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ISBN: Drawing — Philosophy. Visual perception. Blind in art. Musee du Louvre II. D '. The term choice would refer not to some personal predilection where the gratuitous flights of subjec- tivity would win out, but, rather, to a reasoned meditation on the demon- strative virtue of the work and its argumentative value. Naturally, the curators are closely associated with these exhibitions and offer to the person commissioned their knowledge of resources. But the freedom of the author remains sovereign and is acknowledged right from the start as an inviolable principle.
One may certainly wonder about the reason for such a project.
Planet of the Blind
Why the discourse of the uninitiated in a domain where the specialist prevails? But to ask the question is already to give the answer. It is to admit that art has a hard time accommodating itself to monopolies, even if erudite; that even historians would agree that their exegesis stands to be enriched by other approaches, by another gaze. This first exhibition, which speaks of blind men and visionaries, is a sort of metaphor for this.
One will, no doubt, sometimes have to make an effort to read in registers unfamiliar to the neophyte. But if the game were not difficult, would it not be less playful? One can nonetheless take it for granted that at the end of the journey each one will have found their own light: what one learns here, in the literal as well as the figurative sense, are the ways of opening eyes.
First, the text presented along with the drawings and paintings at the exhibition was not the same as that found here.
Second, a number of works that could not be exhibited have been included here: while the exhibition displayed some forty-four drawings and paintings, the book has seventy-one. Finally, the works are not presented in the same order in the book as in the exhibition. To compare the two orderings, one may consult the list of illustrations where all the works exhibited are briefly described and their number in the exhibition given.
Memoirs of the Blind is about, among many other things, the debt at the origin of all drawing.
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But there is also a debt — an inexhaustible one — at the origin of translation, and so the typical formulae of thanks are not simply obligatory expressions of modesty but exemplary inscriptions of an anxiety concerning a debt that can never be repaid. Thus we would first like to thank David Krell for bringing this project to our attention and for helping us at every step along the way. Also, we would like to express our deep gratitude to Roger Kuin of York University in Canada, who generously made available to us his own unpublished translation of this text. FTis excellent work steered us clear of several potential pitfalls, while clarifying and improving our vision in many places.
And finally, our thanks to Jacques Derrida, for all his kindness, patience, and support, for seeing us through this — and for making it easier for us to believe. To conclude, it may be worth noting that the series Taking Sides resumes in November with an exhibition organized by Peter Greenaway en- titled Le bruit des nuages [The Sound of Clouds]: Flying out of this World. Now it just so happens that Greenaway is the writer and director of the film The Draughtsman's Contract, a film about the differences between drawing, painting, and sculpture, about allegory and ruin, about masks and funeral monuments, about strategies and debts, optics and blinds, about living statues and sounds represented in drawing.
But above all it is about witnessing and testimony, about legacies and inheritances. Hence it may not be totally without interest to cite not only Mrs. Talmann: We now have a contract with you, Mr. Neville, and under conditions of our choosing. Noyes: The contract concerning our present pleasure.
Neville, and there is no need to write it down for you will never see it, is to cancel your eyes. Talmann: Since we have now deprived you of your access to a living, this shirt on your back will be of no value to you. Noyes: It may well dangle from a scarecrow to frighten the crows. Seymour: Or be scattered about an estate as ambiguous evidence of an obscure allegory. Poulencs: And the third condition of your contract, concomittant to the other two.
Living in the dark
Blindness, dispropriation, and the interruption of a lineage or filiation: the cancellation of what makes representation possible, the difference between the body proper and the supplement, the living body and the scarecrow, and the ruination and death of all foresight, all representation, and all legacies. Derrida writes: A singular genealogy, a singular illustration, an illustration of oneself among all these illustrious blind men who keep each other in memory, who greet and recognize one another in the night.
For Memoirs of the Blind not only teaches us much about blindness, vision, and drawing — about philosophy and art — but leaves us another way to understand the legacy of drawing and vision, the legacy of representation, the legacy of legacy itself. It thus will have seen to it to interrupt the legacy of a monocular vision in order to lead us by the hand toward this other legacy that is passed down in darkness. Memoirs of the Blind I write without seeing. I came. I wanted to kiss your hand. This is the first time I have ever written in the dark. Wherever there will be nothing, read that I love you.
I remain skeptical. Before doubt ever becomes a system, skepsis has to do with the eyes.
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The word refers to a visual perception, to the observation, vigilance, and atten- tion of the gaze [regard] during an examination. One is on the lookout, one reflects upon what one sees, reflects what one sees by delaying the moment of conclusion. Keeping [gardant] the thing in sight, one keeps on looking at it [on la regarde]. The judgment depends on the hypothesis. So as not to forget them along the way, so that everything be made clear, let me summarize: there would be two hypotheses. Why not a single point of view?
Why two hypotheses? Jacques Derrida — The two will cross paths, but without ever confirming each other, without the least bit of certainty, in a conjecture that is at once singular and general, the hypothesis of sight, and nothing less. A purely academic hypothesis? No longer beneath each step, therefore, as I set out, but always out ahead of me, as if sent out on recon- naissance: two antennae or two scouts to orient my wanderings, to guide me as I feel my way, in a speculation that ventures forth, simply in order to see, from one drawing to the next. I am not sure that I want to demon- strate this.
Without trying too much to verify, my sights always set on convincing you, I will tell you a story and describe for you a point of view. Indeed the point of view will be my theme. Or observe?
Silently watch you show me some drawings? It listens in watching. Here is a first hypothesis: the drawing is blind, if not the draftsman or draftswoman. As such, and in the moment proper to it, the operation of drawing would have something to do with blindness, would in some way regard blindness [aveuglement].
In this abocular hypothesis the word aveugle comes from ah oculis: not from or by but without the eyes , the following remains to be heard and understood: the blind man can be a seer, and he sometimes has the vocation of a visionary. Here is the second hypothesis then — an eye graft, the grafting of one point of view onto the other: a drawing of the blind is a drawing of the blind.
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