Four phrases from the second paragraph of Nancy’s essay “On the Threshold” are the source for this sequence of drawings. I like Nancy’s words – how we invade the space, engage with an image – and how it in turn seizes us, attracts us, pulls us in.
We are, in fact, that threshold, suggests Nancy, the point of engagement, the space of perception, attention, and interpretation.
The M-Webster dictionary gives the following definitions for threshold
“…a physical marker, like the plank, stone or piece of timber that lies under a door. The end or boundary, the place or point of entering or beginning; the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced. A level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not.”
The point of interest for me is that portion of that definition that speaks of the “end or boundary, the point of entering or beginning,” that ambiguous point that is both beginning and end, true and not true, real and unreal – and one which can be considered physically, psychologically or symbolically.
I think perhaps Nancy, with his poetic play on words, intimates the possibilities of the word – threshold – and places our involvement with the image in these multiple realms of experience, for (I have found) Nancy never leaves a word with one bound meaning, but enjoys the layered and shifting sense that each word can invoke.
This set of images represent a re-interpretation of the opening phrases of Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay “On the Threshold,” from his text The Muses. Nancy examines a painting by Caravaggio, “The Death of the Virgin,” (1605-6) and utilizes the complex spaces, colors and forms of this work to explore ideas of the relationship of viewer to image.
I have chosen to do this transcription in white with tones of grey, in order to examine this in-between space, this threshold.
Here’s a wax drawing that uses everything – the spaces between words, the words themselves and the spaces between lines. The text is a fragment from the essay “The Visitation” by Jean-Luc Nancy (The Ground of the Image). Nancy discusses the theory of western religious painting as representation of Christian thought, but also talks about its place within a wider context of the image as art – beyond content, beyond memorialization. I am fascinated by his statement:
“Art never commemorates. It is not made to preserve a memory, and whenever it is set to work in a monument, it does not belong to the memorializing aspect of the work.”
I have the honour of working with a video artist, Cindy Mochizuki on a project that explores and expands upon my text-based drawing/inscribing project Withdrawn: scribing Nancy . We are taking the project into an entirely new direction for me, video. I think of this direction, this process, these video objects as ones which engage the viewer in a multi-sensorial experience of space: the projector, the screen, the expanse of floor and wall, the dark, and then the light that fills the space between these objects, the sounds, the flickering images and the simultaneous distension and restraint of time, combine to push the viewer over the threshold and into the space of the image:
” The image throws in my face an intimacy that reaches me in the midst of intimacy – through sight, through hearing, through the very meaning of words…the seduction of images, their eroticisim, is nothing other than their availability for being taken, touched by the eyes, the hands, the belly, or by reason and penetrated. The gaze impregnated with color, the ear with sonority.”
(Video stills by Cindy Mochizuki)