Friday, July 25, 2008

Marion on the Visible

I quite struggled through chapter 2 of Jean-Luc Marion's In Excess where he establishes some of his methodological framework. There was however a decisive shift in mood in the third chapter as Marion appeared to me to be now expressing his project for which he has considerable passion. The chapter on the idol and paintings begins,

The visible surrounds us. Wherever we turn, it is unveiled, ready, brilliant, iconic. When I open my eyes, I fall on it, unfolded from head to foot all across the horizon. Does it seep through the sides? But there is no place for anything 'on the side' of the visible, since it faces me with the envisageable breadth of space. Would I escape from it in turning my back on it and fleeing? But if I turn around I always run into it, as it preceded me and gets around me in advance. When I raise my head, it is already hanging over me. When I lower my eyes, it always still expects me. The visible obsesses us because it lays siege to us. Wherever I turn, it surrounds me.

Marion goes on to establish the reality of the painting as offering pure visibility, something greater than its 'original'. In a painting all is visible. "The painting adds presence to presence, where nature preserves space and thus absence. At this point Marion introduces the work of Paul Klee who I had never heard of. Marion then offers an interpretation of one of his paintings. I am still not quite sure what to make of it. I have never heard a reading with so much serious drama. The interpretation is of Klee's Ad Marginem.

It is a well-named painting: the red sun, which, a little raised from the center, would have to crush with its dense, nodal mass and its dark, explosive heat the greenish marshland which, spread out, surrounds it - crush it to the point of draining it, even fade it to the point of whitening it - this quasi-atomic sun seems impreceptibly, but indisputably, to be narrowed under the pressure of the green that lays siege to it, turning it yellow and digesting, so to speak, its redness, as if asphyxiated by the exponential growth of the quasi-plants that push on the margins of the painting . They buttress themselves there all the more visibly as the painting is narrowing in on itself in sketching an ocher frame, already wood, on the inside of its physical, material frame. The redoubling of the frame renders visible, almost foreseeable, even inevitable, that the clash of the elementary forces of the sun and of the magma, both in fusion, ends in the implosion of enormous energy - the same energy of the visible struggling in the rarified space to rise, in spite of it all, to the day. The painting imposes itself like a double-armored casket, which tries to hold back the explosion of the immense visible, which will end inevitably by taking it apart and dispersing it. The painting attains the highest saturation possible of the visible in such a restrained frame. The saturation of the visible becomes, to the one who knows how to look at it as it gives itself really unbearable.

It is perhaps that final line that really set me off. I had not thought too much of the hermeneutics of sight. I considered interpreting a painting as looking and then internally processing its meaning as opposed to how I might look at it.

No comments: