Category Archives: Philosophy

Shem the Penman 1. 2. 3.

Shem the Penman – 3 Interim Works in Image and Writing

                   Ruben Borg. The Measureless Time of Joyce, Deleuze and Derrida. p. 133

Technologies of Forgetting

The project of thinking through the nature of time is also that of handing down the truth of its obscure beginnings: it is the very impossibility of returning to a measureless past – or, in other words, the problem of remembering to forget. But what, according to Joyce, Deleuze and Derrida, is the role of invention in thinking this impossibility? And how does technology fit in?

I have argued that the Wake’s strategies of encryption mark the event of an immemorial past, a past that originates outside history and that remains irreducible to the order of subjective experience. A brief discussion of one image from the book’s concluding chapter will serve, at this late stage, to illustrate the connection between the truth of the past – what we might call its pastness or its unavailability to historical understanding – and the formal structures that characterize the instant of (its) figuration. Here, it will not simply be a matter of disregarding the text’s repetitive mechanism, or of looking beyond its strategy of lexical decomposition and recombination hoping to find, in that beyond, some deeper or more authentic thesis on time as measureless passage. What will hold our interest, rather, is an aspect of the Wake that is already encoded in the mechanism as its constitutive  failure – wasteful and counter-productive – poietic invention finds its place in the circuit of memory and imagination as an originary component (a source of the work) and as a moment of structural breakdown (a limit).

Shem Penman 1

Shem Penman One

The vicociclometer is without question the most recognizable of the Wake‘s machine –  metaphors, and the most obviously pertinent for the purpose of my argument. The Wake provides a relatively uncomplicated analysis of its internal structure – an analysis that has the added advantage of condensing many of the Wakean motifs encountered and commented upon thus far:

Our wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer, a tetradomational gazebrocticon (the ‘Mamma Lujah’ known to every schoolboy scandaller, be he Matty, Marky, Lukey or John-a-Donk), autokinatonetically preprovided with a clappercoupling smeltingworks exprogressive process, (for the farmer, his son and their homely codes, known as eggburst, eggblend, eggburial and hatch-as-hatch can) receives through a portal vein the dialytically separated elements of precedent decomposition for the verypetpurpose of subsequent recombination… (FW614).

Shem Penman 2

The bulk of the description is self-explanatory, as is the general thrust of the passage: if the cyclometer is an instrument that gauges the revolutions of a wheel, the vicociclometer must be a tool by which we count the revolutions of what Vico’s terms ‘an ideal eternal history traversed in time by the history of every nation’ (The New Science p. 349). To count the revolutions of history is to follow its providential course, and thus to keep track of its turns and its repetitions. This, the Wake tells us, is the task of schoolboy – evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who understand history’s millwheeling pattern of an archetypal farmer whose comprehension of history’s ‘exprogressive process’ is more personally invested, certainly more concrete, than that of any scholar. In his dealings with nature, the farmer (also an almighty father in a work – a – day trinity) does more than observe time’s cyclical motion: he lives by a rhythm nature herself established and labours to codify this rhythm for everyone’s domestic consumption. His knowledge is expressly non-academic. Born of a vitality and a productive vigour traditionally associated with rural life, it reflects a concrete, that is to say practical, understanding of agrarian law and a commitment to the civilizing power of an honest day’s work.

Shem Penman 3

[Opposite to both Shem and Shaun this figure contradicts everything we are told (as it were) “of time as unfolding as measureless passage or pure irredeemable waste” (Borg – p.134)]. Shem relates to the impossible presence of any past whatsoever that associatively never was (so irredeemable is this phenomenon) such that presenting works of art or images can only follow as repetitions and foregone conclusions. Time and Repetition, however, are not the domain of the “farmer” or “Father” alone, since the academic is also repeatedly concerned and connected to both his/her studies as repetitive if “micro – repetitive” and “micro – predictable” in their own fashion underwritten by reading/writing and in this case visual creativity or rather learning to make.] 2017 December.

A Further Bibliography

A Further Brief Bibliography 2016. May.

The Space of Literature. Maurice Blanchot. University of Nebraska. 1989.

The Infinite Conversation. Maurice Blanchot. University of Minnesota. 2013.

The Writing of the DisasterMaurice Blanchot. University of Nebraska. 1980.

The Work of Fire. Maurice Blanchot. Stanford University Press. 1981.

Thomas the Obscure. Maurice Blanchot. Station Hill Press. 1988.

The Demand of Writing. Maurice Blanchot. Routledge. 1996.

Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. Gerald Bruns. John Hopkins University 1997.

The Unavowable Community. Maurice Blanchot. Station Hill Press. 1988

Lautrémont and Sade. Maurice Blanchot. Stanford University Press. 2004.

Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Science. Babette Babich. State University of New York Press. 1994.

Joyce’s Nietzschean Ethics. Sam Slote. Palgrave – Macmillan. 2013.

Derrida and Joyce: On Totality and EquivocationAndrew J. Mitchell and Sam Slote.  

Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings. Ed. David Farrell Krell. Routledge. London 1999.

Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry. Martin Heidegger. Humanity Books. 2000.

Heidegger & Derrida. Reflections on Time and Language. Herman Rapaport. University of Nebraska. 1991.

Being in the World.  (A commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time) Herbert Dreyfus. MIT Press. 1991.

Of Derrida, Heidegger and Spirit. Ed. David Wood. Northwestern University Press. 1993

Nietzsche, Heidegger and the Transition to Postmodernity. G.B. Smith University of Chicago Press. 1991.

Difference and Repetition. Gilles Deleuze. Columbia University Press. 1994.

The Logic of Sense. Gilles Deleuze. Continuum. London. 2001.

Deleuze: Proust and Signs. Athlone Press. 2000

To Follow. The Wake of Jacques Derrida. Peggy Kamuf. Edinburgh University Press. 2012.

Joyce’s Web. The Social Unraveling of Modernism. Margot Norris. University of Texas Press. 1992.

Aestheticism & Deconstruction. Pater, Derrida and de Man. Jonathan Loesberg. Princeton University Press. 1950.

Wittgenstein’s Metaphilosophy. Paul Horwich. Clarendon Press. 2012.

Dissemination. Jacques Derrida. University of Chicago Press. 1981.

The Grand Continuum. Reflections on Joyce & Metaphysics. David A. White. University of Pittsburgh Press. 1983.

Joyce’s Messianism. Dante, Negative Existence, and the Messianic Self. Gian Balsamo. University of South Carolina Press. 2004.

Modern Poetry and the Idea of Language. Gerald Bruns. Yale University Press. 2001.

Unoriginal Genius. Poetry by other means in the New Century. Marjorie Perloff. University of Chicago Press. 2010.

On Ceasing to be Human. Gerald Bruns. Stanford University Press. 2011.

Gertrude Stein: Modernism and the Problem of “Genius”. Barbara Will. Edinburgh  University Press. 2000.

Cultural Studies of Modern Germany. History, Representation & Nationhood. Russell A. Berman. University of Wisconsin Press. 1993.

In Quest of the Ordinary – Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism. Stanley Cavell. University of Chicago Press. 1988.

Jacques Derrida. Parages. Stanford University Press. 2011. Ed. John P. Leavey.

Readings. The Poetics of Blanchot, Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector and Tsvetayeva. Héléne Cixous. The University if Minnesota Press. 1991.

A Handbook of Modernism Studies. Ed. Jean-Michel Rabate. Wiley Blackwell. 2013.

Think Pig!.Beckett at the Limit of the Human. Jean-Michel Rabaté. Fordham University Press. New York 2016

The Combinations. Louis Armand. Equus Press. 2016.

The Songs of Maldoror. Le Comte de Lautremont. Solar Nocturnal. 2011.

Germs. Richard Wollheim. Black Swan. 2005.

Time and the Instant. Essays on the Physics and Philosophy of Time. Ed. Robin Durie. Clinamen Press. 2000

The Truth of the Technological World. Friedrich A. Kittler. Stanford University Press. 2013.

Arthur Rimbaud. Complete Works. Perennial Classics. 1976.

The Poetics of Singularity. The Counter-Culturalist Turn in Heidegger, Derrida, Blanchot and the later Gadamer. Timothy Clark. Edinburgh University Press. 2005.

The Orphic Moment – Shaman to Poet-Thinker in Plato, Nietzsche & Mallarmé. Robert McGahey. State University of New York Press. 1994.

Medieval Joyce. Ed. Lucia Boldrini. Rodopi (Amsterdam) New York, NY 2002.

       Historical Modernisms Symposium University of London. Institute of English –                     School of Advanced Study. Senate House  12th and  13th December 2016.

               Paper given on the 13th December.Titled:  Joyce, Duchamp and Warburg

Ian Hays

Unless the visual arts attend to writing and to language – that is literature, philosophy, poetry, they are doomed to be as stagnant and as antiquated as these religions that are scattered over the entirety of the world. We would be committing intellectual suicide were we to refuse to accept the enterprises of all of the Humanities, derived as they all are from language. We will challenge Finnegans Wake in our song of that Apollo and Dionysus.

PowerPoint Accompaniment:  Presentation 2.1


We cannot stand outside of language. Those who will have read and even written on Finnegans Wake know that neither “plain” language nor the more difficult enterprises of linguistics or some new kind of philosophy are likely to enlighten or satisfy their own thoughts as to what they might have actually understood behind Finnegans Wake and beyond their own readings. Finnegans Wake as complexity and as “unreadable” makes ordinary language and most other literature, philosophy and poetry stand out against it and distorts our imagination’s propensities to undo the foibles of any other language that attempts to describe or interrogate it. The Wake and the Glass are experiments in how linguistic and artistic representation can materialize or dematerialize the object world – in the Glass the object world comes to life and assumes a voice of its own through its marginalised texts and notes. It is this deviation from the norms of Modernism bound by the play of complexities of language and image that strike us most – but what is “complexity” then that so affects this troubling play modernism has brought into its writing but the problem of the living of it as such – the questioning of everything that lies behind or inside our languages as such.

“We no longer have a sufficiently high estimate of ourselves when we communicate. Our true experiences are not garrulous. They could not communicate themselves if they wanted to: they lack words. We have already grown beyond whatever we have words for. In all talking there lies a grain of contempt. Speech, it seems, was devised only for the average medium, communicable. The speaker has already vulgarized himself by speaking.” (Nietzsche: Twilight of the Idols)

The Joycean “significance of trivial things” (that leads to complexity. The synthesis of height and depth becomes the synthesis of surface.

By way of Introduction

Language creates or destroys the Work of Art just as Language has created the world and its environments. Language is everywhere and always on show but is greatly ignored but especially perhaps where one imagines it should grow best between teacher and student, I mean, for myself in the studios of art and design. My life as an art historian in several English university schools of art and design showed me the total disregard with which Language was treat during teaching by lecturers and students. But then again somewhat later during my time as a lecturer the very vast majority of students who each year enrolled on courses in either painting or sculpture, print or photography had not even heard of Modernism making it impossible to figure-out ways of introduction to it. Where does one start when the only artist they had ever heard of was Picasso? But I am not speaking about students alone who would be flummoxed by the vaster scope of Modernism in light of the literary and the philosophical, of Poetry and of Music, but also tutors of studio practice. The riches that await the reader of diversities in Modernism are simply vast and varied of course: but we have seen the moment of visual art’s Modernist greatness flicker perhaps for its last time in this fairly new century. I begin this paper as you can see with Aby Warburg and his Bilderatlas that also entices me here to add Duchamp’s Boite en Valise! Typical of Warburg’s passion for the marginal, the unexpected and the fragmentary, the Atlas included photos from contemporary illustrated magazines depicting images with links to antique formulae. In a panel devoted, for instance, to the characteristic theme of the striding figure of the classical nymph, Warburg not only attaches an image of Delacroix’s Massacre at Chios, and his Medea but he also includes a contemporary photograph of a female golfer in mid-swing – likewise capturing the flowing and mobile gesture of the accessories in motion.

Christopher Johnson writes: “That Warburg conceived of Mnemosyne topographically, beyond the montage of maps on the preliminary panel of the Atlas, appears to be suggested in the enigmatic phrase, “iconology of the intervals,” which he used in his journal of 1929. This iconology is based not on the meaning of his figures . . . but on the interrelationships between the figures in their complex, autonomous arrangement, which cannot be reduced to discourse.”

Yet I think to the contrary, for Warburg the Mnemosyne hungers for discourses to take place and in making them as different as possible.

The following are some recent thoughts: We haven’t the foggiest clue about how Language is. Living is language. Language and Photography, text and image are means by which scientific objectivity and a mapping of subjectivity in the Humanities – as well as objective forces that have shaped World culture – meet in the term Atlas. The Internet is an Atlas that in our own time relives the past as our present. Unleashed in writing by means of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake of 1939 it is the Atlas that opens humankind by means of its atomic alphabet: HCE, ALP, Issy, Shem and Shaun – or the Doodles or Sigla.

Here Comes Everybody of Finnegans Wake celebrates the spectacle of learning languages and hypnogogia that sleeps in us all at the extremes of thought patterning in our imaginations opened by internal visions of flux. But what are lives today lived inside the Computer and TV screen?

In the heliotropical noughttime following a fade of transformed Tuff and, pending its viseversion, a metenergic reglow of beaming Batt the bairdboard bombardment screen, if tastefully taut guranium satin, tends to teleframe and step up to the charge of the light barricade. Down the photoslope in syncopanc pulses, with the bitts bugtwag their teffs, the missledhropes, glitteraglatteraglutt, borne by their carnier valve. Spraygun rakes and splits them from a double focus . . . and the scanning firespot of the sgunners traverses the rutilanced illustred sunksundered lines. Shlossh! A gaspel truce leaks out over the caeseine coatings. (Finnegans Wake p. 349.06-16).

 But then not everybody finds problems with language; least of all those who teach visual art, it seems, since “Art is a language of its own”, as is “the Language of the Cinema!” and so on: such nonsense can prevail due perhaps to the continued mental climate concerning the autonomy of the work of art as being an “aesthetic question” and somehow ageless – we should rather, in Aby Warburg’s words be: “undemonizing the phobically imprinted inherited mass of impressions” by registering language as first.

Spectator practice is not usually related to the organisation of the material of art works and texts and other planes of creativity, connecting it largely to its role of receptivity. Shifting our focus to an immaterial in-between, the interval, the seemingly marginal or peripheral could of course become the very key constitutional elements for the spectator in the creative act of language and associative thinking. The scene of writing and language is the core of thought in art that Marcel Duchamp wrote of as the aesthetics of waiting, and the lack of reference in Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas is traceable to his adjustments of this visual montage evident in photographs whose voice is at work as a body of language coexistent with Modernism.

Photography, cinematography and movement implied in Joyce’s thick use of montage by attraction in Ulysses and the photograph’s machinic presence in Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase and Large Glass, had, decidedly early, cast a different light across the aesthetic of time. If the Glass alone meant extensive reading to complete it and make it part of the accelerating synaesthetic world of art and language, then Ulysses and Finnegans Wake in their growing complexities of temporal machinic perspectives would re-spell alliances between art, science and technology that might redefine the meaning of time as an amplification of a most coy out-of-sight universe behind its otherwise-written portmanteau landscape. The Wakes collideorscape is flight sprung from Nietzsche’s serpent, its multiphasic assemblages anticipating electronica it had already displaced.

Analogously Duchamp’s lazy ironized machinic is covered by ekphrastic writings like those of Arturo Schwartz and Octavio Paz both dealing with Duchamp’s fascination for Neo-Platonic Hermeticism and Renaissance practitioners like Ficino, Pico della Mirandola to Cornelius Agrippa and Giordano Bruno whose explicit persona is active in Warburg and Joyce. Fixed apathy to literary complexity in visual art’s cross-disciplinarity is responsible for its cessation in our age – while Modern art history is dead.

Jacques Derrida, in an interview concerning Joyce’s Ulysses, asked: “Are we not Joyce’s dream, his dream readers? The dream we were talking about concerns what it is in the work which produces its reader, a reader who doesn’t yet exist, whose competence cannot yet be identified, a reader who would be “formed,” “trained,” instructed, constructed, even engendered, let’s say invented by the work”.

At least the same – although a thoroughly intensified manifestation of reading metamorphosis – is evidenced in Finnegan’s Wake – the stake of its readership being one with total ownership of the text by its readers whose creative interpretation is a required art of the book’s raison d’etre.

The work of Duchamp’s motto that “all art is a mirage” even in all its inscribed poetics and scientific materialization and controversial teaching polemic, his analytic/scientific notes to The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, assumes a similar kind of ingredient whereby Duchamp suggests that reading the writings he had made in his Notes to the Large Glass should be done first and that only later should the Glass be looked at as a manifestation of that writing. When Duchamp conceived of the Large Glass as a type of machine and the Notes in The Green Box as its operating manual, titles for its parts became an important ingredient in his project of transforming art from the retinal to the linguistic. The history of Duchamp’s art is a practice in Language – titles both inside and outside the frame of the work but properly located in the space of neither, exemplifies the strange logic of what Derrida describes as parergonality: or the chiasmic figure of the fold. Language creates this “fold” but what we seem to do is to reject such linguistic traces ahead of our attempt to grasp what appears most natural in attending to the image that is in front of us. Viewers pack language away, as it were, it leaves the stage, hence Duchamp, like Joyce, makes present the ghost of language and in rather the way Aby Warburg does in view of his work in the Mnemosyne Atlas.

Ghosted language circles Warburg’s Atlas as does Giordano Bruno, and as Bruno does in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. A mindful layer of untreated language exists between Warburg’s images and us. For Warburg the fascination was based on Bruno’s legacy in mind of his magico-mnemotechnical treatises, such as De umbris idearum (or the Shadows of Ideas). In it the seals Bruno inserted in that text are shaped like natal horoscopes.

A new order of language is here introduced without words: an interiority of art without description or apparent analysis whose status may be likened to that of Joyce’s literary montage inasmuch as invention remains the task of educating linguistic thought and transference – that posits work on the art historical, poetic, and philosophic inside the etymologisms and perversions resisting restraint between metaphor and concept. Indeed cinematic montage has its origins in the novel, where for example, D.W. Griffith and Eisenstein borrowed from Dickens. Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake too are concerned with such “mental time” and “mental realism” in general, and thus Joyce too saw juxtapositions without continuous narration as exacting interior film.

Joyce and Duchamp inherited the Hermetic, Alchemical and Scientific – yet neither may be followed or made a guardian or master so that in this sense they, unlike artists that followed them, created artworks that are essentially forces discharging plateaus of variously elevated discourses.

Their audience needed to become readers of complex surfaces of writing that supported the latest scientific and modernist adventures not only in the fields of their own arts that were becoming in themselves metaphors for a vast movement away from Modernisms of geographical differences. For Duchamp, language in his playful serious search for what he called “prime words” expressed his return to it under the subheading of “Conditions of a Language”: He Writes in a Note:

The search for ‘prime words’ (divisible’ only by themselves and by unity) Take a Larousse Dictionary and copy all the so-called ‘abstract’ words, i.e. those which have no concrete reference. Compose a schematic designating each of these words. (This sign can be composed with the standard stops) These signs must be thought of as the letters of the new alphabet, A grouping of several signs will determine – (Utilize colours – in order to differentiate what would correspond in this literature to the substantive, verb, adverb, declensions, conjugations etc).

There are two distinct steps. The first step is copying abstract words from a dictionary, dislodging them from their ordinary locus as linguistic objects readily defined, and then reinscribing these words within the alien territory of the vocabulary of painting to create a new alphabet. The result is the ‘prime word’, which stripped of its function as a means of signification regresses into pure materiality – in English a word like “the” for instance would become a “literary readymade” and a “mathematical sign”. Since they are stripped of their concrete reference, prime words can function only in a purely abstract or technical language in which their meaning is determined by their groupings with other signs and various and illimitable contextual usage. The result will be a sentence or an entire text that may be grammatically correct but nonsense to untrained minds.

Duchamp and Joyce as Moderns are anachronisms of a complex period often gauged by false measures, save for those who have studied each or either of them in depth and the phenomena they anticipated. Analog to the machinic in the Glass Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake charter waters of growing complexity in the development of the world of ancient and modern signs. Samuel Beckett’s essay Dante, Bruno, Vico, Joyce – one of the 12 essays by designated disciples of Joyce for Finnegans Wake exegesis in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress of 1929 might best be paralleled for Duchamp as Leonardo da Vinci, Jean Francois Niceron, Raymond Roussel, Duchamp. Spectators/readers view the remains of Duchamp and Joyce as the work of the impossible past, satirical Dada superseded by Modern technology, a work that is far too serious and far too interlocking in its critique as to the autonomy of painting and sculpture and its veneer of a wordless, virtually speechless common world. Duchamp stands apart and a line has been drawn in the way that the “conceptual art” of past Modernism, much of it initiated by Duchamp’s practice, bears little or no relation to its originator who arose within language largely in relation to the work, among others, of Raymond Roussell but with the experimental target of expanding on Italian Renaissance artistic perspective. A familiar response to Finnegans Wake is that it is a work of comic intent since verbal distortions appear to us as arising from wit even when they issue from the unconscious. Though puns are unlimited in the book it is best gauged by its interconnected multiple levels of reading and its vertical associations permitting readers to newly recreate it by way of industrious reading. Duchamp’s ideas as suggested by his Box in a Suitcase reflect how divergent these had become, reliant as they are on his writings and notes and later the tomes that reflect this complexity in Modernist thought by way of the immense annotations that refer to his distinctive creativity.

Warburg understood the problem of history as a methodological construct lending itself to the Atlas Mnemosyne that makes its survival of archaic practices into the present that breaks with notions of “progress” and even historical “development” as suggested by his concept of Nachleben. Warburg’s theory of culture engages with Nietzsche’s ideas on classical antiquity, its legacy and the meaning of the Dionysus–Apollo duality. Seen as a work of art (since no work of art is entirely autonomous, not absolutely different, not “purely conceptual”) its sense of space by means of accrued assorted pottage of montage inspires us.  The Wake – this ever overlooked machine, describable as the core of the search engine, that engendered the online gallery or as Joyce might have it the “collocation of disparates” or the “coincidences of opposites” exaggerates the already steady inclusion of Bruno the Nolan as discussed by Thornton Wilder, for instance, who traces the play of Bruno’s death burned at the stake in the Wake as Shaun the Post turned to roast meat on a barbeque whose fate, however, is a rebirth like the fire-eating flame of the phoenix. The history of art like our history of time as it happens is not invariable – but where human intellect turns itself into its own object of study probing its limits and those aspects of reality that its discourse can no longer hold together we have in the Atlas a legendary example of cerebral interneting.

Warburg’s professional disinterest in modernism would have received measured approval from Duchamp whose pronouncements on the debilitating effects of ‘retinal’, formalist art had appeared fairly regularly in print from 1915 onwards. Duchamp would, no doubt, have been interested in Warburg’s desire to link recurring classical and mythic themes with their reinterpretation into later artistic periods – a process that he too had been engaged with in, for instance, the antecedents for the alchemical process of ‘stripping of the bride’, the subject of a drawing he made in 1912 leading to the development of the ‘Large Glass’, properly known through its arcane title ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, even’ (1915-1923). (That is from Kieran Lyons)


Perfumes of old Palimpsests & Thinking in Layers: A Response to the Wake

Perfumes of old Palimpsests & Thinking in Layers: A Response to the Wake

“…the notion of a permanent object with well defined properties can no longer be taken as basic in physics … Rather, it is necessary to begin with the event as a basic concept, and later to arrive at the object as a continuing structure of related and ordered events.” David Bohm – rheomode.
“When the physical sound distinguished as such only by pitch and intensity and quality, is formed into a word, it becomes an expression of the finest intellectual and emotional distinctions. What it immediately is, is thrust into the background by what it accomplishes with its mediation, by what it ‘means’”. But has it not always been the business of the poet to retard this process by which language effaces itself, that is, to deflect meaning in order to keep language resonating in the foreground”. Gerald Bruns.
Abstract Artwork

7th Cambridge

Visual Art and the Humanities in general have become impoverished – and yet to its own benefit it has become its own palimpsest many times over. Finnegans Wake has defined some of the prospects or a vista that lie in wait, as it were, in historical traces – of perfumes and scents from hundreds of volumes whose traces can be observed inside it. It is a commonplace in the study of history as such that a synthesis of histories – of cultural histories – are essentially written to contour uncomplicated details of the lived history that created it. This condensation allows an idea to materialise by cutting and flattening-out a period or periods that can be understood as a simple and yet also complex series of handy concepts: for instance, the Middle Ages, Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Modernism, and so forth. Typically Ideas developed from these condensed ‘wholes’ are what become a manageable force that retains something of an original form but that is basically exaggerated as mystified phenomena whose past is always changing to developing minds. Rather than being trivial the language of the Wake is riddled with likenesses to those whirling metaphoric changes of common expressions that inhabit our in-built linguistic exchanges that we use as pure commonplace remarks – perhaps, say, in easy conversation from day to day, and, as Heidegger puts it, “We are never free of moods…. a state-of-mind always has its understanding … understanding always has its mood” (Heidegger. Being and Time. p.128). Change is the primary manner in which moods or the spectrum of moods is revealed to us. What this constant movement signifies is that moods are always already there, operative – in one form or another – in structuring our encounter with the world, yet the silence they betray is largely unavailable to our reflection.

“Silence” pervades unless the mood is sufficiently saturating as a force that opens itself to consciousness like the sounds in our mind – its musicking and its language, imaging and insights into our own Being. To return to the ordinary with a transformed way of seeing and thinking is the play at work in Finnegans Wake since, as Joyce himself puts the case:

It is my idea of the significance of trivial things that I want to give the two or three unfortunate wretches who may eventually read me. (JJ) (Don Gifford, Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (California UP 1982), Introduction, p.3.)

Michael Eldred writes of the “parallel way to language” of music: or “to put language as language into words”. (Michael Eldred. Thinking of Music. p.12). And of course there are multiplicities of perspectives from where to open-out a discourse on the sensations of meaning and physiologically enhanced and perceived vibrations of music and language in the Wake whose force on the intellect is resonance; yet still it is unsatisfyingly differentiated from beginnings to ends. It just does seem palpably closer to sense music as a problem in the Wake if only we can exaggerate the references in the book itself to musical allusion and having rehearsed this reading and ‘hearing’ in its secondary literature. Finnegans Wake explores itself in tandem with its privileged interpreters of a media-driven age such as ours. Being involved in the creation of works of art and literature literally upon the world-wide-web and as-it-happens has its own way of functioning as a technique that can take ‘control’ of any art-scene it has encountered beforehand, and it is this that parallels the creative mal-practice of Joyce’s endless vocabulary. Finnegans Wake is a forerunner or prelude to what can be taken as a kind of fashion whose work is language first as was the case in the work, for example, of the inimitable John Cage, whose writings on music and living generously outstrip his musical compositions as such and as music. The geomorphology of the Wake as music follows from Joyce’s excursions into a play of palimpsestic densities whose sound-world is brimming with the tiniest of effects illustrative in quality as “a new level of Joyce’s tinkering exactitude”. (Finn Fordham. Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake. p.80). The palimpsest is the becoming of Joyce’s development of density and obscurity withholding the text enthral to mental musical experience before it evaporates or sings.

One’s lifework asks to be accrued inside the possibilities of the world-wide -web even as we perhaps become the web’s automata: the www is after all a site that also has its limitations and particularities that frame what it is that we are doing outside and inside it. Various writers have suggested that Joyce inferred the possibility of the Internet in writing the Wake. That it is the book awaiting the arrival of the world-wide-web and even for which it was invented. So few websites on the work of the Wake, however, reveal the powerful potential revelation we might discover from the Wake’s ultra-sensitive transformations of language. Given its linguistic plasticity my own imagery and writing as a practice-in-progress has developed through a 15-year reading of Joyce’s texts, and responses to its secondary literature as a means of providing a kind of answer to the issue of language in the art of our time that actually has never been autonomous but has largely – in the present as well as at the opening out of Modernism – never been free of language’s effects. The visual arts belong to language no less than does literature and poetry to which must be added the work of philosophy because it has as it’s most profound source that art is a play of “deflecting meaning” and keeping sensation indefinitely resonating. At the heart of all of this is indecision that has the means of keeping the work alive in a philosophical understanding of the processes of interpretation that have been critiqued as metaphysics: and to elaborate on this in order to think beyond the philosophical equation of mind and consciousness is to look to consciousness’s own decentering. Sources for this concept can be found in the works, for example, of Nietzsche and Freud but likewise Heidegger in his emphasis on the ideas of “lingering” or “dwelling” that takes time – the rhythms of taking “care” (Sorge) as Dasein being there, and the places of our concerns. The question of how rigorous interpretation can be rests behind the kind of world that we live in today in the ordinary sense of what is generally described as its “speed” and of passing-on “information” (the term “information” itself being open to boundless interpretation). The play of the theoretical – of theory as the work – like translation in the work of translation – are fields of writing in writing that are indeed works of art no less than the most complex aesthetic philosophies for plastic works of art.

Language is the most primitive phenomenon in our lives. The Wake calls on Earth Letters from a “pit” – a “tip” to announce its concerns – and language is the source of all that belongs to WorldMan. Inside language as a type of philosophical reasoning for Being and being the Wake reveals as mangled art’s unreasoned voice the strong sense that language is the most universal phenomenon of all. No form of explanation will cope with its dimensions. Language is chaos but Interior Monologue and stream of consciousness – the smoky candlelight of subjective experience – allows imagination access to anarchies of cross-tonged debate and dialogue or dialogism that is the space of, for one, Mikhail Bakhtin. Joyce and Duchamp had sought to develop an ever finer-grained representation of the form and flow of mental activities as they unfold in time, and, in a strong sense, their writings transform our cognitive abilities to think along the lines of philological enquiry. It was Joyce’s plan to create humanity through the Wake as constantly reenacting the basic patterns of behaviour that apply to all men and women in all ages.

Pater, Blanchot, Cemeteries

Given The Illuminating Gas The Waterfall

Maurice Blanchot: The Writing of the Disaster

Joyce&Duchamp Detail -1

New Paris

First New Paris

Walter Pater. Deconstruction. The Artwork as Supplement to Language

If there is to be a strong art in the future then it would have to be a literary and an intellectually creative activity built as a powerful extension to “ordinary” perception. The world becomes, in this sense, an aesthetic phenomenon in perception and the apparition of time itself – an indivisible machination. Such would be the split in a more refined thinking between the concept of the Readymade and the Large Glass for instance: between channels that mix quandaries happening to the particular and the general. Such became the history of ideas we recognize in Duchamp whose valueless items were beyond value and posited as such. Duchampiana are always Double-sided as indeed are the figures that appear and disappear in Finnegans Wake. One understands this creative phenomenon when one also understands what Duchamp calls the “infrathin” experience, and when one lends oneself to it in daily life during what Joyce calls the “epiphanic moment”. The “snapshot effect” mentioned in Duchamp’s notes applies to the verification of a world that is seen at least twice: once as a state in empirical fact and once as an internally arranged consciousness such that the more informed this internal consciousness has become the further the state of consciousness dwells on the world of its own making: the play of Pataphysics though apropos requires the sense of the everyday here that hitherto has probably eluded many writings otherwise applying to the works of those who have employed the Jarryesque idea of reference.


Those artists whose lives are defined to a large extent by the history of ideas and its metamorphosis – that is to say the reconception of adaptations through the force of the history of ideas (a set of new phases within the history of such ideas) find themselves at the vanguard font of Language yet from which there is no escape; hence the desire to blast apart the foibles of ordinary language in order to make oneself free and ultimately stronger. A place apart from what Joyce calls “the rabble” instantaneously provides an effective cave from which Nietzsche’s Zarathustra may walk his vast Cities; such are some of the inviting pleasures that art would bring to that reader.

Sensation embodied in thought and the pace at which our lives are filled by aesthetic impressions establishes further desired frictions in new experiences of refined perceptions: what Walter Pater calls “pulsations”: a “quickened sense of life”, which is to say, a centrality of aesthetic apprehension of works of art but, just as intriguingly, though differently, the flux of daily life. The case becomes impossible if it is laid out this way. Yet drawn as we are to the play of the commonplace rather than the work of art, as it were, still it was initially art that taught us how to see and how to look at what is out there and what might be inside ourselves. From works of art we gather a plenitude of perception leading us on between the opening of fact and fiction: the firmly asserted empirical vision of the external world – but where in empiricism can we find a division between outer and inner? Walter Pater’s solipsism attempts to cover the field of aesthetic being in his attempts to sustain the visual arts inside such a conundrum. Of course such a seeming impasse is a mere illusion since we are here writing about Art and it is clear that most of us have no interest whatsoever in such a working of metaphysical thinking. Taking instruction of a kind from Derrida, the work of art is a supplement to the text it may have engendered or from which it snatches its focusing beam of light – even its optical guide. The work of art is always caught in Language hence the play of what Pater managed to create at bottom as a foundation in a single word: “Sensation”. All of Pater’s writing conglomerates around this word and in quite difficult ways and modes and thus it is easy to perceive his words hovering over a chasm like a string ladder that sways between two vast and dark canyons: an unthinkable fall into Language initially and hanging on to the work of art whose light is made a little less shadowy by the force of strong writing. Art is supplementary to knowledge even in this scenario of Pater’s thought and his grounding of art in “culture”, since how, we need to ask, does “culture” exist at all if not by means of Language. Language teaches from bottom to top and the play of the referent belongs to the history and theory of art as a point of return for metaphysical practices that have brought about the work in the first instance, and returns to the artwork as a series of documents and discussions and of historical practices whose pertinence we accommodate.

Importantly even Pater did not bring himself to this “going under” of the phenomenon of the work of art as a written/spoken manifestation of human skill and endeavour, but rather clutched instead at different foundational aspects of art’s potential for sensation that art enacts for its own sake. But Pater’s view on aesthetic perception and reflexiveness is not an abstraction on a definition of beauty, but rather pursues formulae that most adequately re-create the reflexiveness of perception in previous sensations, and that reveal intellect as a scene of reflexive activity on the re-perception of itself.

Sadly this condition has often been described by the famous saying: ‘art for art’s sake’ that wholly fails to describe anything at all. Pater’s discussion of aesthetic perception in the Conclusion of his work The Renaissance reveals perhaps more than elsewhere in his written studies his grasp on aesthetic perception as an epistemological purpose for the capturing of sensation within a form that allows one to sense the activity itself. From here one sees the consistent flow of internal seduction demonstrated by deconstruction’s force in engaging both with literature and philosophy as self-founding, not as a ‘method’ but rather as a theoretical practice that questions their value.

Cemeteries and Margins

Turning to the six latest Photoshop works on this page – call it a lineage to the James Joyce Conferences I attended from 2004 through 2010 – show 12 photographs each with texts. The photographs are details from cemeteries taken at each of these particular conference settings, or rather, more often, margins of the surrounding areas outside of each of their cemeteries or in between specific burial plots. This overt reference is of course an allusion to Joyce’s HCE and ∴ in Finnegans Wake’s terms multichoral multimimetica signals of simultaneous times falling in the text, but as a simple reminder, and not a program. The transhistorical code of life and death fills the Wake in general with expansive moods like Walter Pater’s “aesthetic hero”, and we do well to remember that Pater was one of the first to apply psychology to art interpretation: not least that Pater’s and Joyce’s ‘vision’ is the fictional embodiment of the life of heightened awareness and visionary experience.

These works in progress of cemetery “situations” called for an interruption by the machinery of Photoshop as a way of continuing the repercussions of what photography has been and what it has done to original works of art. A moment of opening out the question of what and how the work of art means in our own time can either become a subtle continuation of a thoughtful life or perhaps the droll incertitude of the void called up by traditional fashion. It’s as though the case of fashion is its own Alpha and Omega in syncopation with its ever-increasing technological resources. Fashion or fashionaping (FW.505.8) is another term for delusion and human waste that in the case of the West actually demands to be addressed by closer writing on the power of the humanities to create far richer horizons within human understanding. But the humanities are dwindling in universities all over the world bringing about the general catastrophe of which Maurice Blanchot writes in The Writing of the Disaster:

The disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact. It does not touch anyone in particular; “I” am not threatened by it, but spared, left aside. It is in this way that I am threatened; it is in this way that the disaster threatens in me that which is exterior to me – an other than I who passively become other. There is no reaching the disaster. Out of reach is he whom it threatens, whether from afar or close up, it is impossible to say: the infiniteness of the threat has in some way broken the limit. We are on the edge of disaster without being able to situate it in the future – that which is yet to come – if the disaster were not that which does not come, that which has put a stop to every arrival. To think the disaster (if this is possible, and it is not possible inasmuch as we suspect that the disaster is thought) is to have no longer any future in which to think it. The disaster is separate; that which is most separate.

The “disaster” for Blanchot is “imminence” that rather spells out for me the metaphor of the cemetery and its places of mood around which Pater, for one, has written in Plato and Platonism. “Tis the dead things that are after all the most entirely at rest”, and consistently associates immobility with death. In his Conclusion to The Renaissance it is the rigidity of death that urges us to a mobile receptivity. “Failure is to form habits; for habit is relative to a stereotyped world”. These cemetery-works attempt a poetic of Image/Language to debate something of the spell of HCE’s disappearance.


Second New Dublin




Third New Prague



Fourth New Buffalo


Fifth New Budapest

Fifth New Budapest




Sixth New Austin

Here Comes Everybody on Trial

On Art & Language

HCE can be thought as a mental machine whose genesis is: “in the hundred of manhood or proclaim him offsprout of vikings…”(FW.p.30 8-9). As transformation from Joyce and Duchamp naturally occurs as the processing of the “everyday” and further impossibilities under our eye the work becomes even more taxing – the doors to the Wake and Glass are of course still ajar.

Detail Transposed



Shem 7.1 In Progress

1st Detail Shem 7. 1 copy


1st HCE 11

HCE 11

On Art & Language

 Finnegans Wake is a dense textured pattern of multi-referential words whose aim is to produce an unsystematic and loose corollary of allusions for the world of the mind. Here form is style, and the manner of the creative act is felt by the reader to be self-active and proactive – it is as though the natural spaces that occur between the text’s glyphs and the play of the grasping mind create elasticated threads of allusion whose characteristics are indeterminate as a consequence of this play where strands of mental exercise leap across ages and spaces of barely verifiable phenomena. This much we can easily observe without much fear of any argument as the world entire is given an imaginative shape inside the play of textual autonomy and hints, that in the word “tip”, for example, aids us in elevating the abbreviating lettering machine and its pattern throughout.

Joyce’s choices of placing further and further thoughts and concerns into each word creating enormous complexity for others to reassemble as they will, assays the contemporary world of language readers everywhere:

Far more people read Joyce than are aware of it. Such was the impact of his literary revolution that few later novelists of importance in any of the world’s languages have escaped its aftershock, even when they attempt to avoid Joycean paradigms and procedures. We are indirectly reading Joyce, therefore, in many of our engagements with the past half-century’s serious fiction – and the same is true of some not-so-serious fiction, too. Even those who read very few novels encounter the effects of Joyce’s revolution every week, if not every day, in television and video, film, popular music, and advertising, all of which are marked as modern genres by the use of Joycean techniques of parody and pastiche, self-referentiality, fragmentation of word and image, open-ended narrative, and multiple point of view. And the unprecedented explicitness with which Joyce introduced the trivial details of ordinary life into the realm of art opened up a rich new territory for writers, painters, and filmmakers, while at the same time it revealed the fruitful contradictions at the heart of the realist enterprise itself. (1)

 A new visual art must be able to write about itself in our current time and space endlessly modifiable by the World Wide Web as an exhibiting site. Where else can image and text provide enlightened work within language from literature, art criticism, philosophy and poetics worldwide, and at greater speed, better than here? Our future, however, demands far greater understanding of what language is at its point of arrival to which we owe our existence, not merely the medium through which we travel every day everywhere blind and deaf to its application, and for every circumstance and desire, but from our amazement, astonishment, of language as entity.

Finnegans Wake actually provides us all with perspectives that awaken us to the differences that operate within ordinary language-use – casting itself against our so-called ‘ordinary everyday language’ that it parodies. How multifaceted language became and endlessly, seamlessly becomes in its ever-changing forms might be likened to the DNA/RNA template whose ‘instructions’ have coordinated and codify evolution. Language is the secret every human knows, it accounts for the world entire in the form of this open secret. Certainly Joyce wrote his book in part in order to put himself above ordinary languages – attempting to gain perspectival access to invisible chasms and secluded fragments of human historical detritus opened up by the variegated lights and limitless minds of his reader’s mental dictionaries. Jacques Derrida thought Joyce’s Wake displayed a vision or view of life as being infinitely more complex than trailblazing technologies and computerization, its self-styled text dominating the ruse of scientific exploration from a viewpoint close to Nietzsche’s thought on the inadequacies of science from the perspective of humanism and art. We are tasked with striving to comprehend a world of human experience by the resources of human minds – and technologies, however seemingly complex to us at present, are merely a tiny portion of that mind, however beneficial the results of technologies may prove to be or claim to become.

The commonplace or everyday is out of reach of the arts and writing: few texts on this suffice to show this more exactly than Blanchot’s Everyday Speech (2). The problem of denoting the everyday is just in this denoting. The arts find themselves at the extreme of non-everyday concerns even when they appeal to the ordinary and commonplace, drawing attention to the “subject”. The everyday is simply not a subject but rather background noise – the extra that has not been denoted and has not been noticed. The relationship between a complex book of the “everyday” like Ulysses and that of its readers who are the everyday is justifiably complex. Granted, the readymades of Duchamp showed an interest in selecting fairly ordinary day-to-day objects and furnishing them with the privileged title of works of art through display within a particular Western world culture: but the readymades, rather than being objects and items of the everyday, were selected for their amorphousness against other objects or tendencies particularly evident in the art of that time. They were not clichéd or commonplace as many commentators might have us think. Beyond this idea is the encounter with the “real” that for Duchamp at that space in time had become a rendezvous with the item in question that caught him partially unawares when daily seeking “a work that was not a work of art” but that would in time become one. An artistic hypothesis of this sophistication brings with it the full confidence of art history and theory that if continually debased during contemporary disinterest in the arts of the mind and its poetic will of course retreat beyond our horizons without our ever having known it. Something of vast intellectual prowess, the art of the mind, and the work of the imagination, appear already to be dead. Is it illiteracy in our generation that has condoned this condition? Or what do we mean by illiteracy? Illiteracy develops through the lack of reading beyond the school and the university, perhaps? Reading considered an obstacle that can’t be met on the plain of poetry and the philosophy of art.

Illiteracy has never been a problem for societies, however, and this appears natural until we think the significant possibilities of “culture” and “value” – terms that perhaps in our own epoch have become redundant. Duchamp’s point that after his own demise: “…art will go underground” is striking if only to underline the fact that intellectual study through art has indeed become, at the very least, invisible –

Most people of course have no interest in the commonplace or everyday and tend instead rather to emphasize its opposite that is the unusual, the different, the engaging.

 If a diagram were made of consensual lives that played by its rules the pattern would be very interesting when measured against that of a person who was interested in the everyday because they are interested in art and ideas. But such a diagram would firstly need to be created starkly from the beginning to expose the differences clearly and in order to say something useful and unmistakeable from the outset.

(1) The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce. Derek Attridge (Ed.)1990.

 (2) Maurice Blanchot. The Infinite Conversation. University of Minnesota Press. 2013.



1st HCE 12

HCE 12



Are we seeking a place where new language-artistic activities can begin? The work involves, however loosely, approximations to various versions of the metamorphosis and the phenomenology of language absented from predication and the fungible. When we find ourselves unable to “put into words” a certain feeling we have or have had to someone else – a certain unusual idea or image in our “mind’s eye” – it seems to us that any attempt to fulfill that sense using “normal” words would so far miss the target that it might be the best option to say nothing. Or to perhaps say to the other person something as close to what was felt and imagined as possible with the adage “this is what I thought and had in mind but saying it as I would wish is useless”, that they will not be able to envisage the sensation – the picture. Here the vast spaces of metamorphosis as activity and illusion through thought and language may become clear to us:

“Heidegger says that the task of language is to make manifest the world, that is, the human world of time and history, the world of constructions and projections onto the future, the world of struggle and destiny, of Bildung and work. Language is not a system for describing a world already there; rather, it is only in language that the world comes to be as something describable or inhabitable, that is, as a world around us and for us. Language gives us the horizon against which we appear for the first time as beings-in-the-world”. (1)

Wittgenstein writes: “Suppose someone said: every familiar word, in a book for example, actually carried an atmosphere with it in our minds, a ‘corona’ of lightly indicated uses. – Just as if each figure in a painting were surrounded by delicate shadowy drawings of scenes, as it were in another dimension, and in them we saw the figures in different contexts – Only let us take this assumption seriously! – Then we see that it is not adequate to explain intention. For if it is like this, if the possible uses of words do float before us in half-shades as we say or hear them – this simply goes for us. But we communicate with other people without knowing if they have this experience too. (2)

Different planes of thinking language and thus the world appear to us in statements such as these – they offer tasks for thought in writing thereby providing us with tests inside which we can practice our thought. Rather like practicing a musical piece from a score – various nuances of reading and playing appear, and each slightly different, one from the other. Tests like these expose the reader to written interstices of changing imagination where, like poetry, our thoughts slide amongst shifting discriminations of an unusual, or at least untypical, nature. I might want to say that doors of sense open and close in the Wittgenstein proposition as they do not in the Heidegger (and after all the “Heidegger says…” is an outline, a précis by another author); yet both snippets indicate a sensation of the existential. The word ‘atmosphere’ in Wittgenstein’s proposition is a term for ‘an indescribable character’ and a character such as this arrives by means of learning, education (Bildung), and use – (“the meaning of a word is its use in the language” (PI. 43) the complexities of which, in terms of our deeper inquest on our ways of conversing, thinking and writing, are vast. Our difficulty of matching experience with the play of language arrives as the modification of previous thought alternating dynamically, uncertainly, and in states of fluctuation, where indecision exercises our mobility as to analyses of works of art, works of poetry. Gerald Bruns situates Mallarmé as the poet of incertitude and silence against the language of Dionysus:

So whereas Mallarmé thinks of poetry as the elimination of things, Heidegger thinks of it as the event of disclosure in which things enter into the openness of being; hence the temptation to situate Heidegger and Mallarmé along a plane between two evidently different poetic theories. In the one (call it Orphic), the poet calls the world into being; in the other (hermetic), the poet produces the pure work of language from which every trace of the world (including the poet as a subject who objectifies or gives voice to the world) has disappeared. Taken together the Orphic and the hermetic appear to define the topology of poetry. They are not alternative genres or traditions but limits. (3)

A notion like autonomy in Modernism – that the work of art is understood in the language to be emancipated from the world surrounding it, with all the implications applying to this concept – might largely be understood as a paradox. Clearly such an involution as a key concern in Modernism has overt justifications residing inside of the “limits” Bruns suggests above. Learning and inventing around a particular word-use, as in Heidegger’s concept of Being, “Dasein”, we are situated by acquisition and innovation but also a testing to which its unusual reference is drawn and how it is to be thought within the contexts of his thought on Being, and what this special sense of Being might implement in our thought. We feel we need to discover what his special uses of the term “Being” and “Being in the World” communicate. This learning is very difficult because the stress on “Dasein” presents an unusual way of thinking the world with its emphasis on “my” world as opposed to a world of the “they” or “them”. In a Mallarméan sense it is “they” who are addressed as a means of autonomy, and more so in his later poems as opposed to the “my”, because the poet has freed his words, opening his poem into itself. Autonomy is conflated with heteronomy, an alteration of the self, the self as what is other than the self, “oneself as other”, a self-constituted other. A non-presence, such as that which cannot be voiced, is the speculative space of Dasein when a mind seeks what Heidegger explains is “that entity which in its Being has this very Being as an issue”, the distinguishing of everyday consciousness from that special introversion seeking its vocabulary to express its sense. Phenomenal objects – irrational or antirational – are grasping, choosing and gaining access to details of the most obscure concept of all: “Being”. The concept of Being is undefinable. But “the undefinability of Being does not dispense with the question of its meaning but compels that question”. (4) Is the undefinable the most ingenious and proper subject of visual and literary art? And if it is then we have already been on our way.

The contents of our interior states extend through fibers and fluctuate within them, but such vibrations (traces) are non-cognitive, but never occur without cognitive knowing – we expose experience to what it cannot locate or grasp. The same, as Maurice Blanchot contends, occurs in the play of speech:

What is present in this presence of speech, as soon as it affirms itself, is precisely what never lets itself be seen or attained: something is there that is beyond reach (of the one who says it as much as the one who hears it). It is between us, it holds itself between, and conversation is approach on the basis of this between-two: an irreducible distance that must be preserved if one wishes to maintain a relation with the unknown that is speech’s unique gift”. (5)

Differance is likewise non-cognitive, and never occurs without cognitive knowledge – the realm of presence. What Blanchot describes as being the “beyond” of speech transports our thought to a potential phenomenology of inner sensation irreducibly posited by Mallarmé’s Crisis:

To what good the marvel of transposing a fact of nature into its vibratory near-disappearance, in accordance with the play of the word, if it is not in order that the pure notion may emanate from it, without being hampered by a close or concrete recall. (6)

Here is at least one ornamentation of Duchamp’s text on “the sum total of the Bride’s splendid vibrations” in his long automobile orientated note on her “cinematic blossoming” from the Green Box on wireless telegraphy; sparks and oscillations become central to his entire practice on the Glass. The “poet” “artist” says the absolutely other that can never be reduced to the same but takes place in the whole – it is essentially non dialectical – as though it were a matter of allowing the moment to be expelled as music, or the evanescence of speech in plural conversation becoming noticeable.

On Blanchot’s Infinite Conversation Bruns writes:

One thinks of the echo, but Blanchot would have us imagine an echo that is internal to the speech that you and I exchange: not something ringing in our ears after the fact of our speaking but an event occurring while we speak: an event that forms the entre-temps of the conversation itself. And, what is more, not an echo that either of us produces, but rather one that is interminable, incessant. As if there were between us a speech that neither of us could interdict. (7)

Few of us would fail to appreciate Blanchot’s report on this “meanwhile”. We seek to prolong in the rare that which is, at moments, unbearably faint and fleeting, synonymous with the entre-temps of mental life, whose grief and laughter are left in their wake, vivifying for us that like language time goes on without pause. Our memory-circuits provide “knowledge” of our experiences contextually in the sense that the relations of an object in any system of objects or meanings are always changing (differing) and hence meaning (i.e., identity) is continually postponed or deferred – the realm of Derrida’s différance becomes a metaphor for metaphor where identity is what it is not, and is not what it is. Blanchot’s words are followers of metamorphosis provided by sharply defined edges that curl in the sense that Deleuze’s folds assume the flows of the Baroque. Bruns’ writings on Blanchot and Heidegger invoke the temporality of time as the entre-temps beating its wings between both their nets. Writing may allow our insurmountable words to render thoughts and expose them in the way we might wish, as opposed to speech. However, I am not about to embark upon arguments and discussion on either phonocentrism or logocentrism: clearly Finnegans Wake has lifted its readers beyond this particular orbit. Either way, something more than empathy is required in order to liberate a complex, involved and mercurial idea – Bildung – an unfolding of our bias toward education initially with art and language at the creative helm.

What the everyday use of language overlooks to make use of the idea, literature and art remain fascinated by, the absence that makes it possible. Literary language, therefore, is a double negation, both of the thing and the idea. It is in this space that literature becomes possible where words take on a strange and mysterious reality of their own, and also where meaning and reference remain allusive and ambiguous. As a matter of our everydayness fictions and facts invariably blur in the lives of our feelings. Our awareness of particularly rapid sensations of the existentially present are broadly frozen by an absence of mutually understood terms – an art of appreciation of such sensations has not been created, and thus the work of literature and poetics strike us as all the more immaterial – less than the taste of Proust’s ‘madeleine’ – “in the form of a past that was never present”. (8) When we attempt to discuss poetry, then, and the facticity of Finnegans Wake in its violent metamorphoses, from a theoretical point of view Mallarmé’s ghost climbs on board. Portmanteau words dissolve any possibility of clarification in the Wake where no foundation exists, just as none exist in the creation of poetry nor the inexplicable sensations whose sheerness denies linguistic grip, as Blanchot puts the case: “[…] the poem stands unjustified; even realized, it remains impossible”. (9) “How to clarify this impossibility?” Gerald Bruns asks – and I cannot put it better:

Possibly by recurring to the idea that the experience of language in Blanchot’s thinking is a limit-experience – not an experience of integral rationality (such as logic, linguistics, and philosophy of language try to describe) but of désoeuvrement. For example, a recurring theme in Blanchot’s writing is the anxiety or fear (or perhaps only a momentary thoughtfulness, or maybe an odd pleasure or dependency) aroused by words which, being neither nouns nor verbs – that is, not names of any sort – ordinarily draw no one’s attention […] in a space set apart or neutralized by writing – words like “except”, “then”, “here”, “so far”, “really”, “soon”, “at one time”, “perhaps”, are opaque little pieces of disturbance, inquietude, or madness“.

In a fragment of a récit that occurs in Le pas au-delà, a narrative voice almost detaches the word “almost” from the rest of language: “almost” detaches, but not entirely, since similar words trail in its wake, as if draining from the whole – certain “ways of speaking, maybe, barely, momentarily, unless, and many others, signs without signification” – words that are not quite words: neutral words, neither/nor or in-between words. “Almost” at all events belongs to the entre-temps, the time of no longer and not yet that parallels or traverses the space of too much and not quite, the space of quotation marks and parentheses, a reserved space or space reserve, where everything seems “completely immobile as in a place where nothing happens [un place où rien ne ce passé)”. This is literary space, the space of writing, or the space in which la folie d’écrire occurs. (10)

Such a transcendence of the dialectic enters the space of the neuter – the space outside language, and this space exists in writing, or literature. The democracy of literature and poetry arrives in the act of revealing what has been uncreated – of “désoeuvrement”, “un-working”, or “de-creation”, and in Duchamp’s terms – “idleness” – hence his creation of the unreal by what is real in presenting his readymades – particular, unobtrusive, and inert items, deliberating a universal poetry that is reflected in everything – a debate that opens and closes a particular branch of phenomenological enquiry around which the business of the presence of absence features not only in the world of the everyday, but also in the activities of mimesis or, for us, the exercise of painting and photography in artistic representation. Alterity and paradox in the framing of a simple question produces energy in a moment of suspension and potentiality before an answer is provided which, if not answered, remains incomplete in its void that permits us not to have it yet – “almost”, “….”. The paradox of Duchamp’s art becomes a river of correspondences in its foundationless questioning as a demand for something else that has failed to provoke a serious response – save in writing. Timidity suggests itself as something wherein negativity exerts its strength through this new 4th dimension of man out of time in his time.

Researching this field we find in common the regard Blanchot shows for pause and separation, discontinuity and interruption, fragmentation and rupture – désoeuvrement in an activity of disappearing from all discursive sense. It is concerned with being in another place than the “ordinary” or the laudable; rather it prefers speaking the unknowable. The space of this thought and writing is the real, and more so since the ‘unrepresentable’ is an image – perhaps of ‘thought’ as such without content. Blanchot replaces man by language, hence his trial in The Writing of the Disaster obliquely to conquer his inability to say one thing through the hard-won ability to say another thing that neighbors on it. “The tears are also the child’s. —Tears of a whole life, of all lives, the absolute dissolution which, be it joy or sorrow, the face in its invisibility childish, lifts up, in order to shine in this dissolution and keep shining all the way to emotion that gives no sign at all. —Immediately banally interpreted”. —

Banality makes no mistake; it is consolation’s commentary whereby solitude is shut out, refused all shelter. — Let me continue to emphasize the banality; the circumstances are of this world – the tree, the wall, the winter garden, the play space and with it, lassitude; then time is introduced, and its discourse: the recountable is either without any episode of note, or else purely episodic. Indeed, the sky, in the cosmic dimensions it takes on as soon as it is named—the stars, the universe—brings only the clarity of parsimonious daylight, even if this were to be construed as the “fiat lux.”—It is a distantness that is not distant—Nevertheless the same sky . . .—Exactly, it has to be the same. —Nothing has changed. —Except the overwhelming overturning of nothing. —Which breaks, by the smashing of a pane (behind which one rests assured of perfect, of protected, visibility), the finite-infinite space of the cosmos—ordinary order—the better to substitute the knowing vertigo of the deserted outside. Blackness and void, responding to the suddenness of the opening and giving themselves unalloyed, announce the revelation of the outside by absence, loss and the lack of any beyond. (11)

The text is beyond the rule of identity, neutral, an opponent to Dasein.

We fail to see this image of our thought if the course of it returns to, say, philosophy’s answers as opposed to unanswerable questions posed by the likes of poetry, prose, and the double-fiction of literature – the scandal of unfettered and unfixed, unsettled universal chatter, rumor and gossip that allows us to unconceal the empty grey suburban street in our imagination:

Literature is not a simple deception – it is the dangerous ability to go toward what exists, by the infinite multiplicity of the imaginary. The difference between the real and the unreal, the inestimable privilege of the real is that there is less reality in reality, being only unreality negated, distanced by the energetic labor of negation and the negation that labor also is. (12)

Language bites back at us, caught as we are inside its inventiveness and its visualizations of our thought. Blanchot places reality on the hither side of the beyond, whose worth is only made visible by faint praise.

To speak the unknown, to receive it through speech while leaving it unknown, is precisely not to take hold of it, not to comprehend it; it is rather to refuse to identify it even by sight, that “objective” hold that seizes, albeit at a distance. To live with the unknown before one (which also means: to live before the unknown, and before oneself as unknown) is to enter into the responsibility of a speech that speaks without exercising any form of power; even the power that accrues to us when we look, since, in looking, we keep whatever and whomever stands before us within our horizon and within our circle of sight — thus within the dimension of the visible-invisible. (13)

Reconfiguration of what has been in the language, in the text, occurs as a “possible” relationship to infrathin thought associations developed by this “unknown” – any cohesive thought developed away from this “unknown” bears no resemblance to it – no semblance of meaning or suggestion. The mood or “atmosphere” or aura does not belong to an objective reality but rather to our unmediated involuntary reflex at a vision, a song, or musical interlude – that stroll along a dilapidated closed down-pier at the seaside.

Mary Jacobus marks her reflections on this experiential phenomenon by way of the philosopher and art historian Richard Wollheim:

In Germs, a posthumous memoir of his suburban childhood, the philosopher and aesthetician Richard Wollheim describes his deep-seated dread, on emerging from rainy-day afternoon trips to the cinema, of the sight of the sun on a wet road—”where the first rays of pale sunlight hit it, so that, looking out, I could see the tarred surface glint and sparkle in the late, departing glory of the evening”. “A natural cause of joy to many,” he recalls, “this sight stirred in [him] the deepest, darkest melancholy.” As one can tell from even this brief excerpt, the young Wollheim is a budding aesthete—a Wordsworthian Proust, fostered alike by beauty, boredom, and suburban fear. His confessional memoir sometimes refers to discussions with his psychoanalyst, Dr. S. As the psychopathology of everyday life goes, British suburbia has a lot to answer for. But it has also produced its own distinct aesthetic, as we know from the poetry of Wollheim’s near contemporaries, John Betjeman and Philip Larkin. (14)

Probably our empathy with Wollheim’s mental spur will not surprise us – as unusual as it is to see such stimulation made reference to at all. For us the correspondence may be immediate although perhaps not reaching into those depths of “the darkest melancholy” – an extra-temporal event that instead rather sharpens our sensory acuteness to a striking susceptibility – always strange to us because of its mysterious source: a body becoming a consciousness open to this profound experience without subject or target. From the perspective of “aspect seeing” (as Wollheim himself might well have approved) such an experience is simultaneously subliminal and also supraliminal – involuntary and responsive/attentive – perhaps a movement rather than a “bodily sensation” after all. We learn to avoid speaking our sensations as very young children, certainly such sensations as these that occur to us often and, taken as “juvenile”, unable to experience reserve or discretion (our floundering with non-signifying elements of language that create the “portmanteau” word from inner sensation) are easily dismissed.

Such sensations are not the same as synaesthesia: synaesthetes experience a blending of their senses that produces unusual effects from one sense to another sense. But a taste, for example, that triggers our thought toward something else as in metaphor, and perhaps our invention of a new word for this taste that aligns immediately with it, brings a condition to us that is in excess of the poetic and at the edge of musical sagacity (but without music itself) that develops as a feeling in our mind and body and colours our experience. Our feelings in such instances arrive as from an infinitely unbridgeable, distant place, and what we sense remains discrete, it fosters a particular intensive sense. We live inner-sensations such as these rather like a quiet note that has been struck, a colour that turns our sensations and thought toward something unusual, strangely other, a sensational experience that may live with us forever. Such sensations as these bypass imagination like a muted delicate fragrance or perfume that in the language of sensory engineering may be brought to the surface as fragmented thought as we slip into the phenomenological, conversational, and technological world of writing that reveals its stubborn dense opacity, yet, importantly, still leaving us feeling bemused by such an ineffable constituent of mind. We cannot indicate such features of our experience whose existence is incommunicable. It is inappropriate to use the term ‘qualia’ for such feelings (experiences that have ineffably that which applies to, say, ‘colour descriptions’). We emphasize instead the sense of our experiencing ourselves locating an almost clandestine consciousness concerning cognitive curiosities appearing from another sphere – a limit-experience, an immanence silently appearing in our mind and located in our body. Such is at least the semblance of these mental effects and it lies outside of our control, disinterested, undefined, metaphorical, represented inadequately by clichéd verbal conventions – but imbued with intimation.

Each of us has vastly different and specific experiences in such different ineffable mental contexts that it is as though we would each need to build our own particular and representative vocabularies to grasp them. By our ‘mental context’ I mean our anamnesis, our alacrity, our self-images, and all the other multivalent phenomena that form the background for any particular experience. A discernment of such ‘mental vapors’ as these is essentially different from imaginary experiences – it is instead closer to Proust’s ‘petite madeleine…’ as much as to anything else:

Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? (15)

However, we are not discussing this effect exactly, nor am I writing about dejà-vu, both of which are the result of ‘involuntary memory’, yet this is as near to the sensation that Wollheim expressed as makes no difference.

Proust’s taste of his ‘madeleine’ has no support for its spell but actually it accesses a proper memory as a site of location when the narrator was a child: “That taste was the taste of the little piece of madeleine… my Aunt Léonie would give me after dipping it in her infusion of tea or lime-blossom”. As a repeated “Sunday morning…” ritual there is a cause for a memory, involuntary as it may be. Wollheim’s is a sensation, however, without any relation whatsoever – it is not a memory – but an effect that arrives wholly whose location is mysterious. Where Wollheim is his own strange effect Proust’s ‘epiphany’ operates from a different altitude – and where the memory effect is perhaps more mundane it is more reducible in effect than “the glint and sparkle” that would stir Wollheim. We all have such experiences or something close to it, the point being however, that such complex intellectual characteristics are consistently ignored by us – becoming foreign for us once we begin to think them in the light of our consciousness. Proust in search of his “lost time” thus exclaims:

I put down my cup and examine my own mind. It is for it to discover the truth. But how? What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not so far exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day. (16)

Far from what might look briefly a conspicuous gesture toward Freud’s psychoanalytic (Proust and he were contemporaries although neither read each other) our interest is captured by the poetic of resistance to the banal through the very means in the banal that actually creates such epiphanies. Proust is caught between ‘recherché’ and the gift to ‘create’ – a pause that accompanies the question of the ‘epiphany’ as memory and thus memory as active creativity and essentially change, while the image is submerged.

Because metaphor and memory are synonymous phenomena like dreams, metaphor is the ultimate creative force in the language of our life – image resides in the margins of our metaphors as displacement taking the part of what is imaged by language as impossible because it is always in change. When we are face-to-face with language as extraordinary and even when transparent we are revealed as complex beings, infinitely more so because of our tekhnè in simultaneously sharing our ‘now’ reality with papery fiction made of words and without further consequences as such for what our sense of ‘reality’ and ‘fiction’ are – we move from one to the other, all of the time, without difficulty, and essentially, often, without knowing. Such is the ‘mind’ onto which Proust releases his thought on uncertainty; the quotidian opens the faculty of innovative thought as literary memory in its ecstatic transformation reflected upon thematically as experience. The image is the physical effect of its always originary words rather than how we usually think of it as overt stimulation toward habituated thought. And thus, following Blanchot the metaphor for our ‘mental vapors’ and ‘cognitive dissonance’ – even the transmutation of life into fiction – is a continuous unfolding operation/separation – that continuing challenge to ideas and the extreme complication of aesthetic consciousness unfolding as the power of fragmentation that elicits the fictional as the only possible realistic ordering of reality in time-space – including the idea of death as ‘meta-phenomenological’ and a resignation of all presence. This takes its place, as Blanchot suggests, from the ambiguity of language and a world. The transformation of a mood into instant subjective aesthetic experience witnessing, as it were, the creation of an ultra-sensitive consciousness no longer caught in the constraint of a referent, but eliciting an indeterminate generation of sensation, is not only the specific function of the poetic use of language. This novelty of aesthetic sensation is partly its ephemerality discovered in the ‘everyday’ of consciousness and its habitual orientation.

The aesthete emphasizes the mood of lived experience – the fleeting inner sensation that thought, a taste, a sound, an aroma of the outer world more generally may occasion. The ‘everyday’ is constantly transformed in this atmosphere in which ineffable feelings are given to effloresce. Genuine, unified thought on ineffable matters in our own day appear only when the aesthete actively struggles to overcome the powerful resistance of this rapid life even as it is contained within communal common forms of ‘art’. It is as though the art of our todayseveryday’ has lost its colour, is grey, drained of its own accord – being unable to find resistance, crucially, to inquiry by interrogative language, discussion, analysis, and deep thought. Granted, writing itself misleads if it posits itself merely as dominant form inside a subjective content in what is inherently a deep human complexity of fragmentation in the ‘everyday’ – and as Blanchot cuttingly suggests:

The everyday is platitude (what lags and falls behind, the residual life with which we fill our trash cans and cemeteries: scraps and refuse); but this banality is also what is most important if it brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived – at the moment when, lived, it escapes every speculative formulation, perhaps all coherence and all regularity. We can evoke here the poetry of Chekhov or even Kafka, and affirm the depth of the superficial, the tragedy of nullity. The two sides always meet: the everyday with its tedious, painful, and sordid side (the amorphous, the stagnant); and the inexhaustible, irrecusable, constantly unfinished everyday that always escapes forms or structures (particularly those of political society: bureaucracy, the wheels of government, parties). And that there may be a certain relation of identity between these two opposites is shown by the slight displacement of emphasis that permits passage from one to the other; as when the spontaneous, the informal – that which escapes form – becomes the amorphous and when, perhaps, the stagnant merges with the current life, which is also the very movement of society. (17)

Stubborn gratuitous depths of human molestation appear in Kafka’s work on invisible bureaucracies slicing blindly at banality, while Joyce’s rêvers ‘everyday’ in Finnegans Wake are fitted here, for me, as lyric epiphanies.

Students of English will have known the curious caesura originals to the work of the epiphany in Proust, perhaps fewer will be aware of the work and thought of Wollheim. Further works present epiphany-like moments such as Doctor Zhivago, Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törless and La Nausée and the more specific Joycean epiphany is to be found in Stephen Hero, Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses. But the sources of fictive identity unrevealed by overt revelation as Joyce’s family of ‘man’, is sought as a way of crystalling ‘everyman’ as ‘everyday’ through the textual trope, literally, of the ‘letter’ itself. A reader will discern these letters as tricks to have their own epiphanies in Here Comes Everybody in Finnegans Wake. An epiphany in Joyce may be an event that arouses no special impression when it occurs, but produces a sudden sensation of new awareness when it is recalled at some future time; thus reminding us of Proust and his À la recherché du temps perdu, often called ‘retrospective epiphanies’. These secular epiphanies reflect aspects of Joyce’s life at the time when they first were written (1898-1904) during ‘formative’ periods in his life. They are also ‘snapshots’ recording specific minute fragments of ordinary life and presented originally without commentary; appearing first in suburban Dublin as trivialities, and as an inadvertent revelation in Stephen Hero:

A young lady was standing on the steps of one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis. A young gentleman was leaning on the rusty railings of the area. Stephen as he passed on his quest heard the following fragment of colloquy out of which he received an impression keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely.

The Young Lady – (drawling discreetly) … 0, yes… I ……. at the …cha…pel… The Young Gentleman – (inaudibly) … I … (again inaudibly) … I The Young Lady – (softly) .0… but you’re … ve….ry… wick…ed… (18)

The text is elusive and we creatively surmise what is ‘revealed’ to Joyce.

Introspective sensitivity opens up our spontaneous embodiment of the life of sensations as we attend to and think the art of Joyce’s epiphanies. His ‘mechanism of aesthetic apprehension’, the object and observer, coincide to produce a pellucid reality, here and there dictating at certain special moments, epiphanic release as attempts to give shape to the shapeless and substance to the insubstantial. The noted scholarly entries of epiphany in Ulysses are observed through the musician’s intellect that extend from the work of Walter Pater’s The Renaissance and as Alan Perlis has suggested Marius the Epicurean (19). Joyce’s life of sensation and his musicality of mind required a firm footing for his impressions of transubstantiation since these epiphanies are often the conjoining of opposites, the spiritual shadow to the heightened levels of Joyce’s visionary experiences in bodily form in Ulysses and the mundane which, in its final form, presents a charged, striking example of the world at large as the vast epiphany of humankind in Finnegans Wake. As Shiv K. Kumar has noted:

[…] the present moment in Ulysses has the same fluid tendency of continuously fading into the past and future in complete defiance of any arbitrary divisions of time. The minds of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus remain in a perpetual flux and cannot be said to coincide with any particular, mathematical instant. (20)

The secular epiphany signals a traversal of the finite by the infinite, of the particular by the universal, the mundane by the mystical, and of time by infinity. As Walter Pater himself suggests:

To such a tremulous wisp constantly reforming itself on the stream, to a single sharp impression, with a sense in it, a relic more or less fleeting of such moments gone by, what is real in our life fines itself down. It is with this movement, with the passage and dissolution of impressions, images, sensations, that analysis leaves off – that continual vanishing away, that strange perpetual weaving and unweaving of ourselves. (21)

What, then, are these lyric epiphanies? Not exalted mysticism, to be sure. Lucia Boldrini names Finnegans Wake “a gigantic epiphany of language” (22) discussing Joyce’s ‘epiphanies’ as the work of distilling vulgar matter into illustre: luminous, radiant, and splendid claritas. Is it not the ‘irreducible difference’ of the word “body” (each body is unique) as Barthes thinks it, that can truly only lead us to micro-level activities and personal micro-nuances of the ‘text’ unable to find expression in the outer world of facts? Joyce’s words of lustre amass potentiality, virtuality that wishes to converse immediately with the functioning of the mind. Page 53.1 of the Wake, for instance, refers its reader to the image appearing within the mind as Federico Sabatini explains it: “It scenes like a landescape from Wildu Picturescu or some seem on some dimb Arras, dumb as Mum’s mutyness, this mimage of the seventyseventh kusin of…” (FW. p.53.1)

Here, the author underlines the escapist character of his scene-making process by evoking a landscape which escapes from mere representation and from mimesis. And mimesis, in its Joycean version, contains the word image itself, which is to be referred to a mind’s image, original and unique, rather than to a mere representation/imitation of a pre-existing one. (23)

According to Barthes, ‘text’ is an ancient world, which involves the concept of ‘spinning and weaving’: it is the word from which the new reader derives the word for ‘manufactured cloth or textiles’. The phenomenon of spinning and weaving in the text is made from ‘quotations, references, echoes’, which is potentially infinite, making it impossible to arrive at the sources and origins of text but rather give direction with the already written and already said: ‘the quotations a text is made of are anonymous, irrecoverable, and yet already read: they are quotations without quotations marks’ (24).

This brief background illustrates the progressive awareness that takes Joyce to the creation of the notion of the ‘immarginable’ (FW 4.19) in the very first book of Finnegans Wake. This infinitely readable concept vibrantly illustrates the langscape that the author has now managed to re-create. The ‘immarginable langscape’ refers to a space of language where space and placelessness are finally subsumed into language itself, which is then able to enact and recreate a constantly renewed and renewable space. Most significantly, this happens both with the author’s act of recreation and with the readers themselves, who recreate a multiple hypertrophic dimension in their minds through the sensory data which language evokes. Joyce’s interest in dealing with the conscious and unconscious is submerged on the homonymic influence that recurs continuously in the Wake. This dissolute language may also reflect a sympathetic interest in Vico’s argument that all history is reflected in the development of language – though we should also add that language itself is likewise the creator of history: it is not as though language as such is ever a mere medium. Finnegans Wake is also a place where any sensation of personal expression is diluted to virtually nothing. HCE is a place of self-mourning – an absurd logic – that registers a model of self-identification founded on an irreducible otherness-to-self, namely, on the memory, always already, of a traumatic event that has occurred beyond the possibilities of subjective experience. Such a memory haunts. And its haunting bespeaks a history in which the present carries with it all of the un-translatability of the immemorial past. In creating visual/written work in response to Joyce’s discourse through the varied moments of the figure of HCE plays on the role of paronomasia, of course, that has now become a method of thinking through looking again and almost testifying to the void at the origin of thought as a force for imagery itself, and thus of unpacking the concept of memory as a necessary incompleteness itself.


(1) Gerald Bruns. Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. John Hopkins University 1997. p.11

(2) Ludwig Wittgenstein. Philosophical Investigation. Blackwell. p. 181

(3) Gerald Bruns. Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. John Hopkins University 1997. p.11.

(4) Martin Heidegger. Basic Writings. Being and Time. Routledge.1994.

(5) Maurice Blanchot. The Infinite Conversation. The University of Minnesota Press. 1993. p. 212.

In the relation of the self (the same) to the Other, the Other is distant, he is the stranger; but if I reverse this relation, the Other relates to me as if I were the Other and this causes me to take leave of my identity. Pressing until he crushes me, he withdraws me, by the pressure of the very near, from the privilege of the first person. When thus I am wrested from myself, there remains a passivity bereft of self (sheer alterity, the other without unity). There remains the unsubjected, or the patient. (The Writing of the Disaster. p.18)

(6) Stephan Mallarmé. The Crisis of Verse. See:;query=literary%20criticism

(7) Gerald Bruns. Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. John Hopkins University 1997. p. 141.

(8) Gilles Deleuze. Difference and Repetition. ‪Columbia University Press, 1994

(9) Maurice Blanchot. The Work of Fire. John Hopkins University Press. p.105.

(10) Gerald Bruns. Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. John Hopkins University 1997. p.154.

(11) Maurice Blanchot. The Writing of the Disaster. Translated by Ann Smock. University of Nebraska Press. 1995. p.115

(12) Maurice Blanchot. The Book to Come. Stanford University Press. 2003. p.95.

(13) Maurice Blanchot. The Infinite Conversation. The University of Minnesota Press. 1993. p. 302.

(14) Mary Jacobus. Cambridge University. Romantic Phsyche and Psychoanalysis. The Ordinary Sky: Wordsworth, Blanchot, and the Writing of the Disaster

(15) Marcel Proust. In Search of Lost Time. Chatto and Windus, New York: The Modern Library, 1992. Based on the French “La Pléiade” edition (1987–89).

(16) Marcel Proust. In Search of Lost Time.

(17) Maurice Blanchot. The Infinite Conversation. Theory and History of Literature. Volume 82. University of Minnesota Press. 1993.

(18) James Joyce. Stephen Hero. p.211. New Directions Publishing Corporation. (Mar 1969)

(19) Alan D. Perlis. Beyond Epiphany: Pater’s Aesthetic Hero in the Works of Joyce. University of Alabama. JJQ. Vol. 17, No 3. Spring, 1980. p.272

(20) Ibid.

(21) Ibid. The standard edition of Pater’s work is the New Library Edition of the Works of Walter Pater. (London: Longman’s. 1977). The Renaissance. I. p.157.

(22) Lucia Boldrini. Joyce, Dante and the Poetics of Literary Relations. Cambridge University Press. 2001. (p.122).

(23) Federico Sabatini. “Im-marginable Langscape”. Re-creation and de-creation in Joyce and Beckett. The AnaChronisT 13 (2007–2008)

(24) Roland Barthes. The Rustle of Language. The University of California Press of Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1989. p.60.



from 1200 BC 2000 AD Shaun/Shem/Sham

Humans are infinitely complex beings belonging to the power of language. Poetics is the site of poetry within and also outside the organon of discourse, where characters forming words and sentences trip up philosophy and other question/answer formulations – it seeks complete freedom. Since we are so complex the question of Religions causing hatred and murder in the world and so forth, and on ever-increasing scales, will eventually be rendered as games of the imagination like Humpty Dumpty and other Nursery Rhymes that implicate the notion of “Man’s Fall”.


Yawn 1 Detail 1 click to enlarge.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge thought that: “Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests.” Language is image and image is imbued with language – visual artists have been fixated on doing away with language. This is an impossible and contaminated idee fixe unfit for current thought.

1st Detail Yawn 2

1st Detail Yawn 2 click to enlarge.

Photoshop. The Work of Art being the image on the screen – an amalgamation of photographic processes and increasing electronic mediumistic tools supplementing the imagination.

1st Detail Yawn 3

1st Detail Yawn 3 click to enlarge.

In these Details of Larger Photoshop Screenprints image and words are born, develop, and change. The work is of an evolving language evoking styles of communication from the classical to those contemporaneous to our day melded from the Internet. Ultimately we shall find that art is a faculty of the mind which is the field of changing language and of identity in play. Photoshop ScreenBildung will come to mean a changing of meaning in place, order, condition, or nature. More than this, because art is a word whose contextual meaning is itself in flux, the word performs its own meaning, thus becoming self-textual – Metatextuality. Associative resonances – the ebb and flow of living matter – the work of Proteus is always changing even as it has been copied, plagiarized and requoted.

1st Detail Yawn 4

1st Detail Yawn 4 click to enlarge.

The activity of image and text is basic in wishing to allocate senses – a deferred space – engaging potential horizontal and vertical readings. It invites the Mallarméan flight of the poem, its author and the world; and the Heideggerian poet who calls the world into being.

1st Detail Yawn 5

1st Detail Yawn 5 click to enlarge.

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the poetic mind. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last eighty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.” After Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931. Le Conquete de l’ubiquite.

1st Detail Yawn 6

1st Detail Yawn 6 click to enlarge.

Only by changing and teaching oneself can one begin to see one’s surroundings for oneself, even at the risk of alienating oneself from one’s past or from institutions (the school, the university, the museum) that confer “legitimacy” on cultural products.




Details from: Yawn 1. Yawn 2. Yawn 3. Yawn 4. Yawn 5. Yawn 6.

Every artist is linked to a mistake with which he has a particular intimacy. All art draws its origin from an exceptional fault, each work is the implementation of this original fault, from which comes a risky plenitude and new light.” (Maurice Blanchot: The Book to Come)

 On Details of Details in Reading Finnegans Wake & Duchamp’s Notes

The unobserved complexities of life and their intrication of mind/body conceived against the backdrop of memory and individual experience, solicit our attention to more diligent thought on mind phenomena even against discerning paradoxes such as those developed by philosophers of phenomenology. We convey to others our “innermost feelings”, but this is negligible compared with finer sensations occurring within us everyday and at each moment. Beyond deconstructive “slippages” our language-use is not confined merely to it as written and spoken – and men and women incapable of exploring their own complexity of mind fail in being unaware of how disadvantageous there condition is. This phenomenon is everywhere mental for us, and attention can be drawn to it – though at some risk – through experiences of art, poetry, music and literature. With respect to Joyce’s Finnegans Wake the deeper reader is always looking for something that is not on the page being read, in the “sentence”, in each word; and what s/he is looking at is incoherent – not merely difficult to comprehend – hence its structure is confirmed as a vehicle proposing a more refined and inventive kind of reading, and in this way the Wake provides a network for the kind of development that tests even the most talented, academic and creative imagination in ways that never figured it before or since after the book’s first conception and subsequent reception.

Interim sensations, the sense/trace of a meanwhile, subsist in the Wake’s irradiating words, its thick glossolalia, during and within which its own translatability is both scorned and made humorous as interpreters who are mediating between various characters emphasize the role of translation in the linguistic fabric of the Wake (see FW 91.3-4, 478/8, 478.9 etc). (1) An epistemological change in my work has for some years developed in readings of Ulysses/Finnegans Wake and critiques that have accompanied Joyce’s work have exercised a great influence on the way in which my work has been opening out. Also influenced by the work of Duchamp’s writing and notes this long period of learning and study has taken my thought and creativity away from what might be the called the strange character and general constructions of the narrative functions that might be loosely applied to both artist’s work. Influence – in the sense in which I wish to discuss it – are seen as various shapes to which I can offer some examples in regard to the images and texts developed from this relationship with language through Joyce and Duchamp in Reading Joyce Reading Duchamp. Perhaps the most notable issue might be the constant drone of the signifier and the signified in all its complexity in the work of the culture of painting: the element of signifier as paint itself, and the signified constituted by what the paint appears to suggest produces a gestalt: a tinkering with the figurative possibility of the painting in view, and paint as the material out of which this image has been made possible. This compound feature of painting for instance, often thought together with the issue of figure and ground, opens out into a complexity that has challenged Modernist art for generations, reaching its “intellectual” peak with Paul Cézanne. The difficulty of amalgamation and fusion in relation to signifier and signified in his paintings and drawings came to display discrete and intrinsic questions regarding the play of his medium, his use of colour and his subject with reference to linear perspective and surface.

A similar question arises in reading Joyce’s last book as Laurent Milesi describes it, though here the matter of materiality and senses are being shifted more dramatically:

At first sight, Finnegans Wake is run through by post-Babelian xenolalia; its opaque, foreign-sounding, alien-looking texture causes the signifier to be foregrounded and deprives the written trace of spontaneous semantic intelligibility, and the (temporary) disruption of the link between signifier and signified leaves the reader/decipherer in a maze of arcane sounds. (2)

What matters here is our ability to maintain the ambiances thus created in the folds of material exploration and sense that gives both painting and language their life – that we maintain their conflicting depths of visual cognitive and imaginative priorities. Such mindfulness might leave us, as it were, dangling for a while without support – art is after all here a vast assumption before the appearance of further language, or as Mallarmé has it “I say: ‘a flower!’ and, outside the forgetfulness to which my voice consigns all floral form, something different from the usual calyces arises, something all music, essence [aroma], and softness: the flower which is absent from all bouquets”, or the disappearance of semantic space by which means the “flower” designates only itself as both signifier and signified since “In poetry language is not the medium of anything, unless it is of disappearance itself”. (3) That is to say that although the works of language deployed academically in analyses of visual works of art may well provide infinitely subtle leverage as a means of writing upon that which can be observed and in time understood beside works of art – aesthetically historically – like Mallarmé’s poetic it becomes invisible but in a very different way as thin language itself like all types of informative descriptive and interpretive language it is deeply hidden behind meaning.

New “meaning” or new worlds cannot be created in this way hence our movement away from the problem of “meaning” as such as the only way open to more deeply embedded seeds of thought-processing whose roots are perhaps just as well described in the Deleuzian model of the rhizome (although here we remain within representational thinking and conceptual determination by rules of philosophy, and we wish to move beyond to the self-questioning of “meaning” itself). Finnegans Wake is negation of the “rational” in a dialectical movement that cannot be brought under control. The Wake like The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, even are their own duplicity and self-contradiction as works of “literature” and “art”. A prevalence of non-meaning and rather the “beginning of the life of the mind” is foundational in these iconic works whose poetic on the brink are located outside subjectivity and objectivity. Duchamp’s writings seek the hither side of language and the poetic in terms of inframince; an existence that cannot be objectified any more than thought as such may be justified. Duchamp’s art is not any kind of thing at all save for kinds of mediation that language finds useful as a way of bringing the work into the world. Today we are outside what was once a Modern world of art, philosophy, literature, poetics and music – the Arnoldian Populace – how they were understood as intellectual instruments for progress and constant change and thus fully exemplified in different Modernist discourses; their status’ rigorously rehearsed, recreated by artists and critics alike and taught (often, if certainly not always) as ingenious planes and facets of the human mind. Why such humanistic ways of creating are now agreed to be superfluous to human growth and intellectual power may be accredited to an intrinsically indifferent teaching of genuine imaginative power as such and the abdication of philosophical thought on human existence and its underdeveloped complexities: freedom to be brought about by the very depth of our thought or “thinking” for which no possible theory can exist.

What we discover is a closure to imaginative thought exerted by the spell of dilettante individuals whose intellectual status records a zero for mind, and that ontologically Finnegans Wake and the Glass exist as products of the logic of exclusion and are thus linked conceptually to nondiscourse or to exile, or the exile’s return in the form of the negotiated Outsider. Like poetry these works speak not as a medium but as things of their own – the way a person speaks. The art world at present is noisy in contrast to these worlds of interiority and cognition that regard silence, the inverse, and the utter abandonment of belief as poetic states of affairs, playing no part in the otherwise flamboyant spectacle of the everyday. In works such as the poetic affiliations thrown out by the Wake and the Glass the incoming world that would have typically beat us into shape has been rearranged by the power of the artist’s intellect and discharged back at the world’s face.

A life of the mind belongs to the structure of our experience without its fate being doomed to the vault of “meaning” – it belongs to the way in which things emerge into appearance through “intuition” as opposed to the “rigour” of discursive language. Due to the ever-expanding lines of inquiry and thought constantly opening up in my project whose concerns began with the development of art and language in Joyce and Duchamp, an equation between ongoing procedures of writings such as this paper and its previous and future writings will remain open – not merely in the mode of these protagonists whose notes imply the ever new redirections of their thought as a way of working, but rather because of the amount of reading and learning that has been brought into view since the beginning of my venture into language and art as such. The implications of such a series of ongoing readings carry with them the problem of language as a form of literature, as forms of philosophy and also poetics so that the aim of the work would be wagered were it to be spent on the need for closure.

Indecisiveness is the work of art and the work of poetry’s friend – it sets the work of discovering sensations there whose power is made greater for them having been recognized by spectators themselves, and where subtler sensations may be assumed to subsist. Pictorial and written details of details motivated here by the most complex and difficult works in the fields of literature and the visual arts, the Wake and the Glass, will find no place in the world as it is, standing as it does with it’s loss of criticism and insight across works of art and literature. The art of Reading Joyce Reading Duchamp provides written visual material for the future where it may become appreciated as a platform for further research and cross-fertilizations from artworks and texts of the past including the current deluge of nothingness, and to give itself as a resource for those who enjoy genuine interactive complexity that fascinates our thought. We cannot be interested in living the travesty of ‘a completed meaning’, for instance, and the passage or neutered interim is instead the resource of temporality as opposed to the source of what we too often call ‘history’. Reflections on language cannot come to an end on either writing (écriture) or speaking or thinking (as Maurice Blanchot has shown in many varied essays) such that the “presence of absence” is possible. In a word – Blanchot thinks of time, author, and presence as nondialectical thus engaging our thought more accurately when we are studying his own writings, and interestingly the creations of Joyce and Duchamp. It is the nondialectical position of Blanchot’s difficult quest for presence that brings about Contestation. Contestation here means a sharp unsettling, doubting, questioning or contending in Blanchot’s texts. He writes about the time of the absence of time: here “the contradictions” do not exclude each other and do not reconcile each other either [“Les contradictions ne s’y excluent pas, ne s’y concilient pas”] {Contradictions do not exclude it, it does not reconcile} (The Space of Literature p.27).

He writes the same about the non-dialectical contestation: it “ignores the contradictions [“ignore les contradictions”],” here “the opposition does not oppose but juxtaposes [“l’opposition n’oppose pas, mais juxtapose”] (The Space of Literature p. 231). It means that the contestation substitutes the dialectical negation – i.e., the contradictions, exclusions and oppositions – with juxtaposition. The negation is always subordination, because “non-A” is deduced from an “A”, because the purpose of negation is the surpassing of negation, the reconciliation or Aufhebung. The juxtaposition makes every negation impossible, for it makes the subordination impossible. So the contestation is juxtaposition. Here the negation and the consequence of negation in Duchamp’s literary act of reproduction and readymade in reconciliation are awkward – contestation is not a negation, nor is it its dialectical reconciliation. According to Blanchot the contestation is not a negation but an affirmation. Blanchot follows Nietzsche when he uses the affirmation instead of the Hegelian, dialectical negation. Michel Foucault and Derrida emphasize that it must be understood as a “double affirmation”. A double “yes” for two opposite possibilities, by which the opposites become non-opposite and they transform into juxtaposition. It says the same affirmation, the same “yes” for both the existence and the non-existence. The counter-time is that time which says, “yes” for the presence and for the absence too. So the counter-time is a non-dialectical double affirmation of timethe double affirmation of the presence and the absence. It is the contestation of the certainty of time, the contestation of a sure present and a sure absent. The counter-time is an uncertain mixture of the presence and the absence. It is not a non-time as well as it is not an eternity, the counter time is only an uncertain, contested time. Where we cannot distinguish the time and the non-time, the present and the past, the present and the future form each other; where the presence and the absence are inseparable. (4)

It is a coordinative temporality far from a subordination of the dialectical negation – we might easily think of Duchamp’s ‘chess problem’ Brother and Sister Squares are Reconciled. Rene Char’s poetry, as expounded by Blanchot, is close to that of Duchamp’s work with language that places an onus upon the imagination of his spectators and readers to understand the complicit foundation between that which is incomplete in the poet’s writing, and to create the indelible figure of reality from ‘non-presence’:

Imagination consists of expelling from reality many incomplete persons, making use of the magical and subversive powers of desire, to obtain their return in the form of a completely satisfying presence. This, then, is the inextinguishable, uncreated reality”, we see clearly how poetic imagination distances itself from reality in order to join this very movement of self-distancing to this reality, to make inside of what is, that which is not, and take that as its principle, an absence that makes presence desirable, irreality that allows the poet to possess the real, to have a “productive knowledge” of it. Poetic imagination does not attach itself to things and people such as they are given, but to their lack, to what there is in them of the other, to the ignorance that makes them infinite (“A being whom one does not know is an infinite being”): thus they are “expelled”, they cease to be what is present, what one has in order to become what one would like to have, what one desires. But having become desire, imagination, in this absence it has brought to life, recognizes not the absence of nothing but the absence of something, the movement toward something whose realization it demands and whose “return” it obtains without renouncing the distancing this return permits. Now, it takes pleasure in things that are, as if they were not granted it; it perceives from their presence the irreality that makes this presence possible, and realizes the imaginary by rediscovering the imaginary in the real. Such is the supreme paradox of the poem, if it is “the realized love of desire that has remained desire”. (5)

Most “things” we think of as meaningful bypass “thought”, denying us words for their location and existence. Duchamp’s play with words in all of his works that includes the creation of his term “Infrathin” possess a determination of such locations of withdrawal as synonyms for language.

Finnegans Wake offsets itself and its author against the renunciation of language – the language that provides the world – as the image that offers location and dislocation that is the Glass and its language. Blanchot notes the crux of this matter in the poetry of Rimbaud:

Rimbaud’s scandal took many forms: first he writes masterpieces, then renounces writing others while he appears capable of producing many. To renounce writing, when one has proven to be a great writer, certainly does not occur without mystery. This mystery increases when one discovers what Rimbaud asks of poetry: not to produce beautiful works, or to answer to an aesthetic ideal, but to help man go somewhere, to be more than himself, to see more than he can see, to know what he cannot know – in a word, to make of literature an experience that concerns the whole of life and the whole of being. From this point of view, the abandonment becomes a greater scandal. The poet does not renounce just any activity, or even any privileged activity, but the very possibility that, glimpsed and pursued, cannot be destroyed without a diminution in comparison with which suicide and madness seem nothing. (6)

My habit of reading inside and outside of the effect of the Wake and the poetics of the Glass have further developed my conceptions of the power of language located in the practices and criticisms or analyses of works of philosophy and poetry. As to the work of art it is incapable, of course, of rendering the multiplicities of phenomena and perspectives that language makes accessible to us. It simply is, in one sense at least for me, largely a speculative response to a prolonged project on the Wake’s text as though perhaps it were able to provoke a statement from myself as a complexity in imagery and text that will have sown its inspirational desire as a gamut of visual forces and mind problems: a consequence of reading and writing through philosophy and poetry – taking the form of texts on images but eventually conspiring to bend itself away from studied, university critical art historical criticisms and histories on behalf of analyses of works of art.

The creative hybridity of shuttling thoughts in this project, occasioned by reproduction processes and Internet image(s) (the Internet is all language and image) or the infinite play of words as to the creative act, underlines the fact that art has always been a mind product, a house of being for intellectual practices. Developing a working project from the residue of Joyce and Duchamp indicates that there is a precise lack of what their work actually consisted and still consists in. It is a Galerie von Bildern as Hegel describes remembering in his Phenomenology that rises sui generis externally and internally as an expression of the human body in the visual and textual work at this stage of the work in progress. The figure of Shem provides a vision of internal stresses in the Wake suggesting the working of mind and body in its creator’s imagination engaged in the processes of metamorphosis. If one series of works could engage thoroughly in this arena of production – a calling for the dark arts of writing – it would be those works imbued with experimentation on the role of experimentation itself, for no further gain than for its own sake. The Human Body is the Source for the living and the corpse in the form of a “map” orchestrated as the surgical plumbing of details of such intricacy that a figure emerges Shem/Shaun. Tampering and tinkering the images mentally makes them convertible, dubious and erroneous consequently becoming an infinite statement of change and deviousness, the sincerest address perhaps that Joyce contrives of himself in the Wake as the penman Shem – particularly between pages 169-195. It is the impossibility of addressing Finnegans Wake in the manner of a visual interpenetration between word and image that destabilizes or jilts my work in reading, writing and imaging, while equally the Shem passages contrive to bleed themselves into the pull of a counterart that is the aim of the avant-garde foreclosing its intentions as high art – displaying the original shadowy desires of Dada that Duchamp had initially pioneered and continued with in New York until his demise.

It is worthwhile considering one of Duchamp’s perhaps less sparse notes concerning his deep preoccupation with language in his work as a whole:

The search for “prime words” (”divisible” only by themselves and by unity).

Take a Larousse dict. And copy all the so-called “abstract” words i.e., those which have no concrete reference.

Compose a schematic sign designating each of these words. (This sign can be composed with the standard stops). These signs must be thought of as the letters of the new alphabet.

A grouping of several signs will determine

(Utilize colors – in order to differentiate what would correspond to this [literature] to the substantive, verb, adverb declensions, conjugations etc.)

Necessity for ideal continuity i.e.: each grouping 
will be connected with the other groupings by abs
tract meaning (a sort of grammar, no longer requiring  
…[…] sentence construction. But, apart from 
the differences of languages, and the “figures of speech” peculiar to each 
language—; weights and measures some
 abstractions of substantive, of negatives, of
 relations of subject to verb etc, by means of standard-signs. 
(Representing these new relations: conjugations, declensions, 
plural and singular, adjectivation inexpressible by 
the concrete alphabetic forms of languages 
living now and to come.) 
This alphabet very probably is only suitable for the description
 of this picture.

Hypothesizing the potential creation of an artificial language as opposed to code, Duchamp here predicates a generalization of natural language as an autopoetic machine or system as an explanation for the Glass and the Glass’ explanation of itself as an autonomous unit as opposed to the work of art as we think we know it – the game is in the language of the “Bride”.

Duchamp’s Rrose Sélavy and Joyce’s Shem, connected with self-creation, are evocative of the pun as “a low form of wit” save that in the hands of like-minded men the sense of what I earlier noted as finer sensations may be extracted from Duchamp’s linguistic experiments and compared to any portmanteaus in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Aware of the difficulties involved in this contortion of ordinary language against an artificial one I suggest reading Jay Gould’s The Substantial Ghost: 
 Towards a General Exegesis of 
Duchamp’s Artful Wordplays at the following address: – various puns and the artist’s use of them with exegesis can be found here and might generally help the reader to locate the generalized condition of the gestalt composition of puns as such and to which I am referring. Take particular note of Duchamp’s remark repeated here from an interview:

I like words in a poetic sense. Puns for me are like rhymes…for me, words are not merely a means of communication. You know, puns have always been considered a low form of wit, but I find them a source of stimulation both because of their actual sound and because of the unexpected meanings attached to the interrelationships of disparate words. For me, this is an infinite field of joy – and it’s always right at hand. Sometimes four or five different levels of meaning come through.

Obscurity in the intent and the source provides a freedom for puns to be circulated around Duchamp’s Glass but not only the Glass – his notes are found to be “explanatory” like poetry surrounding his oeuvre as a whole with the Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even at the centre of the web. “Meaning” is cut adrift because “meaning” is always present to any observer parallel to what is perceived in the framing – the mise-en-scene. Duchamp, like Joyce, invents his own audience in the manner of negative “pedagogical” unfamiliarity – the sense is in the self-creation of oneself. Language made enigmatic returns the looks of the regardeur of the work.

As a matter of learnedness we, as audience, are taking an apprenticeship in reading, but through the ways in which we see ourselves evolving with the materiality of the pun, the portmanteaux, the incomplete, in mixed-up and interrupted contexts, and “where the reader sets the standard for what counts as illuminating” (7) opening his imagination to extreme subtleties of appearance whose difficulty leads us to alter the furniture of our mind. Duchamp gave an address at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art in March 1961 where he articulated his thought that: “The great artist of tomorrow will go underground” due to the then current audience expectation of representative or non-representative (abstract) retinal works of art. As I have noted elsewhere not only has the ‘work of art’ become a commodity as Duchamp suggested it would, but works that have poached and reiterated the Duchampian enigma for itself have been themselves overlooked by time. Against the earlier Modernist “isms” that Duchamp dismisses in his address he proposes the laying down of something of a ground for the future:

Therefore I am inclined, after this examination of the past, to believe that the young artist of tomorrow will refuse to base his work on a philosophy as over-simplified as that of the ‘representative or non-representative’ dilemma. I am convinced that, like Alice in Wonderland, he will be led to pass through the looking glass of the retina, to reach a more profound expression. I am only too well aware that among the ‘isms’ that I have mentioned, Surrealism introduced the exploration of the sub-conscious and reduced the role of the retina to that of an open window on the phenomena of the brain. (8)

Duchamp is locating himself against the “mistake” of a Modernism that rejected any relationship with language and thus a teasing out of thoughts and ideas Surrealism determined to exorcise by means of, for example, automatic writing. (9) But beyond the unconscious and its relation with indeterminacy, the question of internal human experiences must expand.

The aura of something not entirely fathomable in human beings stems in great part from our lack of interest in the tiniest of features that each of us displays as difference and differAnce. Visual art can offer analyses of the fleeting moment caught and delayed, differed and deferred, inside human living of the most ordinary occurrences-made-epiphanies – quite how this venture into the human individual might be accomplished rests upon the ways in which we each conspire to work with language and not overlook its inevitable powers of world-making. “Unobserved complexities” are of course themselves the product of language as, shall we say, the tip of the iceberg – and what lies underneath are the potential observations of a life that passes us by as poetry in the street, in the home, at the dinner table. The camera, the film equally if not necessarily firstly, rouses expectations in its facility to microscope effects of unnoted human behaviour and its activities whose entanglements pass us by rather than alerting us to where language has brought us, that reveal just how infinite our senses might be. Joyce and Duchamp’s “epiphanies” of the everyday remain in isolation in this particular sense as “infrathins” exposing spaces to be developed in an orchestration of time – and not, as the term epiphany is usually discussed, as a mere jolt, but instead when “the apprehensive faculty [is] scrutinized in action” (10) and the “triviality” is exposed to all the mind’s senses through The Incertitude of the Void. (11) “The warmth of a seat that has just been left is an infra-thin” (Note 4) appeals to me as a mind activity, as do Duchamp’s trails of text that refine the perceptible: “The quarrel of the cast shadow in relationship with the infrathin”. (Note 40) Such matters that perhaps seem detached from the flow of everyday experience but rouses the poet, can become “radiant” for us too when our mind is set against drudgery offered as the next new thing to reach the gallery or the book store: as Joyce put it: “Poetry, even when apparently most fantastic, is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality”.


(1)   Laurent Milesi. Finnegans Wake: The Obliquity of Trans-lations.

(2)   Ibid.

(3)   Gerald Bruns. The Refusal of Philosophy: Maurice Blanchot. John Hopkins University Press. 1997. p.8

(4)   See Zoltán Popovics: Counter-time: A Non-dialectical Temporality in the Works of Maurice Blanchot.(

(5) Maurice Blanchot. The Work of Fire. p.104

(6) Ibid. pp. 154-155

(7) See Michael Wood. Quashed Quotatoes. 2010.

(8) Marcel Duchamp. Where do we go from Here?

(9) For an unusual and informed essay on Surrealism see Maurice Blanchot’s Reflections on Surrealism. The Work of Fire. pp. 85 – 97.

(10) James Joyce. Stephen Hero. pp. 210-211

(11) Morris Beja, [in the short essay “The Incertitude of the Void: Epiphany and Indeterminacy” (in Joyce, The Artist Manqué, and Indeterminacy)] reads the heavy uses of ellipses in this passage from Stephen Hero and others as markers of an indeterminacy that characterise the sort of meaning that Joyce is communicating in his epiphanies and epiphanic works. The essay ends with an attempt to reframe the long debate about the value of epiphanies as bearers of meaning: “For when faced with all those sudden spiritual manifestations in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture, critics have tended – almost defensively, I think – to dismiss them, and the idea of them, as having failed. But as I tried to bring out at the start of my essay, if an artist conveys a sense of perplexity and mystery, he or she may not have failed to communicate. And after all, if the meaning and significance behind an epiphany were readily or logically graspable, the experience of epiphany itself would be redundant”.


Ann Hamilton On Ian Hays Works from 2010-2013

2 Dummies

Minute Detail from Yawn 6. 2011-12. From1800           Characters. Shaun. Finnegans Wake.

Ann Hamilton On Ian Hays’ Current Large Works and Details: Joyce, Derrida, Language, Art.

Ann Hamilton 2013

The dummies in Duchamp’s Glass imply that Man is an empty vessel waiting to be filled with a spirit of full desire never to be achieved: a spirit understood as the Illuminating Gas. In Ian Hays’ large Photoshop Screen Print Shaun 6 Reading Joyce Reading Duchamp the two top lines of these dressmakers dummies likewise imply that the imitation is a mannequin for Man – that language applies in the same way to Joyce’s evocation of the corpus of Man in Finnegans Wake: that is to say the lettered characters that create the entire book. The two images illustrated above issue from the ranks and files of over 1800 such images that make Yawn 6. As an introductory essay on Hays’ work since 2010 it is time to report the continuation of his preoccupations with Joyce and Duchamp that has led to these arrays of semi-figurative images whose roles are textual, or more interestingly digraphic, literal, syllabic and abecedary, liquid and polysyllabic in technique.

Duchamp’s dummies awaiting there Illuminating Gas portray, recap, the prosaic fictions involved in determining the sexuality of delayed rhythms stratified through the Notes Duchamp created, and in the fashion in which his language was arranged to this end. In fact the engine that is his Glass project reflects the artist’s struggle to place the important and common experiences of our lives into the language of humour, aesthetic incongruity and sardonic mobilization. As a process of layered prose the Glass is best understood as a consequence of Duchamp’s pursuit of a dark poetic of impersonality through the machinic. One must read Duchamp and read on him even if only as a means to redfine for oneself the difficulties to be discovered in his work and the uncomfortable experience of accepting his irresolutions and ambiguities as normative and the problematical as sensitive thought. If the dummies in the Glass are chess pieces (an idea to which authors on Duchamp have naturally subscribed) we are free to develop the entire mechanization of the Bachelor Apparatus both creatively and constructively through the strategic machine that it operates transformally into a mechanism operating under its own power. Shem and Shaun the two warring brothers in Finnegans Wake maneuver, baffle, scheme, deceive, producing counterfeit morphogenesis inside alternative loopholes that Joyce’s text provides. In Joyce’s notebooks we discover “Yawn telegraph telephone Dawn wireless thought transference” with Shaun transmiting information whose thoughts and replies to mamalujo act as mechanisms to deflect scrutiny away from the miriad voices he contains in his cryptic body. Lies, truth, improvised chicanary and honesty share beds in Joyce’s Nietzschean morality play. Subterfuge, ruse and sham are conveyed in linguistic strategies that double-cross aesthetics. A more bluntly human though very similar perspective may be compared when we conceive activities such as these from the viewpoint of medication and autopsy for the human body that has been interrupted from its typical functions by a strong disquieting trauma as described by Bruno Bettleheim in his essay on one of his patients in his book The Empty Fortress – the “machine boy” Joey – under the spell of autism – when the human being energises itself to deceive the sealed vault it has unconsciously built in its anxiety for release. 

Language is the core of all artistic and philosophical creativity, and as Jacques Lacan suggests: “We know as sentient beings that all we are resides within the domain of our languages” and that “The most complicated machines are made from words”. It has seemed to me at least that this concern with language in relation to the “visual arts” needs repeating despite the apparent obviousness of its substance. For instance, the figures in each of Hays’ latest visual and written works are morphed photographs imaginatively superimposed upon a world independent of the notion of history as we commonly understand and use it.  Joyce in the Yawn chapters of the Wake works with the metamorphic human body as a crypt equivalent to the mummies of ancient Egypt that would be resurrected into a clandestine space in which its relation (yet without relation as such) with an absolute past, is played out. With the term “history” we commonly assume the passage of past time and past events, but in Finnegans Wake this traditonal assumption is undermined by Joyce’s syntactic play with his newly coined portmanteaus in such a way that “lines of flight” (in Deleuze & Guattari) deny the possibility of a single reading. That is to say, it adopts a form of language that flees all history because it escapes immediate meaning and in this way is associated with “the war machine”. (1)

The sedentary histories of all aspects of any past are accompanied by myth and invented fabrication since we cannot territorialize or re-inhabit these past space-time coordinates. Such histories are actually games of memory played out in our language and not history that is different from all types and all kinds of fictions when we imagine we are thinking “historically”. Samuel Beckett’s suggestion that Finnegans Wake: “is not so much about something as it is that something itself” is parallel to this ahistorical indifference and a new effective way of developing textual creativity with which Hays has obviously been concerned in the morphological images and writings that are now accompanying these latest large pictures created in Photoshop.

If we take this view that any objectivity is pursued through subjectivity – no matter the field – be it art, literature, science, mathematics, physics, geography or politics we recognise our inner  metaphor is the enabling and undetectable phenomenon that allows our minds to broach all apparent stasis – to make fun of writing and to make fun with it. Since Finnegans Wake’s “Wakease” is a confrontational “War Machine” that is grinding objectivity with the subjective, its full ironies only really confront a reader who has re-read its text over a longer period of time when this revelation of confrontational subjectivity strikes him, opening its doors to language’s  complexity and its inexplicable viral universality – the very issue Duchamp also put into practice more effectively than any visual artist before or after him, generating new meanings from old in the artistic predicament in which he had found himself after the consequences of Cézanne and the ultra-Modernist illusions of formalist Cubism. Duchamp’s like Joyce’s devices makes enigmatic and problematic what one thinks one understands by terms like “presence” and “consciousness” that lead us to also think, for instance, the linguistic devices of Gertrude Stein.

What has not occurred in the field of the visual arts is the realisation that without the genius of language there would be no means available at all to any of us to adjudge between an egg and a rock, let alone an artwork and a urinal. It is language from beginning to end that enfolds our humanity, and it is this fact in which Finnegans Wake rejoices and that is ironized by Duchamp’s Glass and by its Notes. The terms in Duchamp’s Notes to the Large Glass that create its cerebral mechanics are the central motif of his entire project, and though there are various texts to be discovered on Duchamp’s use of language in regard to his Glass project, and indeed his work in general, his use of language in his art has been almost wholly overlooked. This is a curious case in point of putting the cart before the horse in the world of art and its histories. If  there is still an art happening in the world today, and by this I mean an art concerned with thought, it must turn itself toward language and how language has brought about the conundrums of art’s odd histories and art’s conceptual becomings from the earliest periods of, say, Medieval art to the present day and at least – at some point – in our relationship with the world we are creating.

Art History has seen itself over time as one discipline that utilizes facets of the imagination and incorporeal effects upon which and more awkwardly Duchamp’s Glass has placed the greatest strains on poetic contemplation; yet meanwhile from its polar direction, his Urinal or Fountain  appeared to be directing attention away from it. It is here that through language the course of the History and Theory of Art has functioned over the past 100 years as confused imagination. What is remembered in complex art by those capable of thinking through these dilemas is just how closely art historical texts move to our own bodies and minds that require them as objects and through which one can view the world of the artwork as complexly as one views oneself – and that which belongs to our own memories. These images and texts are the  products of our awareness fired by more deeply felt forms of understanding; it is the production of language through the material world of art and the one leverage we have into this world that creates its birth. The artist in our own epoch no longer reads and no longer learns – therefore what we are seeing today is the falling away of the artistic and informed creator in all of the arts that would otherwise see us perhaps generating another Renaissance. Superficiality is ignorance that art departments still prefer to the rigours of informed thought and reading in tutors and students.

Histories of art are the accumulated texts and thoughts of previous minds that have shaped all of the works we perceive around us in one way or another. Histories of culture, of architecture and Design – whatever you will – are the outcrops of learning that are the outcrops of language. One location to which we should turn is the work of Nietzsche, and particularly his thoughts on morality and ideas concerned with the productivity of our language in discharging itself against the common rubric of our crystalized lingua franca. The ­bleakness and the paradox of our life brought Nietzsche to demand art against a nullifying nihilism that threatens that sense of what morality and the worth of living could be. Language should be the focus of the artist and not only the writer, the poet and the philosopher then; a language that expands itself through the power of constant thought and reading in the furtile contemplation of our being in a creative becoming. Hays has been writing this problem since 2004 and continues to create his working environment around and within these histories of art and their development of reproductions.

What Nietzsche contended is that language is all metaphor and this is an explanatory model of that which can comprise the complexity of nervous processes, our mental representations, and imagination, and this model rests on the most basic understanding of metaphor as our form of transferring or transmitting denser information, content, or impulse from one level to another.  Nietzsche’s claims are often contradictory since he also maintaned that metaphor provides the illusory cover for the fact that no such transfer could ever take place. Nietzsche therefore came increasingly to view concept formation as a creative and therefore an artistic act. For him every word immediately becomes a concept, inasmuch as it is not intended to serve as a type or kind of reminder of the unique and the wholly individualized original experience to which it owes its birth, but it must at the same time fit innumerable even if more or less similar cases – meaning that strictly speaking we never arrive at equal cases – in other words a miriad of unequal cases. So every concept originates through our equating that which is unequal. All concepts are of our  invention created by common agreement to facilitate ease of types of communication. Typically we forget this fact after inventing the concepts, and come to believe that they are “true” and do correspond to reality. Thus Nietzsche argues that “truth” is actually nothing but metaphor:

A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms – in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins. (2)

Hence the struggle against a dullness of mind through a revival of thought through the powers of our imagination, and our ability to visualize our sensed world infinitely beyond our present workaday technologically-induced thought conditions, largely uninformed by the muscles of human personal and artistic values and mind-body worth in its singularity and its pluralities. Nietzsche’s “Yes – saying” is equaled by Joyce’s and by Duchamp’s attention to language and art as Man’s most important wisdom. A more recent word by John Maeda will be useful:

Amidst the attention given to the sciences as how they can lead to the cure of all diseases and daily problems of mankind, I believe that the biggest breakthrough will be the realization that the arts, which are conventionally considered ‘useless,’ will be recognized as the whole reason why we ever try to live longer or live more prosperously.

The Universe will Fly like a Bird

Duchamp and Joyce powered the dynamics of imaginative creativity to a point at which their successors might proceed to pick a way through the very problematic their legacies have left. The observations offered above are not fleshed out enough to suffice a deeper interrogation of what Hays’ work up to now has been able to offer concerning influence and production against the work of Duchamp and Joyce – perhaps someone else might proceed in the future to do it better than mysef. In as much as both Joyce and Duchamp developed original means in order to promote a new way of imagining a picture of thought, and a different and powerful method of opening up new ways of understanding the forces involved in Man’s creative imagination, the only productive step seemingly open to Hays has been the impossible one of attempting to realize a new way of creating subtleties through an image/language. Language is invisibly and simultaneously indispensible yet inadequate for the purposes of our transferring the most sensitive and subtle feelings of our internal sensations to consciousness, not to mention attempting to communicate such delicate sensations to other minds in such a fasion that individual bodily ambiances be transmitted into the world at large by way of a more refined, more empowering linguistic, verbal/body interface. From the perspective of Joyce the problem of attempting to put a “new language” into practice was of course unrealizable, the power of the work of art for him and his language-use in Finnegans Wake, although highly unconventional and problematic, was nevertheless embodied in ordinary language and its grip on the mind as logos.

The paradoxes in discourse of reality and fiction are confronted by each of us every day of our lives whether we are aware of some of these apparent enigmas or not. Hays’ latest scripting that accompany his latest images is certainly fitting in one important respect in that it is related to the paradoxes Gilles Deleuze developed in his book The Logic of Sense that teases out many of the paradoxes to which sense is equated in its various and different aspects. Inverse relations are the same as identical relations depending on the use of the signifier, as Deleuze reveals in his study of sense in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass: “The paradox of the absurd, or of the impossible object”. From this paradox is derived another: the propositions that designate contradictory objects themselves have a sense. A corollary of this for instance is that the possible and the impossible define a minimum common to the real but that impossible entities are – as Deleuze puts it – “extra-existents”, that yet exist as such in the proposition.

The fictive, the impossible, play a fully active part in our lives and yet, for most ordinary cases of matter-of-fact, these extra-existents are disregarded since they are not habitually looked for – we see these impossibles or paradoxes largely when something piques our interest, and on return they appear to become deep for us once we have been alerted to their presence by the extra-ordinariness of the moment, the event. Such is the status of language when it obstructs us. One can sense that the work being generated in Hays’ latest images and texts develop from  subtly nuanced deep fleshly bodily recesses of negative/positive interplay, and also between the apparent plays of literary interstices, the power of metaphor and the evident role of philosophical thought on language as sites of intersection. Beyond reproduction/simulacrum models of reception developed by Deleuze elsewhere, however, Hays’ lines of images and texts are deployed as a means and as a process of engineering resemblances between the activities of thought or mind creativities, the agency of academic interests, and the innovative paradoxes upon which language and communications rely. It is not the pictorial letter-like qualities alone in these images standing in rows as interacting participles in sentences that signify here but also their simulated paint-like qualities whose metaphors echo in their texts beneath and above them; and with this observation I will suggest the most acute difference Hays’ work is confronting. It appears as reintegration of the complexly ordinary into art via an appropriation circulating through the medium of language and form of the world-wide-web and its interactive feeling for fragments of the future and the embryo of the ever-developing object. Just as there is provision in Finnegans Wake for endless reinterpretation and change referring its reader to a place beyond temporality, so such a space is opened by the creative possibilities of a personal temporality and its ending or Wake through the moving machinic apparatus of the Internet and the WordWideWeb and as the medium of Photoshop for Hays.

Hays’ inspiration through the work of Joyce and Duchamp and their play in the full silences that exist between language, image and thought and that usher us back to the poetry of Mallarmé, exites further interest. On the level of pedagogy Hays refers to the work of art as it is most often perceived – in the art history book, on the internet, and wherever else in printed form and most often located within a particular language – either empirically engaged, existentially or socially, or in the more elaborate or academic works of books on the history and theories of the work of art and its contexts. Writings from any decade or era on the work of art have their own special edge for discussing and arranging ideas and concerns about the work or works of art under discussion – however, the fact remains that what is being discussed is an image that is ostensively a print; it is probably a 10th of the size or less of its original and it is the missed product of the camera lens. The history of art is taught by virtue of this lens proceeding by way of the slide, the data projector, onto a support by which means the original appears in the eye of the minds of all who perceive it. The yawning gap between real and real for Hays intensifies the modern processes of perception and understanding that concerns him since these useful terms of the real and the real confuse and deepen thought upon which Joyce and Duchamp worked and with whom Hays has found cohesion. Mallarmé’s silences are distinctive interstices in his later poems performing a role construed as structure and inclining along his linguistic lines of verse that both define and refine them through the mind of the sensitive reader in whom the work resides. I would argue that such was the case in the general working practices of Duchamp and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even whose pacing as to its life as a visualised poetic and by the photograph and film is unique as matter of patterning in itself.

Who interprets, of course, is the point of all of this art: everything artistic is a matter of this.

In many of Hays’ latest works attention has been drawn to the image of flesh and the image of tools both of which, in their different ways, are entangled in a fundamental sense with Man. Verse and image appear as flesh and blood entangled with machinic entrails in an (un)natural extension of language opened to the spectator by means of measuring devices, various tools of geometrics, and optical instruments in many of these cinematic lines on the new Large Images.

Detail from Shaun 5 1

 Ian Hays. Minute Detail from Yawn 6. 2010-11. From 1800 Characters. Shaun. Finnegans Wake.

The effect of understanding Hays’ work relies on sustained considerations of details and their attendant writings both here and on the works themselves. In view of these prints being the product of previously printed material our work, if we want to enage with it, would actually come through extended reading on academic texts. The bibliography on the website contains many of the works Hays himself has consulted over the years but omits books and essays that have not been deemed immediately relevant to the images and texts he has been creating. The most amusing issue that people have regarding his work is the fact that since he is no longer a painter, and has not been a painter for many years, his works or prints are not therefore original works of art. Against the backdrop of the computer screen world-wide-web he continues to create as one and the same with his writings the idea that painting – because it is redundant as Duchamp had indicated – is thus patently resurrected as metaphor.

The lessons of Duchamp obviously come into view at the place where the medium of paint and support no longer provide amusement for the mind that has now exhausted the linguistic play provided by layer upon layer of art historical analysis. In a sense the intrinsic value of a work of art and its extrinsic or historical and aesthetic values blur such that dichotomies are loosend at best, and at worst are not discussed but are instead muffled, sometimes by linguistic jargon or accepted simplistic traditions of discourse. Academic results in the roles taken up by analytical historians of art develop quite differently in regard to the life of the work of art, yet there does become a point at which even a learned language must give way to unthought issues that have gradually worn the surface of the visual and lingustic sign away – the social and historical fabric of the work of art under review for example has become the terrirory of artistic reproduction. It seems to me absurdly curious still that many painters – artists of visual works then shall we say – do not attend to language (by which I mean plain analytic writing) even concerning only that which  has already been bequethed to them from the perspective of a linear historical position.

The traditions of painting are long and extremely varied, so that historians and many of their assumptions concerning the medium were limiting to an artist whose genuine concerns were with new ideas and new technologies in play in Europe and the USA. The question of working within a historically complex yet clichéd medium, an overused and overburdened archeology of concepts and pictorial concerns, had made it unfeasible for Duchamp to explore the genuine relationship he wanted to have with language and image, hence his desire for a more graphic exploitation of the image employing a “dry” style or medium. Hundreds of texts and books on Duchamp’s work as a provocateur undermine his earnest activities that combine humour with irony and incomprehensibility at the point of poetry and technology – suffice it to remark that Duchamp admired the work of writers and particularly the works of Raymond Roussell, the poetry and letters of Jules Laforgue, T.S. Eliot and the work of Alfred Jarry. Writers carried ideas into regions beyond the domains of the visual arts while visual artists nevertheless were bound to writing through Art History’s prose. Duchamp’s use of titles for his works both on and outside of them reveal an obsessive delight in language’s extraordinary flexibility that can be noted for example in his naming of the parts that were to take their place in his Glass that is nothing less than the staging of visible and invisible poetry in motion at the centre of which carnal libidinal frustration meets cerebral ascetic distress. In effect the works he made or found were bound to language hand in glove. One extraordinary work that in our own day has not appeared as so remarkable is the Boîte-en-valise which is a portable miniature monograph including sixty-nine reproductions of most of Duchamp’s output created by reproduction and, with the touch of a renovating craftsman, re-tinted by Duchamp’s handiwork. What is brought into question with this work of retouched reproductions is the changeling nature of the original and the position of reproduction as an art in itself residing as a trace metaphorically between language and its always-changing image of itself. The reproduction has become so semantically liberated that taking it as a concept for itself it has served Hays’ new work on Finnegans Wake because – as he has noted himself elsewhere – it transgresses its own inherited social codes.

Given this exemplum of Duchamp’s thought through his Boite en valise it might appear curious  in our day that he did not take the culture of this practice a few stages further and to surgically dismantle what is certainly the ultimate image/text amalgamation that is the History of Art Book and/or Catalogue. Hays has created his images throughout from art reproductions lifted directly from these sources and from the internet as a means of re-treating photography in the manner it has obsessively been treating the art-object across the past 160 or more years. Yet in order to advance the differences apposite from Duchamp to the Artist’s Book and Photographs exemplified in our current decade it is as though one would need to emphasise his significance yet again in the face of a fashion that simply ignores the complexity of art and its histories in a tedious replay of the Art Photograph – and the by now ancient debate of photography as art:

Modernism in the visual arts was rightly bemused by Duchamp’s activities and has failed on the whole to recognize the critical importance of the work he made and on which we are still left to ponder if we are at all serious concerning the role of the visual and literary arts in our own day and the future of intellectual work in the hands of those artists and writers whose works will now inhabit the www. When we speak of the autonomy of Duchamp’s oeuvre then we may be imagining an army of works in disparate pieces and its extremely heterogeneous nature. Still, what we know is that each of Duchamp’s works and texts relate to each other, hence the Boîte en valises that in their variations display this understanding. When we consider the applications through which we view works of art and in particular the www, the original work is simply further removed from us than it has ever been before, and is  further re-and de-contextualized, re-rendered, re-allocated in space and time to such a degree that the Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction (3) would seem, in its argument, to have reached its own limits in its fundamental propositions, save for Benjamin’s condition that the contemplative value of the original work of art and its aura have been lost forever because of the power of reproduction.

At least this is the paradoxical turn that Duchamp consistently addressed during his working life largely due to his works that defamiliarize the spectator from the reproduction as merely a reproduction. Not discounting the quality of paint as such as a full medium for direct physical expression in its countless manifestations from Leonardo and before to Kandinsky and beyond, the Boîte en valise ironizes the bringing together of the conflicting technological phenomena that Duchamp had been exploring from his earlier paintings of mechanomorphs through to the Glass. The quality of the thing in itself, a work’s autonomy for Duchamp had been expressed in his long deployment of technological nomenclatures throughout his own writings and in his difficult designations of works that create a linguistic humorous whole, self-contained, self-referential, and that builds its own world out of puns. Taking an oeuvre that communicates with itself, building away from its creator in order to make him free, constitutes a reversal of much that is in Modernism. From Hays’ perspective these approaches to creativity in Duchamp and Joyce have provided examples of an intellectual approach to visual and written art that is free from the snags of style or of manner that reverberates in the works of those artists who have slavishly copied them, particularly the work of  Duchamp, without facing the query of where Duchamp and Joyce might have taken their work to. Given Hays’ writings on this subject that are slowly becoming quite extensive, perhaps his own readers/spectators will find a relationship unfolding between his visual images, the vast sum of detail and time Duchamp lavished on his Glass, his Notes and Boîte en valise, and Hays’ battle with Joyce’s alian language.

The utilities in Photoshop that readers of Hays’ images will find in number are the Filters that allow the artist to rectify any ‘original’ feature of a photograph. The hand-tinting pochoir process of producing coloured images employed by Duchamp to create the reproduction-come-originals occupying the Boîte en valise looked back to earlier periods for producing popular pictures of those times: Pochoir (French stencil)
. Through the 1920’s and 30’s stenciling had become a popular medium in its own right. This was most evident in Paris where it became known as pochoir, used extensively to illustrate the very latest in fashion and also in design. Pochoir almost immediately began to be applied to the production of postcards as the flat clean color that it produced had become more acceptable amidst the general influx of modernist tendencies in design. Celluloid and plastic replaced the old metal foil stencils that were traditionally used but otherwise the technique was generally unchanged from earlier years. The transparent medium of the watercolor however that had been used to paint over ink was now largely replaced with a more opaque gauche that provided these cards with a more intense coloration and a largely ‘painted’ look. Some cards were produced with only a few colors but most used many hues. Black was still often used as a key, applied in linear fashion to hold the composition together. While beaux arts postcards were produced with pochoir it was a costly time consuming process and it eventually succumbed to its cheaper rivals. Stenciling however quickly evolved into the more commercially viable screen-printing process. Duchamp worked on his Boxed exhibition of the Valise twice: between 1935 and 1940 and between the 1950s and 1960s. Hays’ work takes the strategy of Duchamp’s pochoir series as precomprehended although it is equally obvious that this is not the case via-a-vis the wider world and that of the Internet. The two websites below may be useful in order for the reader to extend their understanding and thought on this study on Duchamp’s work and the effect of the photograph:

Examining Hays’ latest works in the series New Large Works & Details (Wake 5. pp. 489-508 and Wake 6. pp.509-516) – with great brevity on this occasion –  it becomes clearer just how detailed and filled with quotation are the techniques between the Boîte and the subtle images Hays has redeployed as vehicles that straddle the problem associated with the previously unrefined inexact photographed reproduction. This esoteric framing of quotation through infuence was recruited for its particular purposes that would suffice in a special way to advance a new cause: that of initiating this new project capable of investigating, describing and acting visually and linguistically on the two most demanding works of visual and written Modernism on and in the machine and its poetic. Accident and the nature of human life can be seen complexly through the different layerings Hays’ work with the machine has embraced. Francis M. Naumann has commented on Duchamp’s use of pochoir as a format that diminished “the hand” or handiwork of the artist that for Hays became the reverse physical and conceptual ingredient by which means Photoshop would be irreplaceable as the mechanized exacting purpose-built device for realizing art as another multilayerd pioneering visual arena. We may look now to Naumann’s words on the Boite and take note of how the joke has turned:

For all intents and purposes, the process [of pochoir tinting] denies any possibility of expressiveness on the part of its maker, eliminating the “patte,” as Duchamp called it, or artist’s personal touch. From the years of his earliest mature works (ca. 1913-14), Duchamp maintained that he was devoted to “discredit[ing]” the idea of the hand-made. (Francis Naumann in toutfait 1999).

With the essential inclusion of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake in Hays’ own project we can only estimate the potential for the subtlety and finesse his images and writings are aiming to move toward that are examining the work of art as such from, say, Myron to the art of whatever is ‘now’. It is clear in Hays’ notes that Joyce and Duchamp were influential in putting his own thought to work as a development further to their very own quest for an artform that renders thought and language available to the visions of its closest and well-informed readers. I am aware that Hays and Naumann have disagreed on any  close relatedness of Duchamp to Joyce’s writing, Naumann having exchanged words with Hays on the subject a number of years ago. We should be aware of works that fail against the key aspects of Duchamp’s contradictory form of mimesis, artistic production and inventiveness, as a man of letters, a polarized writer and poet who wrote his cross-fertilizing fragmentary incomplete texts as a multiplicity of decentered activation on the intangible. Works of desconstruction that exist under his name and others under his pseudonym Rrose Sélavy speak of challenges against and also for Bergsonian models of time, as indeed do the portmanteaux words of Finnegans Wake. It is apposite also to reference this point by providing the reader with the title of a major work (that Naumann also refers to in his Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) that creatively considers and articulates the part Duchamp’s writings play in the full context of his oeuvre: The Writings of Marcel Duchamp in the Development of his Poetics by Carol Lee Plyley James: The University of Minnesota PhD. Dissertation 1978.

The early works and texts Hays created for his Internet Site were inviting Joyce’s language of the Wake to open up within a framework of computer art and an understanding of Duchamp’s writings called inframince. The smell of smoke mixing with the odor of a mouth that exhales it – the nearness of the poetic of Mallarmé – he likened to Joyce’s word variations as marrying through the senses by olfactory/Infrathin or escalations on working with the Wake; alternations of perceiving, hearing, internal confusions of chance evanescences that vanish and reappear, altering, being and becoming more chaotic, enveloping several impressions. Reading while re-reading Joyce’s verbal inventions Hays seems to have been made even more aware that we are being asked to determine spaces between arbitrary possibilities and inexpressible senses, thus for Hays’ purposes accentuating the visible shapes of inframince. Misspellings of words whose morphemes contract and expand in the Wake create timespace upon which we can muse, and, being coincident with Duchamp’s alchemical word inventions on physical matter, like Laforgue’s and Roussel’s texts, are successful as a type of writing preceeding Derridian deconstrucion. Language emerges in shapes from flesh-coloured cloth-covered metaphors at various spaces in Hays’ New Large Works and Details awaiting physical transformation at another date – thoughts on the manifestation of time as a delinarized and pluridimensional temporality is here being recognized against typical interpretive constraints imposed by traditional concepts of meaning and time for its liberation – archetypes as in Hays’ earlier works to 2004 are here being refused.

Details on Language & Image  Joyce&Duchamp

Ian Hays. Detail from Large Detail after Yawn 6. 2011-12. Shaun. Finnegans Wake.


From this perspective of figuration Hays’ grids in his images that imply continuity and the deployment of connectedness, function in an approach minutely detailing unique abstract forms that divulge their content equivocally, visualizing phrases or a series of phases as a disjunction/synthesis of the portmanteau word. Of course the portmanteau word suggests the revisionary kind of mind, and this reference to the cinematic in these New Large Works that had prefered to have escaped from sense have been taken (akin to Jules Laforgue) into exile. (4)

The aspect of reapparaisal in the material and textual subject matter in Hays’ latest images and texts has not been neglected. Revaluation is inseperable from taking responsibility for all equivocation itself that is alive in a tensed relation to philosophy between Derrida and Joyce and Derrida and Duchamp. There has been a vast superfluity of Duchampiana or Duchamp-like-things made after him in the genre of the readymades since at least 1945, and accustomed as I believe we are to it (we have seen it become popular art, current fashion, and mindless reserve within the force of finance) the intellectual rethinking to be countenanced in Hays’ work that oppose these activities reflects his interest at last in his own signature – his philosophical learning that has been occupying his continued thought on the texts of Derrida in particular. Artists since Joyce and Duchamp are “programophoned” after them (whether they know it or not) and, as we know regarding influences, it may be unapprehended or simply a way in which one can continue to work; as for Derrida, influence was pronounced since in his own work “Joyce’s ghost [was] always coming onboard” his own writing. As Andrew J. Mitchell and Sam Slote recount from Derrida’s Lecture Two Words for Joyce:

This is not a matter of you remembering him, [Joyce] no, but of you being remembered by him, inhabiting his memory. The Joycean obligation is then “to be in his memory, to inhabit a memory henceforth greater than all your finite recall can gather up, in a single instant or a single vocable, of cultures, languages, mythologies, religions, philosophies, sciences, histories of spirit or of literatures. I don’t know if you can love that, without resentment and without jealousy” (Two Words for Joyce 24/21–22). The totalizing drive of Joyce’s absorption and disaggregation of culture and history makes us part of his programming, where “in advance and forever it inscribes you in the book you are reading” (Two Words for Joyce 24/22). We become part of the programming “on this 1000th generation computer, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, compared with which the current technology of our computers and our micro-computerized archives and our translating machines remains a bricolage, a prehistoric child’s toy” (5)

Types or manners of writing in history of art books, of course, strongly affect the nature of the kinds of knowledge that can be lifted from them no less than in philosophical texts or treatise on science and physics. For this reason if for no other reading Derrida can be a highly effective way of improving one’s attitude to the written text as such, whose form is dramatically different from spoken language – it is as though these ways of communicating disengage entirely one from the other for us, and so much so that the written word can effectively begin to read just like an image that contains all its ambiguities – an image such as a photograph for example. It is at this point that Derrida’s concerns on the issue of presence in time and textuality comes into focus as interpretation and signification – the possibility of undermining linearity and highlighting multidimensionality as a thought-praxis. Textual wordplay becomes thick and may be operated upon as a material art coefficient to our shifting thought since it offers itself as a target for imaginative playfulness, semantics and morphing – nothing is permanent in this economy and where chance and change become dramatically forefronted in our reading. Here we are in a proximity to the writing, music, sound, and noise scores of John Cage for example, whose art and writings on Joyce and Duchamp among many other subjects concerning music became isochronous to his interest in Eastern thought. As Cage was aware the integrity with which Joyce and Duchamp created their works both serious and hilarious would always appear to be avant-garde. It needs to be reinforced that intellectually it can never be a matter of disliking or going around Duchamp since one must go through him; the very opposite of what has been happening in Gallery Art over the past 30 years or more, whose frailty regarding its lack of treatment regarding the technology of language and philosophy as power, has defined itself nakedly and simply through its complete lack of enlightenment and presents itself instead as a flirtatious unprovocative entertainment.

I would like to suggest that as a way of revivifying Hays’ images we should think the ordinary and the commonplace as Bergson and Deleuze supposed life as an open system that mirrors a true science and a true vision of evolution, movement and thought, regardless of outcome. Thus we can perceive influences taken up in Hays’ earlier work for the www as ruminations, and as a slow movement in progress that has now become a literary and visual resistance to totalisation as a paradoxical means of actually raising totalisation’s potential profile.

Our intellectual habits are largely or typically lazy and not prone to review –  so what we do with difficult work is to look for pre-existing molds or schemas in order to have our idea of such knowledge quickly confirmed. Our minds rebel against the idea of an original and unforeseeable creation of forms, of works and writings that entail such personal attentiveness, prefering closed systems and not open ones. It is this enigma that has drawn me to the status Hays places on difference and repetition – eternal return – as posited by Deleuze and Nietzsche respectively. Against the idea that narrative form imposes meaning upon the passage of time and therefore humanises it, the murkiness of the works evolving from Hays’ project resists all forms of easy translation because of its innumerable visual and written time-frames developing in these awkward image-text relationships. We should remember that it is typically and by now strangely assumed in a post-Newtonian world and within the framework of current scientitic-philosophical thought about language, that meaningful discourse must still, of necessity, have a sense of closure written into its genetic makeup even if only in the traditional guise of an implied address, that is, a prospected destination that defines and directs its sense. How bland this gesture and creation of the uniform appears even as it reappears over and again on the internet itself.

Limited as painting, printing, sculpture, assemblage or installation are with regard to mind art there is yet a difference of subjective intensity that is literally – because of its subject matter – a mobilization of the queer concept of difference in Hays’ image-compilations whose energies are in the process of being generated through the model Deleuze describes as the Rhizome. Multiplicity is apparent in the becoming connections any point of a rhizome can and must be connected to, hence this mobilization that resists chronology and organization as opposed to spaces of irritation, disturbance in power relations and a potential for felt sense, motivated as thought and invigorated by text. Here “everything breaks, everything is joined anew”; copies of commonplace or unremarkable household items in Yawn 5, 6, and 7; characters appropriating familiar-seeming rooms and floors, are folded within emergent tactics of readings. Hays’ grid  structure reveals its way of being composed and ongoing in such a way that reading in any direction arrays of details form a mélange of figurative imagery simultaneously with abstracted newly forged entities, filtered or brushed into shapes, whose potentials change according to the compass of any reading undertaken. Letter characters are flesh characters – the metaphor is strong. Further to this Hays’ modifications that occur in his works daily strain to deliver language to the body. I think it is of interest that according to Christine Van Boheemen-Saaf:

Joyce’s ‘symptom’ contains the real reminder that philosophy, art, technology are produced by the flesh. However, instead of labelling it ‘symptomatic’, I wish to see it as an act of resistance against the hegemonic imposition of a structure of subjectivity which splits body from language. In fact, I propose we understand Joyce’s drive to bring the body into word as the product of a different way of conceiving the practice and substance of language, perhaps analoguous to that of ancient Irish oral culture, preserving an incantatory mode. (6)

Yawn  Minute Detail from Yawn_52010 – 11. From 1800 Characters. Shaun. Finnegans Wake.

These image series are progressive, but also partial, advancing step by step by means of what we might call the floating signifier and floated signified given by the signifier that is not assigned or realized as such, able to take any value whatsoever, on the condition that these belong to the available reserve. There is of course a powerful interrelationship in Hays’ works between Joyce’s writings, particularly Ulysses/Finnegans Wake and their lists of and references to place names, peoples names, catalogues of references to history as myth and myth as history, narratives inside narratives, variations of voice and timbre in detail, movement between what we call the past, the present and the future in a complexity that does not explain itself to the reader but rather insists upon the world as thought: a changing living and dying and hectic manifestation so well beyond our capabilities to comprehend it’s complexities that there is nothing for it but join the flux as a matter of remaining sensitive to it. Joyce as we know was well aware of the more ordinary quality of his mind that often manifested itself in his writing as in his remark that he had “a grocer’s assistant’s mind“. (7) Duchamp gave a strong hint as to the sources for many of his readymades and the notion of the spectator building their own Glass through differing mental states since for him the huge American Sears and Roebuck Catalogue with its mail order kit-houses with central heating, and indoor plumbing and electricity, and with its vast array of goods from sewing machines and bicycles, to furniture and dolls and sporting goods to groceries, appeared as a metaironic poetic structure against which he alluded to The Green Box of 1934 for La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même. Duchamp himself characterized the notes as “somewhat like a Sears Roebuck catalogue,” meant “to accompany the Glass and be quite as important as the visual material”, if not more so in many ways. For a useful paper on Duchamp and the Sears Roebuck Catalogue see below: Tout-fait Issue1/Vol.1. December1999. The Green Box Stripped Bare:

It seems to me that Hays has been forcibly elaborating on his earlier works to such a degree that this ‘filmgrid’ schema needed to take into account the devices – to which I have alluded above – in a more formal design. Certainly the difficult occupation of attempting syncopation with Ulysses/Finnegans Wake/Glass/Notes, and the rest, has become an enormous exercise in self-development too regarding the writings of the histories of art: a desire to create in imagery what is probably unfeasible, blank and accidental. Continued processes of repeated readings of Joyce’s Wake produce elaborate signals that resurface and then turn back again into the page. With Hays’ return to rectifications of readymade artworks in his latest images, vast differences in perspective are opened in the imagination by his use of very different styles of writing and structure in their accompanying texts that function as imagery. While the outlining and evolving narratives of the Glass and the Wake present various but relatively standard if deeply repressed thought-images, their peculiar semantic and syntactical constructions are occasioned by their difficulty, allowing the object’s unconscious to be taken on loan only to foreground a condition of indifference that separates the subjects’ vocabulary from any or all typical experience. These two works are still providing Hays with a sharp edge aiding him in concentrating on his Details from the larger-scale images whose dimensions are such that only Zoomify can present them. While this appears a difficult reading of what one is contending with in Joyce and Duchamp we also need to re-acquaint ourselves with readymades Duchamp rectified like Pharmacie of 1914.

Since all of Duchamp’s works reveal the alchemical equality rite of low into high and high into low, Hays’ Details and thus of course the source images from whence they came attempt to follow this over-defined circuitry – and exploratory and pioneering as Hays’ new works are they are dedicated to the work of the general narrative question on mankind and its language posed by his preceptors. To perceive their legacy and as an aside for a moment, we should take an example from the Wake that will be instructive. The Mamalujo portion of the Wake – Book IV for instance, is acutely, intellectually and aesthetically challenging, but there is a general consensus that ALP at one point is writing a defence for HCE – her husband – and pleading his innocence. As a water element in three forms she appears as Kate, ALP, and Isabelle (a grandmother, a flowing stream and a young girl), and Hays’ work relates to Joyce’s strategy of overlapping forms in a way that is challenging and visually equivocal in regard to the odd gender question of male/female and female/male.

Large and small are both entangled in the Wake in view of the mire of foreign terms Joyce had employed in a bid to outplay extrications of one-sense-states of explication that literally does equate to the quantum mechanical thesis of materialist entanglement developed through the EPR Paradox (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox) perhaps better known as the Copenhagen interpretation, in which reality is seen to be a superposition of all possible states, or “hidden variables”. Put simply, an extrication of any one sex in the Wake (or identifiable wholes of any kind – and arguably in Book IV particuarly) is made intellectually impracticable; and in a fashion that the harder one works at an extrication of a single sense or sex then the tighter the grip becomes to disallow it on that particular page or sentence or particle under interrogation. Hays’ argument, however, appears to be that by querying the language of the Wake and the Glass – by creating imaginative parallax or stereopsis in the form of vast arrays of figures in his recreated investigations on Shaun (at this present time FW. pp. 474-488) a display of interaction will then become available to spectators in alphabetic format too (words and sentences whose forms are near and/or distant, clear and/or unclear etc.).

In other words like the Glass, Hays’ imagery is not there to illustrate his texts, and his texts are not intended to explain his images, but to add to the complexity of reference and movement subjective deliberation can entertain in this academic environment. If we move our views along the parallaxis παράλλαξις of these binocular visions in terms of his sentences and images we are already in the process of conditioning ourselves to the play in hand of Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Duchamp’s Glass and his experimental propositions in The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. Duchamp’s operations with parallax are perhaps more familiar than the ways in which Joyce explored the phenomenon geometrically in the Wake and more obviously in Ulysses. The question of perspective in the history of art was placed under pressure yet again by Duchamp not simply reminding us of the important role it played in Renaissance painting – but confusing that tradition of large and small entities that will create a field of unified reading.

Here the split we see at once between the 2 dimensional pictorial plane and illusions of space in which our eyes easily play, and the illusions of the three dimensional world as presented by the Glass, is clearly dualistic and cannot be resolved in a classical way. At the root of this duality at least to some degree is the problem of our “resolved” language systems that describe a 3D world in practical and thus empty ways. In a sense Joyce likewise re-envisioned his own project in Finnegans Wake particularly due to the enormous dualities of languages he opposed to one language field, although any native tongue is enough to reveal the almighty power that brings the totality of the world to everyone on this planet. Perhaps his grasp of this fact determined the fate of the book I have personally come to consider retains Hays’ own fascination with the art of literature, poetry, philosophy and the visual arts as the melting pot of languages. Joyce and Duchamp tore up the “rule book” on communication, literature and of course visual art; and the parallax view seen holistically presents the Wake and Glass as probing, exploratory texts. Their suggestions, allusions, camouflaged objects, objectives, signifiers/signifieds, proper names, inflexions and gestalts, place their relevance inside the work of poststructuralist theory. Their flavour of poetic complexity is a creative one that enables us to enjoy the proximity with which both artists place us to Jules Laforgue; Alfred Jarry; the reflections of Schopenhauer and Max Stirner; Nietzsche; Kafka; Ionesco; Jean Genet; Beckett; Queneau, Peter Weiss and so on – mirroring the complexity of creativity itself in the ways both Duchamp and Joyce explored it, and holding mankind as its exemplar since art, like our science and physics, is required to be as complex as we ourselves are.

Single Detail

It goes without saying, I believe, that one would wish, perhaps laughingly, that language could actually be treated as its own topic: and there have been those who have suggested that this is what happens in Finnegans Wake as such, though this in fact would be misguided. This is the nub of Hays’ problematic in as much as the many manifestations of analysis on the writings of such thinkers as Joyce and Duchamp invite these types of statement while misrepresenting – by default – the position of language itself. We cannot produce positions from outside of language since even the best of unreadable texts like every sign or noosign or signs outside of the given signs are implicated in a world in which there exist no gaps or nonmeaning for us at any time in any space. Reading Deleuze can produce in us that very sensation of experiencing these integrating patterns of distinct and merged layers, rhizomes, and “sense”:

Sense is both the expressible and the expressed of the proposition, and the attribute of the state of affairs. It turns one side toward things, and another side toward propositions. But it cannot be confused with the proposition that expressed it any more than with the state of affairs or the quality that the proposition denotes. It is exactly the boundary between propositions and things (8)

Deleuze’s stated arrangements in Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense in particular, redefine our own position vis-à-vis the work of time and visions of the work of the refined representation, inasmuch as such representation can be allotted to the properties of virtual material “things”, leaving thought to perform its morphing explorations as it shifts from sense to sense – redefining itself most succinctly in the work of art, because the work of art defines an area or arena for contemplation and rigour away from common sense, practicality, and “good” judgment. Language requires to be exposed as Finnegans Wake exposes habits, of  addictions, tendencies, customs, conventions and traditions of pattern in linguistic usage – habitually baring them morphogentically. Joyce’s language-use functions in the way that shadows operate – by highlighting in general the ways in which language usually functions, thus permitting us from many different perspectives to envisage the complexities of normal language; and from our achieved perspectives it becomes possible at least to envisage language as the ontological ground for all creativity: artistic, scientific, et sic in et sic de aliis – the root of human creativity itself. Ulysses/Finnegans Wake and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even cast the commonplace world into relief as of course do Duchamp’s readymades, and the important problem that must be overcome in the visual arts is its complete lack of understanding that language was art’s very genesis at every point and every turn; hence it is language that will be its future in the hands of those who can wield its faculty.

Margot Norris has noted: “It is difficult to write or talk about Finnegans Wake in conventional language” and also suggested that a meta-language for aiding in discussing the book is likewise absurd. (9) However we have no other ways except through conventional language to reason this “unassimilable freak” (10) and perform acts of thought with the support of some form(s) of metaphysics. Deleuze writes of the “passion of the paradox” in which “language attains its highest power” to the point of what he calls “becoming mad” in Carroll’s text, dispersed before good and common sense. That to which Deleuze is drawing attention is the differentiation of infinite qualities residing in sense/nonsense. While we are learning ways in which we can work with Finnegans Wake, for instance, perhaps the richest of the problems that comes to mind concerns the different qualities or the values of difference in exchanges between common and portmanteaux words. In a scramble to make any kind of sense from what Joyce has written it is worthwhile to suggest to a reader the importance of sustaining the role paradox plays during readings and not to close this down for the sake of the role of ‘sense’. As Deleuze suggests:

[…] the gift of sense occurs only when the conditions of signification are also being determined. The terms of the series, once provided with sense, will subsequently be submitted to these conditions, in a tertiary organization that will relate them to the laws of possible indications and manifestations (good sense, common sense). This presentation of a total deployment at the surface is necessarily affected at each of these points, by an extreme and persistent fragility. (11)

Un-sense and differAnce determine the moment of going-through exchanges of value – thus  exchanges of qualities realizable through the text, and our invitation is to create the writing anew with the aid of this matrix and thus challenge the metaphors into which we so easily slip in typical texts. This is not an exercise in getting something right, but a preparation for overturning a world and rebuilding it from the shattered remnants of the language in which we far too typically live. Since Joyce and Duchamp recoiled at the wasted time ahead in enduring the exercise of “progress” that spells “the language of art” as they had come to know it in Modernism, a form of schizophrenic activity in an advanced form of a voyage around the body, a shadowing of the mind in its activities, had displaced the autonomy of the art work as the consummation of state-mindedness and replaced it with the war machine we have the privilege today of operating. Duchamp wrote of a “clearing” the artist requires creating for himself a space comparable to the war machine and crucial for his pursuit of the instability of identities with which his work was deeply and conceptually engaged – as a previous form of Deleuzean “nomadism”.

For Deleuze the war machine is pure exteriority against the “state”, a space with which the “state” nonetheless has to engage as the war machine proliferates itself and changes. Familiar as this condition at first might appear, the gulf between literature, art, and philosophy becomes amusingly reduced as the work of our protagonists meets with the Deleuzean model of “proliferating concepts”: of inventing new conceptual categories that construct new ways of understanding, thinking and seeing. Different planes of thought, for instance, are required by Deleuze’s reader in order to develop concepts like “quasi-cause”, between sense and sensation, whereby internalization stimulates its flowing-sense-kaleidoscope of immaterial sensations to us: “things” as we see and think them are actually mixtures of potentiality in a multiplicity of the virtual and the actual through which unidentifiable aleatory “points” flow. In “rhizome” we must deduce that hyphae complexes of seething “dead matter” proliferate in vast helical twists metamorphosing in a will to power its nutrient pathways from underground to skyline. However, the motivating forces at work with the term “quasi-cause” (as with any unusual neologism employed within a sedentary form) develops primarily from language itself – which is to state that all understanding is the elaborating power of its reception, and how and in what way(s) it is received.

Jean-Jacques Lecercle’s Deleuze and Language (12) offers interesting insights on the play(s) of language he distinguishes as important in Deleuze’s writings, claiming that Deleuze’s new “pragmatic model” focuses on language as “a historical construct” that is deeply enmeshed in material realities. Perhaps not simply “enmeshed” but actually responsible for and “immanent to the world” I would suggest. Differance, difference, and repetition occur through language: – period. All transmissions conveying new concepts and thoughts from the past into its future spread and are conducted by language and all the forces of its material/immaterial base: hence the idea that all language is metaphorical. Language-use in all fields of human life is plainly used as a flesh body is used: hence Joyce’s deployment of HCE and ALP and the language curiosities we all experience in Finnegans Wake, plus the material metaphysical signs in play in Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. It’s an important amusement.

Repeated ritual activities for Duchamp and Joyce spelled disaster hence their attitude to creativity and their creations that remain aesthetically unidentified and metaironic. The Logic of Sense provides its reader of Duchamp and Joyce with a “map” (in Deleuze’s terms – as opposed to a “tracing”) of language in action as good sense, common sense, and nonsense: What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious…. The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, and susceptible to constant modification…. A map has multiple entryways, as opposed to the tracing, which always comes back “to the same”. (13)

Deleuze describes the trace in terms noticeably similar to Bergson’s model of “cinematographic thought”: The trace is “like a photograph or X ray that begins by selecting or isolating, by artificial means such as colorations or other restrictive procedures, what it intends to reproduce”. (14) “The strength of the map, by contrast, is that it never operates by means of resemblance. While a map functions always in relation to something beyond itself, it engages in those relations as a tool-box, a set of potentialities that are never predetermined and that can in turn effect changes upon the images and objects they come up against”. (15) Hays seems particularly aware of scholarly texts such as those that fix and explain Deleuze’s intentions, but not all of the writings of his oeuvre can be developed in such straightforward ways. Words are intrinsically unreliable signals and Deleuze organizes his sentences and paragraphs in The Logic of Sense in a way that places great strains on our translations and adaptations (the work of transmission). From Hays’ viewpoint, as a reader of Joyce and Duchamp during his lectureships as an art historian, the certainty of differAnce and difference in a text  (and perhaps particularly a text that seeks to iron-out interpretation(s) of another and complex activity of thought in writing) is filled with gaps, escapes and dodges because its central aim is to clarify. The Logic of Sense casts shadows over any such clarifications.

Troubling texts presenting models for thought that vary wildly from discreet and more acceptable norms likewise differ between themselves; such is the difficulty present in an elaboration of Deleuze’s work that nevertheless bears a relationship to the freeing aspects of certain kinds of other literature, poetics and I would like to add the feeling of thought itself. In this way we have been concerned here with a literature and an art very much directed at a more or less explicit violation and subversion of the culture in which it has occurred. Incessantly un-suspicious of the “literature” they practice, our traditionalist art historians and also artists consistently separate words from things as a staple, while working and writing within a thorny tradition: a tradition of Modernism in the visual arts that now requires redirection to locations and roads less travelled. Hays’ key unease with philosophy, art and writing is their language entanglement with the rendition of unreal and real conceptual worlds into this language-game as a mirroring, rather than as an enactment of those worlds.

In their writings, Duchamp and Joyce each describe a revelatory transcendental process that brings words and things into contact with one another. Of course, given the time, I would need to discuss Tristan Tzara, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and William Burroughs – important as such writers and poets are there is so much one is just forced to overlook for the sake of time and space. However, it seems to me at least that Hays visualizes Finnegans Wake as a vast idea about language: that The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even is the one self-evident work of the 20th century that befits the additionally-thinking- mind, whose fascination concerns itself with an appetite for poetic phenomena whose appeal spreads outward to generate philosophical thought.

Duchamp’s writing for the mechanics of the Glass was a matter of syncretic combination in the regions of poetic-science, or as so many other writers on Duchamp have concluded, a nod toward alchemy and pure-effect-resonances as opposed to, say, metaphor in the typical usage of the idiom. It is clear that for works like these, words are things: language’s opaqueness and its obstinate reference to itself are what make it a mental power for itself while placing mind in the Abyss. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s essay for instance Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence (16) affords at once a direct insight into the enigma of language, and simultaneously limits the phenomenon of language’s power by its description of painterly art and exacting language as he understood it via the complexity of his epoch; it is a phenomenological practice throughout which he perceives the activities of painting including Cézanne and Klee. Language must be itself creative, but Merleau-Ponty occasionally places himself on the wrong side of writing and the art of painting by invoking painterly acts as though such acts are always clear and inescapably valuable; he is insupportable in his lack of knowledge concerning the innumerable activities that might be absorbed in the physical practice of art in-itself. His descriptions of the activities present in vision tower over his responses to painting as though it were indeed a kind of language as such and it is into this Abgrund that his writing often falls. The art of oil painting that concerns him has for most part been a ritual repeating itself over and over through idea transformations taking place. Certainly we can be belittled by the art of painting particularly when we understand only a little of its apparatuses, and it is this, among other reasons, that largely belong to literature and to philosophical thought, that prevents us from understanding the odd-seeming relationship Duchamp had with painting as a means of total expression and the history of ideas.

Hays’ new works as photographs, if this is not obvious in his previous images, exhibit a counter event – a sous rature effect of the painterly surface troubling the case of minimalism developed after Duchamp’s works like his Fountain. Of course the display of a urinal as an artwork could only occur where there is a glut of extremely sophisticated artworks against which it may be measured, and where a ritualized interest in artistic virtuosity can be appreciated. Insofar as Hays articulates the appearance of painted material, an air of painted stuff in its limitless differences or a type of simulacrum of it, hollowness follows in line with its source material dispersed as it is on the Internet or reproductions. His own writing on this facet of his visual art is at times uncomfortable since he is only too well aware that modern times have left modern minds unexercised. His work in totalis stimulates the judging self to explore the regions within and around territories unexplored by language-and-image: that is to say there are incalculable imminences in differences whose stemmings and presences as a proper thought-experience have engaged perhaps the most intriguing minds of the recent past like Derrida and Deleuze in particular, whose works form a bridge for Hays to language, literature, poetry and the visual arts as opposed to a view of their works as residing mainly within critiques of psychoanalysis.

Hays’ essays and his web images and prints particularly embrace the ambiance set up by such writings, and also the fact that neither the Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even or Joyce’s Finnegans Wake can be taught – rather each invites an effort of thought fully unlike any previous or subsequent artwork or artifact whose location will not be recouped by applying the stubborn creed of either The School of Art or the man-in-the-street. Minimalism after Duchamp has been a dull and useless misnomer, nevertheless what we find are stripped-down vehicles for imagery affording reference to the camera and the photograph that have taken the work into the domains of art history allowing language to standout as a source for intellectual play.

Hays’ work is mindful of the conditions that apply to all pictorial work that follows simple ideas such as these (that actually stand as style, manner, and even period) without a gloss as to why his work resists this tyranny by its implication of a textual voice growing from its own earth as his time continues. The conundrum of what art might be is inherent in coming after Duchamp, but both he and Joyce’s Yes to the Irony of Affirmation and its twin the Irony of Indifference are concerned with creation/destruction as, for instance, in Joyce’s term “abnilisation of the etym” (FW.353) and Duchamp’s quasi technical skills on glass in precarious alliance with fragile annihilation in a fashion that suggests the inauguration of a new strain of thought for the arts.

From this perspective it is not as though the writings of Merleau-Ponty or for that matter any insightful visionaries on the work of the work of art are wrong, so much as they demand far too little of the reader and are therefore disappointing, thus our deeper interest in the works of Duchamp and Joyce to this literary end. At once inaugural and terminal the Glass and the Wake require a different set of interpretive skills for identifying the strategies by means of which the very subversive potential of these textual machines have been put into effect in the mechanics of writing or reading.

All we require is the recognition of potential that both projects encompass in regard to their own selfgenerating programs. The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even transgresses inherited codes, which frustrates the status quo of art historical language as it has changed in form to content over the past 500 years. A greater problem is the dilemma of a phenomenon that is Finnegans Wake whose demands of time and times is now a recognized central feature of its raison d’etre and whose complexity is such that more recent criticisms of the work have developed Joyce’s use of time as central to the entire project of writing as such through the voices of Wakease.

If I am correct Hays is pointing his reader to the fact that humans consistently undervalue themselves – a clear and prodigious thought that may certainly alter our views on modifications to the “I” and particularly those works like Hays’ that explore concepts on time and the changes that art can bring about in the self and the decentered self (as Derrida has discussed with regard to self-identity and narcissism – the mis-recognition of oneself in the Other in his Specters of Marx). And then Deleuze takes as axiomatic the notion that there is no time but that of the present which contains past and future in the “I”. These layers describe different ways in which past and future can be inscribed in a present – as this inscription grows more complicated, the status of the present itself becomes more abstract. Like Deleuze and Guattari in their last book What is Philosophy art and language for Hays are concerned with the development of processes every day; and where: “philosophy is the art of forming, inventing and fabricating concepts”, in which the philosopher does not use preordained schemata but rather has to create his or her own concepts, i.e. the interplay of concepts, which actively structure one’s own thinking and perception of complexity as the most vibrant scenes of ordinary life appear outrageously poignant in their mere existence. At this point we can enlist another commentator in order simply to enrich our discussion but simultaneously indicate another aspect of Joyce’s turn toward a format of invented language to which Derrida subscribed in his Two Words for Joyce regarding the power of the gift and translatability as its primary concern but also “debt” as opposed to Joyce’s “greatness”:

Joyce’s project is one in which an awareness of debt is unavoidable, in which the investment in an ideal eternal history is sure to pay off. Ultimately we learn this guarantee is nothing but a formidable insight. It is the calculation of the future and its containment: and, by extension, the absolute limitation and containment of the other. There is no time and no space for the other in Finnegans Wake. This is why, perhaps, Joyce cannot be liked ‘except when he laughs…’ but then, ‘he’s always laughing’. (17)

Ruben Borg writes that it is through their own laughter that the Other realizes him/herself in spaces that are planted and present in Finnegans Wake creating infinitesimal spasms evoking pasts and presents coextensively as deferrals of sense in a full rejection of grammar, of Subject and Predicate. An innate sense for the richness of language in the business of the everyday hastens and is flat against the portmanteau word that sweeps it up in a flood of perpetuation and immanence; hence our anguish that our common language is never enough as a force with which to deal with the outpourings of art that appears to us as a specialized location, external to the everyday, and whose languages are built in order to describe unfamiliar activities and impossible states of creativity, striking against the common space of ordinary usage. But ordinary language is invisible and infinitely more complex than Finnegans Wake since it is not as though we are aware of what language is, particularly in its most widespread domains. It is also too simple to allocate “complexity” and “specialization” to forms of written usage created by and seemingly for an academic and artistic community without our pressing for further thought on how ordinary language subsists “inside” its metamorphosis and “inside” extraordinary works of art. Ordinary usage is omnipotent and made even stranger by the works of art that are developed through and from it – ordinary usage creates the stage for art.

Effectively the portmanteaux word trundles between the earth in time-space through a lapse in the text that demands a processing of what is read as the elapsing of time itself: “All readings [of Finnegans Wake] are encouraged by the word’s immediate context and all contexts are compelled to a forced coexistence in the word…” (18) where man is mirrored as the most complex phenomenon. Art is not typically a daily pursuit but it summons our desires for artifice in the complex and also as a thinking specialisation: like the organization of conditions like time, languages and silences particularly developed in the literature of and on Joyce and Duchamp. What remains outside of the work of art is uncircumscribed – only that which is so unpresented to us is uncircumscribed and is not a work of art. Duchamp’s practice led him to seek such uncircumscription in the world that left him with the only option he had after all, which was language in the form of notes and in the titles he gave to artworks that had been fully circumscribed by language. The question is: how have recent works of art up to 2013 reached out to the complexity of the living – of life unbounded, unqualified, mysterious – to what Duchamp has referred to as the unrepresentable Infrathin ?

‘Interstices’ may be substituted for Duchamp’s term ‘Infrathin’ as a way of allowing a greater freedom away from the specialisms advanced by his Notes, yet what is occurring here is a sudden development through the Glass’ Notes and the Wake’s language, taking us all closer to a kind of ultimate refinement that has yet to be fully acknowledged – a refinement beyond the arts that were precursors in the fields of literature, poetics and philosophy, the visual arts of painting, printing and sculpture that had now been relegated, so to speak, to a rougher dimension. Joyce’s newer paradigm was built on slippages of the mind and brings thought into view due to its deviation from the norm and the giving over of sense to the producer of his act of writing who is his reader – thus the paradigm rests its case somewhere between the text and the event of re-reading, (for Derrida every reading is a re-reading) re-creating from the dead text and the body as such of the literal Finnegan(s) and his tribe. In Hays’ work I think this amounts to images and texts that recombine with and after the event of their immediate created condition time after time, as it were, the development of his alias, and as the very movements of freedom openly accredited to the work of Finnegans Wake and the Large Glass.  This freedom is opened only by the overthrow of conventionally distributed authorities of the current culture in its language that appropriates linearity and linear understanding without the scaffolding of the material documentation of what has been happening in philosophy since the likes of Deleuze and Derrida, in which the problem of time and presence traverses language as such in reverse on the plains or plateaues we imagine are “behind us” – and the conceptual future horizons of our own creation. Only by stepping outside of the language one was given, in one way or another, is it possible to genuinely create that freedom. However, this means seeing language as though from a great height in our imagination, even as we are chained to its stubborn, if elasticated, metaphorics. Ruben Borg on the Rhetoric of Memory (19) puts the case of the language of the Wake in one instance like this:

In my understanding, the prehuman past of which the Wake’s obscurity is a symptom overtakes [any] temporal scheme. The Book’s verbal and syntactic inventions convey not the evidence of a repressed experience but rather a trauma borne in absolute passivity – a loss of self-identity that cannot be acsribed to any ‘living system’ or individual agency. […] the Wake illustrates this phenomonological impossibility in the scene of HCE’s identification with his own mourners (FW 7). In that fantasy, the corpse takes the stance of the autobiographer; he signs the text and recollects the past from a position that disqualifies all relation to self, that disables, in fact, the very logic of self-reappropriation which is the essence of the Hegelian Erinnerung. Joyce contrives to stage this phenomonological impossibility in his method of composition. His deployment of an infinitely divisible mark, of a sign inscribed in destinerrance does not only open his writing to the production of an absolute future (a future more futural than any prospectiive modifications of the present), it also situates in that future the symptomatic return of a past more primordial than any intentional or existential trajectory.

Detail 2 Yawn 7 copyDetailed Print. From Yawn 7. 2012-13.


(1) Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press.

(2) Friedrich Nietzsche. On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense.

(3) Walter Benjamin. The Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction.

(4) It is not difficult to find similarities between James Joyce and Jules Laforgue. Both are, each in his respective language, creators of neologisms. To be precise, they are the most spectacular examples of inventors of a new lexicon in the French and English languages. Laforgue’s role as a forerunner in this respect has already been considered by scholars such as Warren Ramsey, who states, “[n] o other 19th century writer anticipates so clearly the intense word-consciousness, the linguistic innovations of Léon- Paul Fargue and James Joyce.” Biographically speaking, both have remarkable similarities: they begin by cultivating poetry, which is followed by tales where the classical myth is treated according to modern, parodical or ironical formulations, and they are both playwrights. Both choose to live abroad: to change lands, or, as Steiner would say, “extraterritorialise” themselves, and recreate a new language while in contact with another; both certainly keep a background language in touch with another hidden, omnipresent language from their childhood: Gaelic in Joyce’s case and the Spanish of Montevideo in that of Laforgue, who, incidentally, was christened Julio, not Jules. Both maintain a close relationship with T. S. Eliot, an essential part of the study of their works. We must remember that Eliot, who got married in the same church as Laforgue when he married Miss Leah Lee, was inspired to commence his poetic creativity by one of Laforgue’s poems. It is recognised that the “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a variation of Laforgue’s “Solo de lune.” (Alfredo Rodriguez Lopez-Vazquez. Universidad da Corunna. Hamlet, Laforgue, and Joyce 1996).

(5) Andrew J. Mitchell and Sam Slote. Derrida and Joyce: On Totality and Equivocation. Introduction.

(6) Quoted in Ruben Borg. The Measureless Time of Joyce, Deleuze and Derrida. Continuum. 2007. p.123. 

(7) Richard Ellmann. Selected Letters of James Joyce. Faber and Faber 1975. London.

(8) Gilles Deleuze. The Logic of Sense. p.22. Columbia University Press. 1990.

(9) Margot Norris. The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake. John Hopkins University Press. 1976.

(10) Derek Attridge. Peculiar Language. p.10. Routledge. 1988.

(11) Gilles Deleuze. The Logic of Sense. p.93

(12)  Jean-Jacques Lecercle’s. Deleuze and Language.  New York, NY: Palgrave- 2002.

(13) Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. and forward by Brian Massumi (Continuum Books, 2004). p.13.

(14) Ibid. p.12

(15)  Amy Herzog. Images of Thought and Acts of Creation: Deleuze, Bergson, and the Question of Cinema. Invisible Culture – Electronic Journal for Visual Studies. 2000

(16)  Maurice-Merleau-Ponty. Signs. 1964. Northwestern University Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.

(17) Ruben Borg. The Measureless Time of Joyce, Deleuze and Derrida. Continuum. 2007. p.61.

(18) Ibid. p. 81

(19) Ibid. p. 124

Ian Hays. Computer Screen Prints may be purchased by getting in touch: