Jean-Luc Nancy: Poetics, Politics & Erotics of Exscription
Parallax, volume 27, issue 1 (February-March 2021)
Editors: John Paul Ricco, Stefanie Heine, Philippe P. Haensler
This special issue gathers the work of seven scholars writing on Jean-Luc Nancy’s notion of exscription. The essays demonstrate the centrality of this concept in Nancy’s thinking, and its specific relevance to poetics, politics, and erotics—historically and in terms of the contemporary moment. By pursuing various permutations of this concept in Nancy’s work over the past thirty years, the authors move the discussion in exciting new directions and underline the concept’s applicability to questions of community and the commons; sex and sexuality; art and aesthetics; and the human and the animal.
In his essay, “Buccal Intimacies,” Philip Armstrong rethinks the photograph in terms of touch and the pre-orality of the mouth, by looking at Ann Hamilton’s series of “Face to Face” photographs in which the open mouth coincides with the aperture of the camera to become the space of photographic enunciation, exposure and exscription. In her essay on “Beastly Writing” Naomi Waltham-Smith pursues a trail of footprints in the work of Nancy, Jacques Derrida, and Hélène Cixous, and tracks down the animal voice in the vestigial sonorousness of the animal’s retreat.
Erotic pleasure, sexual desire, and carnal sex are just a few of the more familiar ways in which corporeal existence is exscribed—an irreducible ontological condition of ecstatic exposure that Nancy most recently has named “sexistence.” John Paul Ricco’s essay, “Drawing the Edge of the Commons,” explores these themes in Nancy’s work, in terms of the relations between the sex practice of edging and the aesthetic practice of drawing in the work of Francisco-Fernando Granados, Sarah Kabot, and Shaan Syed—three contemporary artists that in various respects articulate what Ricco theorizes as an “erotic aesthesis” and edge of the common.
In his essay, “The Dis-Appearance of Desire,” Philippe P. Haensler reads Nancy’s writing alongside Jacques Lacan’s seminar on The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, charting remarkable affinities between the two thinkers and their respective notions of exscription and sublimation.
The poetics of exscription is the focus of Charles de Roche’s essay on fragmentary writing and the moment when Friedrich Hölderlin scratches a manuscript page with a pen devoid of ink. And Michael Krimper aligns Nancy’s notion of literary communism with the thinking of Maurice Blanchot, Marguerite Duras, and Achille Mbembe, all within sight of current political concerns regarding plural configurations of assembly, the people, and the commons.
Ginette Michaud provides the “Afterword” to the journal issue, as she reads each of the essays in terms of Nancy’s overall philosophical project, and alongside of and against other recent engagements with his work.
I am so pleased to have my essay “The Commerce of Anonymity,” published in the latest issue of Qui Parle. Here’s the abstract, followed below by a short excerpt. You can access and download a copy of the entire article here: Ricco, “The Commerce of Anonymity” (Qui Parle, June 2017)
Always “within distance of” oneself and others: this is our place,
and to write or to draw is to discover and sustain (to varying degrees
of duration) that distance. In its proximity this distance is the source
of pleasure and the mark of intimacy—but it is also the measure of
the exact equality between one passerby and another. No longer
even in terms of the being-other of the stranger, this is more a matter
of the spacing of passage in its passing, the place that is abandoned
by and that abandons the passerby, in his or her passing, to the outside,
including the outside of identity.
There, where the studio meets the street and the street meets
the study, and the desk meets the drawing table and the drawing table
meets the urban signboard, “each face has value and refers—or
leads—to one human identity that is equal to another” (Genet). To which
we might add: each face leads toward an exact and absolute equality
that renders each of us not identical but incommensurable. Each
time with each other, it is an experience that affirms the essential anonymity
of being-together and the risks and pleasures of our ethical
and aesthetic commerce.
On March 19th, I presented a talk titled, “Edging the Common” at the conference “Aisthesis and the Common: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere,” that was organized by the research group Media@McGill, and held at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, March 18th and 19th. Other speakers included: Jean-Luc Nancy, Santiago Zabala, Pierre Dardot, amongst others. Videos of all of the presentations are available at: http://www.aisthesis.ca/videos/
I was invited to deliver one of the Keynote Lectures at the 26th Annual International Comparative Literature conference, by the graduate students in Comp Lit at the University of Toronto. The other Keynote speakers were Linda and Michael Hutcheon, and W.J.T. Mitchell. My talk, “Edging, Drawing, the Common,” took place on March 5th, 2016.
John Paul Ricco, “Edging, Drawing, the Common,” Keynote Address at the 26th Annual International Comparative Literature conference, University of Toronto, March 5, 2016.
Here is the link to the audio file on YouTube of my Lecture, On the Commerce of Anonymity, that I presented on November 20, 2015, as part of the Emerging Research in Comparative Literature Series, at the University Toronto.
I want to thank Fan Wu and Jesscia Copley for the invitation to present some of my current work, and to all those in attendance that evening for their engaging questions and responses. I also want to thank Bao Nguyen for his editing of this audio recording. Finally, my thanks to Shaan Syed, whose work—the focus of this talk—continues to be such an important provocation and inspiration for my own.
For the final section of the paper that I did not have the time to present, see my earlier post on “anonymous and neutral mourning.”
Francisco-Fernando Granados, spatial profiling – after Margaret Dragu’s Eine Kleine Nacht Radio (2011). Performance, site-specific drawing; performed at VIVO Media Arts Centre for the LIVE Biennial of Performance Art, Vancouver. Photographs by Jesse Birch and Francisco-Fernando Granados
Here is a short description of a paper that I will be working on for the next few months, as a keynote that I have been invited to present at a conference on “Aisthesis and the Common: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere” to be held at McGill University, Montreal, in March 2016.
Bodies are exorbitant extremities, and not enclosed and discrete or “embodied” entities. This is just one of the reasons why we do not speak of a body having a center or margins. Ontologically speaking, any material-physical thing that is open and always in excess of its limits is a body. Thus not only are there non-human and inorganic bodies, just as there are human bodies, but the matter of bodies and how they come to matter and mean, happens in those indeterminate and undecidable zones where it is often impossible to know where one body begins and another ends. Edge is the name that we might give for this shared spacing, there where bodies partake in a sense of the intimacy of the outside. In my paper I consider works by three contemporary artists: Francisco-Fernando Granados, Shaan Syed, and Sarah Kabot, in which a performative praxis of drawing traces the non-mediating line of the edge as the space-time of the common—its tense, tension and extension. In the public performance of repetitively tracing a facial profile (Granados), or a portrait of lost lover posted on city streets (Syed), or in which all of the lines in a public bathroom are shifted by half-an-inch (Kabot), these works peri-performatively open up spaces around bodies, and places and things. Spaces that are virtual rather than possible, inoperative rather than productive, anonymous rather than identitarian. Indeterminate zones but never empty voids, these edgings are where appearing and disappearing, becoming and unbecoming persist as the immeasurable infinities that they are. The sense and experience (aisthesis) of the common lies in the pleasures and risks of our affinities to these edges.