Since Monday comes to me before most of you, I guess I'd better start.
Last Monday, when the reading started, was my 53rd birthday. Yesterday I
went (about 2 blocks) to hear a local (Sydney) grunge band called "Noise
Addict". When they first became noticed, when they were about 14, they
said they would split up when they were 18. True to their promise, and
despite considerable success, this was their last gig.
Which probably says something about "care of the self" (them or me) but
that's another topic.
Anyway, I'd been thinking that I wouldn't be able to say anything about Las
Meninas, but while I was listening to the band I decided that the chapter
was all about presence and absence. (Was this because I was watching a
So the painter (writer, reader?) is usually absent from their own painting
(and do we usually care?). But here Velasquez has painted himself, has
made himself present in the painting, but now the painting is absent (we
can only see theback, we don't know the subject). Which reminds me of an
exhibition at the Louvre I saw in 1990. The exhibition was selected and
commented on by Derrida, and was titled something like "The Gaze of the
Dead". And there were lots of crucified Christs, plague victims and dead
soldiers with glazed eyes. But there were also a number of self-portraits.
Derrida's seemed to be (as much as my French could gather) that the
painter of a self-portrait couldn't see their own eyes, in a sense the soul
was absent from the subject (because it was in the painter).
Is this relevant?
Another story is told by Mark Chignell. He was teaching kids in Toronto to
(among other things) make videos of other children's stories. He found
that when the kids used a Sharp Viewcam (which has a small TV style screen
as a viewfinder) that they didn't produce very good videos. The reason
seemed to be that they kept getting involved in the subject - eg putting
the camera down and getting into the conversation. A conventional
viewfinder kept them distant, absent, from the subject, and produced
Now let's assume that the painting so far is a product of the 16th century
(Renaissance). Reading ahead, there might be an analogy between this
interaction of painter and subject, andthe interaction of things and words
as presented in "The Prose of the World".
But then there's the mirror. Assume the mirror represents the new order,
the age of representation. The mirror allows us to see both the painter
and the subject. It closes the loop, we can answer the question
"representation of what..". But as the loop is closed, we are now left
out. I am neither the King nor Queen of Spain. If the painting
represented real time, I could imagine I were the spectator, the subject.
But the mirror tells me otherwise. Subject, painting and artist
(spectator) are frozen in the past. Is this what the new order is like?
Another memory. When reading Dreyfus & Rabinow I came across a passage
concerning "the abyss of solopsism" - or some such horror. I thought this
was an abyss I quite liked, and thought about what happens when I look down
into it. I concluded that if I looked far enough into the abyss I would
see a mirror. This has the opposite effect of the mirror in Las Meninas -
there the subject turns out to be other, here it is self. Robinson Crusoe
measures the footprint on the sand and finds it is his own. (I can't
remember the reference for that.) The type of mirror seems to go beyond
the classical age. Is it modern, post-modern, a reflection back to the
Renaissance, or all three?
And back to the band. Have you noticed that both the bands and audiences
for this type of music often wear T-shirts celebrating other bands. A kind
of discourse of T-shirts defining the boundaries of musical taste. With
some other types of music the participants wear T-shirts celebrating
themselves (either the T-shirt designer or the wearer). How do these
And Noise Addict? Well I couldn't see much and I don't know their music
that well. After a break they came on. I'd been thinking all the above
while watching the support band. I'd been reading the "wrong" text.
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