Ex –sistere: make a halt in the absence of ourselves


Ex –sistere: a halt in the absence of ourselves

Alfonso Masó

Translated by Ian MacCandless

The word “exist” comes from the Latin ex –sistere meaning “out of standing”. The word indicating our journey through life, our coming into the world, originally meant to make a halt in the absence of ourselves. But arriving does not imply awareness of being, awareness of existence, which occurs after one’s own recognition at the first reflex, the first reflexion. Before that, before reflexion, arriving in the world is to be made welcome, to receive a name.

Arriving at speech: being named, having things named for us: beginning to be in words.

Arriving in the world is arriving at speech, arriving at art is arriving at speech. Imagining languages is the origin and the meaning of art: imagining lives. Only imagining them, creating is a necessary ficcion. Imagining is to be made up of signs: coming to be the reflexion of images.

Telling is to construct the reflection. Reconstructing is another fiction. Nothing is reconstructed, still in ruins, everything must be reborn.

Preparing the contexts to receive the reflexion of images is the task that in any culture begins reception into the world: preparing speech to pronounce signs, cadences and rhythms, to be the mirror of metaphors.

Being still is not stagnation, it is the quietness required to contemplate what is happening, to approach rhythms, languages and signs, to delve beyond the surface, beyond the barriers that protect or exclude or gag intimacy. Being still generates time. In the time of being still the transfers between the invisible and the visible flow: time for listening.

Not being heard, not being able to speak would be like not existing. The image without signs opened by others does not exist. It was not sufficient, in reflexion, to perceive oneself, it was on being thought by others when appearance began to arise out of invisibility: the reflection that inaugurated the awareness of being was the reflection in others’ eyes.

To speak of stillness, of created times, is to speak of tempos, strata, simultaneous worlds that coincide, but do no always converge. Reflexion always requires a tempo. The slow strata that are inevitably displaced by the strata where speed is reinforced by technology and the most diverse reflective elements distort intimacy or, in their public projection, merely confuse it with versions of pornography.

Art cannot turn its back on the world in which it lives, but neither can the world in which it lives turn its back on those broad expanses of the ego that are not recognised, but buried by media hum. Art is forced to procure the convergence of the worlds that need it in order to live. By definition, what is most intimate is most profound. The intimacy of public art would therefore be the most deeply buried and, perhaps, for that very reason, what most urgently demands our aid. And, there where all seems to dissolve into the languages of silence, it would not be contradictory to conceive an intimacy that could be shared with the collective, to imagine it, to procure the dialogues that reciprocally encourage each of the imagined voices, for when the spirit of the voice takes on an image is when it is once again given to us.

 The truly collective finds its meaning in caring for the intimate by caring for what is shared. Too often we expect that by the word “public” care for what is shared falls to the others, and, although words are not what set the world right, they can lead us reconsider it, for if, as Wittgenstein suggested, the limits of language represent the limits of my world (Tractatus 5.6), the awareness of those limits place me at the boundary point of my world where conflict occurs. Language places me in that conflict and finds support for me to proclaim that what holds my attention speaks some sort of language, shares some sign or gesture that we can both understand.

Reflexion is dialogue with oneself only insofar as we delude ourselves to give voice to the enigmatic eloquence of silence. The extreme silence of before and after struggles for a reflexion that allows the illusion of its existere: to reflect itself in the fleeting stasis of an image that by some sort of chance passed close by him, it or her. To only have those moments of that chance to obtain the only possibility of seduction arising out of the inert: the emotional steps towards a common centre of attraction between you and her or it or him: a common skin shivering under the touch of the inexistent.

If that voice that must arise unheard is the sole reason for the existence of art and its artifices, what sort of art do we produce for its advent to depend on the lips of a prince or princess that must tear it away from an unjust sleep?

We know and do not want to know that an art can flow more easily through the dried up mud of hovels than through the shining tiles that reflect our absence. And someone among us suddenly wants to buy all the hovels, as if art were one and absence could disperse the smoke of aeroplanes.

There are rites in which the initiate makes public his surrender to the powers of some arts through the symbolic destruction or mutilation of his own body, thus abandoning the being that restricts it: that initiated spirit will never more be able to flee the place that receives him, that wounded body will be cared for by the collective and, in exchange, will receive more than mediation: that being from which it is released, that support in transformation, will make the transformation shared, will make the pain common and the wound indelible.




Co- ex –sistere:   To coincide in existence


A disturbing anguish of belonging is being played out.

Art plays at being the voice that suggests how to speak of belonging to disarray; how to speak of the fear of scheming – to scheme, to plot … a warning paralyses us before these voices, charged at some time with stalking, as if something from the past should warn us about the textile act of interweaving image, memory and meaning.

We intuit that co-ex-sistere is a fractal that, mutilated, is rooted under our pillow, from the close eyes of childhood, from the secret fear of difference.

To coexist is not to live simultaneously, it is to coincide in existence. A coinciding existence is one that seeks to affect what is shared: what is most shared is difference, differences.

Playing at making room for differences would seem to be the polis of chaos to those who dream with the polis of order. Those who dream with the polis of order are part of the chaos of the polis of differences. Chaos is the name given to the diverse before it is understood.

In stasis reflecting or reflection is to find oneself inside the other.

In the strangeness of “co-ex-sistere” we ask the verb to make itself known.

There are no beggars of inexistence, of solitude, only kings: to reify is to make kings out of nothing of all those to whom we concede strangeness.

“To empower” means to remove the reification: to concede listening.

In the hands of ludopathic demiurges conceding or taking away listening would seem a game of squares, dice and pieces in which “luck can arrive at any moment”, as in that infernal roulette of the in “The Shanghai Enigma.”

What art-demiurge concedes listening? is not a false doubt or a trick question, but it could be it could be that much of what we now call art is like the light still reaching us from already extinct heavenly bodies: automatic production dictated by a world that has ceased to exist.

Our art may not have lost all meaning … perhaps it need to spend a moment in darkness, away from all we perceive as inequivocal… perhaps in that strange lapse, that might seem just one night, something more than age, colour or sex would have changed in the others … perhaps in ourselves, as in that fascinating Orlando of Virginia Woolf that we still remember.