half a world apart brings us closer …
2 April 2023
'and everything is green and submarine', 2022; Image credit: received
‘half a world apart brings us closer …’ is an attempt to respond-to Dancing Without Touching, a multi-media installation by Sarah Choo Jing which was shown at Yeo Gallery as part of SEA Focus 2023, by performing a reading-of and a writing-alongside the work(s). The piece stages — in the precise sense of theoria — my encounter with her work: in that sense, it is both deeply-personal yet, at the same time, hopes to create a space in which readers will be able read-themselves, write-themselves, into. It will not be an explication of Dancing Without Touching, even less so an academic treatise on it, but rather a slow-dance in which the work unfurls itself to us in glimpses as we move-with, dance-alongside, it. In many ways, ‘half a world closer apart …’ is an attempt to be thinking-with-senses, an attempt at sensual-thinking, which is precisely what Sarah Choo Jing is bringing forth through her work.
Unfettered spaces scare me.
I’m not used to scenes
that aren’t in the frame …
It’s probably from all the TV.
~ Izumi Suzuki (1)
perchance to dream …
Keeping in mind that dreams come to one, envelop one, quite possibly take over one take one over overtake one — and not only does one never quite have control over a dream, it might well write itself into one in ways that will always remain beyond one’s knowledge.
A dream writing; an unreadable writing; perhaps an invisible writing; or maybe a writing that is awaiting reading. And where the effects of said writing are precisely its traces unveiling itself — waiting to be read.
Where perhaps to dance is to risk being in the realm of the unknown — in the oikos of the idiotes.
Stumbling around in the dark.
And in that darkness, what is perhaps being dreamt of is space; a « space » that, as Jean-Luc Nancy continues to teach us, « is first needed for touch ». (2)
To touch to think to thank: ein Denken, das immer auch ein Danken ist. (3) With thanks to Martin Heidegger for the reminder that to-think (denken) is to-thank (sich bedanken), perhaps especially when said « thinking touches on a sphere ». (4)
Or a disco ball.
After all, being thankful as we think should at least could hopefully would even ideally bring on a smile.
Ah, to think with a smile: that might even bring us a touch of joy, even as, as John Lennon might well continue to say « happiness is a warm gun » (5): hopefully whilst dancing on a bed with Yoko Ono.
.Tout est art
~ Ben Vautier (6)
Act I scene ii
Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made. Dancing is like dreaming with your feet!
~ Constanze Mozart (7)
is silent poetry.
~ Simonides (8)
What is dance?
Act I scene iii
There is a whole art in unfurling a body of thought in such a way that one ends up passing it by without seeing it. This is the opposite of discourse, which lays out its findings and arguments and sentences itself to house arrest within the precincts of its own conclusions ...~ Jean Baudrillard (9)
A drawing is simply a line
going for a walk
~ Paul Klee (10)
To walk, to wander, perchance to wonder … ah, to drift, to dream.
Dériver : but from — to — what? Et, où et quand arrivons-nous ; where and when do we arrive? Can we even know if we arrive, if arriving ever happens, even comes, if it is only to-come?
For, to drift implies a certain direction one is headed from heading to headed for; without these indicators indications markers points in-relation-with each other one would just be moving.
But, can one know — intend — one’s drift?
One who drives who thinks themselves a driver imagines they are a driven-person even as to be driven always also implies being moved-around (hello Ms Daisy) would almost certainly say so. But even as (s)he is starting her slide, all (s)he can know is that she is setting the car, herself, the car with herself in it, in motion … after which, the drift itself takes over.
And, all (s)he can do is: attend to it.
Peut-être l’attente l’oubli.
Where, at the point of the drift, both (s)he and the car are drifting — and here, one might not even be able to separate the movement from the ones involved in it, with it, within it.
Where, without either, there would be no drift; for, there is no drifting without the drifter.
Where, both the drifter and the drifting are in relation — in which, all they can know is that there is a relation.
Where, the drift itself is relation.
But, it is not as if we cannot speak of it — after all, we are or at least I am trying to.
Perhaps though: we can only speak as if we can speak of it. Where, it is always an imaginary gesture; where what is being imagined is the relation between the drift and the one(s) drifting.
Where, what is imagined is nothing other than the drift itself, la dérive elle-même.
Perhaps then, what are we drifting from, drifting to?, is a moot question.
As is, what is drifting?
Perhaps then, all we can say is …
— la dérive —
Where, to speak of drift is to attempt to speak of the unspeakable.
Language is essentially discreet: what it expresses can always also be an instrument of encryption, a means of dissembling, disfiguring, or lying. Since, however, it constitutes all oppositions in the first place, it can belong to none of them, neither to concealment nor disclosure, neither publicity nor privacy and its idiosyncrasies.
~ Werner Hamacher (11)
Not that what is speakable and what is unspeakable are antonyms: if that were so, speaking the unspeakable would make no sense, be a contradiction. But, that in every act of speaking, something unspeakable is potentially spoken: something that opens, ruptures, wounds even. And not just that — at the point where it punctures, speaking itself moves out of the way for the unspeakable; speaking itself disappears.
Perhaps then, as Jean Baudrillard might say, « the whole art is to know how to disappear before dying, and instead of dying ». (12)
You have to lose your way
to find yourself in the right place
~ Gilles Massot (13)
And where right place cannot quite be known until one is there — where, at best, one can sense, we might even call it feel, that (s)he is right where she belongs, if only for a moment.
Even if there, wherever said place may be, were exactly where she were only a moment before — even if this feeling disappears even if (s)he no longer senses the appearance of this feeling only a moment after.
Where right place might well be what Alain Badiou calls « an opening of a new world in an old world », (14) that is an event.
Where what is « new » might well be one’s own self, a self that « you » could well first have to « lose » ; where the finding might well be à la recherche du temps perdu.
To lose: une ligne de fuite that might lead one somewhere, might open possibilities for one might open us up to possibilities in one might well also leak away escape from one slip beneath fly above you.
to lose — to find
to come — to go
Bearing in mind that a dash links — brings both together, allows both to touch, whilst —always keeping them apart.
And where to be dashed is always also to run the risk of being broken into parts.
Dériver / Arrivée : not so much from where or to where. For, both are not quite any thing, nor have any point, without each other. Where one might even say each one only exists due to the slash between them dividing and connecting them connection only in division — le trait oblique.
Where, to drift away and to arrive are not only in relation to each other, in a relationship with each other, nor merely dependent on the other, but which bear oblique traces of each other within.
Perhaps even shadowy.
Where perhaps all I have been attempting to read all I have been trying to write on speak about — all of my attempts to remarks on, make marks about — Dancing Without Touching, (15) all my alleged-thoughts touchings on the beautiful work brought forth by my dear friend, Sarah Choo Jing, are the illicit markings ghostly remarks spectral marks of what has to remain in the shadows be unseen perhaps unread or read in shadows ... where, shadow reading might well be an echo of Socrates and Phaedrus reading in the shadow of trees, relying on it not only for shade but being shady themselves ...
Attempting to speak of trying to speak on what cannot be spoken of, of what can only be uttered in-between speech in the silent speech in a speech, as Michel Foucault might say, in a speech which only begins after death — inter-diction; interdiction.
Where, to read is to attempt to touch to feel. Perhaps even each other.
Where, to attempt to think — particularly under a shady tree — is to always also open oneself to not only being in the shadows to be accused of hiding sheltering oneself from the law but always also to the possibility of drifting off.
Dériver — perchance to dream.
And where one can never quite tell if said thought that comes to one came from one had arrived onto one or if one might have merely drifted to it into it.
Where the very notion of having a thought itself might well only be thought teasing one. And where teasing out a thought always already opens one self to being teased.
But perhaps we are always only — can only ever be — dancing.
And what costume shall the poor girl wearTo all tomorrow's parties?For Thursday's child is Sunday's clownFor whom none will go mourningA blackened shroud, a hand-me-down gownOf rags and silks, a costumeFit for one who sits and criesFor all tomorrow's parties
~ The Velvet Underground (16)
Just wanna dance all nightAnd I'm all messed up, I'm so out of line,Stilettos and broken bottlesI'm spinning around in circlesAnd I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her, ohAnd I'm right over here, why can't you see me? OhAnd I'm giving it my allBut I'm not the guy you're taking home, oohI keep dancing on my own
~ Robyn (17)
Act II scene ii
Me dijo: “vos sos una chica
que transforma la naturaleza”,
y se cortó la comunicación.
Y tuve miedo,
yendo por el medio de la calle,
esquivando a los autos
que venían hacía mí.
Pero como me sentía pura,
porque esa era mi prueba de valor.
Las chicas que caminan
solas por la noche son valientes.
Ellas luchan por transformar
su miedo en espadas.
~ Micaela Piñero (18)
He said to me: « you are a girl
who transforms nature »,
and communication was cut.
And I was afraid,
descending into the middle of the street,
that were coming towards me.
But since I felt pure,
continued to walk,
because it was the test of my courage.
The girls who walk
alone at night they are valiant.
They fight to transform
their fear into spades.
~ Micaela Piñero,
translated by Jeremy Fernando
Every translation signifies the space-between, the gap, the historical chasm or the repression of history; translation is the most cautious form of communication since there is always the inherent admission of a certain departure and an uncertain arrival.
~ Hubertus von Amelunxen (19)
Act II scene iii
and everything is green and submarine, 2022
Que la luz del día ilumine mi corazón,
como el día no lo hizo.
Que la luz del día encienda mi corazón,
como el día no lo hizo.
~ Micaela Piñero (20)
Act III scene ii
I love you.
Where everything lies, as Roland Barthes remains to remind us, in that characteristically-beautiful way only he can, where « everything is in the speaking of it: it is a ‘formula’, but this formula corresponds to no ritual; the situations in which I say I-love-you cannot be classified: I-love-you is irrepressible and unforeseeable … too articulated to be no more than an impulse, too phatic to be a sentence … It is neither quite what is uttered (no message is congealed, sorted, mummified within it, ready for dissection) nor quite the uttering itself (the subject does not allow himself to be intimidated by the play of interlocutory sites). We might call it a proffering, which has no scientific place: I-love-you belongs neither in the realm of linguistics nor in that of semiology. Its occasion (the point of departure for speaking it) would be, rather, Music. In the manner of what happens in singing, in the proffering of I-love you, desire is neither repressed (as in what is uttered) nor recognised (where we did not expect it: as in the uttering itself) but simply: released, as an orgasm. Orgasm is not spoken, but it speaks and it says: I-love-you ». (21)
a musical burst
a burst as music
Or, music as burst — music to the point of bursting — music at the point of bursting.
Or, perhaps even: music as the bursting point.
Which also suggests that the point of love — as least in so far as one can hear its whispers — is also the point where Music bursts, is perhaps the point where it is no longer musical, is the point where it is quite possibly beyond the realm, the tone, of musicality …
Act III scene ii
mmm music, a musical thinking, thinking as music, a musicality of thought, a muse that leads us to thinking, thinking which amuses us, that might well leave us all bemused.
smiling — thinking — dancing
Nobody puts Baby
in a corner
~ Johnny Castle (22)
A certain timbre of thought, as it were.
And here, it might be the moment (but who knows though, one can only hope so) to open our registers to the thought of Jean-Luc Nancy, in particular to his notes, his notable notations, his notations as notes (so perhaps always a reminder that they have to be played to be heard, to be heard as playful), to his reminder that « timbre is communication of the incommunicable: provided it is understood that the incommunicable is nothing other, in a perfectly logical way, than communication itself, that thing by which a subject makes an echo — of self, of the other, it’s all one — it’s all one in the plural ». (23)
Moreover, as Jean-Luc continues, « communication is not transmission, but a sharing that becomes subject: sharing as subject of all ‘subjects’. An unfolding, a dance, a resonance. Sound in general is first of all communication in this sense. At first it communicates nothing — except itself. At its weakest and least articulated degree, one would call it a noise. (There is noise in the attack and extinction of a sound, and there is noise in sound itself.) But all noise also contains timbre. In a body that opens up and closes at the same time, that arranges itself and exposes itself with others, the noise of its sharing (with itself, with others) resounds: perhaps the cry in which the child is born, perhaps an even older resonance in the belly and from the belly of a mother ». (24)
An original sound — perhaps an echo from, of even, an origin.
Not that one can have access to this moment: or, even if one did, not that one would could know of it. For, even as one speaks attempts to speak of origins, of an auctor, one should try not to forget that one is always already quite possibly authoring altering it.
Act III scene iii
On ne voit rien.
On n’entend rien.
Et cependant quelque chose
rayonne en silence …
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (25)
The work of art is not an instrument of communication.
The work of art has nothing to do with communication. The work of art strictly does not contain the least bit of information. To the contrary, there is a fundamental affinity between the work of art and the act of resistance. There, yes. It has something to do with information and communication as acts of resistance. What is this mysterious relation between a work of art and an act of resistance when men who resist have neither the time nor sometimes the necessary culture to have the least relation to art?
I don’t know.
~ Gilles Deleuze (26)
But what if the work is housed, is enframed — behind glass, in between narrow and partly-open passageways along walls; dans une galerie, that is, within a gallery?
For, the moment works are housed, encased, are placed within an oikos, they are also withdrawn from the polis, from the public; made private — all whilst trying not to forget that to be private is also to be made voiceless; to be excluded from citizenry; to be the one that cannot learn; to be an idiotes.
Much like when the works are taken (prendre) by, taken into, one’s grasp — placed under one’s conception, one’s comprehension.
And, it should weigh on one’s mind that the moment one attempts to attend to a work, to works, to address it write on them speak about it — even if one is attempting to open oneself to possibilities, to the works themselves, to the contours the steps the angles of the path the labyrinth that Sarah Choo Jing has laid out for us (where is the Minotaur; perhaps, as importantly, are there any threads for us to follow; are they merely red herrings; why does it always involve murder, at least a death; oh let me just fly a little too close to the sun) — one is not only tempted to know to understand to make sense of the works one has no choice but to, if only momentarily, bring it under one’s own conceptions framework; where, in attending to the video-works of Sarah Choo Jing to the maze which she has made, even as one is remains amazed one might well already be doing nothing but taming it turning them — the individual works themselves, the entire show named Dancing without Touching, thoughts on New World (can we ever think about the place the space without also remembering the devastation of the hotel hearing it crumble, a new world that is always already in the rubbles of our memories in our memory as a rubble a pile which came crashing onto me through sound through the sonic waves of a news broadcast whilst I was in the back of a car ostensibly heading for a holiday to a small break from the mad crush that is the school-system in Singapore a schooling that was is certainly seems to want to always be hell-bent on schooling us into schools swimming in the same direction certainly never against the current going anyway the wind blows in a car traveling north of the peninsula at half-past eleven the morning of the ides of March 1986 not quite five hours after driving past the building still enveloped by the darkness and dreams of the previous night now a ruin perhaps emblematic of what happens to dreams in Singapore that stray-away from a neo-liberal wet dream) into information (as I’ve clearly just done, have been doing, can only ever do, despite myself, perhaps all writing is always also to spite myself).
And where, the very moment of response — any attempt at responding-with opening oneself-to another the very space of responsibility — might well be the instant when the potential « acts of resistance » in and of the work are muted.
Where the works themselves are lulled into bed, put to sleep.
And where, the very thing that one comes into a gallery for — to look at works, to see the work, perhaps even to expose oneself to the experience we call art — is precisely what carries the works, transports the pieces, away from the very possibility of art itself.
After all, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions.
All while trying also not to forget that every time one writes about something, one not only writes it into being, brings forth the said object, but also writes its context into existence — recontextualising it if one is feeling generous with oneself but really always also decontextualising it into and — with a new framing that has little maybe even nothing to do with it at all.
Whilst also bearing in mind — even if this will always remain a burden on one — that to frame is always also to potentially accuse someone of something (s)he might not have done.
to write — to writhe
perchance in dreams
Act III scene iv
And, what is it to love across a screen?
Which might well be the question that we are possibly facing, the quest that lies right in front of our eyes as we stand before the works (or the work, perhaps you might prefer to think of Dancing without Touching as a whole, even though it is impossible to see all of it in a single look; but when has impossibility ever stopped anyone from dreaming) — the question of: what does one do with the prophylactic between?
How to touch without touching as it were — bring forth a touchless touch.
Which might well be the question of: how does one engender the space for the possibility of an immaculate conception.
Which suggest that we might have to attempt to think of a stage, of what is being-staged before our eyes, beyond a frame. Doubly-tricky when said staging is taking-place through a screen: for, that would entail imagining a screen that is not just a frame even as it frames everything that we see.
However, here we should bear in mind that the screen is also a mirror.
And try not to forget, not that the screen will allow one to, that your face is screened right back at you, that as you are looking at the screen as you are watching the screens you are also watching yourself watch; and being in those small — tight — booths you might well also be hearing yourself hear hearing yourself mutter to yourself as you watch as you respond as you think, thinking yourself hear.
Thinking is always
an affair of the ear
~ François Noudelmann (27)
Thinking might well be
my affair of the year.
mmm breathless conversation.
To converse — to twirl-with
to dance-alongside another
Which means that even as we are attempting to turn-with each other (versare) even as we are trying to be with (con-) others maybe even whilst we are participating in a debate of sorts against (versus) another, this is a dance in which all bodies are separated — screened-off — from each other.
Even if this other is our very self.
And here, we should try not to forget that a screen both shows and hides away at exactly the same time. Which means that even as we scan the screen even as we might be attempting to pay careful attention enact the closest of readings what is screened is potentially being screened screened-off even as it is put on screen; and perhaps not even by us but by the screen itself in the very act of screening.
That even as we are putting on exposing ourselves to the light of the screen it is already layering us with sunscreen.
And even as we might be turning-with each other prancing-with alleged-thoughts with thoughts-that-allege which might well be allegations, dancing in screens through screens on-screen, we should try not to forget Heidegger’s reminder that technology only unveils itself, that we only manage to catch a glimpse of its essence alleged-essence of what he alleges is an essence one of his essential-allegations, in moments when it breaks down: thankfully, as Paul Virilio tries to never let us forget, each tekhnē brings with it its own, its singular, catastrophe, its own down (kata) turn (strephein), dip if you prefer.
Which would suggest that all hope lies in the potential failures of the screen; in other words, in the potential of the screen itself — when the screen fails to screen, as it were; or even, when the screen screens itself as screen.
Which is not to say that is this a situation that can be programatised, planned, instrumentalised: far from it.
Which also means that all we can do is to await the possibility of such a moment, and attend to them as they happen, if they do: all whilst bearing in mind that waiting is not passive; far from it. But that it never knows cannot know what it is awaiting — otherwise futurial-possibilities are always already enframed, limited, by what is expected. Where, if waiting is about the possibility of an encounter, it is a state in which one waits: nothing more, and infinitely nothing less.
To wait — to think; perchance to dream
Perhaps even whilst we are touching screens, rubbing the screen with our digits.
Opening the possibility that it is our fingers (digits) that are doing the feeling walking seeing opening — by touching caressing — the screen. A response which comes through the skin of our fingers; where one, like a surgeon examining bodies, is attempting to see through touch, by stroking-around; where one is performing a dance through seeing without seeing, as it were; by feel.
And with one’s fingers with all of the fingers in the dance with dancing fingers perhaps making our languages, our skins, our screens, vibrate with an intensity that brings forth certain potentials lying within them.
screens — veils … oh to scream sometimes at screens
But like a veil (un voile) it sometimes in moments momentarily turns transforms trans-substantiates even into a sail (une voile) … flies away (s’envoler) like a thief (un voleur) in the night.
And if this sounds like word-play, like merely playing with words, one might take comfort in the words of the great Australian philosophers — Barry, Maurice, and Robin, the brothers Gibb — that « it’s only words, and words are all I have/ to take your heart away ». (28)
For, as Roland Barthes tries to never let us forget, « language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire ». (29)
Ah, to rub …
May the light of the screen illuminate my heart, like the day does not. May the light of the screen light my heart, like the day does not.
… perchance to dream
1. Izumi Suzuki, ‘Terminal Boredom’ in Terminal Boredom: Stories, translated by Daniel Joseph, London: Verso, 2021, 191.
2. This line first came to me during Jean-Luc Nancy’s seminar, Art, Community, & Politics, at The European Graduate School in June 2006.
3. The echo of danke in danken was first brought to my ears in a conversation with Avital Ronell on the slopes of Saas Fee in August 2014.
4. Martin Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ in Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter, New York: Harper Perennial, 2001, 59.
5. John Lennon & Paul McCartney, ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ in The Beatles, London: Apple, 1968.
6. Ben Vautier, Tout est art, Oil and mixed technique on Canvas, 1970.
7. This is something she allegedly said, or at least has been attributed to her over time — so, apocryphal; like the best tales always are.
8. This thought is attributed to Simonides by Plutarch in his essay ‘De gloria Atheniensium’ (‘On the glory of the Athenians’), beyond which it is impossible to verify, even more delicious for being-so.
9. I first had the pleasure of encountering this thought as a line on a wall during the fête celebrating the life and works of Jean Baudrillard — in commemoration of a decade of his passing — which was organised by Marine Dupuis Baudrillard in Paris, June 2017.
10. It is of significance, at least to me, that this thought was first brought to me by an artist, my dear friend, Yanyun Chen, in response to my question, « what, to you, is drawing? » : both for the wonderful notion from Paul Klee but also for the fact that her notion of drawing had come to her, walked over to her as it were, from another, from her encounter with this thought, a thought that not only drew her towards it but has clearly also drawn itself into her, as it has now on me. To further explore Klee’s vision of drawing, please see Paul Klee, Pedagogical Sketchbook, translated and with an introduction by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1960, in which the idea of « line going for a walk » is demonstrated, played-with.
11. Werner Hamacher, ‘“Disgregation of the Will”: Nietzsche on the Individual and Individuality’ in Premises: Essays on Philosophy & Literature from Kant to Celan, translated by Peter Fenves, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, 173.
13. Gilles Massot, You have to lose your way to find yourself in the right place, selected works shown at the NUS Museum, 14 June – 31 December 2019.
14. Alain Badiou described an event in these terms during his seminar, Philosophy, Ethics, Art, at The European Graduate School, in August 2004.
15. Sarah Choo Jing, Dancing Without Touching, solo show at Yeo Workshop, 7 January – 26 February 2023: https://www.yeoworkshop.com/exhibitions/43-sarah-choo-jing-dancing-without-touching/works/
16. Lou Reed, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ in The Velvet Underground & Nico. New York: Verve Records, 1967.
17. Robyn & Patrick Berger, ‘Dancing On My Own’ in Body Talk Pt.1, Stockholm: Konichiwa Records, 2010.
18. Micaela Piñero, ‘Espadas’ en Universidad de la violencia. Buenos Aires: Mansalva, 2018, 23.
19. Hubertus von Amelunxen, ‘Afterword’ in Vilém Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography, translated by Anthony Matthews, London: Reaktion Books, 2000, 88.
20. Micaela Piñero, ‘Montañas’ en Universidad de la violencia. Buenos Aires: Mansalva, 2018, 54.
21. Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, translated by Richard Howard. London: Vintage, 2002, 149.
22. Eleanor Bergstein, Dirty Dancing, directed by Emile Ardolino. Chicago: Vestron Pictures, 1987.
23. Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening, translated by Charlotte Mandell. New York: Fordham University Press, 2007, 41.
24. Ibid, 41.
25. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince. Stutgart: Reclams Universal-Bibliothek, 2015, 95.
26. Gilles Deleuze, Having an Idea in Cinema [On the Cinema of Straub-Huillet], translated by Eleanor Kaufman, in Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy and Culture, edited by Eleanor Kaufmann and Kevin Jon Heller. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1998, 18.
27. François Noudelmann, The Philosopher’s Touch: Sartre, Nietzsche, and Barthes at the Piano, translated by Brian Reilly. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012, 75.
28. Barry, Robin, & Maurice Gibb, ‘Words’, single. London: Polydor Records, 1968.
29. Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, 73.