My friend, Cyndy Chwelos photographed the inscribed rose petal maple leaf a week after it was made, and sent me the photograph, very kindly allowing me to post it here. It’s interesting to see the transition as the rose petals shrivel, get blown away by the wind, and the stems dry out. That’s the pleasure of ephemeral projects, the cycle of return continues on and their being slowly becomes memory.
I’ve taken these words from the opening paragraph of Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay “Paean to Aphrodite,” (Multiple Arts, Muses II). Taking one concept, one name—Aphrodite, he traces an intricate map of the goddess and her trajectory (physical, linguistic, mythic) through her various appellations and manifestations. He asks, “But why does the beautiful never let us go? When everything is ugly, all that remains of it is a memory.” I am interested in that phrase, “what remains.” Renmants— unsaid, undone, unknown, invisible. What remains?
The text in the image above, I’ve drawn directly onto my studio wall. The small pile of objects that form part of this installation are the renmants of the dried, inscribed, white rose petals I used for the magnificat project that I did last year. (See my post of May 11, 2011, “re-inscription in progress”).
“What, then calls me into question most radically?
These are the beginning words of a paragraph in Maurice Blanchot’s The Unavowable Community – one of the books on my Bibliography: the return project list. As I was browsing through the book, reading snippets, looking through the chapters and searching for a place in which to place an inscribed rose petal, Blanchot’s question caught my eye – especially as he asks this question under the subheading of “Someone Else’s Death.” Intriguing concepts Blanchot puts forward – that of death, of witnessing, and their relationship to identity and community.
Blanchot writes the first part of the Unavowable Community in response to Jean-Luc Nancy’s work, The Inoperable Community. The thought of literally ‘returning’ a fragment of Nancy text back into Blanchot’s book – in the form of an incribed rose petal, made me smile.
On Friday I had my first foray into the stacks at UBC, to start the process of returning the inscribed rose petals to the books in my “Bibliography.” (please see the page on this blogsite for further info on this project).
To say the least, the experience was a delight – enveloped in the smell of books, searching through endless rows, finding familiar titles and meeting new ones, pulling books off shelves and thumbing through their pages; looking for evidence of previous readers – marks, notes, underlining and anything else that might give away the presence of former touch. And, there was that added thrill of knowing that I was there to intentionally add something to that collection of physical evidence.
I had no idea how long it was going to take me to find each book, search through its pages, make notes, place one inscribed rose petal somewhere into the book, photograph the page or book cover and return the book to its original spot on the shelf. I certainly could not anticipate how engaging it would be to read sections of the books – the heavily underlined and “used” pages especially. What did other readers find important? What preoccupied their reading? Who were they? Truly, each mark, each trace, a “world…on the doorstep” to use one of the Nancy text fragments. It’s going to take me a long time to get through my bibliography.
Of the books that I explored on Saturday, 3 discoveries stood out – one was finding Foucault’s essay on “The Meninas;” another was coming upon a receipt of checked-out books from 2007 which included the book that I was looking at, at that moment; and the third was the discovery of a lovely tiny dedication, perched in the corner of the first page of an essay written by Mieke Bal. The dedication reads, For “A” in loving memory.
It’s been some time since I’ve written in this blog. I have been working consistently, but at the same time, feeling like I was in transition and simply not ready to commit anything to print (however virtual). I have started a new project in the intervening months, one that brings the Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series to a close. The project is called “Bibliography: the return” and I’ve written a little bit about in a page on this blogsite. (please check it out).