Drawing languages for Dissent
CAS Research Group with Yonat Nitzan-Green
Text introduced by Janice Kirkby-Brown:
Jean-Luc Nancy, ‘The Pleasure in Drawing’ (2013, p. 14). Fordham University Press. Kindle Edition.
Jean-Luc Nancy wrote this book for an exhibition he curated at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon in 2007. ‘This book addresses the medium of drawing in light of the question of form – of form in its formation, as a formative force, as a birth to form. In this sense, drawing opens less toward its achievement, intention, and accomplishment than toward a finality without end and the infinite renewal of ends.’ He opens a possibility to rethinking drawing’s historical ‘building-blocks’, i.e. sketch, outline, mark; inviting his readers to consider drawing‘in its graphic, filmic, choreographic, poetic, melodic, and rhythmic sense.’ Quotes taken from: https://muse.jhu.edu/book/22726
French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy is looking at the relationship between drawing and idea or form. Already at the opening we are told that drawing is both ‘the idea’ and ‘the true form of the thing’. Nancy meditates on drawing using distinctions methodically. He begins by drawing a distinction between trace of a form already known, or in his words, ‘received’, i.e. to copy; and trace as ‘seeking a form to come’, i.e., to investigate. Nancy is interested in the latter. It is drawing that gives birth to this new form. By finding an etymological connection between ‘design’, ‘dessein’, ‘designare’, ‘disegno’ and ‘designate’, Nancy writes: ‘Drawing designates the form or idea.’ However it does not fix an idea as a word does, as we shall see shortly. He makes another distinction between ‘demonstrative thought’ and ‘monstration’. Demonstration is a gradual process that can be followed step-by-step. On the other hand, monstration ‘puts one … before the fait accompli’. Here Nancy positions us not in a realm of results or products but in the realm of process, of present, of something coming into being.
Monstration – ‘”A monstration is a public performance similar to a demonstration, but intended as creative performance art, often parodying a serious demonstration.” … monstration can be seen as a constructed situation that can intervene in existing institutional and public situations.’ From: https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Monstration
‘Monstration’ is performance oriented towards dissent. It is a creative act of intervention that has an element of parody although it is not a parody. (See further comments on this subject later on).
According to Nancy, ‘drawing’s “fait accompli” is … the monstration of the form, idea, or thought’. In other words, at the ‘heart’ of drawing there is a rebellion, a dissent. There are many ideas and forms that obey social conventions. Conventions are embedded in language, objects and daily life in almost all its aspects. Drawing allows us to shake off and unsettle conventional ideas. Nancy keeps refining what he means by drawing. Drawing is not ‘an ethereal image of the thing, nor is it how it appears.’ Rather, drawing reveals the ‘formation, reformation, or transformation into truth’ that thought is.
As an example, he brings Cezanne and the table. Drawing does not convey a generic table (all the tables) or a specific table (drawing ‘my table’ from observation), but creates something unique that is both usual and strange. ‘[D]istinct but not conceptual… precise and present but not proffered to any other use than that of thought, of the sensibility of thought.’
Other kinds of drawings (industrial, architectural, botanical) ‘produce ideas, thought, sense, or truth.’ In order to draw a distinction between these and artistic drawing Nancy introduces the term ‘truth in play’. Once again he makes a distinction between ‘verifiable truth’ and a truth that exists ‘before verification’. Nancy names this truth as ‘unformed’. It emerges through a ‘formative force’. This unformed truth harbouring a formative force that brings ‘the drawing of art’ to life. It constitutes it. It does not formalize the drawing, as in fixing it as a concept; rather, this force is ‘formative, ostensive, and dynamic’. Another distinction is drawn between an additive mode and a synthetic mode. ‘Drawing creates this synthesis’. In Degas’s words: “Drawing is not the form, it is the manner of seeing the form.”
And in Armenini’s words ‘On the True Precepts of Painting, (1587): “Your drawing will be a pre-disposition which, first imagined in the mind then conceived by the soul and judgment, will finish by coming into existence in various modes on little pieces of paper.”
The gesture of drawing belongs to the mode of making it. Drawing brings a ‘singularity of form’. The drawing’s ‘essence consists … of the manner, mode, and allure of its gesture, the force of its movement, the weight and lightness of its mark’ [My emphasis. YNG]. In this latter remark we can see the importance Nancy attributes to the physical body in the making of drawing.
Jean-Luc Nancy (French philosopher, 1940 -) ‘insists that all we can say of sense is that it is the world itself, or, alternatively, is constitutive of the very structure of the world’. From: “Immanentism.” Jean-Luc Nancy and the Future of Philosophy, by B.C. Hutchens, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005, pp. 33–62. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.cttq92t5.7. Accessed 22 Mar. 2020
Below are some quotes from DAMTP/Constitution (monstrations of the Alytus Biennial Art Strike and DAMTP):
‘WE ARE THE LABOUR UNION OF DATA MINERS AND PSYCHC WORKERS’
‘We are a labour union for workers who make meaning.’‘
We are open to all paid or unpaid workers.’
‘We are open to workers from any space and time.’
‘We are open to workers who are dead.’
‘We are open to workers who do not exist.’
For further information check out: https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Monstration