Attention: The Present of the the Present requires your Attention

Textos / Text
Julius Heinemann, Chronos & Kairos
Edition Taube, Munich, 2018
Spanish version

CHRONOS is the Greek god who personifies universal time. Together with Ananké, the personification of inevitability, both gods ordered and therefore produced the world as we know it, separating land, sea and sky. This order brought about the harvests and the calendar, repeated season after season.

Chronos is the book. It has 510 pages of white 150g/m2 GardaMatt Art paper. Each 23,5 x 23,5 cm page is identical to the one that precedes it and the one that follows it. One after the other, following the inherent structure of any edition, the page becomes a constant, standardized and regulated space within a given predetermined system. Like each of the sixty minutes that we call an hour, the pages are always identical.

The book, like a scientific theory, could be a white and aseptic cube. Like the pages in a book, scientific time can be counted. You can talk about duration, length or periodicity as expressible constants in measurements and algorithms. It has been done since Galileo, and again in the time of Newton, or Einstein, or in Superstring Theory. But Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his Encyclopedia, already quoted Jean-Henri-Samuel Formey saying that “time is only an abstract being which is not endowed with the properties the imagination attributes it with”[1].

TICK-TOCK TICK-TOCK TICK-TOCK

KAIROS is represented as a young man with winged feet standing on the edge of a knife. Carrying a scale in his hands whilst keeping balance, Kairos barely has hair on his head; just a lock of it on his forehead, like a baby. With this fast and unstable attitude, Kairos represents opportunity, the time of the right moment, of what can only happen at that precise moment.

How to measure this interval? Abstract numbers do not account for the quality of “moments”. In order to think about what we see in that precise lapse, another concept of time is required: one that relates the object, the self and the other, with what happens now. It is the time of present perception: the time of those who look attentively.

This perceived time would find its expression in subjectivity. In Bergson’s words “the physical time resulted from a simple extension of our subjective experience of duration applied to things”[2]. From this perspective, objective time –that pure homogeneous line– is only the expression of a consensual order, independent from time itself. But this subjective experience of time can now become retroactive or even reach out into the future. It can feed on memories which have determined our perception of the present and it can allow for a mutable understanding of what may possibly be perceived next. As Agamben points out in relation to Heidegger’s theories[3], this mutable perception of time is not only capable of determining a potential future; it also applies to a mutable past. The present, past and future become a potential openness to the world that surrounds it.

The trace of the graphite in these pages represents the interval which the brain commits to in order to link the present moment to the passing of time. Neuroscientists have determined that this lapse of time is more or less equivalent to three seconds: A standard measure which, interestingly enough, does not apply only to the human brain or to Western scientific culture. The Yanomami, for instance, apply a similar time pattern to their own idea of movement[4].

Every movement of the pencil and the graphite dust that it liberates brings us back to that precise moment: That lapse in which we see. Each mark that appears on the paper due to the accumulation of matter is a vestige of a past moment, but at the same time it speaks for future possibilities, for slight alterations that could occur in the rustling of pages. In each now the whole of the past is contained, but also the possibilities of the future are shaped.

Once

In which year?

I woke up

for the first time in a strange room

and realised for the first time

that I was in a room.

Peter Handke, “Die neuen Erfahrungen”, Die Innenwelt der Außenwelt der Innenwelt, Shurkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1969, S. 8[5].

 

The structure of a book is a standard space for the representation of a code, a language. In linguistics the term “deixis” refers to the enactment of the linguistic index in cases “in which any reference depends on the coordinates of space, time and person”[6] that would define a reality. If any of these coordinates is displaced –from the here, the now or the self– the whole time-space conundrum is modified, not to mention the relationship between the self and the other. These changes subtly produce a fiction, since fiction is not a parallel world, but the many possibilities which pulse within a story. Therefore, these subtle deictic changes allow for the existence of imagination and the experience of its possibilities.

Each letter, each graphism, is an opening unto a moment. Because of their temporal nature –their relation to the time when it was written and the time when it is being read– these indexes will always have a fictitious component. This code takes us to the time of the action: To the time of writing and then back to the time of reading. Literary experimentation has to do with the juggling of these temporalities, with playing with their ability to stimulate perception and produce diverse potentialities.

What construction or system, what language, can be identified in these abstract lines that do not seem to follow any given path or algorithm?

Mallarmé[7] sought to free typography of the conventions of the page. Later, Broodthaers[8] ostentatiously hid Mallarmé’s typographies, intervening the French poet’s text with black marker. The former denied the logic of the narrative, the latter denied narrative itself.

If this is a book, then the drawing would be a calligraphy of sorts. Indeed, it takes the form of a language. Perhaps, what is represented as a circle was, is, or could be a sphere. It refers us directly to another code, a purely visual one, which, like the word, is a tool to understand and structure our relationship to what we see, that is, with the other. In that three second interval we mentioned, we decode and recode information to act on it, to activate this relationship with otherness.

Object Oriented Ontology (one of the main currents of Speculative Realism) proposes to analyze our world from outside western narratives, sciences, or languages we are familiar with. Without forgetting that postmodernism had already given us license to dwell in meta-narratives and multiple temporalities, Graham Harman, one of the figureheads of the OOO movement, returns to the phenomenological gaze; one that grants an access to a reality which is not merely intellectual, but imaginative, perceptive and sensory; conditioned by memory and will. For him, nature is no longer just an object of reflection but “the soil and condition of subjectivity”[9]. Our perception is a set of presentified realities which combine and recombine to shape the other, whether it be an organic or inorganic being. Time, in its constant flux, in its constant combination of possibilities, also moves incessantly through these realities, altering them.

Therefore, this form of existence requires an attention that can only be applied consciously. We relate to other entities / forms of existence in multiple ways. Sometimes, this relation is strictly visual… Matisse said that it took a lot of courage to look at something as if it were the first time.

 

To look without thinking about the tick

To look without thinking about the tock

To perceive without thinking about the tick, the tock or the clock

To think phenomenologically in order to decolonize the eye; to see everyday detail beyond the burden of convention, for a new experience of space, of the other, of the self

Line and drawing and perception

The work (to look)

as an ongoing exercise

And this ongoing exercise

as a form of existence

Doing and looking

as an attitude which diminishes (and, simultaneously, elevates) the object

and its weight

–the weight of this book in our hands–

becomes the formal materialization of a way of living

 

 

Translated by Claudia Rodríguez-Ponga

 

[1] Klein, Étienne, Chronos. How Time Shapes Our Universe, Thunder´s Mouth Press, Nueva York, 2005, p.52.

[2] Op. Cit. 1, p.37.

[3] Ó Murchadha, Felix, The Time of Revolution. Kairos and Chronos in Heidegger, Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2013.

[4] Pöppel, Ernst, “Lost in time: a historical frame, elementary processing units and the 3-second window”, Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 64, Institute for Medical Psychology and Human Science Center, Munich, 2004, p. 295-301.

[5] Translation from the German version: “Einmal / in welchem Jahr? / erwachte ich /

zum ersten Mal in einem fremden Raum / und bemerkte zum ersten Mal / daß ich in einem Raum war.”

[6] Avanessian, Armen, Hennig, Anke, Present Tense. A Poetics, Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2015, p. 224.

[7] Mallarmé, Stéphane, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N´Abolira Le Hasard, Éditions Gallimard, Paris, 1914.

[8] Broodthaers, Marcel, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard, Galerie Wide White Space, Antwerp, 1969.

[9] Harman, Graham, Towards speculative realism: Essays and lectures, John Hunt Publishing Ltd., Hampshire, 2010.