removes itself from them with an equally mute constancy; no wonder ever sets it into ecstasy; boredom defuses the explosion of any call, whatever it might might be; it covers itself, refuses to expose itself, defuses the conflict by deserting the field. Absent to beings, to the other, even to Being, it is not there for anyone, to the point that in a sense the one who yields to boredom no longer is. He no longer is for what is, because he hates what is. Boredom hates – it even takes its French name from that hate: ennui comes from est mihi in odio, to me it is in hate, through the substantive inodium, which assimilates every object to the object of hate. One obviousle should not understand this hate as a passion or an intention, since, precisely, it suspends all passion and all intention. One should much rather understand it as a radical uninterest: the one who yields to boredom and henceforth proceeds from it hates (est mihi in odio) because nothing makes any difference for him (nihil interest mihi); indifference to things provokes their undifferentiation; nothing distinguishes them, since between them and the one who is bored there is nothing; there is nothing among them because there is nothing between them and whoever is bored. The suspension of the world does not manifest any Being-in-the-world but the dissolution of worldhood itself. The bracketing worldly things does not reduce to the region of consciousness, but discovers that all consciousness absents itself. I desert, a desert rises over the things of the world. 

Marion, Jean-Luc (1998) Reduction and Givenness. Investigations of Husserl, Heidegger, and Phenomenology. Translated by Thomas A. Carlson. Evanston, Illinois – USA: Northwestern University Press.

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