Things, Disguises, Signs

Forgetfulness encompasses more than the word “thing”.

*

There are things here.

There are shadows and reflections here, landscapes and skies, branches weighed down with fruit. A toadstool is growing by a watercourse. In the woods it is autumn or winter.

The images hold on to the seasons.

People are few in relation to the things. But there is a military band, a boy turning his face away, and a hunched upper body, its head covered by a silk hood.

They all seem to be on their way out of the images.

*

There are corals here, bowls, bricks, bits of wood, and cups, balancing unsteadily on top of one another in transient configurations that dissolve the identities of the objects and create cracks in the established concepts. As if a semiotic flux were occurring beneath the apparently tranquil surface of the image with the things being transformed like substances reacting to one another in a continuous chemical process.

*

There are monuments here.

The noun “monument” is derived from the Latin verb monere, which means both to remind and to warn.

We recognise a monument when we see it. They are all very large and enduring and harder than an itch to get rid of. The monuments are still there but in Henrik Strömberg’s images they appear about to dissolve, which is remarkable, because the photograph, too, exists as a prop for memory; like the monument its aim is to make permanent. What the photograph portrays here is what the monument warns against: forgetfulness.

*

There is forgetfulness here.

Forgetfulness encompasses things, but it is difficult to call forgetfulness itself a thing, as it is always expanding. Forgetfulness has no boundaries. Anything may enter it, but extremely little of what enters it comes out again. The word “thing” is very spacious; even so, it has boundaries.

*

Martin Heidegger knew a lot about both things and forgetfulness. He distinguishes things that are made for a specific purpose from just things. The difference between them is considerable. But they are still both things. The former resemble what in golf are defined as “movable obstructions”: “anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice.” The latter are more reminiscent of what are described as “loose impediments”: “stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like, dung, and worms and insects and the ‘casts and heaps’ made by them.”

The word “thing” can be used for most things but not for everything.
Heidegger excludes people, deer, God, and beetles. The rules of golf exclude dew and frost.

Even though the word “thing” does not encompass everything, it encompasses a great deal for such a short monosyllable.

It encompasses toadstools and monuments. It encompasses conifers, silk hoods, crunched-up aluminium foil, the instruments of the military band and the cloud in the sky.

All of these can be called things. They could all be positioned on a scale that runs from artefacts to natural objects. They all hold tight to their properties as if they were afraid of losing them.

Things have to be understood, but above all they have to be misunderstood, according to Heidegger at any rate. We misunderstand things when we describe them as substances to which various properties belong – although things may possess such properties, to say this is to misunderstand them profoundly.

We misunderstand them when we describe them as combinations of form and matter, which in a way they are, although that doesn’t stop this from being a misunderstanding. We misunderstand them when we measure and weigh them, which – though entirely possible – is to misunderstand them even more.

According to Heidegger, if a thing is to be understood as a thing it has to be understood as belonging to the earth. Like a piece of the earth’s darkness extending into the light. This is why things sometimes seem so enclosed. They want to get out of the sun and back down into the ground.

But their closedness could just as well be the result of their being so intent on holding firm. They are not on their way anywhere. All they want is to stay where they are along with all those properties they hold so very tightly to.

Like the images, they refuse to give anything up voluntarily.

The faces remain on the yellowing photographs – if we want to get rid of them, they have to be scraped off.

*

When Ludwig Wittgenstein looks at the world all he can see are things. He sees things that breathe and things that do not breathe. He can see no difference between them. He sees that things are autonomous and very enduring. He can also see that things, even though they are so self-sufficient, always appear in groups large or small together with other things. These groups he calls alternately “facts” and “states of affairs”. Every fact is a little shimmering fragment of the world. If there were an image of every fragment of this kind, the world would have been mapped completely. Everything that can be said about it would have been said.

*

Things have names they can be identified by. These names can be combined into sentences that describe facts. For Wittgenstein, this means that a complete description of the world is entirely possible.

There are just two problems.

One is that there are so many things and facts. New things are continually being produced. Things get broken; they get repaired, modified and moved between different states of affairs, which are changed in their turn. An exhaustive description of the world would be a balance-sheet that is only valid at a particular point in time.

The moment everything has been said, it is no longer true.

The other problem, the big one, is that language does not stick to facts. At any moment it can fail in its duty to represent both facts and the reality they form part of.

Wittgenstein sees how language leads us astray. It lures us over to the wrong side of the boundary between what can be said and what cannot be said; it takes us from what is clear to what is obscure, from facts to metaphysics.

It is continually lending its words to the unsayable.

The remedy some people recommend is a language without flaws that would allow questionable propositions to be tested. Wittgenstein recommends a more clearly defined boundary and one with more effective monitoring. As long as we keep within the boundary we will see the world as it really is – the way Wittgenstein sees it.

The way the camera sees it.

The camera is in alliance with things.

*

“The world is everything that is the case.” Thus begins Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

It could just as well read: The world is all that can be photographed.

Doesn’t the camera offer us in fact the language Wittgenstein longed for, and that would have brought him peace? (What makes language dangerous is that it thinks – a disadvantage the camera lacks entirely.)

As Susan Sontag writes in On Photography, photographic images appear not to be “statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality”. They function exactly the way the sentences of language ought to function, according to Wittgenstein: as faithfully portraying the state of affairs.

It makes no difference that the photograph does not always tell the truth – the fact that the photograph can be false (manipulated) actually reinforces the similarity between the camera and an ideal language. What characterises a meaningful sentence is not that it is true, but that it is either true or false. A sentence that is always true is a tautology, meaningless, that is.

*

The camera never seems to let reality down. Unlike language with its flaws it always sticks to the right side of the boundary. This becomes clear in the manipulated image: in order to achieve its aim, the false image has to appear as more real than the true one.

The camera is allied to things. It collaborates wholeheartedly in both the reproduction and production of them, because it transforms everything into things, even people.

Roland Barthes describes the position in front of the camera as ambivalent: “I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object.”

*

The camera sees all that can be seen. Blindness is, however, its primary asset. It cannot see any difference between catastrophes, everyday objects, landscapes, miracles, wars or living beings; everything that is seen is the same: a thing. It captures a face in the same way – with both firmness and lightness – that it captures a brick, in order to hold it up to us: Look at this!

*

Something happens to the thing when it is confined in the space of the image. It is as if what is dirty, sticky, incomprehensible and prickly about it disappears.

In the image the globe of the earth shrinks and becomes more fragile. At the same time it seems to be something we have under control. A cover from Newsweek of 2009 bears the legend “My plan to save the world”. The image shows a globe resting in a steady hand.

Like monuments, images can warn us. For three decades images of vast drought-ridden landscapes, floods, forest fires, hurricanes and disintegrating ice-floes have been warning us about the future.

Even so, the space of the image is a secure one. The things cannot escape. The catastrophes appear unable to reach us.

Identity is a disguise.

*

Henrik Strömberg’s photographs capture objects, it is true, but they do not hold on to them. On the contrary they appear to have just let go of what they depict. The glue that Barthes thought always sticks the images to their referents has loosened, with the result that the identity the photograph usually defends by fixing has started to crack or slip off, as though it were nothing more than a temporary disguise that is being exchanged for a different one. It is too early to say what this new identity or disguise will be, just as it is too late to say what the former one was.

*

It is too early and too late.

The images do not surrender anything lasting to the observer; they let go of the promised object instead.

Instead of a return they offer us a farewell.

Sometimes we catch a glimpse of the object as it disappears in front of our eyes. Sometimes the images present us with accomplished fact; the remnants of an event, an unreadable trace but a trace nonetheless; a disguise that has been left behind.

While this loss is, of course, a betrayal, it is also a liberation from the onus on the image to represent – to hold on convulsively to the same lifeless objects – and therefore a freeing, too, of the gaze of the observer, which also lets go of what is depicted, in order to travel with it towards the obscure, the unsayable.

Every gain involves a loss.

*

The photograph gave us something, but it also took something away from us. Like the letters of the alphabet. We cannot imagine what was lost when we gained them.

The relationship between profit and loss is asymmetrical. Even if every gain implies a loss there are no guarantees that the loss involves a gain. It is entirely possible to lose again and again without ever winning. Every word in a language can be forgotten without gaining any new words to replace the lost.

The words disappear one by one until all that remains is that formless word “thing” – the one that, according to Sigmund Freud and Kurt Goldstein, is the last word to abandon a person afflicted with aphasia.

*
There are disguises here.

I remember the stiff plastic against my skin, the way the edges cut into my face, how the inside of the mask got damp from my body heat and breath. The way it started to stick to my skin.

The images make me remember the fear I felt of masks as a child. I was afraid of the loneliness in them, afraid of being locked inside their rigid facial expressions, afraid of getting stuck behind the boundary between myself and other people.

The three small round holes for eyes and mouth did nothing to help; they heightened the sense of confinement instead.

And yet I couldn’t leave masks alone. As soon as I saw a mask I had to try it on, only to rip it off in terror the very next moment.

Maybe it was the feeling of freedom afterwards I was looking for. The feeling of escaping that confined hiding space, the rigidity of the disguise; to be able to return to myself and to other people with something that felt like triumph.

Barthes writes that it is not until the face in the image becomes a mask that the photograph takes on meaning. If, then, “the mask is meaning”, the person who wears the mask or the face must be the sign.

Perhaps it wasn’t only the loneliness behind the mask that frightened me but that it was also turning me into a sign? Perhaps the joy I felt when I had torn the mask off my face was the joy of being freed from meaning?

*

The immobility of the mask recalls that of the written word.

That is why Ferdinand de Saussure, clearly vexed at a lack of compliance on the part of the letters of the alphabet, concludes that writing conceals language. At one of his lectures he exclaims, “writing is not a garment, but a disguise”.

How much of the word is concealed varies.

The disguise can be minimal, but it can also be all-embracing, as in the case of the French word oiseau Saussure uses as an example, in which none of the sounds described corresponds to the way the word is actually said: wazo.

But when the word is said, the disguise is torn away and the bird becomes visible: a blackbird.

This makes it difficult to understand Saussure’s indignation at writing and its imperfect agreement with the spoken word. We know, after all, what is concealed behind it. What is remarkable is not that writing conceals, but that it does it so badly – even the Egyptian hieroglyphs ended up losing their disguise.

Like most disguises, most forms of writing are unreliable hiding-places.

They hold so tightly to their meanings. As tightly as things hold on to their properties and photographs to their referents.

A different disguise is required to wriggle out of meaning: to pass Wittgenstein’s boundary and go beyond what is sayable.

One that lets the blackbird go before it can be discovered.

*

Charles S. Peirce says of the sign: “It addresses somebody.”

That was also my first impression of Henrik Strömberg’s works: that they were addressing me. As if they were trying to catch my eye.

Barthes describes the gaze of the photograph as paradoxical: a gaze that looks straight at you but fails to perceive you. David Hockney notes that the photograph has a tendency to stare you down, which makes it impossible to look at it for any length of time, unless you are prepared to risk being paralysed.

The gazes I felt in Henrik Strömberg’s studio were not at all intrusive; they just grazed me, with not the slightest hint as to how I should respond.

Like hearing a message whispered to you in a language you don’t know; you know that it means something, just not what.

*

I don’t want to use the word “thing”, because things are blind. Though they can break, they do not disappear like words and gazes. I don’t want to say “thing”, because things can be owned. You can grab hold of things and keep them. They can be bought and stored securely or insecurely. Things can be collected and sold at a profit or a loss. They can be replaced when they get broken; there are insurance policies for them – though not for the loss Henrik Strömberg’s images reveal to us.


*

Saussure likens the identity of the word to that of the train. But if the word were visible, it would be a glance instead cast from a train that has stopped at a platform. People get on and off. The carriage has started to move when we notice we are being observed and look up. It is already moving away: word by word, syllable by syllable, phoneme by phoneme.

Words cannot be owned, but they can be lost.

*

Words are events. Unlike things they cannot be owned and cannot be found. But they can be recalled. Maybe aphasia is the refusal of words to come when called. Cuts and silences occur in speech. If they appear they are too late. They end up in the wrong places.

I wonder what the world would look like to a gaze afflicted with aphasia. Would objects lack contours? Would they be mixed up with each other? Fall apart? Would some of them just appear as spots or holes in my field of vision? Would they all look like the same thing, just a thing, anything at all?

There is nothing behind the disguises.

*

The photograph is often described as being transparent. When we look at it we see through it. All we have in front of us is the specific object (or its ghost). Barthes hesitates therefore to call it a sign, as the sign presupposes a mark, a trace of something absent that the photograph is missing, as it is a perfect “certificate of presence”, united forever with its referent. And yet he doesn’t seem entirely certain. Because he also points out that the photograph only begins to signify when it takes on a mask, when it operates as a sign, that is.

Looking through pictures of his late mother, at first Barthes cannot find her. She may be the one in the pictures; they represent her, but she is not like herself, she is not there. It is as if he can only see mask after mask. Finally he finds a picture of her as a child: “suddenly the mask vanished”. “There she is!”

No such return of the lost referent – the completed metamorphosis of the sign in the denoted – takes place in the work of Henrik Strömberg. This is not because the photographs are not transparent, but because the referent is already gone when the disguise falls away, or rather (which is the opposite of the movement described by Barthes): it is already on the way to becoming a disguise, to being transformed into a sign.

*

It is said that writing marks the boundary between the tribe and civilisation, between myth and history, and between magic and science.

In Indian mythology it is the elephant god Ganesha who creates writing by breaking off a tusk and starting to write with it. The hieroglyphs were invented by the god Thoth, who is also the inventor of geometry and the game of dice.

In Plato’s version of the myth in the Phaedrus, Thoth seeks out the king of Egypt in order to demonstrate his innovations. He presents the hieroglyphs with the promise that they will make the Egyptians wiser and improve their memory. The king observes sceptically that “the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it.”

Writing is rejected with the argument that it is an instrument for recollection and not an aid to the living memory. Those who rely on the external written characters will become forgetful, as they will no longer be exercising their own memories. For Plato writing is nothing more than “a poisoned present”, as Jacques Derrida puts it in his essay “Plato's Pharmacy”. Writing operates as a “pharmakon”, both a remedy and a poison; it preserves lifeless facts, but degrades living knowledge.

Plato attacks writing with an arsenal of metaphors, similes and analogies. It is not only accused of being a poison. It is also a shadow image of speech. A crude mimic. A lost defenceless child and one without judgement who is incapable of distinguishing the suitable from the unsuitable reader. Writing cannot even comprehend itself.

Writing shares its shortcomings with the image: “The productions of painting look like living beings, but if you ask them a question they maintain a solemn silence. The same holds true of written words [...], if you ask them what they mean by anything they simply return the same answer over and over again.” The magic of writing and painting is, as Derrida writes, “like a cosmetic concealing the dead under the appearance of the living.”

*

The clumsy little geometrically designed clay tokens found in Mesopotamia seem both humble and secretive. What they most resemble are the pieces for a game. But their function was far more important than that. They were used between 7500–3100 BCE to designate things and above all else: to keep them in order, for the recording of possessions, that is.

These small tokens must have been lost on a regular basis because eventually they began to be kept in sealed clay vessels. This was a solution that created new problems: it was no longer possible to see which tokens, or how many, were contained inside the circular receptacles. In order to get access to the token, its container had to be broken.

So at some point the Sumerians started to make impressions of the figures on the vessels, before they inserted them and before the clay had had time to dry. The token acquired a sign; a sign that would replace the original token. And thus was writing born (or one form of it).

If the archaeologists are right, the original impetus behind this proto-cuneiform script was purely administrative. According to Denise Schmandt-Besserat, the clay figures and the impressions on them were no more than a means of accounting. The script is the result of a combination of proprietorial interests and the conscientious efforts of book-keepers to maintain order: an instrument for preservation.

*

Plotinus, who grew up in the Egypt of the third century CE, wrote of the hieroglyphs that each “separate sign is in itself a piece of knowledge, a piece of wisdom, a piece of reality, immediately present. There is no process of reasoning involved, no laborious elucidation.”

He did not consider them a legible form of writing but more like photographs of a higher reality. Their incomprehensibility is not a result of their hiding their meanings from us, but of their belonging to another world, one that has become incompatible with our own.

There is love in Plotinus’ description of the hieroglyphs. I think it was love, too, that drove Jean-François Champollion, Thomas Young and the other nineteenth-century philologists and Orientalists, although their love was of a different kind than Plotinus’; it was filled with desire. A desire that was also evident in the competition and bitterness that arose between them.

The hieroglyphs were beautiful. Considerably more beautiful than cuneiform. It is not inconceivable that Champollion felt provoked by their beauty. Beauty can be provocative, particularly when it is unfathomable or unfamiliar. Nor is it inconceivable that his love was mixed with jealousy and feelings of inadequacy. It was all too obvious that their words were not directed at him. They were withholding something from him and he had to find out what; he couldn’t bear not to know.

That jealousy may have grown in the course of the work, because hieroglyphs are unreliable signs that do not stick to their meanings the way words written in an alphabet do. Sometimes they serve as logograms and at others they form part of picture puzzles like phonograms. One and the same sign can sometimes represent the word whose referent it portrays. At other times it will be an entirely different word that sounds the same, and occasionally just a syllable. So it is hard not to be impressed by Champollion’s sheer persistence – a determination that can only have been the result of his finding not understanding them completely unbearable.

I wonder what feeling had the upper hand afterwards, once he had understood them at last and explained them – satisfaction or emptiness? Were the signs still as beautiful? Was he still in love with them?

Is it even possible to feel love for someone or something we believe we understand completely?

*
As Barthes has it, the photograph always directs us to the particular. In doing so, it reminds us of the proper noun. The signature and the picture in a passport fulfil the same function: they single out and identify.

It makes no difference whether a name has or lacks a meaning, because its meaning is essentially redundant. The first time we hear a name we may be struck by the meaning, but this gradually dissipates as we get to know the person or the place that bears the name.

The photograph is changed as well, when we see who it is in the image. The change can be overwhelming, as when I realised that the little girl with the large head in the white pram was my aunt, who had presumably just arrived in Sweden from wartime Helsinki.

It has been said that names are meaningless. That they are a last resort for what cannot be designated. Unlike other nouns, their function is not to bring individuals together as part of a larger concept but solely to distinguish them.

While names are part of language, they do not belong to a particular one. With no need to be translated, they move across linguistic boundaries; they are the nomads of language. This is why they have often served as signposts, pointing a way into unknown writing systems and languages.

It was names that got cuneiform to reveal itself. And it was by tracing names – Cleopatra, Ptolemy, and Alexander – from the Greek that Champollion could find his way into the hieroglyphs. No one has, however, been able to distinguish any proper nouns in the Indus script and its four hundred signs remain undeciphered.

*

Some signs appear impossible to break open.

Like the quipus of the Andes: concealed inside different coloured threads and knots, their messages remained inaccessible to the conquistadors from Spain.

Like the cowries of the Yoruba. These empty shells were once filled with meaning. They were used to word messages that were carefully wrapped in leaves before being sent to their recipients. They were used as medicine and as a means of communication between humans and the gods. The cowries were the ears of the gods. When a question was asked, the shells were dropped on the ground: the answer was deciphered from the positions they landed in.

*

Names are not as innocent as they may appear. They are surrounded by taboos and by laws that govern their use. It may be forbidden to misuse the name of God, just as it may be forbidden to misuse names on registered trademarks. It may be forbidden to say the names of the dead, who move among the living like shadows.

*

It is often said we are the bearers of our names. When we die we lose them. The names are left to the living. What happens to those names varies. Claude Lévi-Strauss observes that some societies take pains to preserve them while others quickly get rid of them by forbidding their use. The prohibition may also affect similar-sounding words and other names that have some kind of connection to the name of the dead person, which involves a considerable degree of replacement.

The prohibition of the name is justified by the way the name is seen as a powerful sign, a living body, or an extra lung keeping the dead person alive. Saying the name of a dead person is therefore to call him back to life – a crime that in some cultures has been considered equivalent to killing. Just as it is forbidden to take someone else’s life, it is forbidden to take their death. The boundary between life and death has to be maintained; it must not be crossed.

*

Freud sees a resemblance between “savages”, as he puts it, and obsessional neurotics – both suffer from the misconception that the name is part of the person who bears it. He makes particular reference to a woman who stops writing her name in fear that it, and her personality along with it, will be stolen from her. In the end she stops writing altogether as her handwriting is also a part of her self. Freud fails to observe the difference between the writing of the neurotic and the speech of “the savage” – the difference between holding onto something and letting it go. If he had, he could have explained that writing could do her no harm because to write is to conserve; writing is a safeguard against the loss she was so afraid of.

To name is to draw a boundary.

*

For the Hanunóo on the southern Philippine islands there is a fundamental boundary between what can be named and what cannot. It recalls that of Wittgenstein between the sayable and the unsayable. On page after page of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein reinforces this boundary in order to make it impossible to erase. In doing so he justifies the comprehensive prohibition of names formulated in the final words of the book: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

Wittgenstein draws a number of boundaries besides this one. They include one between life and death. It is far from easy to understand what function this serves or why he should draw it. It is very tempting to imagine that it expresses a desire on the part of the philosopher to nevertheless say what cannot be said, to which Wittgenstein may be entitled, as he is the one laying down the laws.

Wittgenstein draws this boundary by establishing that death “is not an event in life” and that “our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit.”

In Wittgenstein’s visual field the world is an expanse of collections of things combined into facts. His boundary between life and death coincides with the boundary between the sayable and the unsayable. Between the meaningful and the meaningless. Between what can be seen and what cannot.

What can be seen are inanimate things. Wittgenstein asserts that death is not to be found there, although no living beings are in sight; there is no one to catch our eye: “The subject does not belong to the world.”

If the human being is not already dead in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, then she is dying; balancing right on the boundary –perhaps it is only her name that stops her from falling into the unsayable.

Even so, it appears as though it is there – in the unsayable – that life is taking place. It may have been because Wittgenstein could not bear the consequences of his philosophy that he continually violates his own prohibitions. When he expelled death from the world and the unsayable from language, he also expelled life. What remained was the estate of the deceased, with very little furniture but a great many notebooks and photographs.

*

Boundaries exist because they have to. So that we are able to be both on the right and wrong side of them. Some boundaries are permanent. Others sink unnoticed into the landscape as they are being drawn. Grass and bracken cover them just as silence encloses words once they have been spoken.

*

For the Runa people in Amazonian Ecuador the world is not made up of facts, but of living signs engaged in constant interaction with one another. This interaction is not a harmless process, because the signs can change meaning. Object can become subject, and a subject can become an object for another subject. This is why the anthropologist Eduardo Kohn is advised: “‘Sleep faceup! If a jaguar comes he’ll see you can look back at him and he won’t bother you. If you sleep facedown he’ll think you’re aicha [prey; lit., “meat”, in Quichua] and he’ll attack.’” It may be the lack of permanence of these signs that gave rise to the word “mashti”, which Kohn translates as “what’s-its-name” – a term employed when it is uncertain whether a name still applies, if there is still anyone who bears it. It is a sign for the indeterminate. The word does not designate a boundary – between someone and something, life and death, between having a name and namelessness – but a passage across it. A passage that can both lead back to the name and so far away from it that any return becomes impossible.

*
“To grasp” is a peculiar synonym for to understand. To grasp is to halt a process. To notice something fleeting and grab hold of it – and keep hold of it. As if the mind were a hand. The camera allows us to relax our convulsive and yet uncertain grip on the object and surrender it to the image, in the hope that it will never let go. The photograph gives us something that resembles understanding, something that resembles knowledge. But the resemblance is flawed. To keep hold of something is not to understand it. To understand is not to grasp. Henrik Strömberg’s photographs work against themselves, against the nature of photography; instead of holding on, they let go.


*

Henrik Strömberg’s visual space can be described with the Quichua word mashti. Because this space is not closed. It is not a boundary, but a passage. A place for disappearances and metamorphoses.

*

Below the surface of the image memories disappear layer by layer. The thin fabric discretely smoothes away the unevenness of the surface, making the scratches illegible; soon there is nothing left underneath the disguises, nothing apart from the glance they cast as they move away.

*

Some signs are early. They have not set yet, not settled on their form. They do not move in accordance with any patterns; they are not yet in touch with any language. Some signs are late. Their origin is obscure, their meanings left behind in earlier languages. Other signs are unstable, put together out of parts of plants, constructed memories and other former things that hide inside themselves; they enter one another and exit as if they had become immune to the silver, to writing, to the light itself; it can no longer keep hold of them. They need an understanding that works in the same way; one that does not hold on, but lets go. A way of thinking that finds it easier to forget.

*

Walter J. Ong writes that the difference between sight and hearing is that sight is a distinguishing sense and hearing an opening one. Hearing connects us with the world and sight separates us from it. I think there is a great deal to this observation, and yet I would also like to think that there are other ways of using our eyes. That sight doesn’t have to draw a boundary between the seer and the seen.

--
Jens Soneryd, "Things, Disguises, Signs". Published in Henrik Strömberg, Mashti (2016), Neumeister Bar-Am. Translated into English by Frank Perry.

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