The ‘Rough edge of deterritorialisation’: Contemplation
van Bever Donker, Maurits
MetadataShow full item record
To frame this paper, which given its focus on the installation Red should ostensibly deal with a question of aesthetics and technology, with an epigraph that situates the contemplative capacity of a cow alongside the echo of the damned, is perhaps a little strange. It is this haunting echo, however, that asks for a re-working of contemplation and that finds a resonance in the effect evoked through ‘Red’, an effect that draws out the rumbling of the non-Western in the frame of Western philosophy.2 Rather than approach this strangeness as something to be resisted in order to assert the apparent clarity of what appears to us, a resistance that would allow an articulation of an instance of clear aesthetic judgment, thereby affirming a sense of subjective certainty, in what follows I seek to abide by its unsettling effect. This unsettling encounter with a work of art, an encounter that provokes a Kierkegaardian trembling and exceeds the scripts in which it becomes legible, opens, in my reading, toward a re-working of contemplation away from judgment and towards what Nietzsche calls ‘life’.3 Contemplation, in this instance, is offered both as an action and as a capacity, a capacity that is not peculiarly human and that begins to posit the subject as a question for thought. As Derrida suggests in his critique of both Lacan’s and Levinas’ production, in keeping with a certain Cartesianism, of a distinction between the human and that which it is not, namely the machine or the animal (what he terms the ‘animot’), the human, the animal, and the machine are all similarly responsive to the coding of language. It is the claim to subjective certainty that deploys the distinction as part of its conceptual scaffolding.4 Red, through its desire to inhabit the dislocated space of a gift that, in its own narrative, carried a weight akin to the task of post-apartheid reconciliation, offers itself as a peculiar instantiation of this unsettling effect.