’SKIRTS 2993
Acrylic/Canvas/Wood, Triptych – 60” x 108”, 2013-14
(Photo credits: 315 Photo)

Confucius said that where disorder develops, words are the first steps in preparing the way for things to come. (The Book of Changes, 1950, p. 232). Disorder may be the nature of beginnings but before there are words, there is an in-between state characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, and thought that allows for a shift from an intimate perspective to a more distant one. Distancing, which extends beyond a perceptual relationship, elicits a prolonged reverberation that resonates between the interiority of one thing and the exteriority of another. In contemporary art practice, it is impossible to know where this will lead but it is possible to take a step back - without reason - to inscribe images that could be comprehended and contemplated, in a way that would otherwise be unlikely.
    Semiotics is a theory of signs and symbols that deals with their functions in both artificially constructed and natural languages. Drawing from Plato’s description of chora as the image making matrix between being and becoming and Julia Kristeva’s appropriation of the semiotic chora as the pre-verbal relation between mother and child in preparation for entry into the symbolic order, this chapter investigates the theoretical framework for a series of paintings titled ’SKIRTS. It will focus on the legacy of the between and how chora has been used to grapple with the problem of how to conceive of and to produce works of art that have not been too organized by thought or limited by the individual character of form. This calls for a strategy for avoiding knowledge conditioned by a personal mental state and entering into a “disposition that is definitively heterogeneous to meaning but always in sight of it or either a negative or a surplus relationship to it” (Kristeva, 1980, p. 133). In order to become aware of this disposition as space, chora has to be understood as an idea of a physical limit that refers to things perceptible by the senses. Although “limits and finitude are at the heart of our history,” the limit that is beyond the limit, “makes us take into account that the environment is much more than geographical or physical, but is a philosophical environment as well” (Virilio, 2009, p. 52).[1]
    Semiotics opens the way to apply different meanings to terms “when taken out of the conceptual field in which the respective terms were conceived” (Moi, 1986, p. 79). Cutting and pasting, and borrowing from philosophy, alter relationships with words and place a visual emphasis on imagery that evoke aesthetic appreciation and a psychological response. ’SKIRTS describe a procedure that deviates from a usual course and reference a site that marks the distance between the social and the individual. Mediating between the body and the circumstances, conditions, or objects that surround it, the word skirt (which is also slang word for woman), alludes to various coverings, rims, peripheries, environs, outlying parts, and attachments that constitute the complexity of forming connections in the world. Apostrophized and capitalized, ’SKIRTS, is a graphic depiction of the omission of letters or figures and signifies a methodology for scoping out what can be observed in a landscape where the chora of the process is articulated. This process, which is driven by the desire to experience things that go beyond the limits of visual perception, reference everything that is marginal or that run along a border.
    ’SKIRTS sets out to describe and to illustrate entering into a dialogue with the legacy of chora in a roundabout way. Chora is an arcane word that refers to an indefinite expanse of land, homeland or place of residence. It is rural territory as opposed to an urban area and for Plato this distinction is the difference between a natural and a constructed place. Both are dwelling places organized spatially but the implication is that there is a centerline or a division between them that belongs to them both and pertains to the question of where something is and where it is not. Derived from the Greek, choros or chorion, which refers to shades of emotion that reveal the differences between what is seen and what is already there, chora provides Plato with a medium to regain possession of background material that contains traces of an ideal environment that has been lost or forgotten. Its placement between being (father) and becoming (phenomenon) is the mechanical necessity for the structure of his creative process and constitutes a territorial relation to the maternal (Timaeus 50d). In this triadic ontology, chora is the commonality that accounts for the passage of non-being into being through doing and making.
    Chora is a matrix from which something else originates. Philosophically, it represents a material receptacle in which something is inscribed, enclosed or embedded that calls forth an emotional attachment and refers to more than a location. Containing probable discrepancies that are touched upon “in a kind of inauthentic thought,” it is the center (and what surrounds it) of what is built upon the distinction between the “sensible” (the visible, changing copy) and the “intelligible” (the unchanging model) (Timaeus 27d-28b). Although chora is neither, sensible or intelligible, at times it can appear to be both. Derrida (1995, p. 92), explains its functions and describes its operations by analogies in relation to “a mother, nurse, a receptacle and a bearer of imprints or gold” to illustrate how chora appears in the logic of space and in the spirit of being related to a larger whole. For example, as a “nurse of becoming and change,” (Timaeus 52e) it receives images it does not produce to move things around and calm things down. As a concept of space, chora is the mother of what becomes visible but it does not impose its feminine characteristics on things that are generated, other than in terms of kinds. These kinds are nourished and put into the right relation to themselves and to each other to be recollected by a craftsman to produce something good. As a so-called nurse, chora alters various elements to keep them alive and as a mother, in terms of reproduction, chora contains its offspring until its basic needs are met. Although chora receives and provides room to move around in (Zeyl, 2000), it cannot easily be assigned to a thing being done because it does not belong to the two recognized types of being and its name announces something other than what it is (Timaeus 28 a-c, 49a, 50b-53b, 50 d-e, 31c).
    Aesthetically, the “shape” of (the semiotic) chora suggests a female presence as a connective force that lays claim to sensuous form and when this presence is articulated, it provides for an expansion of the psychic journey for traditional philosophical disciplines through metaphors and stories by which to live. The workings of chora are linked to conditions of critical consensus that are contingent upon the integration of special knowledge into public knowledge through rational design. This knowledge, which is revealed through a conception of care as wet nurse or mother, constitutes the primordial basis for every signifying system that promises to makes sense of all those areas of existence that are beyond measurement and categorization. A wet-nurse is called for because the story is dependent upon a non-spatial continuum that requires nurturing a relationship between past, present and future. What is assembled from memories taken out of order is strung together with the help of lapses to produce something meaningful in speech and writing. Stylistically, pauses and lapses are used to specify where not-knowing occurs and how description replaces what is missing. “Nothing” prevents the desired conclusions from being true under the agreed assumptions that are poured into the materiality of language but these assumptions may not be what they are presumed to be because words and images speak beyond our intentions and control.
    For Plato, true philosophy is motivated by a kind of erotic desire that pulls man out of the cave toward its true home, the world of ideas (Republic Book Vll). Education is compared to that of a prisoner who once having grasped at nothing but shadows in the artificial light of the cave eventually learns to see the sun. Once images are seen for what they are, the prisoner is equipped to return to the cave but the flame of the hearth is diffused and everything becomes indistinct. Faced with the dark-ground of not-knowing requires a kind of receptivity that paves the way for a deeper insight into the structure of being. Only someone capable of penetrating the interior of things merits returning to the depths of the celestial hearth. This capability lies in the capacity to be inspired but can only be understood when inspiration is remembered in utterances made in a dream, or in waking states or rational explanations for these visions (Lee, pp. 71-72). The hearth (fire), when associated with a middle ground that shares a certain intimacy with the dark, is a symbol of an invitation to reverie that comes from a distant path and understood as a place from which to derive pleasure (Bachelard, 1964, pp. 40-41)[2].
    Chora constitutes the experience of being two places at once and serves as a sign of acquiescence. Its dual role is distinctly participatory and the result of organizing private space contributes to a manner of perceiving the surrounding landscape. Associated with absence, lack and uncertainty, chora is a routine part of daily life that contributes to the failure of standards for social behavior and endangers the human condition. A sudden loss of continuity denotes a crisis of meaning that introduces the problem of two different natures that are indicative of the split between appearance and reality. As a negative presence, the choric receptacle operates as an opening for something to take place in which, as in a dream, memories are received in a state of withdrawal facilitated by some impersonal source. In this dialogue, the mysterious and incomprehensible nature of the in-between sets up the condition for the substitution of laws for unpredictable events and deprives particular absences or errors of any active value. This operation, which is a virtually matricide, alludes to complex relations of production and reproduction that are suppressed in order to enter the socio-symbolic order.
    Plato maintains that chora takes a particular shape through the organizing power of human persuasion and the effect of what is produced is what is perceived by the senses. Individual intuition, instinct and emotion must be persuaded by reason to become something other than what they are to produce a unified image of the ideal state. Viewed as a spatial medium that serves a cognitive function, it appears as a recipient to allow physical things to stand their ground. Things that are capable of being apprehended by the intellect and that can be represented in a concept by a concrete instance are quietly upheld by chora. Although it is described an invisible and formless quality of being which receives all things, chora is only thinkable through “bastard reasoning” and partakes of the intelligible in a most incomprehensible way (Timaeus 52b). The way it operates reflects a mode of philosophical inquiry marked by the production of symbols to compensate for contradictions and conflicts having to do with creation that must be brought into relation with whatever is lacking.
    For Plato, the vanishing point is the center of a system in which disappearance upholds a specific position of reception (Timaeus 52). The idea behind this point of view is to give uncertainty a passive role because the invisible is the not-yet known and the world Plato constructs goes beyond the particulars that begin to emerge. What is recollected in chora is a commonplace property of living things whose imprint is carried out in other things. Two different things from wildly different sources touch and fuse and divide in chora; they don’t have any sense of where they have been but inscriptions or marks enable elements to locate others of like-kinds to carve a path to live together, harmoniously. Sometimes, when things become enfolded in chora, the fear of being devoured (by the mother, the abyss or uncertainty) is overwhelming and the threat may be perceived as retribution for having to endure the identity of something it is not. When an element or kind is reduced and irrelevant parts are cast off, there is nothing left of the devouring mother because what has been successfully edited and defined in words, encompasses the entire philosophical system. For Plato, as long as chora remains constant and unobtrusive, it will be the primary source of measurable action and subservient to the controlling force of reason.
    The shift from the centrality of a domestic hearth to a heavenly one reduced the value of the interrelation between private and civic life (Symposium 1989). Once the goals of philosophical education were woven into the fabric of the social order to eliminate distractions and to provide a basis for public consensus by rational design, human situations were entrusted to technical solutions that forced “natural” qualities into an artificial relation to life to satisfy the demands of the collective organization of cognitive structures that dominate symbolic communication.
    Jacques Derrida (1995) claims that chora (Khora) lays the ground for the real substance of philosophy but it always resists interpretations and definitions.[3] Once “this strange mother” gives place without engendering, “it can no longer be considered an origin” because it is pre-originary, signifying that it is before and outside all generation. In order to think chora, he claims that it is necessary to go back to pre-originary beginnings, where meaning is derived from what follows and prepares the way for what’s to come. Derrida interprets chora as nothing more than an introduction legitimized by the themes it serves to render familiar before the real task [of philosophy] begins.
    In an effort to return chora to its erotic roots, teacher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva (1984, pp. 25-30) appropriates Plato’s chora to found a theory of beginnings in the maternal body in terms of semiotic relationality. The term semiotic, which is derived from the Greek word, semeion for a distinctive mark, imprint or trace, is operative in rhythm, intonation and kinetic energy and is observable in socially communicative discourse (Ibid.). Her interpretation of the semiotic chora as a place that mediates between a fixed essence and the impulse toward movement situates chora at the heart of the philosophical debate about beginnings and problematizes our relation with a preverbal origin that belongs to a formative phase of human development. For Kristeva, the semiotic chora is the ambiguous site of the potential to become, and the nature of beginning is located in emotions such as love, hate and suffering that are given in the primordial act of becoming.
    Kristeva’s concept of the semiotic chora relates to the philosophical problem of “the beginning before the beginning” that Plato sought to reconstruct in his story about an ideal state that had been lost or forgotten (Kristeva, 1980; Timaeus 21b-22d). Although he acknowledges that the Greeks had achieved literacy from time to time, he argues that their achievements were swept away by “a heavenly flood that left only illiterate and uncultured people in its wake ” (Timaeus 85c-e). Plato attributes this flood to “inflammations of the soul” that flow in and boil over in a kind of “mindlessness” that leads to madness and ignorance (Ibid.). For Kristeva, “flooding” refers to being overwhelmed by the instinctual and what happens when the language of infancy is not balanced out by the symbolic.
     Kristeva’s theory of the semiotic chora retraces the archaic origin of the Greek’s forgotten history to put memory into a form of communication that recognize stylistic, rhythmic and poetic ambiguities in the process of learning the symbolic function. In her attempt to restore the legacy of the maternal feminine and to put forward a theory of an embodied thinking subject, she looks to chora as a kind of ambiguous relationality to reconnect history and biological traces with the primitive roots of language. The semiotic chora signifies a return to the maternal body as a structuring principle of the symbolic order and constitutes a crisis where a new modality of the signifying process is generated. Her strategy is to reveal Plato’s chora as a semiotic expression of the maternal bond necessary to facilitate a child’s introduction into the symbolic order and to show that this bond is the underlying source of creative activity (Kristeva, 1984).
    According to Kristeva, artistic practice has a privileged relation to the semiotic because the artist, like the mother who must educate the infant driven by bodily drives, is in direct contact with the chaos of the drives at their earliest stage and must struggle to give them form. Both separation from the mother and giving birth to ideas gives the individual the power to initiate his or her own state of being by representing the feelings and conflicts that give rise to them in an entire range of symbolic manifestations. This process has to do with affective self-governing that puts all other developments of morality, competition and creative activity in motion. The difficulty lies in being receptive to creative perception, individual differences and affective aspects of interrelatedness.
    Aesthetic experience carries a certain pleasure that is associated with an archaic space before boundaries of self and other breakdown. Nonsensical ideas that do not belong to discourse or acts of understanding are constituted from an indefinable space in practices that provide a framework to communicate a mysterious reality that is the source of perception and thinking. For Kristeva, these practices, which play with metaphor and meaning, demonstrate that language is both arbitrary and entangled with loss: “Not a language of the desiring exchange of messages or objects that are transmitted in a social contract of communication and desire beyond want, but a desire of want, of the fear that edges up to it and runs along its edges” (Kristeva, 1982, p. 38). Fear, which Kristeva associates with the term “abjection” is a place that “preserves what existed in the archaism of pre-objectal relationship, in the immemorial violence with which a body becomes separated from another body in order to be” (p. 10). Neither subject nor object, the abject is excluded to allow the symbolic order to persist and represents both the threat of meaning breaking down and constitutes a reaction to such a breakdown. Artistic practices that confront and explore the place of the abject are really an effort to cover up the breakdowns and the reassertion of boundaries associated with them that follow, because playing with metaphor and meaning reveal that language is at once dependent upon individual discretion and delineated by the abject fear of loss. Meaning, which begins by imagining certain things that cannot be expressed by speech or thinking or by seeing, and being drawn “toward the place where meaning collapses,” marks what Kristeva calls a “primal repression” that precedes the establishment of the subject’s relation to its objects of desire and representation (p. 2). Horror, repulsion, melancholia and depression represent a return of the abjected maternal and refer to the sense of loss related to having neutralized something vital.
    ’SKIRTS allude to the theoretical underpinnings of Plato and Kristeva through the problematic of painting to draw out the capacity of anamorphic space to articulate discontinuities in another dimension. This capacity, which arises from oppositions and loss, communicates through visual manifestations of things that can only exist prior to differentiation. Guided by certain parameters that include the persistent evidence of the hand, the importance of mistakes and the inclination to think through the art form, the subject of ’SKIRTS, which has to do with feelings that arise from the non-object rather than the subject, involve breaking away from representation to uncover an otherness that takes us back to an undifferentiated place when individuation is not completely formed. Turning away from the status of object means conceiving of and producing images that come about in the half-light, unconstrained by the individuating character of form.
    Painting is a non-academic line of inquiry that does not conform to a preconceived plan. It is a manner of conceiving of the space where philosophy breaks off and the body is re-inscribed to contemplate what is seen and not seen. ’SKIRTS, which alternate between a series of procedures that do not separate production from conception, enter into a relationship of give-and-take to portray a vision of the surrounding landscape in a veil of sameness. Moving between the formal and the undifferentiated without seeing, painting and un-painting expands moments between phases, puts different parts in common, and lets things show through. These operations are indebted to the in-between to maintain a reciprocal relationship between keeping everything in “flight” and securing a relation in concrete form at the same time. Pre-word and amorphous, what is brought back and erased repeatedly passes through the interstices of chora and leaves behind some kind of sediment or space that is both limited and detached. Traces, changed into marks of passage, are carried into the realm of form and simultaneously cast astray.
    Painting and writing cut into a surface to trace images and signs with lines and segments that begin and end with a stroke. Substituting lines for text, what is constituted by a concrete language and constructed out of definite sequencing, secure a relation to depictions of physical and emotional reality that are more than topological facts. Moments of reflection are put in touch with what a thought looks like, echoing the many parallels that have been written about the interplay between philosophy and the visual arts. Since the task to examine the parallel between them is primarily pedagogical, the lines of intentionality are blurred and what cannot be experienced completely overflows into the art form. Line breaks, inflections, tonality and gaps are ‘words’, but not what words are purported to be; they are a source of incompletion to ward off what might otherwise appear hemmed in. Between iteration after iteration is an otherness that rises to the surface in a vagueness of mental perception that refers to a certain presence that is nevertheless absent.
    Landscape is a standard subject of painting but when viewed at a distance, the subject is no longer an object, but what is adjacent to it. ’SKIRTS, which exhibit what cannot be properly called a place, are built up into a dense abstract form that has no final intention other than to anticipate the coherence of physical and psychic events that are held together by the viewer. Not being bound by the object, being evasive, and following the trajectory of the creative process, allow for a glimpse of something that remains open for others to seek. It also provides the incentive to grasp the uncertain status of a work of art and this leads to seeking out what permeates traces that are constituted in painting. The trace which refers to but does not belong to a particular reference applies to what is left over and picked up again from accumulated material that is distilled in different mediums. Traces appear in terms of presence and absence – between what is there and not there.

Acrylic/Canvas, 60” x 60”, 2013-14

 ’SKIRTS 073
Acrylic/Canvas, 60” x 60”, 2013-14

    The impulse that drives ’SKIRTS is the desire to access another way of knowing that does not require total comprehension. Reality gives way to dreams to confirm and inscribe an intuition of shadowy visions of a primitive scene – a space that is both totally free and totally limited. Although strange things that are difficult to imagine reopen a sense of loss, they also evoke something material that reference an unknown thing from a murky distance. Psychoanalytically, this would entail suffering the pain of intimacy, where the struggle to think back through our mothers is embodied in a negotiation of emotional and aesthetic expression related to identity. In the Platonic sense, it is a kind of unspeakable communication that precedes or exceeds the limitations of language and utilizes a complex set of desires to locate meaning in the temporal flow of life. For things to come together from different spheres of knowledge, one must be observant and receptive, present and absent at the same time. To be “touched” is to experience an emotion that is provoked by an arrangement of a combination of things that move us in a particular way.
    The semiotic belongs to a tradition of digressive and transgressive thinking that links its unaccountable discourse across time, space and disciplinary boundaries. By recognizing chora as a process of production or a process that unfolds between the archaic and the social, Kristeva demonstrates that the semiotic chora is a system of breaks and flows. These links, which are associated with the paradox of double belonging and the structural importance of the mother-infant relationship, involve a kind of semiotic literacy as a way of looking at things and solving problems. At a time when ideological fabrication involves fantastic forces designed to mislead, an approach to knowledge that includes the affections and aversions of everyday life could serve as a foundation for an epistemological movement that calls for recuperating the material conditions of lived experience. This practice, which contains contradictions and constantly changing positions, accepts that something between holds boundaries in place and demands a specific discourse closer to the body to make sense of our collective past. For those whose concerns start from the personal aspect of exploring the constitution and functioning of the symbolic contract, it means thinking in terms of differences to establish new bridges between nature and culture. Because educative practice is a translation of personal life into a language taken from temporally defined conventions, systems of knowledge have to be learned or worked-out through teaching and individual experimentation. Education, which includes everything that happens to us from the time we enter the world of meaningful symbols requires a radical alteration if we are to re-interpret where we stand in the ordering of things.
    In Kristeva’s theory of poetic language, the semiotic and the symbolic are key concepts, and Freudian theory is the psychoanalytic foundation for her thinking. By elaborating on the function and uncertain place of the pre-verbal semiotic and its interaction with the symbolic, she attempts to disclose that language owes its potential for renewal to the infiltration of subversive elements that disrupt the existing state of affairs. For her, the semiotic is a preverbal sign that announces an expression of “unspeakable forces” that strive to attack traditional forms and give notice to the presence of a child and the child’s relationship with the mother prior to language acquisition and symbolic separation (Smith, 1998). To form an identity and to bridge the gap between isolation and social structures, the child must negotiate the oedipal triangle by a kind of imaginative activity that has a place somewhere in the social system. The semiotic, which draws on corporeal memory of the dialectical interdependence of the maternal bond before the symbolic separation from the mother takes place, enables the unconscious forces to institute creative modes of representation.
    Symbolization seen in love, artistic practice, works of art and psychoanalysis take place in the dialectical area between the symbolic and the semiotic to enable subjects to be at once transgressive and contained in the symbolic order. These practices articulate the energy and drives that are experienced in the body before separation from the mother and at the same time submit them to a socially permissible code. This dialectic is the condition of the maternal bond in which the subversive work of the semiotic does battle with the symbolic and connects language to the body.
    In order to play an effective role in a network of relations, and to participate in the creative organization of a shared narrative, it is necessary to be “touched” intellectually and to assume responsibility for the choices being made. These choices require coming to terms with “collective depression” and “agonistic space” that Kristeva (1989) links with the loss of meaning and the dark abyss of the feminine that is rooted in lack of representation. The difficulty of enduring the pain and tension of passing through this space is analogous to withstanding the tension of having knowledge without knowing it and rejecting all attempts to rely on technological innovations to see what is objectively true.
    In order to resist ideological manipulation of public discourse, Kristeva calls for preserving the oedipal structure, (which privileged patricide and the subsequent possession of the mother), and reinvesting it with the full psychic resonance of the role of the mother. This resonance, which is the “subversive core” of a philosophical point of reference for emancipatory politics that pertains to the expression of semiotic, preverbal and instinctual drives that allow for the affirmation of individuality as well as commonality in language, precipitates an opening into the other that can be “heard” and “felt” without having to rely on conceptual operations to prove their existence. The implication is that “sounds” and “feelings” are “un-thoughts” that contribute to an organizational principle that is always indirectly inferred. The “un-thought,” which is suspended in a co-existence that broadly refers to the creative domain, is concerned with the underlying sentiment that “sounds” in disturbances to bring about a mode of communication.
    Kristeva insists that the dialectical relation between the semiotic and the symbolic should not be confused with inexpressible muteness. Rather than troubling silence, it should be recognized as an inviolable quality of “melodic alliteration” that speaks of infinite transformations that resonate in the sacred connection between body and meaning. As the semiotic makes its way into the material of language as tones and rhythms, it causes an upheaval in artistic and political modalities and calls attention to the “madness” and the “pregnancies that are incomprehensible and disturbing to the status quo. For Kristeva, listening to these disturbances and recognizing the unspoken in speech, brings about a kind of social and emotional resonance that alternates between time and its ‘truth’ (Moi, 1986, p. 153).
    Kristeva describes these intervals as “spasms” that give birth to the workings of the imagination and that constitute a leap toward elsewhere. For her, elsewhere is “the place where I am not” - where the struggle to think back through our mothers is embodied in the negotiation of emotional and aesthetic expression related to identity (Kristeva, 1982).[4] This means suffering the pain of intimacy in order to hear the silence in the “rift of difference” that has the power to lead the mind elsewhere (Heidegger, 1971). Any utterance that breaks the primal silence in speech or writing is part of a two-fold bidding of listening and responding. Listening involves being receptive to hearing what is restrained in the soundless or tranquil and responding is related to acts of imagining that invite things in to bear upon one another as they unfold. It is Kristeva’s contention that the power associated with this unseen ground affirms a woman’s specific relation to meaning and constitutes the need to reflect upon philosophical issues that share a common ambition for knowledge and the care of other human beings. For her, motherhood is not identical with femininity, but the mother/child relationship can provide a foundation for a new ethics of difference that calls for openness to the other and in which a woman finds her own language without abandoning the symbolic dimension.
    In the interest of education, feminist philosopher Nel Noddings associates receptivity with intuition reminding us that historically intuition is associated with the dark, mysterious and timeless and is sometimes seen as an alternative way of knowing (Noddings & Shore, 1984, pp. 165-173). She uses the term receptivity in relation to situations when one is faced with what to do and a motivation for doing it and associates it with the love that is present in the acts of teaching and learning. For Noddings, receptivity maintains and enhances relatedness to set the stage for making a commitment to “seeing what is there, considering what might be changed, speculating on what might be” (Noddings, 1984, p. 60). While Noddings admits that each human consciousness participates in the construction of reality, she emphasizes the relatedness that must be perceived and accepted before any coherent picture can be constructed. In the search for meaning, the question of what something means may be met by a “storm of silence” until the search becomes active and correspondences are drawn up in a systematic way to see what the behavior of the objects have to say. In the receptive phase, manipulative or assimilative activity must cease in order to watch and be guided, “attentive as though listening,” so that what is there may exercise its influence upon the situation. This state of activity is a controlled state of passivity that abstains from controlling the situation and lets the situation direct what is done to it. Noddings describes it as a dual orientation toward objects that are confronted in consciousness and by becoming both subject and object, reflect the activity of caring for human beings. Of this double-belonging, Noddings writes: “The other is received, his reality is apprehended as possibility for oneself. The object is received; its reality stands out against the background of its possibilities in the one receiving” (Noddings, 1984, p. 8) Attentiveness in conjunction with “natural interest” places the relation in a capacity for empathy that leads to “a heightened sense of aliveness” and a realization of kinship between oneself and the other. This capacity, which is the starting point for relatedness, provides a “little space” for becoming intensely involved in a double bonding where the spirit of the enterprise stems from emotional intelligence and a mutual welcoming that is realized as a reconnection with a thing held in common.
    For Noddings, educating only from a rational-cognitive approach is a mistake because “we share only the justification for our acts and not what motivates and touches us” (Noddings, 1984, p. 8). Her approach requires a process of decision-making founded on concrete situations and being immersed in the changing character of that experience. What is experienced depends upon the point through which the individual can assert his or her passionate impulses on the situation to be drawn closer to the heart of the matter. To open the door to receive a message that belongs to a different order and to know how to act, it is necessary to perceive what occurs in the domain of change. This domain, which is pregnant with possibility, may take on a life of its own as the subject evolves along with the environment. Rather than being governed by habits of mind, fixed through repetition and conventional assumptions, the relation between things may be postulated to explain anomalies and reveal all sorts of variations.
    A semiotic education involves a specific practice that makes itself felt in meaningful intellectual activity. This practice, which has to do with analyzing and locating a perspective from which questions and concerns can be addressed, calls for a dual discourse that recognizes two systems of logic and how they interrelate.
Interactions that are both mental and physical are transmitted by subtle and (not so subtle) cues of sensory communication based on strong commitments to particular techniques. Semiotics, which relies on these tremors to allow for a glimpse of another way of engaging in thought, sets us on a path to explore the other side of rational cognition through a more internal orientation toward meaning. Successive beginnings, ground clearings, and displacements pave the way for what comes to pass in images that Plato compares to “living things” (Cratylus 439, p. 174) because mark-making such as painting (and writing) are creations that have “the attitude of life” (Phaedrus 275, p. 461). Chora and subsequently, the semiotic chora constitute the midway point between things to initiate the un-doing of the language of representation and to allow for the possibility of escaping imprisonment in the discourse. Where we leave off, which belongs to another kind of energy that has the power to lead the mind elsewhere, will be returned to again and again only to appear differently in every new development. “Beginning is begotten of nothing”… “but if unbegotten, it must also be indestructible”… “therefore the self-moving is the beginning of motion and this can never be destroyed” (Phaedrus, p. 441).
[1]    Paul Virilio, Grey Ecology, trans. Drew Burk, ed. Huberitus von Amelunxen, ATROPOS PRESS, New York 2009. A critic of contemporary art, Virilio is concerned with the speed of perception and how art is related to reality. From the beginning, reality functions “accident upon accident,” but the “destructive mechanics” of instantaneity and a disembodied visual spectrum call for placing himself and his work in the space between…and taking on a position of delirium to deal with the relationship between phenomena where “no mastery can be had.” This “mode of thought does not lend itself to a concrete philosophy or a precise “rational” thought (tr. Intro. pp. 16-17).
[2]    See Gaston Bachelard 1964. The Psychoanalysis of Fire, tr. Alan C.M.Ross. (Boston, MA: Beacon Press).
      For an analysis of the phenomena of fire and the emotional value it lends to rational and affective abstract concepts of substances.
[3]    See Jacques Derrida, “Khora” in On the Name, ed. Thomas Dutoit, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995). For Derrida, khora (chora) labors under the constraints of rhetoric and appears to represent absence and presence at different times. The question of what this place situates is a matter of structure drawn from the text that implies the possibility of a determined existent via acts of language.
[4]    Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press) pp. 1-5. Kristeva speaks of abjection as a revolt of being in which the one haunted by it is literally beside oneself. There is no correlation between one or the other that could support the possibility of being autonomous. The only quality of the abject is that of being opposed to I and through its opposition draws the subject toward the place where meaning collapses and pushes one toward non-existence. Being in the middle (of treachery) is the beginning of separation from oneself and the process of becoming an Other at the expense of one’s own death. Abjection is the border of ones condition as a living being where the loss of the body becomes the place where it is not and the body is deprived of a world.
Bachelard, G. (1984). The Psychoanalysis of Fire, tr. Edith R. Farrell. Dallas, TX: The Pegasus Foundation.
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